Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Questions and Answers

Go Tucker Go is working on getting some forward on her horse. She has gotten her walk and trot going and is ready for more.

She asks - One problem I have had recently is he dives in when he feels me bridge the reins to jockey smack his backside to get moving and my riding instructor is afraid if I let him do that and don't correct him for it immediately it will become a problem.

Go Tucker Go's trainer wants her to stop him and restart him to get him going again.

First off - Do what your trainer says. You have to go with her instruction to build confidence between the two of you. It's really important.

Second - She has a valid point. When a horse extends himself into a "death trot" it's actually harder for him to put himself in the lope. He's all strung out and hollow backed and just slamming you all over the place. It makes it tough to get his belly up, his hind legs under himself and go.

So, stopping him and starting again will accomplish two things. It will stop the teeth jarring trot. It will give his rider a chance to regather him and it's adding a stop and start to the program. So it's more work for him. All good points.

The only problem I run into with this method is if I'm riding a lazy galoot who's smarter than I am. This kind of horse will figure out I'll stop him and regather if he just keeps trotting. Which gives him a rest and gets us off the original mission, which is going forward. So that's what he does.

I don't mind if a horse trots into his lope for quite awhile. He can trot 3 or 4 steps as long as he's just trying to get under himself. If he go into the death trot I get mad. But at first I just push him through it, so he learns I mean LOPE when I smooch. Then I pull him down for the death trot, but not until I'm sure the horse gets the lope cue.

I would suggest a combination of the two methods. My way you have to practice when the trainer's not there because it will piss her off at me and I don't want that. So shhhhh, this is just between us.

My point here is, he has to go when you say so. That's all. So I don't care if he dives. We can address that later. He's using the dive as a way to distract you. And it's working. Now your correcting something else without fixing the first problem. So he's winning. The smart old galoot.

So one day when you are alone you're going to fix this nonsense.

Get on your horse. Walk him around some, but that's it. We want him a little fresh. Ride with your reins bridged from the get go. That way he can't tell what your going to do.

From a standstill I want you to smooch. Once.

Than you will over and under him with your reins until he is loping. Whack! Across his shoulders please. You don't have to hit him hard. Start soft, just swinging the rein back and forth hard enough to get a rhythm going. Increase the sting as needed. Always start soft and build your pressure. Every time.

I don't care if he dives, you won't either because you're not going to steer. You are simply going to spank him until he lopes. This is about loping, not steering. Hang onto the horn if this makes you nervous.

As soon as he lopes you can relax. If he only lopes two steps that's OK. Let him stop.

Then do it again.

And again.

Until he blows on out of there when you smooch. Always smooch first.

The trick here is to stop him the second he breaks gait. As long as he lopes you sit quiet and leave him be. If he breaks gait, stop him and start him again. This is about loping. Not steering.

When he will lope off one smooch then we're ready to keep him straight.

Have him on the rail. Smooch. By now he'll be hustling, trust me. Wait until he dives.Then take your outside rein, spin him in a little circle towards the rail (not a pretty spin, just turn him around) Stop, breathe, go back to the rail and ask him to lope again. Repeat until he knocks it off. It may take awhile. He'll try to trot again, he'll try to not go at all....ignore him.
The only two tools you have is the spin towards the rail and the over-and-under after your smooch.

Be patient. Always start soft. Always wait until he dives. Let him make the mistake. The circle will be the unpleasant work he does off the rail. Loping along the rail will start feeling pretty good.

Don't worry about leads right now. This is about going when he's told to go. When he's straightened out, loping when he's told and staying on the rail, then you can worry about leads.

Then you will walk him forward, set up your lead departure, then smooch. If he can lope out of the walk he will have an easier time getting into his lead.

So now we go to our pluggy walk-trot transitions. A different problem BTW.

Tucker is walking as told and trotting as told but he's lazy and resentful about it. Too bad Tucker.

We're going to cheer him up.

It's time to bring in our legs.

Get Tucker walking. Move your seat in a forward, sliding motion and lightly bump with your calves in the rhythm of his walk. He will probably raise his head and swat his tail, maybe speed up a little, just stay with the rhythm until he's used to it and cruising along. Don't pump your seat too much. It won't help, it looks freaky and people will mock you. Think of it as a kagel exercise, important to do, but not something you want people to see you doing in line at the grocery store.

Now stop. You're hands are quiet. You relax your legs and take them off his sides. You quit moving completely. Your shoulders slump, your head drops, you're a rag doll. Exhale down into your seat. Think of yourself as a sleepy, relaxed, lead balloon. He should stop. If he doesn't, hang in there and keep exhaling. Sit relaxed, heavy and silent until he stops.

Sit for a slow count of 10. Breathe.

Now, sit up with energy, look straight ahead and put your legs back on him. Squeeze, if needed, half the time they'll go just from your energy.

Find your rhythm again. Now increase the speed of your seat and bumping. Keep it up until he speeds up his walk to match your increased rhythm. Relax your legs. Keep your forward thoughts and energy, don't let go like you do for the stop, but sit quiet. As soon as he slows then activate your legs and seat and put him back into his fast walk.

Now, get him going and then stop him again. Try to stop him before he slows down. Then get him going, speed him up, slow him down, stop, just mess with him. Get your cues clear.

When you've both got this part of the exercise down pat, then once he's walking along increase the speed of your bumping until he trots in order to match the rhythm of your seat and legs. When he trots, let him go a few steps then stop him with your seat. Repeat.

Now Tucker should be really listening, he should also be wondering what the heck your up too.

Get him trotting. Sit relaxed with your legs lightly bumping along in his rhythm. The second you feel him slow down increase the speed of your seat and bumping until he is going a little faster than you want. Then relax your seat and let him come back down to the desired speed. Sit quiet and controlled, but keep a rhythm going with your seat and calves.

Play with this. Make him walk fast, then slow, then fast. You decide the speed. Make him trot fast, then slow, fast, then slow. Then when he's trotting at the travelling speed you want, relax and let him go.

He will learn to be happy maintaining the speed you want, because the transitions are hard work.

He will begin too seek the place you want him in and try to stay there.

Does this make sense?

Don't apply this to the lope yet.

He has to learn to lope along on the rail first.

Let us know how it's going.


Mel said...

THANK you for this post. I was having the same problem with my mare last night getting into the lope. Death trot! LOL exactly! She dives off the rail too. We are going to start fixing that right now.

Are you going to address leads in the next post? The left lead is pretty good. It's next to impossible for me to get her on the right lead. We end up doing a lot of counter cantering....What I have been doing is asking for a canter, when she picks up the wrong lead, I bring her back to a halt or walk, then go into a balenced trot and ask again...and again...and again. When I get a couple of strides on the right lead I stop and go to something else.

mugwump said...

Boots - You're doing the right thing. What I would add is once she is loping on the correct lead I would lope her around the arena relaxed and on a loose rein two or three times so she can get comfortable on it. Then I would quit.
Once I start leads I insist the horse take the correct lead every time.

Redsmom said...

Too funny, Mugwimp. "Too bad, Tucker" and the stuff about people making fun of you. You are in rare form today! I surely hope when you do write a book, you will write just like this and be funny and informative at the same time.

Go Tucker Go, keep up the hard work. I got "homework" at my clinic last week and its a drag, but you and I know it will pay off if we keep working at it. Hang in there, Sista!

In case ya'll missed it, thanks to each person who left nice comments yesterday. I had to take the mare to get her teeth floated so was away from the computer all day.

Redsmom said...

Mugwump! not Mugwimp. I did not do that on purpose!!!!!!

Ponyice said...

OMG Thanks so much for this one, ditto on the death trot LOL!!
I had this happen last week and it has been raining ever since so I have not had a chance to readdress it yet. I almost ended up in the dirt when he finally tripped into a rough canter,no where near the beautiful lope I had invisioned it would be. I have been working on the relaxed almost "reining style" stop body cue, sit back on my pockets and stick my leg out and slightly forward and luckily that is how I stayed on since my reins were with my hands on the horn.
LOL about the practice without the trainer knowing, so funny but so true, it's after all my horse :)
Yea he has lead issues with the right as well!

Thanks Mugwump for the validation that I am not the only one who is having this problem!!

LuvMyTBs said...

Death trot is pretty funny!!The husband went and tried a new prospect out.This was an Old School QH,big,stoutly built and muscled.He gets into the car somewhat carefully then tells me the horse was really nice except for his "ball smashing" trot!! He won't be coming home with us as the husband would like to keep his balls relatively intact.

Shanster said...

Don't pump your seat too much. It won't help, it looks freaky and people will mock you.

Oh, you make me laugh... sniff... thanks for that!!

mlks said...

"Death trot" is an awesome phrase. Even though I now have the Imperial theme from the Star Wars movies stuck in my head...hee.

Tevis Stories said...

Mugs, when you have the time I'd love a post about bucking. My 4 yo colt who's got about 20-30 rides or so now has started bucking under saddle. The first time it happened, he spooked and I went to pull him around in a circle to stop him and he just lit off bucking. I stayed with him until he hit the corner of the arena, cut the turn too sharp and fell ass over teakettle. We both hit the ground. I did get back on and work him that day and he was pretty good but VERY jumpy after that, so we just did a bunch of slow and easy stuff.

Then 4 weeks ago (4/4), I had him in the arena. We were just standing still and I was flexing his head from side to side, trying to get him a bit softer on the bit (he kind of resists pressure and will brace before giving - not pull against me). We were at a local arena with other "stuff" going on, but that's our main location so it wasn't totally new or anything. I don't know what set him off but he suddenly leaped forward and was bucking like hell. I ended up coming off and broke my upper right humerus, right up by my shoulder.

So needless to say, I'm laid up for a bit. But worse off is that I'm finding I've kind of lost my nerve as well. What can I do to help stop his bucking? Teeth, saddle and back have all been checked and are good per the vets and chiro. Is there something I can do on the ground in the meantime to help this or will it have to wait until I can start riding again?

Mel said...

C - excellent question I would be interested as well. I'm having to learn to STAY OFF my arabs mouth when cantering or she too goes into bucking mode. Her bucks are not bad and I can stay with it, but it's not exactly the perferred method of going around the arena. I'm hoping that once I get the canter issue resolved (Cue, do it now etc.) and more balenced the bucking won't raise it's head again, but it would be useful to have tools besides what I have.

mugwump said...

~C - This is the kind of stuff I just can't delve into over the net.If I gave you advice and you got hurt trying it I would feel horrible. I can't evaluate your situation here. I'd have to see it in person.
I can't stress enough how important it is for you to get some professional help at this point.
Someone with a good reputation for starting colts would be my thought.

crochetyolelady said...

Funny, I just did this exact thing last night. (the loping part with no steering.) But my latest problem with Jazz, is keeping her in a QUIET lope, she wants to bolt and go 100mph.... A new trick she has... wonder how many more she will pull out of her sleeve throughout our "training"....sigh

Britnie - Riding During Naps said...

AWESOME post, love it. I have a turd of a mare too, sooo lazyyyy!! When I try to ride her english I work out a THOUSAND times harder then she does just keeping her trotting as I post. SO ANNOYING!! Def need to pull up the other post you did for Go Tucker Go as well. Thank you again! (and lol at the readers husband 'ball smashing' HILARIOUS!)

Joy said...

I liked this! I have a question for you Mugwump. In the arena, I have a really hard time sitting the lope. I brace myself and end up either leaning forward or standing (pretty much). I can't seem to relax my hips and go with my horse's movement. My horse has go and he can move fast, which doesn't bother me, but I seem to lose all steering w/ my legs (cause of the bracing I'm sure and other stuff). Any advice, tips or tricks? Thanks for anything you can offer up. (PS I'm not blessed with a lot of gracefullness. In fact i fell down two different hills on two different walks today.)

Tansy said...

OT, completely and utterly off topic...

I went out to feed my horse this evening and the owner of the property was also there, feeding her horse. She went to my horse away from her bag of hay and he swung round and kicked her. I mean double barrel boot. Thankfully it was a glancing blow and she's ok, though with bruises. This can NOT happen again and I honestly don't know what to do. This is my first horse, I've owned him about a month and I'm reasonably sure he wouldn't have done that to me. I push him around and off food without a problem. Ainsley, however, gets pushed around even by her horse, who's bottom of the pecking order. Harry is dominant in the paddock and would push me around if I let him. So I can understand the horse thought behind it. We chased him round the paddock a few times (a la Monty Roberts-ish...) and he didn't get any of the hay. I took him into another paddock for his feed (didn't want to give it to him but he's getting ribby in the cold) Made sure I could move him away from his food without a problem.

Right, so I think I've ranted enough on this, you understand I think but please, anyone, what do I do?? I've read your post on kicking out, mugwump, and I will try that, but I'm not sure how it will translate to kicking humans...

Also, thank you for all the awesome stories and information! Wish I'd found this years ago :)

Little Bird Lucy said...

Thanks so much for all your advice! I'm headed out to the barn this morning to start working on this right away. The weather forecast here calls for off and on rain for the next week, so once we've made some progress I'll update you. May be a while though. {insert evil laugh} Heh, heh ,heh, yeah that's right Tucker I'm going to fix your wagon.

Mel said...

Mugwump - I went out last night and applied this post to my arena work. (insert HUGE smile). I am so happy with how it went. I didn't even need to over-under her probably because I attacked the canter with renewed vigor (there will be no death trot). Worked like a charm. Even steering was better. So I never had to actually APPLY what I learned here but I sincerely believe I was successful because I had the tools in the back of my mind. I'm finding out at the canter it's much more about steering with my seat and leg than steering with my reins.

Eventually did pick up a right lead canter. That's the only time we got in the death trot situation. I starting to feel when she counter flexes and pops her shoulder out to pick up the wrong lead, so I think I can start anticipating it.

One of the best cantering sessions I have had! Thanks.

Dawsonfamily said...

I loved the insight on diving in. I had a filly that has great gaits but she is a bugger about diving in, as well as being quite stiff in general. I have been working on softening her up but this I will have to try. I also have to say about the trainer- sometimes there is not just one way to get something done. Training a horse is a fluid dynamic work--we have a paint gelding that one of my students rides. He was horrible at getting his right lead. At first we did the lope over the pole routine, which worked but I noticed that he could completely miss the pole and as long as he was in the general area he would pick it up correct. However, if we weren't by the pole he wouldn't. Of course, part of this was teaching a fairly beginner rider how to really set up his horse and cue correctly, but part of it was the horse was smart and lazy as the same we went to the "ask on the rail and if he didn't pick it up right he was brought right back down and asked again" so while some trainers will get bent out of shape if you don't do exactly what they say, there is also something to be said about being willing to use many means to get to a end. Training a horse isn't usually just cut and dried, only one way to do it-- this is why Natural Horsemanship (and really any type of training) can be awesome and not work at all at the same time. You can read step by step of what to do with your horse, but unless you have a feel for it and can work on trial and error- there is always going to be something that your horse can do to evade something ;) This is also why, even though I feel like I know a fair amount about horses, I can always learn more.
Thanks for the post!

Londoner said...

ooh I liked that answer - even though I'm not entirely sure what 'diving in' is. Just to let you know I immediately went out and tried it. I have started my boss' 4yr old arab, who is being ridden with the intention of being raced. (I know, don't ask me, its big on the continent apparently)
Your posts on collection have really helped us - even though she will be racing and headset won't matter, it's useful to have so a) she can do something else and b) she can't run off with me on the road.

Her problem is stopping. She will stop anywhere - in the middle of a long, unfamiliar hack, at the arena door before we have set off, even in the driveway on the way back home. So I would call it napping, but with no clear direction of where she wants to nap to. The best way to get her out of it is to take my legs completely off her, or get off and lead. I would like to teach her to respond to leg pressure in these situations, as it's how she was started, but she will crow-hop and buck. sometimes rear, but never anything intended to unseat.

I know you told ~C to seek help from a trainer, but what if it's not your horse, and you are contractually obliged to ride it?! I'm more scared of my boss than I am of her!

Oh and one last thing - she gets very mare-y, and seems to be perpetually in season. Thanks for unwillingly getting us this far though - you have been such a help to us.

Laura Crum said...

Tansy--I have a horse who will do this. He is just testing for dominance, as you say. So, if he threatens, or hops his back end, or dares to kick, I take the end of the leadrope (this behavior usually occurs when someone is trying to catch him) and step to the side and hit him as hard as I can. Then I catch him and beat on him until he shows signs of submission--mouthing...etc. Then he doesn't try it for awhile. But if someone new walks out to catch him, he'll do it again.

My advice would be to be prepared for this horse to do this, and ready to punish him. And, it helps to be thoughtful. I don't walk behind a horse like this without being aware that he might kick out. I do not believe you can train this out of some horses. Its just something to deal with.

I do not take a horse off his feed unless I need to, by the way. If I do choose to, they better be mannerly about it, of course. Also, if possible, I arrange my feeding so that I can feed from the other side of the fence. All my horses will let me remove their feed or crawl in there with them while they eat...etc, but it saves a lot of annoyance just to feed such that it isn't an issue. I fed for many years in a barn where I had to walk into a field full of horses and distribute the feed, and I can assure you that I narrowly missed being kicked or knocked down many times--often by horses who were squabbling with each other. Mugwump has a system for dealing with this, and it works for her, until, as she said in a previous post, it doesn't. Horses will suprise you with agressive behavior around feeding. Its just something to be aware of.

If you need to go into the field with the horse to feed him, you and the owner should carry a dressage whip. I had a horse who was the gentlest creature around, but would both kick, strike and try to run you down when being fed. I used the dressage whip to teach him manners. If he came toward me, I whipped him, mostly in the front legs. I did not feed him until he stood back. But to the end of his life (and he lived to be 38) you had to watch him when you went into the field to feed him.

Hope some of this helps.

mugwump said...

Tansy - I posted on EI ( today.It explains how I feel about and deal with inappropriate pasture manners.

Amy said...

Great post! It's interesting how different poeple do different things. My friend who broke my mare did the over/under thing to move her into a lope or to get her out of one of her balky stops. The new trainer I am working with now has this cueing routine:

Sit up straight and bring your energy up, apply legs, kiss/cluck/verbal cue, pick up rein/crop/whatever you are smacking with, crack against your leg once, and loudly, and if the horse still doesn't move, pop the HARD. No soft swatting with increasing pressure, it's "If you don;t move, this will hurt."

My mare goes 9/10 times by the time I move to pick up the leadrope I use to smack her (although it's a bit annoying that she waits that long, I hope it will get better). There are occasions though if she does get smacked that she "fights back"- bucks, or gives me a snarly face. I have just yelled and kept popping to get her to go. But she is not the kind of horse you want to pick a fight with, because it can get nasty, fast.

Maybe I'll try to over/under thing as well, and see which works better.

mugwump said...

Amy - I don't use the over and under as a cue to go. I smooch. That's the cue.The over and under is the result of ignoring that cue.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to file this away in my "things to do with Mr. Finn when he gets there, if needed" file. Which is pretty much this whole site! I hate that "death trot"!!!! My trainer was working with Finn on canter departs before his injury. He was getting much better at not "death trotting" into it. We have a smaller, dressage dimensioned ring, and a large ring that's full of jumps. I'd be SO afraid to over & under and not steer in a ring with jumps! I'm not so sure that Finn wouldn't jump them. Our small ring may work though, if we need this.

I just re-read your post on turn on the haunches. Finn's leg is healing beautifully. The vet said to ride on, but he has us on a strict "walking only" order for a while. I've been doing a lot of work with him just at the walk and thinking of your advice. Speeding up & slowing down with my seat, turning when told, backing up, etc. I'm even using a western saddle! That got us a few odd looks at our place, haha. I finally rode him in a lesson and we tried a turn on the haunches. We were having some trouble establishing move OVER and not forward or backward. He was frustrated, but he started to get it towards the end. It's been SO nice to ride my horse again, even though we are just walking! I think Finn's enjoying going back to work too. You've given me A LOT of great things to think about in the mean time! So, thanks Mugs!!!

(i used to comment here as heater, but I use my livejournal more often)

Amy said...

Mugs, that's what I meant. Not using the over-under as a cue, but as a consequence for ignoring the cue, or (as she likes to do) stopping/balking and saying "no" in her horsey way.

Amy said...

BTW, I really appreciate this blog, and I look forward to the discussions as much as the posts. I learn so much just by reading.

Thanks for writing and providing a place for newbies like me to read so many ideas from smart and experienced horse people.

Tansy said...

Thank you Laura Crum and Mugwump! I fed him today and made him back away from me before I fed him and that seemed to help. I may well suggest to ainsley she takes the lunge whip when she feeds out in the morning. It has made me a little nervous around his back legs especially picking them up, but he's been fine.

Thank you for your help :) keep up the awesome writing, both of you!

All Who Wander said...


My question is about the "death trot". I'm struggling with my arabian mare on rating. She has a go-a-holic trot...I'm desperately wanting her nice little ground work trot to occur under saddle. You know, the nice little soft pitty pat trot that doesn't rattle your teeth. Would you care to help an aspiring endurance rider smooth out the trot? I'd be ever so grateful. I find myself all to often in the reins, as she pushes faster and faster. I need a loose rein, and a collected trot. ~E.G.

Beasley the Wonder Horse said...


Two questions: What do you mean by diving in, is that falling in on the shoulder or cutting the corner?

Second question: Could you speak to us of backing? I was having a bear of a time, getting my horse to listen to me on the trail when I was in a group of horses.

All of a sudden, I had the idea, even if the pack of horses gets ahead of me, I halted him, backed him. Sometimes nice and soft, sometimes harshly depending on how harshly he was treating me. IT was like night and day in his behavior change! Is there something to this backing that's maybe the secret ingredient? Please explain.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tansy: My gelding used to get real pissy when he was being fed and he even lunged at and bit a lady who was helping to fed him that particular morning. He would also get nasty if fed with other horses. He was generally a very gentle soul but he was big, over 16 hands and young so he was still a bit on the clumsy side. I worked very hard on the ground getting him to respect my space. I constantly carried a crop with me for the first few weeks that I owned him. And with regards to feeding I never, ever fed him from hand. If it was feeding time or treats time, so after a good ride I would walk him into his stall and make him stand at the back of it while I placed the feed in the hay rack. And I always kept one eye on him the whole time. Ever time he moved he was pushed back again. He got to the point that he would just walk into his stall and stand at the back and wait until I had left his food and left the stall. One thing I learned with this guy is that any aggressive behavior will quickly turn into alot of aggressive behavior if it's not dealt with appropriately. Just my thoughts. Good luck with your boy!!

Redsmom said...

Hey, check it out - here's a phot af Matt and me in the stake race from Saturday!
Don't know if that will work.
We got 4th in reining - out of 6 people and 5th in novice barrels. Whoot!

HorsesAndTurbos said...


I am reading the Sally Swift book, and am learning a lot.

To simplify what I have read so far..she reiterates riding soft and relaxed...sitting deep, and riding with your hip joints open and freely moving. This makes forward energy. If you tense up, you are holding that forward energy back, and your horse will not be forward.

I found that I was expecting resistance at the canter with Starlette...thus I was tensing up, and actually telling her to go forward *and* stop at the same time (asking her to canter and half-halting at once). No wonder she was jack-hammer trotting...that's what I was telling her to do!

Today I relaxed, opened my hips, sat deep, squeezed and signaled with my outside leg..and she went right into a perfect, round-backed canter. I would feel myself tense up, and make myself relax, sit deep, and rock my hips with her canter. Sally has one exercise that you ride with one hand straight up in the air...and doing that sure drops me down into my seat (I alternated hands) and balance me. Starlette collected, flexed at her poll, and actually had so much forward that I had to hold her in!

Just a thought...I know I was holding my mare back. May be something to check into.


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