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Question # 125: I have a question about bravery in the field and jumping without schooling first.
May 15, 2013
My big horse is also a
big chicken -
when he's alone. If other horses are around he's quite brave and very tactile. If you can get him to touch it - he'll jump it. He enjoys jumping. His ears prick up and you can fel him really pulling you to the fence. But he is so spooky if there are no other horses with us. If no one else is working in the ring, I have to have a babysitter horse in there with us when I jump. This fear of him being so spooky alone has been one of the major obstacles keeping me from competing. We have lots of fun schooling cross country because I can walk him up to it, let him touch it, jump it and move on. Once he's jumped it I can put him together and have multiple fences in a row. I don't know that I could get him to a new place and have him jump BN fences without schooling... and there won't be any buddies out there either. Do you have any suggestions on how I can help build his confidence when along and how to get him to jump without schooling first? (Carolyn)
This can be a tough problem unfortunately, and is a reason some horses just will not make Event horses. But I have some ideas of things for you to try! First of all, I would... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 124: I had hip surgery about 5 weeks ago, and it will be another 2 months before I'm back in the saddle. In the meantime, Johnny is spending lots of time on the lunge to build topline muscles without rider interference and work on that weak...
May 13, 2013
...right side. In the saddle I can flex and counter flex, leg yield, etc to help him loosen up his left side so that he can bend to the right. But when lunging, I need some suggestions to help him better use his right side. I know we can spiral in and out, use cavalletti, and transitions. He wants to remain bent to the left when he's traveling right - he then ends up getting off balance and falling in - you get the picture. He's great to the left. Would you start out to the left or start out with his bad side? Will he eventually build his right side this way, or are there things I should be doing to help him? (Courtney)
First of all, I'm sorry to hear about your hip surgery! I hope that you will have a smooth and full recovery! And second - good for you for being productive in your downtime! Going back to the basics to try to help your horse to become more even and supple will definitely pay off in the long run. I am sure you will feel the difference once you are ready to get back in the saddle.
You are on the right track with the things you have mentioned on the lunge, but to really get him to stretch that tight left side, you will probably need to... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 123: Help with tension at shows! Lately Henry has been so "on the job" (focused, purposeful, not nervous), that I had high hopes for our upcoming 3 Day. But ever since I clipped him on Sunday, he's been on *high alert*.
May 9, 2013
He has been spooky and tense since we got here. Any suggestions if he's still on high alert in the morning? I have him on Ulcergard since Sunday, and will continue that each day. (Briana)
Well Henry is no dummy, and you have done
at that facility several times! So I'm not that surprised to hear that he is quite "up". The extra fitness required for a 3 day at any level can be enough to light many a horses' fire as well! What I would do is... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 122: My horse is taking off with me in the canter! When I ride out with other horses, my horse is starting to get very strong. If we are in front, I can handle her.
May 8, 2013
If we are not in front, she wants to take off. If is sit and hold her really tightly she gets angry with me (head shaking, bucking), which would be fine except it slows us down, which in turn escalades the problem, since we are then left behind! I like to ride on loose reins when I am hacking because we just want to relax and have fun with our friends, but lately she has been literally taking off with me when I do! Any suggestions? Should I try a stronger bit? (Anonymous)
Well that competitive nature can be both a blessing and a curse! Most of the best cross country horses are like that! I would say that you... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 121: My horse drops her inside shoulder and turns her head to the outside. What exercises can I do to fix this? (Holly)
Apr 29, 2013
Sometimes something as simple as asking for
lateral flexion at the poll
to the inside can completely fix this problem. And other times, usually when the horse is quite crooked in its body, you will need to do something more dramatic than that.
There is an exercise called... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 120: I'm having a problem with my mare on the flat. She started out Western, so she was taught originally to give to the bit, not go on the bit. Which means she's usually behind the vertical when we're doing flat.
Apr 29, 2013
She moves forward freely when I ask her to, I'm just not sure how to start correcting this problem of giving to the bit. (Holly)
This problem can be
tricky to solve, as when you try to take more feel of the rein, the horse is likely to curl her neck even further to keep the reins loose.
But it is very important to not let the horse feel
for attempting to evade the bit. When I have that curls to evade the bit, I... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 119: I have recently started working my horse again, after a 2 month recovery from a hind end injury and then an abscess. How soon should we begin jumping again? And how soon should we move up to her previous schooling height (3'6"-3'9")?
Apr 24, 2013
She is a very naturally fit horse, so I have a hard time identifying if she is fatigued or if I am pushing her too hard. What exercises would you suggest to slowly bring her back into jumping? (Kayla)
It can definitely be hard to judge the true fitness level of a horse when you are dealing with the lively, naturally active type! They never act tired, so how do you know how fast to bring them along? And sometimes when you are trying to bring them back slowly by following a progressive program, they seem to be begging you to do more! For their sake, you need to make sure that you do not let them talk you into doing too much too soon! The general rule of thumb is to... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 118: Hello! I am a new member and super excited to learn from this site as I don't have a regular trainer to work with!
Apr 23, 2013
My horse and I are having an issue maintaining a consistent tempo. Her rhythm is fairly good, but she quickens her pace even when I try holding her there with my core and seat. She is also laterally stiff, in particular to the left. Do you have any exercises for obtaining more flexibility through the body? (Kayla)
Rhythm and tempo are SO important in dressage (and jumping), as rhythm and balance go hand in hand.
When the horse is maintaining a good rhythm and an even tempo as he performs movements, you likely have both
consistent level of balance
Let's start by defining both rhythm and tempo as they pertain to riding: (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 117: My horse wants to gallop cross country with his head way down low. I sometimes struggle to get it UP in front of the jumps, but we manage. Should I let him keep doing this? Or is there something I can do about it? (Jesse)
Apr 15, 2013
Galloping between fences we want to leave our horses alone as much as possible, so that they can be relaxed in their bodies and move freely. Yet if we can teach them to gallop in good balance, it makes it much easier to prepare for each jump. And it can also keep them sounder! Whether or not you should let your horse stay low in front at the gallop depends on... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 116: I'm not a gadget person - I don't own draw reins, a chambon, or even a running martingale. However, after lots and lots of time (nearly a year) trying to convince my OTTB that stretching forward and down into contact is far better than
Apr 3, 2013
..hollowing out and inverting with limited results, I'm starting to wonder if a 'gadget' might help get us on the path to success. Given that we've had some success--it doesn't appear to be painful for him, and occasionally we get good moments of forward, relaxed swinging back type movement, I'm thinking that basically, his opinion is, "Look, lady, I've been doing this for 11 years. What you're asking me to do requires building muscle in new places, and that's a lot of work." I'd love to show him that my way is better for him in the long run, but we're not seeing eye to eye! (He naturally moves hollowed out, head up in the air at liberty, unless he's showing off for a new lady--then he suddenly turns into dressage pony, all up through his back...so I know he's physically capable.) In this case, would you suggest temporarily using a gadget to help him see the light? I get a lot of different opinions on this, and I'd just like to hear your perspective. (Courtney)
I am personally very anti gadget for under saddle work. Any device whose purpose is soley to put the horse's head down has the potential to teach the horse something that we don't really want him to learn. And that is to
"give" to pressure of the bit by dropping his head or by tucking his nose closer to his chest
dressage we want our horse to
the connection of the bit, instead of learning to drop his head on command. When I have a horse that is so naturally upside down like yours, I usually show him how to move into the connection by... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 115: I am training my young horse myself. He is a 17.2 hand Oldenburg gelding, just turning 5. Last summer I did some basic flatwork and hacking with him, and he did great!
Apr 1, 2013
I gave him this winter off, and am now bringing him back into work again. And now he is so different, I just don't know what is going on! He used to be so sweet and happy, and seemed to enjoy being ridden. Now he pins his ears, threatens to kick out when I put my leg on him, and doesn't want to go forward. He is still his same sweet self on the ground. I am at a loss as to why he would make such a dramatic change like this! What should I do? Maybe I'm not up to this and need to send him away for training? Please help! (Anonymous)
Whenever any horse has a drastic change in attitude, my first thought is usually that there might be a pain issue. So even if you think your horse is completely sound, I would have a
do a full workup on him to make sure. Many times with horses that have back or SI (sacroiliac) issues, poor performance and/or a bad attitude are the only noticable symptoms. While any vet can look at these areas, lameness specialists are more apt to have seen lots of horses with inconspicuous performance issues. I would also have your saddle looked at by a reputable saddle fitter. Even if it fit him great last summer, it may not now - as he is young and is busy growing and filling out. Also make sure his teeth have been checked.
If you rule out all of these issues, and you find you still have the problem... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 114: Any tips on helping a horse with walk to canter transitions?
Mar 26, 2013
His trot to canter has improved immensely. He is quiet and remains balanced and on the bridle. We've started working on walk to canter and no matter how quiet we try to keep things, he gets a bit frazzled. The head flies up, back inverts. Mind you, this is what it was like for trot to canter last year!
We ensure that he has a nice active walk behind before asking, and we're allowing a few tiny trot steps before the canter with the idea that we can gradually reduce those trot steps. Is it just a matter of time like it was with trot to canter, or is there something else we can be keeping in mind? (Nicole)
Walk to canter transitions are actually easier than trot to canter for horses in some ways... physically they are not very hard, and there is less of a tendency for the horse to have
issues. The main challenges involved in walk to canter transitions are that of ensuring that there is sufficient energy in the walk,
keeping the horse straight
, the timing and clarity of the rider's aid, and the horse's
of what you are asking.... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 113: My horse loves to stretch down! In fact that is all he wants to do most of the time! I know stretching is good for horses, but how much should I let him stay down there?? (Terri)
Mar 17, 2013
Stretching down IS a great exercise, but is really only beneficial if done correctly. And many clever horses have figured out that... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 112: Can we talk about saddle fit for the rider? I am saddle shopping and have been for a year.
Mar 14, 2013
I tend to like a deeper seated saddle, but I find myself hitting the cantle or bringing my seat too far forward when jumping seemingly as a result. Can we discuss saddle flap length and position, and seat depth and width, and how it relates to the riders' position and ability to find balance? Thanks! (Aubrey)
Oh I feel for you, saddle shopping can be so frustrating! What you describe is exactly why deap seated saddles are NOT usually recommended for jumping. Especially for cross country - a longer, flatter seat and a more forward cut flap allow you to move your hips back without hitting the cantle, which is necessary for security. And this becomes REALLY important on the bigger drop fences!
Since saddle fit is not my specialty, I have asked my friends and saddle experts
David Stackhouse and Lesley Gleave
from Stackhouse Saddles (
) for their insight.
And they were kind enough to share their expertise with our members!
Here is their response: (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 111: At the end of January I got bucked off my horse for the first time pretty much. I should have lunged him prior to riding, but I didn’t.
Mar 6, 2013
I got on and he was pretty tense and I basically just walked around for a minute and then he just started bucking to get me off. It wasn’t a bad fall and that’s what gets me, I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time regaining my confidence again with him.
I am pretty tense that he is going to run away with me again when I let him canter around the outdoor. But he hasn't. Whenever it comes time to canter I get all quivery and nervous. Though he has proved to have been a good boy since his odd bucking thing, he is young and it’s hard for me not to think of the “what ifs” when I ride. I lunge him before our rides and he is generally not a spooky horse. I need help getting over the tenseness which has made me into a unconfident rider. Especially at the canter I grab the inside rein to turn him (because sometimes he feels like he won’t turn if I don’t) and I have a hard time letting him go on the inside (rein). So we have the turning issue which my trainer has been working with us on a lot and it has gotten better but I still grab the inside a lot more than necessary and it is driving me nuts that I can’t let it go! But i swear we wont turn if I don't! At least that is how I feel. And then I have my confidence problem. I’ve been able to ride my trainer schoolmaster mare a lot and that has helped my confidence, but I’d like your input on how to get over this issue...I know I need to take things slow and build on small accomplishments with me and my horse. But I get really mad at myself because I never used to be so tentative like this. (Shannon)
It's always hard to let go of those unfortunate isolated incidences! You will probably never forget what happened, but you
have to find a way to get past it. What has always helped me come back from my falls was to... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 110: I had two bad falls a week ago. Fell (actually went FLYing off might be more accurate) in warm up, and then again at fence 3 in stadium.
Feb 26, 2013
Someone watching said that I threw myself up his neck the stride before, and when he took the deep spot a stride later, I just went flying out of the tack. Regardless of what started it, now I seem to be riding like I did in 2009 - leaping up his neck, no weight in my feet. I'm trying really hard to think positive - HEELS FORWARD AND DOWN!
This is the first time I've ever felt afraid jumping.
What is your advice? Keep working without stirrups? Move down a level? (Briana)
I'm so sorry to hear about that! And I'm so glad that you are OK! You may not see it right now, but there is actually a silver lining here. And that is that you... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 109: In looking at some recent Advanced level photos, I see many of the riders have their feet jammed home in the stirrups.
Feb 19, 2013
The stirrups are sitting on the arch of their foot instead of the ball. Can you discuss stirrup placement? Does the thinking change at the upper levels? (Briana)
Traditionally, cross country riders have often kept their feet a bit more "home" in the stirrups as they move up the levels - as it can make it less likely for the rider to lose a stirrup in a sticky moment. Perhaps because I am so short, with such short legs, it... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 108: I can get my horse nicely connected and on the aids, but I can't seem to KEEP him there. He is always inconsistent. What should I do? (Chris)
Feb 17, 2013
This is a very common problem, and one that almost everyone experiences to some degree when they are in the process of developing the connection. It's such a great feeling when you feel those brief moments of the horse being truly connected! And then it's equally as frustrating to feel it slipping away moments later! To help your horse understand that he should
on the aids, you need to... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 107: The lovely friesian I ride, Rhett, and I are having some troubles getting the leg yield together.
Feb 14, 2013
First off, he is super bendy, and has what I call a "go go gadget" neck that can shorten up like nothing I have ever experienced. This is our main probelm, he uses this as an evasion when I am asking for him to leg yield. I ask, he shortens up his neck, the reins go loose, and he falls out through his shoulder, and it goes all wrong. How can I fix this? Thanks (Rebecca)
Horses that easily and frequently change the length of their neck can be challenging to ride! As when they shorten their neck, you find yourself with no connection, and therefore no ability to use the reins to communicate. And smart horses can definitely learn to use this as an evasion! But there
a trick to making this evasion less successful for the horse! (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 106: My horse carries himself nicely in the working canter. He feels like he is nicely balanced and in self carriage. But after every canter lengthening, he becomes rigid and is resistant against my hand...
Feb 11, 2013
I can't seem to get that nice canter back again until I halt and start the canter over. What can I do to fix this? (Carrie)
This is a common problem! Many riders experience this to at least some degree - even if they are not aware of the loss of some of the quality of their canter. And the key to fixing this problem lies in the... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 105: I have a horse that will go into water just fine, but will NOT jump off a bank into water! I've tried giving her a lead, but that didn't work. What else can I do? (Ashleigh)
Feb 7, 2013
This can be a tough problem, because so often the only drops you can find to school her on are fairly good sized. I would definitely look around to see if anyone has a tiny drop into water that you can use for schooling. Even if you have to trailer a long way to get there, it would be worth it. I am assuming that she jumps off regular drops just fine? What I would do the next time you are schooling the water, is set up a... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 104: My horse is always heavy on his right shoulder, and on the right rein. What can I do to straighten him and get him to stop leaning on my right rein?? (Rebecca)
Feb 4, 2013
This is a very common problem! The majority of horses lean on their right shoulders, leaving their left hind leg slightly out to the left carrying less weight. This becomes a vicious circle of sorts, with one problem compounding the other. The only way to fix it is to... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 103: My horse is an off the track mare. We bought her out of the auctions, but I was told she had 6 months of flatwork done. The problem is, she is very dull to my leg aids. It takes a lot of leg to get her to go, and then to keep her going.
Jan 28, 2013
I ask in a "whisper" and if she doesn't listen, ask louder, and then tap her with my whip, but she doesn't seem to get any lighter on my leg. This is also a problem with circles and corners, as I can't stabilize her with my inside leg. (Krystyna)
This is a big problem! As you will not advance or improve on a horse that does not listen to your leg aids! When riding a horse like this, the temptation is to use lots of leg to try to keep the horse going. And this compounds the problem! The more leg you use, the more insensitive your horse will become! The only answer is to... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 102: At what height should I carry my hands when jumping? (Anonymous)
Jan 24, 2013
This is a great question! And is somewhat of a controverial subject. Of course it will depend on the individual horse, but in general I am in the camp of... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
Question # 101: My horse has a problem with combinations of fences with 1 or 2 strides between them. He grabs hold of the bit and just goes as hard as he can, flat and strung out...
Jan 14, 2013
It's like a switch is activated in his brain - he has no concept of being careful, controlled, or even that I'm on his back. It doesn't seem to matter if I'm trotting or cantering on approach, with lots of forward energy or slow and steady. The only pattern seems to be that it's combination fences with 1-2 strides between. He is 17h, but is somewhat weak in the hind end - could he feel overfaced when we jump these combinations? Could he see the second fence and incorrectly judge it as a very wide oxer and think he needs the power to clear them both? I'm at a loss here! What would you suggest for #1, the response I should immediately have, and #2, the long term fix? (Courtney)
While I would need a video to see for sure what is going on here, I do have a few ideas for you. Usually this problem stems from problems with focus or feelings of claustrophobia. And when I say claustrophobia, I mean
claustrophobia. If the rider... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)
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