Suppleness & Impulsion

This topic contains 19 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by riding for Christ riding for Christ 1 year, 11 months ago.

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  • AngelaDeGennaro Original Poster AngelaDeGennaro
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 4

    I’m looking for new ways and training techniques to supple a horse and have them really use their hind end. My big guy often gets stiff to one side but I’m constantly doing circles, bending, counter bending and sometimes not even touching his face at all and he’s usually stiff throughout his rib cage, poll and neck. He’s 17.3 and for being 5’5 I think I ride him really well but have a harder time then most people who are stronger and taller than I am!

    It's the difficult horses that have the most to give you.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    My boy was very stiff when I met him, and I did a lot of ground work with him. Got him to bend in either direction by offering a peppermint held nearly to his hindquarters (he had no neck muscles), lateral work in hand, driving in long lines, etc. I also massage him before riding, to loosen him up. Another loosening exercise we do is to have him bend his head and neck nearly to the ground and between his front legs for a peppermint (he is mostly good motivated). I also have him stretch his forelegs after putting the saddle on, prior to tightening the girth. My personal feeling is that if a horse is not supple on the ground, he (or she) certainly will not be supple under saddle. He is 22 (I thought he was 24 until I had to look at his papers this week), has a club foot and some arthritis in his back due to falling over backward in a starting gate in his distant youth. Keeping him flexible is a major concern for me, so I seem to spend more time doing things on the ground than actually riding him. When I ride, I carry an mp3 player (external speaker) so he has music to move with, keeping his rhythm and speed constant.

    Is your boy stiff because he is simply not relaxed or is there some other cause? Have you tried a chiro or massage therapist? Mine (massage person) suggested rubbing lavender oil under his throat and lower jaw for relaxation and using a sports rub of epsom salts and rubbing alcohol to loosen his muscles. It really has helped a lot. I put a warm towel over his back with the rub stuff for about 20 minutes before saddling. Since he was a racehorse, he is used to people doing strange things – my mare would not stand for that nonsense. You could try some or all of this, and perhaps it will help.

    It is never the horse's fault

    AngelaDeGennaro Original Poster AngelaDeGennaro
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 4

    I always do exercises on the ground. He’s very good motivated!! I do between his legs like he’s Boeing for each leg and move his back around me basically to his butt after and before every ride. He just had a hard jaw and no one can get him to supple. Recently though I haven’t even been touching his face and all of a sudden he’s very giving and have been soft in the bridle. I just want to be able to get on and him be willing for be soft. He used to be when I rode him in this huge Pelham that he came with but I didn’t want him to be used to that so I now use a softer bit and that was a struggle!

    It's the difficult horses that have the most to give you.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Sounds more like a mental thing than a physical one then. How does he go when you ride in a halter and lead?

    It is never the horse's fault

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Have you tried teaching him to stretch to the bit? When I horse stretches down, he has to un-tense both his back & his neck, and it sounds like he is locking his back & maybe his neck as well. A few years back, the 1st level dressage tests required that the horse, on command, stretch down to the ground, or as low as he could/would go, the lower the better, and come back up again when asked, without resistance or fussing about it. Doing this demonstrated that the horse was relaxed enough through the neck and back to stretch down without changing his speed, rhythm, or stride length. And it demonstrated suppleness and balance in that he could do the above without changing his speed, rhythm or stride length.

    You start out at somewhat of a disadvantage, being a smaller person on a very big horse, so if you can teach your horse to do this, you will be able to un-tense him elegantly, and keep him at the end of whatever length of rein you chose to give him. To go down smoothly on command without jerking the reins through your hands, the horse has to be relaxed, and again to come smoothly back up on command without fussing or fighting the bit requires that he stay relaxed through both his neck and back. And, once you have taught him this, you have will have a method of getting him to relax through his back and neck.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    G&S – How would one go about teaching this? I sometimes (okay, often) have trouble explaining to my horses what it is I want them to do.

    It is never the horse's fault

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Teaching your horse this exercise is one of those things that makes perfect sense when you know how to do it, and I have taught this to numerous people, but always in person. It is very hard to explain on paper, especially on a horse new to the exercise. Your best option is to find a local dressage trainer and tell him or her that you want to learn how to teach your horse to do the stretch-down trot circles, but look for an instructor who teaches French Dressage, not German Dressage. If they don’t know what you are talking about, and can’t explain the difference between French Dressage and German Dressage, keep looking for a French Dressage trainer. I can tell you how to do it, but unless somebody who understands how to do this correct can be standing there to teach it to you either on your horse or on a horse that has already been trained how to do this, and correct mistakes as you work your way through to understanding what to do and why it works, you are likely to end up confused and with a horse that has no idea what you are asking him to do. For example this requires that you be able to remove the tension from a lot of muscles and ride relaxed, so that you can learn to feel what the horse beneath you is doing.

    AngelaDeGennaro Original Poster AngelaDeGennaro
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 4

    Joe-joe- I’ve ridden him in a halter and lead and he’s amazing! oddly enough I find that he enjoyed it much better then having a bit in his mouth. For his size he doesn’t have to be bitted up to collect at all. But you can feel the difference between bits. He tends to like something soft. I’ve been riding him in an elevator and he likes it but when I ride him in a slow twist D Ring he’s much more giving and gives me his head and really stretches down. I use the one rein stop and he responds to it well, along with closing my legs. When I ask him to give I keep my constant pressure on the outside and keep slight contact with my inside and bend him and give, bend him and give, bend him and give. When I do this I never go all the way around the ring. I stay at a circle and am constantly moving him around my leg and he responds well! But its when he doesn’t respond that I’m stuck at.

    G&S- I have tried to teach long and low for him to really accept and stretch but he doesn’t want to stretch. If I loosen my reins he just sticks his nose out 3 feet in front of him and low, But when i gather my reins he picks his head up. Some days he responds well and some days he doesn’t. Maybe its me. I have a trainer but we always use draw reins but I believe and know that he can do it without them. He was a dressage horse before I bought him but his heart just wasn’t in it. He loves to Jump! So we’re working towards to Equitation. The farm before rode him in a solid Rubber Pelham and the trainer would ride him in an O Ring. But that’s all they rode him in so at first he had a very hard mouth but know he loves loves LOVES my happy mouth Elevator!

    For his size, I have to say he is very forgiving and is a quick learner. He picks up on things on the first ride. Then every other ride after that he just tunes it up. Once he knows what to do and how to do it he’s great! Its just getting him to do it which is the struggle. Thank you for all your help!

    Is there any exercises I can do for him to stretch and be more flexible within his back and rib cage?

    It's the difficult horses that have the most to give you.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Try him in a soft rubber bradoon, if you really, really have to have a bit. Otherwise, just go bitless.

    It is never the horse's fault

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    G&S – thank you. I was afraid it would be something like that.

    It is never the horse's fault

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Being able to teach a horse to work at the end of what ever rein length the rider gives the horse is incredibly useful. It isn’t just that the horse stretches his neck down on command and comes back up on command, but that he understands and accepts the concept of working at the end of the given rein length. If one thinks of it this way, the multiple possible uses of this become more apparent than it one just thinks of it as stretching down and coming back up on command. But this also requires that the rider have already mastered some basic skills that are very seldom taught at all here in the USA, much less considered to be basic critical skills that need to be learned as they are the building blocks of the “fancier” stuff.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    I do believe that a horse should be able to work with any length of rein, so long as the rider isn’t holding them so short that s/he is practically holding the bit.

    It is never the horse's fault

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    You are among the minority. “Dressage” is still viewed by many riders, even among “English” riders as being overly sissy and Show-off for the sake of show-off instead of basic dressage being the foundation of correct communication with the horse and riding with finesse, as opposed to brute force. What first caught my attention was that good dressage instructors never say “Do this because I am telling to do this”. Good dressage instructors can always explain exactly why it works, and usually in great detail. However, even the best need to see exactly what the rider is doing so they can find the right place to start introducing changes.

    AngelaDeGennaro Original Poster AngelaDeGennaro
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 4

    G & S- I always thought that he responded amazingly no matter my rein length but often people tell me that’s not how he should be ridden. But I’m not one to like using force to get a false frame. He fights anything you put on him whether it be a cambone, draw reins, or side reins. He likes the loose rein and I find when I start warming him up and letting him strech himself he comes back so much better. I’m going to try some thins different and take everything you said and apply it. I will let you know how it’s working! Thank you guys you’ve been a huge help.

    It's the difficult horses that have the most to give you.

    ShilohsGirl ShilohsGirl
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 49

    Joe-joe, I’ve been working on the “stretchy chewey” for a long time, and I think I can explain it.
    It is a trst to see if your horse is truly on the bit, and you should have contact even though your reins are longer.
    The goal is to get the horse to stretch his neck down and out, which is a super important part.
    Start out with a nice elastic contact, and let out the reins a bit, and your horse should REACH for the contact. Establish contact on the longer rein, and let it out a bit more, and eventually work up to the point where
    I would try this at the walk (freewalk) before trying at the trot.
    The point is to show that your horse is truly on the bit. If he is on the bit correctly, he WILL stretch! A lot of people run into problems when they have the horse behind the bit, and the horse falls on his fac ein the freewalk.
    The picture below is a super correct example of the freewalk.

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    "Think of riding as a science, but love it as an art" ~George Morris

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