Thursday, August 6, 2009

Questions and Answers

Half Dozen Farm says -"My mare can canter in a 70' round pen, but she's too fast and falls in. She has a big, long stride and is unbalanced and on her forehand. However, I feel safest in the round pen. In an arena, she's flat scary to canter. She switches leads willynilly, breaks to a bone jarring trot, drops her shoulder, staggers around and just basically tries to jolt me out of the saddle any way she can."

Let's start here. A 70' round pen is not big enough for her. A round pen has plenty of uses, but I seldom use them to lope my horses. I have found the horse will always lean in, unless it's the kind that slants outward at the top.

I want Half Dozen to really think here. Where is she safer? In a round pen where she's tripping and falling? Or in an arena where she can have room to move......

Half Dozen said -"She's terribly lazy in the round pen, a bit better in the arena, and really nice out in an open area."

My guess is she is unable to move comfortably in the round pen, has a slightly easier time in the arena and feels comfortable and safe in the open. Your mare deserves a big hug for being "pluggy" in order to tell you she's struggling. Many horses will let you know they're having a problem by bucking or bolting. She really is being a good girl.

I know I insist you need to have your horse comfortable at the WTC before anything else. Well there's a big old BUT that shows up in every theory.

This mare knows how to lope. Her issue now is learning to pack a rider in her new life as a saddle horse. So I would be trotting this horse a lot in order to help her.

We have a couple of issues here. The mare is stiff and uncomfortable and Half Dozen doesn't feel safe enough to just "go." I am on your side here, BTW, if you don't feel safe you need to listen to your gut.

My suggestion would be to take this mare to the arena. I would set up some drills for her to help her get her body under control. The lead swapping and death trot tell me she isn't in control of herself on the turns and she's stiff through her body. The knee surgery might come into play, but she should limp if it's a big problem.

The drills I would use would be fairly simple. I would trot her on the rail (posting on the correct diagonal) and sit deep about 6-10 strides before the corner. My outside leg would push her hindquarters in towards the center, my inside leg would support at the cinch and I would guide with a soft leading rein on the inside and a stronger supporting rein on the outside.

When I felt her hindquarters move toward the center I would relax for a few strides then set up for the next corner.

On the long sides of the arena I would deepen me seat, slow my horse,then relax my aids and just post until I am setting up for the end again.

When she can comfortably handle this I would start doing serpentines. I would use the whole arena, post and hold her straight through the middle, then sit my trot and wrap her around my inside leg through my turns. Practice picking up your diagonal first step out of the turn, it's a great rider exercise too.

I would start doing LOTS of transitions between the walk the trot and the extend trot. I would mix them up, sometimes extend through the turns, sometimes go way slow.

Out on the trail I would keep up the transition work. Except I would add the lope. I would expect her to learn to lope off my kiss and trot off my cluck. I would practice picking up my leads on the trail. I would try to bring her down to a trot before she thought of breaking gait.

That's what I'd do. I would lope in the arena when I felt she could do it.....get back to me when you think your ready.

Horses and Turbos - when you finally ask for the change by pushing out their hind legs, do they have to make the change because they become unbalanced and physically have to change? I can't see them at first thinking "Oh, so she wants me to change me lead now, she's pushing my hind end over."

I don't initiate lead changes off a counter canter. That doesn't mean I'm saying your trainer is wrong-it's just not how I do it. But I still think I can answer your question.

When a horse lopes he pushes off with his outside hind leg.
It goes 1. outside hind
2. inside hind and outside front
3. inside front

When you cue by pushing your horses hip in the other direction, in order to comply, he will have to change the push off leg, or the outside hind, once the hind foot changes the rest should follow.

That's why we're judged on when the hind changes, not the front. If a horse is "cross-firing" or going on one lead in the front and another in the back that will be judged as out of lead....

But it's a matter of obedience to a cue more than throwing them off balance.

Nancy C said- In my mind I am thinking I need to just cue her into it while MAKING myself leave the reins alone, let her canter a bit, then bring her down and do it again. My fear is that she bucks, but somehow has learned how to really buck.... so I would have to really work on letting her have her head. A kinda grab the horn and let her go sort of thing? Or do you have a better idea?

Nancy has the same feeling Half Dozen does. Her gut is telling her she might get pasted. We can get this lope thing taken care of without getting thrown.

I would start this mare along the fence of an arena. Just leave her alone and only guide her if she leaves the rail. Then steer her back with just the outside rein. Just pull her nose to the fence and let her go again.

When she learns to stick to the rail on her own, you can ask her to lope. By guiding with only one hand and then only if she leaves the rail you have freed up your other hand enough to hang onto the horn if you want.

Let her long trot into the lope. She will be a little strung out and less inclined to buck. Only lope a few steps at first and then let her trot again.

I would do a lot of limbering and W/T transitions. When she lopes without bucking, even a few steps, I would quit for the day. So save the lope for the end of the ride. Try to relax and don't pull, then be done.


Half Dozen Farm said...


My trainer is out of town for two weeks and didn't leave me any homework, so now I have some stuff to work on to keep me motivated. :)

I'll keep you posted...

This is my first TB, and I feel that I truly lucked into a great horse. Believe me, she gets hugs everyday!

HorsesAndTurbos said...


I didn't mean I was changing in the counter-canter, but just that we are on item 6 of the Fluffy Training Chronicles ;). I have also read that counter-cantering strengthens them. I would also think that since she is now holding the counter-canter, instead of before where she would break into a trot then pick up the right lead, she is now (gasp) listening to me!

Oh, don't have a trainer (yet), so you can tell me I'm not doing it right and not worry about insulting anyone :)


Aces said...

I have a related question.
I have a 4 year old Paint mare who I have been riding since she was a two year old (lightly, and increasing with age).
She has always had a tendency to buck when I ask her to lope, ever since the first time she was moved out with a saddle on. It seems to be getting worse lately.
Note: She has been checked out by my vet and a chiro and there is no detectable soreness anywhere. Saddle fits great, teeth are done. I ride her in a snaffle.
She does it about 90% of the time when I ask her to lope. Often she will skip loping all together and just go to bucking. Sometimes I stick her, mostly I don't. I am bad for bailing (what I feel like is) early. If she does get me off that is typically the end of it, or her next attempt is not enough to pile me. If she doesn't get me off the first time it's usually a battle the next 5 times I ask her for the lope.
I have tried trotting, and trotting, and trotting before asking. I have tried the long trot and let the lope be "her idea". It doesn't seem to matter.
The funny thing about it is she is a SWEETHEART any other time. She would fool you into thinking she is a kids horse until you ask for that lope.
She has never been spoiled, she doesn't get away with any nonsense. She IS a bit on the lazy side. She will rarely lope out in the pasture even when everyone else is burning along. She will be trotting along in the far rear of the pack.
Have you been in a situation like this? I just want to know what is going on in that mind and how to stop it! It seems if it were a laziness thing she wouldn't take the effort to bronc.
The most frustrating thing is being a young trainer, I ride a ton of horses every day, mostly starting colts and rarely get piled! Then I get on mine and am air born 3/4 of the time!

HorsesAndTurbos said...
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HorsesAndTurbos said...

You know, I am not an expert, but if she is not loping in the pasture, I'd be thinking there was something physical that is being missed.

Just my not-so-humble opinion :)


Aces said...

I've had her checked, and there is nothing anyone could find. The vet actually said she was one of the soundest horses he has checked. The chiro said she had one little spot in her neck to adjust but said it shouldn't have caused any major issues. Trust me, the thought of unsoundness or other pain was my first thought and I have had it looked into thoroughly.
She does lope in the pasture, but it seems like it's only when SHE wants to... like if she's frisky or wanting come somewhere. If it's the other horses who start, she doesn't usually hurry herself.
Also, after she bucks me off she has no problem loping away.

mugwump said...

Aces - When I was a young trainer one of the toughest things I had to learn was to let another trainer step in when I was stuck.
It just happens sometimes. I would get someone else up there and get some input.
It could be an obedience thing between you and your filly, but when you said she trots behind the herd a red flag went up for me.
I think it's time for another pair of eyes.

Joy said...

When my horse is feeling especially good, he will throw some bucks out when I ask for the lope. The bucks are usually between the nice "dolphin" bucks and the bigger "I'm not really trying to get you off ya know" bucks. I can feel him when he's in that kind of mood and I've found that if I lightly hold the back of my saddle, instead of the horn, I'm much more balanced and can easily get ahold of his head.

He knows he's got my number because I babied him for a few years due to an injury and I think that's why he does the bucking. When I ride him through those bucks, I get the upper hand and we end up with a good workout and no issues for the next few sessions. Until he gets too fresh again (my fault).

It might not be the right thing to do, holding the back of the saddle, and it probably doesn't look real pretty but it's worked well for me. I don't know how to fix your horse that bucks on you Aces. It sounds like you've covered every idea that might be causing it. Maybe Mugs will have some good advice.

Mugwump, ever since I brought my horse back from pasture, he's decided he will lean on the bit once we are in the lope. Only in the arena, never on trail. The only thing I know to do is to check him while I push him forward with my legs. Do you have any ideas or methods to teach him to knock it off? Thanks.

AKPonyGirl said...

Joy - I was taught to hold the cantle of the saddle or push on the saddle horn to sit through a series of bucks like you describe. If you pull on the saddle horn it causes you to hunch over and unbalances your upper body. When you push the saddle horn (like barrel racers do) it pushes your pockets back into the seat. When it comes to sitting a buck so the horse doesn't get you off and win, I say "Whatever Works"!

Alyson said...

Aces- we had a horse in once for training who would buck her little brains out every time we put her into a canter. She never got any of us off thank goodness, but it turns out that she was kind of anemic. Once her blood levels were right, she was much better to ride. You mentioned your horse was kind of lazy, maybe there might be some similarities between the two horses?

TraceBucked said...

Mugwump, we live in about the same area of Colorado and I am wanting to apprentic a trianer, know anyone who'd be willing to teach me?

mugwump said...

Tracebucked - What do you want to learn?

TraceBucked said...

Mugwup, to put it simply, whatever I can. I would like to train horses and give lessons but I am no where near good enough and I want to learn as much as I can from someone with expriance. (I prefer western.)

TraceBucked said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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