My Horse Won't Carry Himself… Help?

This topic contains 10 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by skm_riding skm_riding 4 years, 2 months ago.

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  • equusparvus Original Poster equusparvus
    Topics Started: 14Replies Posted: 12

    I’ve been slowly learning to get my horse round, and we have some days where he carries himself nicely in a frame. Sometimes though, after about 15 or 20 minutes, he starts stretching his neck out and leaning on me. I have no issue with him stretching down, I like him using his back, but he just leans on my hands and gets on the forehand. I try to use my leg to push him up to the bit and squeeze the reins to get him off my hands and half halt to get him to come back to me, but he usually just goes faster and pulls harder. He leans so much that if I move my hand an inch his head will swing with it. Any tips to get him to come back and carry himself?

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 477

    Achieving collection and self carriage is one thing (Congrats!! NOT an overnight accomplishment), sustaining it is totally another. It sounds like maybe a fitness/conditioning issue more than a training one for you guys at the moment. Keep the request for self carriage but shorten the time spent, for now.

    Go back to working at prolonging it but be mindful of overdoing. Takes a lot, from horse AND rider, to build the fitness and conditioning required to sustain such ways-of-going comfortably. Overdoing tends to leave the door open to evasion and compensation if the rider is too demanding at first (ever). Good luck to you, and enjoy the journey!!

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    I wonder if you are perhaps riding with too much tension in your shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. Try relaxing all these muscles so that the bit floats softly and moves with the horse. If you tense all these muscles, the bit ceases to float with the bit, and the horse will continually run into it, which is uncomfortable and annoying for him/her. If you are riding with these muscles correctly relaxed most of the time, you should be able to “drop a cement wall in front of the horse” just by abruptly tensing all these muscles from a relaxed state to a fully tensed state. Once you have figured out how to control the tension in these muscles, you can also learn to tense groups of muscles, depending on how much increased tension you need to get the horse’s attention. Closing just your fingers tighter should be enough to slow the horse down, adding the hand muscles if he ignores you, and adding additional groups until he learns that ignoring increased finger tension will progress to the other muscle groups if he chooses to ignore the the increased finger tension. This method can give you much more (and virtually invisible) control, and once the horse figures it out, a much happier and more comfortable horse because you will be riding most of the time with much less contact.

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    Have you tried carrot stretches before you ride? Flexing him before you mount may help. It will also identify stiffness or soreness that can cause stringing out.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    Sit down, open your knees, pull your belly button to your spine, lift your chest and stretch your pectorals when he pulls… basically when you do this as a reaction to his pulling, you will be doing a half halt with your seat, a half halt generated by HIM.. as by opening your knees, instead of pivoting on them, he pulls YOU INTO the saddle. (old trick taught to me by a german 3 day guy I grew up near… )

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by  sandi_haggett.
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    oops this was double posting, I guess I double clicked submit when I should have single clicked… sorry!

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by  sandi_haggett.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by  sandi_haggett.
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I used to have almost the same issue with my mare, right down to the same behavior you describe when you apply more leg. I started to ask her to give me a free walk when I started to feel like she was about to start pulling or leaning. I always asked at a moment when she was only just starting to get heavy so that my release of the rein was not a response to her pressure. Asking for the free walk allows her to stretch her neck out and take a break while still being a part of her job and my idea. It takes different muscles for him to carry himself this way so you have to slowly build him up. Little by little you can increase the time between asking for free walks and hopefully this will build up his fitness and he won’t be relying on you to carry him so much. This is what I have done with my mare and it has worked wonders.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 7

    My gymkhana mare does the exact same thing when she’s winded. She pulls her head down at the lope and nearly drags the ground with it. It is extremely un-nerving at that speed. She never has an issue with it if it’s a short run, but if I’m pushing her for any distance her head goes straight down once she starts getting tired. I’d stop him and let him take a break if you think it may be he’s getting tired, especially if he’s breathing hard. I also agree with pheets. It may be that he is simply unused to working the muscles your asking him to use so even though he may not be tired his muscles are starting to hurt. Let him rest, horses generally do what they do for a reason, listen to what he’s saying. If it’s a fitness, conditioning issue he will get over it as you work him more.

    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 5

    Alternate periods of collection (rounding) with periods of allowing your hore to stretch his neck out and walk briskly forward. Also do not pull your horse into a round position with your hands, but let it come from his hindquarters (via your legs) into your hands. Perhaps some lessons with a dressage instructor would help.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    I agree with the riders that suggested breaks. Just before you think you’re going to get the behavior let your horse have a deserved break on a long rein. Then go back to collection.
    Also remember that if you are trying to improve a gait, it is TRANSITIONS that improve the gait. Try lots of transitions to try and improve the length and quality of your collected work.
    Good work and remember to keep it light.

    skm_riding skm_riding
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    When he starts leaning on you stop him completely and drop the reins. If he walks off pick the reins back up and back him up the equal amount of steps. And anytime you ask him to stop if he pushes into your hands back up until he quits.

    Also are you working with a dressage instructor? They are worth their weight (and then some!) in gold!! Even a few high quality lessons are going to help you go so much further in your training.

    Lastly transitions. Lots & lots of walk-trot, walk-canter etc. transitions should help!

    Happy Riding! 😀

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