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Good Horse Gone Sour


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#1 Zipnsix

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 10:56 AM

I have a 9yr old QH Gelding. Bought him when he was 3rys old and was green. I worked/rode him 3 to 4 days a week for 4yrs straight. He was absolutely perfect! Then a divorce happened and had to sell my farm. Was forced to board him for two years. The first year I only rode him 3 or 4 times. The second year I only went to the barn for vet/farrier appointments.

Now I have my own place again and just brought him home. Waited a couple weeks for him to get settled and decided it was time to start working again. I knew he would be rusty, but ****! I couldnt walk for days. He didn't buck, rear, or anything real stupid. Just was nervous and stiff as a board. Just went on a short easy trail ride. He was all over the place! Not the horse I remember!

Next night I decided to work him in the pasture for more control as I dont have an arena. Wanted to work on him listening to my hands and legs again. Once again, he ultimately did what I asked but wanted to fight about everything. He would back, flex, and yield his hind end but wasnt cooperative about any of it. Then tried trotting and loping some circles. He kept diving in despite me trying to hold him in frame. Then I thought we should widen the circle and then he would run out. It not only felt terrible but it must have looked like a rodeo! Then I decided to chase some cows and he loved it and did real well so we ended with that.

Question: Should I got back to the round pen? Ahhh, I get so bored in the round pen. I would like to fix this under saddle but dont have an arena. I dont really feel that he should need one as he truely knows what he is supposed to do and I dont want him to rely on rails. Im really looking for some undersaddle exercizes and tips.

#2 Stars_Morab

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 11:18 AM

Sounds like he just needs to get back into the routine. His fitness I'm sure is lacking, and doing what you ask might be difficult. Just get back into a good routine and get him back to work slowly. With all that time off he needs to just get back to it.


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#3 goldentoes

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 11:21 AM

Next night I decided to work him in the pasture for more control as I dont have an arena. Wanted to work on him listening to my hands and legs again. Once again, he ultimately did what I asked but wanted to fight about everything. He would back, flex, and yield his hind end but wasnt cooperative about any of it. Then tried trotting and loping some circles. He kept diving in despite me trying to hold him in frame. Then I thought we should widen the circle and then he would run out.


First, any horse is going to be really mentally rusty after such a long break.

Second, were you riding? Chances are that YOU are rusty too, so everything you try to do, remember that you likely aren't as strong, so it's going to be much harder for you to do what used to be second nature too.

Thirdly, if your horse hasn't been worked in some time, he is not just mentally rusty but physically out of shape. He is being uncooperative both because he hasn't had to work in a long time and probably doesn't like it so much, but ALSO because his body is likely weak, inflexible, and out of balance. So that stuff is actually HARD for him to do, when maybe it was easy at one time.

When bringing a horse back, you have to allow a lot of time just to get him back in reasonable shape. An unbalanced horse is not going to be ABLE to go in a circle without dropping a shoulder or bulging, and he won't be able to "hold a frame" because the muscles that allow him to do so are gone. So start slow, same as you would a totally unstarted horse, at least for the physical development.

I would do a week or two of light lunging, building from 5 minutes in each direction to about 20 total minutes over the two weeks (3-4 days a week), asking for lots of transitions and manners (just walk and trot the first week). Then get back on and start with basic long and low/stretching type exercises to limber him up. Work on lateral work at the walk to get him more balanced and evened out, then add some fitness (trot sets, trail rides/terrain) by the end of the first month back. I would also do some ground stretching after his exercise - carrot stretches, back lifts, and that sort of thing to help loosen him up.

Treat him like an athlete coming back from an injury - you have to start slow and build everything up again. If you rush the physical too much it's going to make coming back to work even less pleasant for him, and he'll cooperate even less :)
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#4 Zipnsix

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 12:35 PM

First, any horse is going to be really mentally rusty after such a long break.

Second, were you riding? Chances are that YOU are rusty too, so everything you try to do, remember that you likely aren't as strong, so it's going to be much harder for you to do what used to be second nature too.

Thirdly, if your horse hasn't been worked in some time, he is not just mentally rusty but physically out of shape. He is being uncooperative both because he hasn't had to work in a long time and probably doesn't like it so much, but ALSO because his body is likely weak, inflexible, and out of balance. So that stuff is actually HARD for him to do, when maybe it was easy at one time.

When bringing a horse back, you have to allow a lot of time just to get him back in reasonable shape. An unbalanced horse is not going to be ABLE to go in a circle without dropping a shoulder or bulging, and he won't be able to "hold a frame" because the muscles that allow him to do so are gone. So start slow, same as you would a totally unstarted horse, at least for the physical development.

I would do a week or two of light lunging, building from 5 minutes in each direction to about 20 total minutes over the two weeks (3-4 days a week), asking for lots of transitions and manners (just walk and trot the first week). Then get back on and start with basic long and low/stretching type exercises to limber him up. Work on lateral work at the walk to get him more balanced and evened out, then add some fitness (trot sets, trail rides/terrain) by the end of the first month back. I would also do some ground stretching after his exercise - carrot stretches, back lifts, and that sort of thing to help loosen him up.

Treat him like an athlete coming back from an injury - you have to start slow and build everything up again. If you rush the physical too much it's going to make coming back to work even less pleasant for him, and he'll cooperate even less :)


I agree, we are both out of shape. Tis my fault not his, so guess i'll buck up and get back on the ground. :(

#5 Smilie

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 01:52 PM

I agree with both of you needing to go back to basics, esp working on shoulder control. Both the falling in and running off in a circle are directly related to shoulder control
As once told to me by a trainer, 'you can't ride a board', thus I would go right back to a snaffle and basic body and suppling control excerices
Working cattle is great, giving a horse a reason to guide, but I would first get him solid on dry work
No, do not go back to a round pen, except maybe for lunging. Horses soon learn to rely on the walls of a round pen to guide them, versus truly learning to stay between the aids (reins and legs ()
Raising attractive , athletic Appaloosas, equally at home in the show ring and on the open trails
Cody Chrome Supreme member of the breed( superiors in trail,halter western pleasure hunter under saddle )
San Stone Image superiors in reining, western riding and trail
Miss Kilo Bright ApHC championship ROMs western pl, trail, HUS , hunter in hand, halter
A New Dimension three year old filly presently working with
Awarded With love 6 year old mare by Awarded, riding well and proven producer
Frankie hubby's senior trail horse
Rubix Hubby's jr trail horse
Dont Skip The Cadence by don't Skip This chip-three year old in training Sold
Mex , Dun Boy and Image, three yr old prospects

http://s335.photobuc...home/KiloBright

#6 Zipnsix

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 02:19 PM

I think I understand. Just wanted to make sure I am supporting him the way that he needs. When he falls into the circle I keep my inner leg pressed in at the girth. Outside leg off. inside hand slightly higher with mouth contact. Outer hand with slight mouth contact to ensure I am helping to hold him together in all areas of his body.

It feels to me that I am maybe doing the wrong thing with my inner rein but I have always been told to hold them up when they fall in? idk. Also, makes it really hard to feel what area he is lacking support when he is rushing through too.

#7 Smilie

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Posted 30 July 2012 - 08:00 PM

Yes, when he falls in, hold that inside rein up at his shoulder, and you can also bump him with your leg ahead of that cinch. Pushing his ribs out with inside leg also helps, but the main culprit is that dropped shoulder to the inside, and you have to make sure that as you push those ribs out with inside leg, you at the same time keep those hips into the lead with outside leg
Thus, I would hold that inside shoulder up with inside rein, and bump that inside shoulder as needed, while driving him foreward with outside leg, pushing that hip into the lead. That engages his hip, so it does not pop out of lead, and he starts to cross fire. The outside rein should be in neutral
A good excerice you can also use, as he drops that inside shoulder, is to stop him, and then make him do several turns on the haunches in the opposite direction of the lead he is on, until he is flowing around. When he is turning freely, letting you know he is no longer leaning on that inside shoulder, ask for the lope again, just at the point where that hip is still slightly into the lead

Edited by Smilie, 30 July 2012 - 08:04 PM.

Raising attractive , athletic Appaloosas, equally at home in the show ring and on the open trails
Cody Chrome Supreme member of the breed( superiors in trail,halter western pleasure hunter under saddle )
San Stone Image superiors in reining, western riding and trail
Miss Kilo Bright ApHC championship ROMs western pl, trail, HUS , hunter in hand, halter
A New Dimension three year old filly presently working with
Awarded With love 6 year old mare by Awarded, riding well and proven producer
Frankie hubby's senior trail horse
Rubix Hubby's jr trail horse
Dont Skip The Cadence by don't Skip This chip-three year old in training Sold
Mex , Dun Boy and Image, three yr old prospects

http://s335.photobuc...home/KiloBright

#8 Zipnsix

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 12:36 AM

Smilie, I love your op's! Glad you chimed in. The problem I am feeling is that when i pick up on the inside rein, he turns like a barrel horse. he thinks I want him to turn harder but i really want him to pick up the shoulder. what do i do? I try to keep my inside leg on hard but maybe since i am weak from not riding, he is not feeling it. i really dont believe that as he has always listened to me before. idk , plz help. Since i know this horse, feels like he is bluffing....even if he is, what do i do about it?

#9 TXhorseman

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 03:52 AM

What type of bridle are you using? You should be using a snaffle bit at this point since it provides more individual control with each rein.

You mentioned that your horse was stiff. What size turn are you trying to make? Begin with turns on a large radius before moving to tighter circles. Work at getting your horse relaxed and supple in the back and legs.

Also, work at getting your horse so carry more of his weight with his hind end through the judicious use of half-halts and transitions.
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#10 goldentoes

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 10:21 AM

It might be different riding western, but I find lifting the inside rein when they fall in usually makes the problem worse - at least for me it creates a situation where my inside shoulder falls and I lose core support on that side, trying to "hold" them up - and the result of that is that they lean more and get more unbalanced.

When I have this problem (frequent, I ride OTTBs, haha), we work more on maintaining straightness in the rider's body - widening the hands and making sure they are level, and offering more outside rein support. Also work on turns on the haunches, shoulder in, and basic lateral work just at the walk to start to unlock the body (the other culprit here is often a tight horse who is out of balance and physically has trouble staying in line, or has uneven body development due to the work they've been doing or not doing). Counterbending also seems counterintuitive but can be a helpful exercise.
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#11 Zipnsix

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 10:28 AM

What type of bridle are you using? You should be using a snaffle bit at this point since it provides more individual control with each rein.

You mentioned that your horse was stiff. What size turn are you trying to make? Begin with turns on a large radius before moving to tighter circles. Work at getting your horse relaxed and supple in the back and legs.

Also, work at getting your horse so carry more of his weight with his hind end through the judicious use of half-halts and transitions.


Just using a plain O ring snaffle. Just wanting to do some maybe 50ft diameter circles cause I want to work on his hind end, but cant seem to get past the shoulder problem. He is naturally very heavy in the front end and tends to get sluggish so this shoulder problem is certainly a challenge. Wore my spurs the other day and he did a little better. Other posters said he may be very out of shape gonna work on that a bit and then give it another go as both of us are way out of shape. Also seems like he does better in the round pen, but once again I want him to be good out in big open area too.

#12 Zipnsix

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 10:35 AM

Just using a plain O ring snaffle. Just wanting to do some maybe 50ft diameter circles cause I want to work on his hind end, but cant seem to get past the shoulder problem. He is naturally very heavy in the front end and tends to get sluggish so this shoulder problem is certainly a challenge. Wore my spurs the other day and he did a little better. Other posters said he may be very out of shape gonna work on that a bit and then give it another go as both of us are way out of shape. Also seems like he does better in the round pen, but once again I want him to be good out in big open area too.


Goldentoes: Yes, the more I try to hold the shoulder up the worse it feels. Gonna try some of the exercises and work on my legs more. Maybe if I put more focus on my legs instead of my reins he will respond better.

#13 Smilie

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 02:53 PM

How are you holding that shoulder up with inside rein He should not want to turn if you are giving no lateral rein signal. You hold that inside rein up straight, right in front of his shoulder, and there never should be more bend in the neck , riding a circle, than needed to just see the inside corner of that eye
Not sure if you meant my advise, Goldertoes, concerning having the horse turn over the hocks for several turns in the opposite direction of the lead, and where he is leaning, but that gets the message across to the horse to pick up that shoulder and not lean on it, as there is no other way he can cross over correctly in front
In fatc, when I first start asking horse to lope from a standstill, and even with inside rein raised against his neck, I feel him leaning that shoulder, I will use mu leg ahead of the cinch and get him to stop leaning
The raisesd rein will have a horse hold his shoulder up, but he can still be leaning, and that is when you use the correct leg cues to get him off of that shoulder (inside for leaning, outside behind the cinch to engage his hip
Like I said before, you can`t ride a board. Reins only control a
horse from the whithers foreward, legs control the rest
The main difference between english and western, is western training is geared towards the horse eventually learning self carriage, without constant rein support, but correct body position is correct body position
if you move that hip into the lead, hold that inside shoulder up , have the e horse maintain topline , and drive him up into the lope with outside leg then it is easy for him to pick up that lead
Eventually, a western horse has to learn to guide evenly between those two reins., always seeking that `neutral position, where he is leaning neither side of his neck against a rein, so that when a rein is laid against his neck, he moves away from it, until he is evenly between the reins again
Thus, by holding that inside rein against his neck, he learns that he must yield his shoulder to it, versus leaning into it.
Until he learns to do so, you might need your leg to reinforce.
When ahorse is learning to lope a correct circle, you should be able to move him in and out of that circle with your reins
When he is first learning, and tries to fall in, I hold that inside rein against that inside shoulder, slightly up, and if he does not get off of that rein, that is when you bump that shoulder with your leg. You do the reverse if he tries to run out of the circle-drive him foreward hard, when he tried to stall out, and block that shoulder with outside rein, bumping with that oustside leg ahead of the cinch if needed
Raising attractive , athletic Appaloosas, equally at home in the show ring and on the open trails
Cody Chrome Supreme member of the breed( superiors in trail,halter western pleasure hunter under saddle )
San Stone Image superiors in reining, western riding and trail
Miss Kilo Bright ApHC championship ROMs western pl, trail, HUS , hunter in hand, halter
A New Dimension three year old filly presently working with
Awarded With love 6 year old mare by Awarded, riding well and proven producer
Frankie hubby's senior trail horse
Rubix Hubby's jr trail horse
Dont Skip The Cadence by don't Skip This chip-three year old in training Sold
Mex , Dun Boy and Image, three yr old prospects

http://s335.photobuc...home/KiloBright

#14 Zipnsix

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 11:58 AM

Smilie, I believe I am holding the inside rein straight up above the shoulder. I try to visualize that my rein is actually connected to his shoulder and I lift straight up. Maybe I am lifting with too much pressure? Will look at his eye next time. One thing you mentioned that I am not doing is using my outside leg. I was just holding it off of him. Im gonna try two things you suggested that I havent been doing. 1) Outside leg contact far back to hold the hindquarters in the circle and Inside leg more forward toward the shoulder vs at the girth? Does that sound like a good plan?

#15 Smilie

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 01:27 PM

Yes, but use that inside leg ahead of the girth to bump his shoulder, only if he is not getting off of that inside rein
Eventually, you want him to both keep that inside shoulder up and not leaning, simply using rein cues
On a finished western horse, you should be able to completely control the front end with reins alone, but until you get there, you use that inside leg only to re -enforce rein aid that is being ignored.
Our horses are taught to move away from pressure, not lean into it, and for a western horse , that means also moving away from rein pressure against his neck
If you google some reining runs, where the horse picks up the lead from a standstill, after a spin, you will get the idea of how you eventually need to be able to position him, riding with one hand
I will try and fins an example

http://www.bing.com/...DFE4E1D&first=0
Raising attractive , athletic Appaloosas, equally at home in the show ring and on the open trails
Cody Chrome Supreme member of the breed( superiors in trail,halter western pleasure hunter under saddle )
San Stone Image superiors in reining, western riding and trail
Miss Kilo Bright ApHC championship ROMs western pl, trail, HUS , hunter in hand, halter
A New Dimension three year old filly presently working with
Awarded With love 6 year old mare by Awarded, riding well and proven producer
Frankie hubby's senior trail horse
Rubix Hubby's jr trail horse
Dont Skip The Cadence by don't Skip This chip-three year old in training Sold
Mex , Dun Boy and Image, three yr old prospects

http://s335.photobuc...home/KiloBright

#16 Zipnsix

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 03:17 PM

Yes, I like that. It makes sense to use inside leg as a reinforcement(only) to hold in that shoulder. Otherwise, I would be riding around with my heel dug in his shoulder all the time, lol. thanks!

#17 Apps4Life

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 04:35 PM

I think Smilie has given you some great advice. All that said, I think I'd only do super short doses of wanting this guy to be in frame and up properly at the lope. With 2 years off the poor dude is just out of shape. Bring him back into fitness properly and I'll bet you'll have him going perfect again that won't be sour because you pushed him while he was sore.

Here's a really neat blog that goes through bringing a horse back into fitness... it's from the eventers perspective and about after a leg injury, but I think we all could gain a lot from it. I know there's a lot, but try browsing through it. She was injured in September of 2009. http://eventing-a-gogo.blogspot.com/
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#18 Zipnsix

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 04:46 PM

I agree. i know how sore I was so he had to feel the same way. Neither one of us are spring chickens, lol. I will check out that blog.

#19 Smilie

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 10:08 AM

Good point on getting the horse fit first, and that is what I meant by putting some basic body control on the horse, done at the slower gaits, which will transition over to the lope in time
If things aren't right at the walk and jog, they sure won't be at the lope!
Raising attractive , athletic Appaloosas, equally at home in the show ring and on the open trails
Cody Chrome Supreme member of the breed( superiors in trail,halter western pleasure hunter under saddle )
San Stone Image superiors in reining, western riding and trail
Miss Kilo Bright ApHC championship ROMs western pl, trail, HUS , hunter in hand, halter
A New Dimension three year old filly presently working with
Awarded With love 6 year old mare by Awarded, riding well and proven producer
Frankie hubby's senior trail horse
Rubix Hubby's jr trail horse
Dont Skip The Cadence by don't Skip This chip-three year old in training Sold
Mex , Dun Boy and Image, three yr old prospects

http://s335.photobuc...home/KiloBright