Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

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Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by poghag on Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:02 pm

I really enjoy riding Pog in the school and out on hacks on the buckle, and we do single-rope riding off the halter, but he is fairly wayward and quite determined about where HE wants to go much of the time. Now, often, I let him do just that... but how do I help him tune in to being more "with me" on board, so that I can have some say over direction. We joined in with a group lesson today in his bitless, and I had to do some fairly obvious nose-tipping steering to avoid some of the clients!

I do do a lot of groundwork with him... any tips welcome.


Last edited by poghag on Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:42 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by Jo on Sun Dec 14, 2008 5:16 am

I used to have this problem to a point with Trelawny - and I think you do get this problem if you are starting or training a horse, to work with you whilst retaining the use of his brain and personality - and not creating a machine that does everything it is asked but has lost the ability to be a true horse.
He is really good now and the only problem I have is walking in a straight line - because he is such a curious chap he wants to know whats through that gate, or over that hedge, or he wants to say hello to walkers etc etc
my tip would be to be firm, and calm, never lose your temper - but make it clear that you are going where YOU want to go - I always carry small bits of carrot which I use as a training aid for Trelawny - it works for him - so he gets a reward for doing as I have asked. - Its quite funny because I am trying to teach him the aids to canter at the moment and without the use of a school , and no flat fields we have to rely on going through the woods - so we canter up this short stretch and I am saying good boy, good boy, so he stops, tips his head around and says - ok I have been good so where is my treat?!
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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by FlorayG on Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:50 am

A friend of mine has a horse that is a very strong character and can come over as dangerous if you don't know him - he's Welsh Cob cross Warmblood, so big and impressive. The way to get HIS co-operation is to share things - she does what he wants for a few minutes, then what she wants him to do, then a break where he gets to decide and so on. She says gradually he gets more interested in her view because she's not forcing it on him. He gives her the opposite resistance to your horse, he refuses to go faster than a slow walk when he's in a non co-operative mood. I've worked with him and he's fascinating - you can tell that in the wild he would have been a very senior stallion, she's so glad he's gelded!
But you need to figure out if your horse really is doing what he does out of obstinacy, or whether (as in most cases I see), he thinks this is what he is supposed to do? It takes a lot of thinking on the owners part to work this out, and sometimes a lot of guts to admit that you or someone else taught him to be like this. On the other hand, a horse that really does it for fun (like one of mine does), you just have to go with it and direct it, and make it clear when this behaviour is acceptable and when it isn't. God I sound like some kid's schoolteacher don't I? study
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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by Sydney on Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:51 am

Try line driving/ground driving through cones set up a meter or more apart. Weave between them.

I went through a phase with my pony when he would rubberneck and turn his head but keep going in another direction. Cones really helped a lot. It gave me something visual and him something physical he had to move around. After a day or two of cones his turning was really good and the rubbernecking had almost gone away. When I drive I use the whip to move them away from something if they aren't being responsive when I am first training them.

For instance last night I had to drive for an event and give rides to people. The mare I was driving would turn her head and keep going in a strait line...right towards parked cars so a few taps in her barrel with the whip and she got the idea that if she did not move when the reins asked her the whip was next.

Try using leg to block them from ignoring your reins. First teaching a horse to move away from pressure on the ground goes miles in teaching them how to move away from leg on their back.
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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by poghag on Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:42 pm

Sorry - this is long - more questions!

Thank you for responses so far... will take on board everything suggested, thank you again. Except I'm extremely hesitant about food rewards as he is a confirmed biter with insecurity/aggression issues that I'm really trying to help him with.

Funnily enough had a lesson last weekend with a new instructor (combination of Silversand training (Australian NH), Alexander technique and "classical" dressage) who noticed that my own energy levels are way too high, likewise my horse, so she set us to walking around loads of obstacles, in hand then ridden, and she said do that for a month (when I next see her) and we both should see great progress. We did it twice this week (just in string halter) and he was pretty good.

I will try "shutting the door" more with my outside leg; I'd forgotten about that one and have probably been too ineffectual with it.

Went for a super hack yesterday over unknown territory (a box-drive away) but it took me several goes at getting on (I get straight back off again if he moves, and replace him - at home I can now get on from either side, from any object, and he stands with loopy reins - out and about is something else!) but eventually he stood. His head was as high as an 18 hander, and his ears were so pricked... I'm thinking maybe a little groundwork, followed by leading him in hand before I get on next time is probably in order. Other than that, does anyone have any further ideas for settling a horse to mount when they are very alert?

Because also, once I was on, he just charged off at such a hurried walk, slipping and sliding and not listening at all, that I ended up doing a one-rein stop with him (and even then he was very resistant, head high and pushing right through the contact...), after which he charged off again (and I needed him to listen as I was having to crouch low under branches quite a lot, and direct him around trees which wouldn't wipe me off).

After the first few minutes he was fine, but I was sitting there remembering that I'd told myself if I ever had to take a really strong contact with the bitless, then I'd have to have a rethink because he's usually pretty soft in the bit. We're about to go to Wales to explore for a week and I'm thinking about putting his snaffle back on, on top of his halter; that's how we hacked out for much of last year.

ALSO - when schooling (we evented the first year I rode him, (I bought him after that as he was a hugely erratic eventer) but have gone right back to basics this year to lay much better foundations and explore different paths (hence all the groundwork, walks together in hand, removal of shoes and, for now, bit)... anyway, he's always been pretty tense (he arrived with a lorry load of other horses, no name, papers or history, aged 4, with a penchant for biting, pinning people against walls, and lifting his nose level with his ears when ridden... I knew what I was taking on when I bought him and I really believe he's a much much happier horse now (whinnies at me when he sees me, gallops in from the field when called), but we've still got a long long way to go!)... anyway, where was I??? Oh yes, tension was always a big issue, and he is very much improved, but still when schooling in the bitless I only get snatches of soft, poll-relaxed, good work, whereas with a soft contact on the snaffle he had been starting to soften and relax much better, with barely a contact... so obviously my burning question is how do I help him round his frame during general school riding, rather than just plop along flatly... or is this more working around obstacles?

I'm really trying to help him work "correctly", from his rear, but often with the bitless he seems to go along so "flat", and I'm feeling I'm having to make my cues more obvious and I'm not liking that and am a little confused.

I'm also thinking about the action - his bridle is a "nurtural" crossunder, and I'm wondering if the whole action around his head just isn't precise enough? What do other people school in? And do I need to have a total rethink of my own methods? I've always been considered a "kind" rider, enjoying minimal contact, and grew up riding on the buckle, but I'd like to have a horse who can one day go out and event again and do well in the dressage (even if that's HC in his bitless)... but is the idea of riding into a soft contact not appropriate in a bitless? Is this just going to be a long long path while I try to find out how to work him through from behind in a rounded frame? (probably!)

Sorry my questions are so long. Funnily enough, as I write them out and think them through, some answers seem to make themselves obvious anyway... but I'd love any input from anyone as I'd really like to get this right and I think that's going to mean taking all sorts of suggestions on board.

Thank you everybody and sorry it's so long!

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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by Sydney on Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:34 am

as for moving away when you mount.

When I train a horse I want them to know they can move when they are nervous. Indigo on windy days is a pain when you first get on. She wants to move. Once I was going to ride her bareback, climbed on the gate because it was a bit icy. As I was throwing my leg over her she moved away and I just about did the splits. I was not impressed. She was very nervous about the wind though. I worked with her on the ground for as long as it took (some days 2 minutes sometimes 45) for her to relax and feel safe enough to not be moving when I mounted and sat there. If the horse keeps moving he does not feel safe you have to find a way to make him feel safe and secure and want to stand with you. Thats different for every horse.

When you trap a horse from moving it doesn't take what fear or anxiety they have away it just makes it worse. I want to create a relationship around trust so I take the moving away from me part when I am mounting as lack of trust and work with it. A horse in fear of you or it's surroundings is not a trustworthy horse.

I ride in nurturals. I've ridden horses from their first ride and even now drive to old seasoned horses that were terrible in a bit.
First thing I tell people is to make sure you have it adjusted properly. Secondly again with the fear, no horse is going to stop no matter your bridle if he does not trust and has fear. You can work on your legs and seat rather than your arms. I find with any bitless bridle you use a lot more leg and less hands.

Something that has helped me and others are breathing halts. First do them on the ground leading your horse. Lead your horse, take a big deep breath and as you exhale stop. Make the horse stop with you and continue to do this until your horse stops with no pressure on the lead. Then try it in the saddle. Theres three steps in the saddle. 1. Take a deep breath. 2. Exhale. 3. wait exactly TWO seconds after you exhale and pull back on the reins/cue to stop only IF the horse does not stop on the exhale. The two seconds are important so you can even say them out loud. Keep doing this your horse should stop on your exhale. It relaxes you, relaxes your horse and gives you an alternative method of calming down and stopping than pulling back on the reins which makes an anxious horse resistant and fighty.
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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by bohohorse on Mon Dec 15, 2008 3:19 pm

Hi PH,

First thing I would say is: take a huge deep breath and relax...! Easy to say I know, like telling someone not to think about elephants... but I can pick up on your worry. You've got a whole shopping list of desires (hacking away from home, going away, schooling...) and you've been bitless for what... a few months? I know you are emotionally invested in this (aren't we all?) and you want to make it work - and it will! but it will take the time that it takes. And for me, the thing that seperates the good horsepeople from the bad is loving the journey... if you don't love the journey then the destination will suck too (if they ever get there Laughing )

poghag wrote: Except I'm extremely hesitant about food rewards as he is a confirmed biter with insecurity/aggression issues that I'm really trying to help him with.

Fair enough - for now - as you need to stay safe but look into it and give clicker training some thought as it is an excellent way to teach aggressive/bitey horses consequence. Because with clicker, when the horse mugs, begs or gets angry - the treats go away and don't come back! Early in the targeting lessons, the horse has to learn to walk away from the treats in order to get one and this is a huge revelation for them. Not hand feeding bitey horses masks the problem rather than solves it. It's a bit like not leaving your handbag in the car... the thief won't steal it - but you haven't cured the thief of stealing!

Funnily enough had a lesson last weekend with a new instructor (combination of Silversand training (Australian NH), Alexander technique and "classical" dressage) who noticed that my own energy levels are way too high, likewise my horse, so she set us to walking around loads of obstacles, in hand then ridden, and she said do that for a month (when I next see her) and we both should see great progress. We did it twice this week (just in string halter) and he was pretty good.

I hear the sound of a nail being hit on the head Laughing Your emotional state is the single most influential factor in your relationship with your horse. I wrote in my KFH thread his advice for doing a 'body scan' and emptying your mind before starting anything with your horse. I have to remind myself of this EVERY day Laughing as I'm a mental chatterbox... but following his routine has really helped us. I do the scan, then think about my feet on the ground, my shoulders being low, feel the air moving and listen to the sounds around me. I also don't talk too much to him, just a 'Good boy' and other things that he will recognise (no point in constant babble, they just tune out!)

Other than that, does anyone have any further ideas for settling a horse to mount when they are very alert?

As with most things, reinforce your mounting and ground work at home - even if it seems tip top, if it is going out of the window when away from home then it can stand to be better. Personally, I wouldn't get on if the horse was that tense. I'd do some ground work but NOT anything that involves him charging around on the end of a rope as he will probably get away from you. Take him for a little walk, let him see the monsters, if he trys to rush forward, stop and change direction immediately so he has to cross his legs. (KFH's book is very good on dominant and non-dominant leading positions - I'd stay in front of him and make him walk behind my right hand to start with). Then do some exercises with emphasis on things that will have a calming effect - move the legs around, backing, head lowering etc. When you are ready to get on, 'mock' mount a few times - lean over and pat etc - until you are SURE that he will stand calmly when you are ready. As you probably know, a horse only has to do something twice to learn it so the more often he repeats the undesired behaviour, the more inbuilt it becomes and the harder to change it so you must insist on the right behaviour but make it easy for him to get right by breaking it down into small chunks for him.

Because also, once I was on, he just charged off at such a hurried walk, slipping and sliding and not listening at all, that I ended up doing a one-rein stop with him (and even then he was very resistant, head high and pushing right through the contact...), after which he charged off again (and I needed him to listen as I was having to crouch low under branches quite a lot, and direct him around trees which wouldn't wipe me off).

This is the stage you don't want to get to, so give some thought to getting that calmness before you get on as once you are on it's can be too late unless you are very confident.

After the first few minutes he was fine, but I was sitting there remembering that I'd told myself if I ever had to take a really strong contact with the bitless, then I'd have to have a rethink because he's usually pretty soft in the bit. We're about to go to Wales to explore for a week and I'm thinking about putting his snaffle back on, on top of his halter; that's how we hacked out for much of last year.

There is no doubt about it, the bitless is softer so if a horse is used to a stronger aid then to start with, he won't be registering the aids from the BB so well. Your mission is to teach him to be soft with the softer aid! it makes me smile wryly when people say things like 'better a light aid with a strong bit than a strong aid with a soft bit' as... it's all the same! It shows that most riders think that some kind of strength is necessary, the only difference with the strong bit is it makes the rider feel that they are doing less and feel better. We should all be striving for the softest aid with the softest equipment. To be honest, I'd say, if this trip is imminent and you don't feel ready then use the snaffle. Not because I think you can't have control in the BB but because you are right at the start of your journey and you really don't need to give yourself time pressure as you have enough to think about right now.

Oh yes, tension was always a big issue, and he is very much improved, but still when schooling in the bitless I only get snatches of soft, poll-relaxed, good work, whereas with a soft contact on the snaffle he had been starting to soften and relax much better, with barely a contact... so obviously my burning question is how do I help him round his frame during general school riding, rather than just plop along flatly... or is this more working around obstacles?

It will come and the best thing you can do for his physical work is get his mental and emotional work right. Any training system worth it's salt has 'relaxation' top of it's list ofrequirements. I'm not about to suggest that a horse can't be relaxed in a bit, but a lot of what riders call a frame, outline, softening etc is the horse holding himself in a way to make the bit more comfortable in his mouth. Take it away and hey presto, the outline disappears. For now, continue with your homework to get him relaxed and attentive. Look at the classical scales of training - they apply to bitless too. There is a billion exercises you can do to improve rhythm, engagement, stretch, lifting the forehand etc etc... I'd be reinventing the wheel to try writing about them but I can give you some useful links if you like.

I'm also thinking about the action - his bridle is a "nurtural" crossunder, and I'm wondering if the whole action around his head just isn't precise enough? What do other people school in? And do I need to have a total rethink of my own methods? I've always been considered a "kind" rider, enjoying minimal contact, and grew up riding on the buckle, but I'd like to have a horse who can one day go out and event again and do well in the dressage (even if that's HC in his bitless)... but is the idea of riding into a soft contact not appropriate in a bitless? Is this just going to be a long long path while I try to find out how to work him through from behind in a rounded frame? (probably!)


I school in a padded sidepull as I found that the headhug of my crossunder didn't translate the contact well. But that's just us and I'm not saying it couldn't work for another horse. Yes, riding into a soft contact is still appropriate! I never understood the concept of a horse truly reaching for the contact until riding Zeno bitless. The contact helps to connect the front end to the back. All the classical methods apply to bitless too. It would be a good idea to do some more study on what outline/self carriage/collection entails as then you will be able to see what is going on anatomically - it's got buggerall to do with what the horse has on his head.

Sorry my questions are so long.

s'alright. Although my tea has gone cold Laughing Some useful links:

www.equinestudies.org

www.sustainabledressage.net/index.php

Books/DVDs
Dancing with Horses - Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling
Anything by Anja Beran
Clicker Training for your horse - Alexandra Kurland
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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by poghag on Mon Dec 15, 2008 11:15 pm

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Thank you so much for such a considered reply.

The path continues... I have so much to learn!

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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by FlorayG on Tue Dec 16, 2008 11:48 am

bohohorse is SO right. I've been there, where you are now, with one of mine, she didn't used to run off but she used to buck like a demon at the slightest excitement. She never does it now, and I mean never. We have a better relationship and I read from your stuff above your horse is behaving exactly like the Kitten would - too excited to let you get on, too excited to walk, everything a worry oooh ooh scary things everywhere...can't take it any more got to BUCK/GALLOP OFFto relieve the tension. Only in your case it looks like this attitude was instilled in him by someone else, I have no-one to blame but myself as Kitten is homebred! Where in the country are you? Can any of us help directly?
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Re: Responsiveness in directions... and many further questions too now!

Post by poghag on Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:24 pm

I'm in East London! Sorry for short reply; have to go to work. Maybe I will trek out to Bohohorse for some help.

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