Monday, May 11, 2009

Q's and A's

Pines4equines says-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.

This worked for you because you created specific movement away from the other horses and are giving him a command that will refocus him. Instead of hanging on his face you made him back when he pulled against your hands. So the discipline was a specific command, back, instead of simply pulling or holding. I think the worst thing a person can do is take a hold of a horse's face without a specific command in mind.

This can work (like it did for you), but sometimes making a horse back on the trail will cause them to panic and rear.

I will half-pass my horse a few steps left, then right,then left, etc. until he is soft in my hands and focused on me, then release my reins and let him go again, rinse and repeat, until he's where I want him. This makes him slow and focus, but doesn't actually take him away from the herd, so it keeps the anxiety down.

If backing works, than go for it.

Endurance Granny says-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.

I work on rate initially in the arena or in an area both my horse and I feel safe in. I ask for the trot and the second it gets bumpy or unpleasant I pull my outside rein (rail side) and turn the horse the other way. I pull hard enough to make the turn unpleasant, but I'm not tearing up the horse's mouth either.I just want to pull hard enough to pull my horse out of the death trot, change the direction of her feet and her forward motion.
I immediately relax my rein and ask for the trot again. As soon as she gets bumpy I pull and go the other way again.
Eventually, my horse will hesitate before slamming into the horrifying trot, because I have been yanking her around every time she sped up.
When I feel the hesitation I'll give her a big "Good Girl!" and pat on the neck then just sit quiet until the trot speeds up again, then I'll pull her around again. I keep this up until she'll hesitate or slow down for at least a couple of steps from just a lift of my rein before she speeds up again. Then I quit for the day.
If I practice consistently and religiously she will learn to hold a steady trot.
The key here is to expect your horse to beat you to the punch and slow down before you pull her around. I am very slow with my hand when I'm doing this. I bring up my hand slow enough for at least two beats before I even make contact with her mouth.

I use this same approach to cure jiggers and chargy horses. I don't give them anything to pull against. The reins are loose until the horse goes beyond the speed I ask for, then I change the direction of their feet. I've never had it not work as long as I was consistent.

This can take awhile, it all depends on how ingrained the horse is with her expectations of being held.

Londoner-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.

This problem is pretty basic. Your horse has stopped her feet. Once her feet stop her brain stops. The key is to get her feet moving again.
If I am on a stuck horse I make standing still just about impossible. But I only focus on one foot at a time. I don't kick her directly forward with both feet. I'll kick the haunch over, move a shoulder, rattle my reins back and forth, push a rib, ask for a half pass, turn a step or two into a turn on the forehand.I'm not particularly nice about it on a horse I know well enough to get after, but I'm careful with one who will buck or rear.
If she's rearing I kick over her hindquarters first, which will drop her down on her front end again. If she's crow-hopping I get the shoulders moving to get her rocked back on her hindquarters. I also make a lot of noise.
The key is to get all parts of her moving and make it uncomfortable until she steps forward.
The second she moves forward I relax, look forward and assume she's going to be good from now on. If she's not I do it again.

That's all I've got today, gotta get typin'....


  1. I wish I had known your trick to cure jiggers when I had Burt, my horse who loved to jig. I tried many things, but none of them worked consistently. Most jiggers are worse coming back (on a trail ride). So if a horse jigs coming home, would you turn back and then again toward home. Most of the trails I ride are too narrow to go anywhere but forwards or backwards. At the point where you're turning towards home again, won't the jiggy horse go back to jigging? Or if you do it long enough they quit? I can already see that its probably my lack of willingness to repeat an exercise long enough that's the problem. But thanks, I will try this trick on my mildly jiggy horse Plumber next chance I get.

  2. Laura - I work on it in the arena. Then I work on it in a more open area, then I hit the narrow spots, once I know the horse gets my point.
    I will pull one rein at a time on a narrow trail, not turn them around, but take the feet off course.As soon as the horse pauses (he doesn't even know he isn't jigging yet) I release. Then the second the jig starts so do I.
    If a horse has been over Parellied he will simply flop his head and jig anyway. Then I have to use some spur.
    Left, right, left,you get my point.
    I'm very patient. I do this as long as it takes.

  3. Is that turning to the rail maneuver the same as "doubling" from There are No Problem Horses Only Problem Riders by Mary Twelveponies? I've never been totally clear about that.

    (Assuming you've even seen this book. I dont know how common it is, I just found it at a used bookstore one day.)

  4. Jiggers...

    My appaloosa is gaited. I SWEAR IT! She has a walk, a trot, a lope, a smokin-leave-you-in-the-dust gallop, and then...

    there's the Power Walk. This mare can flat out move it when she wants to!

    Oh yeah, and she has absolutely, can't make me do it, long trot.

    But she can power walk! Whoo boy!

  5. Gillian- I haven't read the book, but I've heard good things...doubling is a fairly common term. I just say pull them around because I don't want to make this seem technical. It's not. We're just changing the direction of the feet.

  6. Mugs -- Would you recommend your technique for the Death Trot also for the canter? My horse likes to get faster, faster, faster in the canter until the point that it's scary. Sometimes half halts work to bring him into focus, sometimes not. (I ride dressage.) On the times that they don't, I typically end up getting out of balance, cling with my legs, which only makes him go faster.

  7. Thank you! I'll work on turn on the forehand/haunches to get her loosened up in the arena before I ride. According to a work-mate (I am up at uni atm), she is not as locked-up as we previously thought.

    She is swinging around, sidepassing back down the track etc... I am a little worried because she nearly got my friend off the other day. As for 'getting after her', I'm not too sure how far to take it! She seems to work better with the softly softly approach, but that could just be me being a wimp and not wanting to have a proper argument ;)oh mares... how I love them...

  8. GrouchyBayTB- I use it at the lope. Train your horse at the walk and trot first so he knows what you're doing and why.
    I think half-halts are great, but in your situation he is blowing you off, so you're undermining the purpose of the half-halt.
    The approach I use is only about "Knock it Off!" and getting my horse to regulate his own gaits.

  9. I am so using the advice for rating the trot!

    My little 1/2 Arab starts off nicely, but then decides that go-go-go! is much better.

    I'm tired of trying to resist the urge to hang on her face, so we're going to start working on that today.

  10. this article was great! i have a question about my QH gelding. we just moved to a new place, and there's another horse there. he's not used to being ridden alone (his former job was a lesson horse), and im having a heck of a time getting him to listen to me without trying to run back to the horse. i know it's not avoiding work, because when we trail ride with the other horse, he's an angel, at every speed. i can rate him, etc. but the second i try to ride him away on his own, he stops, gets really worried, spooks at nothing, and pulls toward the horse. he's gone so far as to whip around and try to run back, totally unexpectedly. he's ripped ropes from my hands, trying to go back to her. what should i do?

  11. My arabian mare could keep up with Standardbreds, she could trot so fast. And thats what she'd do when you asked for a canter, trot faster. With lessons we've both gotten better but another that I find helps slow down the trot (or any gait) is to slow down yourself. I ride English so if I slow down my posting and sit for just a moment longer in the saddle then she slows down to match me.

  12. Thank you for giving me a method to work at the rating issue. Sure appreciate it! ~E.G.