Dressage help please from experienced riders only.?

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OK my horse used to always have a nice head cariage. ( no I do not meen a fake head set) Now he does not. He gets heavy in my hands and or puts his head in the air like a giraff. My riding instructor says to push him forawrd into my hands. I do do this but he still does not come on the bit. He does have a sore back but he has always had it. He sees a chiro and both him and the vet say he is fine. Any tips for getting him to come into better on the bit contact? (I do not want to seesaw)

Well if the back problem is definitely not giving him problems (it is hard when they can not tell us ;-) I would do some lunging.

I’m not a fan of lunging every day, but you might have some success if you lunge with a surcingle and side reins. This will help get your horse working well and eliminate him arguing with you in the beginning. I alternate a riding day with a lunge day with a new or unfit horse. It allows them to build fitness and muscle.

Which brings me to my next thought, has anything changed? Has he dropped condition or gained too much condition. Has he lost muscle tone etc. If so it might just be a case of getting him fit again and then trying for more collection.

But if it is not that then I come back to the soreness (as he was ok before). So lunging will give you a good opportunity to see him from the ground and to assess his movement. Push him forward into a good working trot, as it is a bit easier from the ground and see if he will naturally collect, once he is engaging his hind quarters

Also incorporate transitions in the session. Another good way to see if soreness or stiffness might be an issue. This is not about tying his head down, side reins set correctly are not dragging the head in dramatically and it is before the vertical so he will bring his own head in if he is able to. I have a stop watch with me, I time everything to make sure the horse is worked evenly on both sides ;-)

The question of collection gets asked a lot, I will give you my standard answer to it. I was taught by a grand prix dressage rider. It may or may not be relevant to you ;-)

To get your horse "collected" your horse must be truly working on the bit and engaging their hind quarters without false aids. If you pull your horses head in with your hands (I’m not a fan of sea-sawing on a horses mouth or the pulse) when you release the pressure then the horses head pokes back up and out.

You need to drive a horse forward with your seat and legs and maintain a contact on the reins. Think of a tube of cream, if you squeeze without the lid on it will squirt out, if you put the lid on then it will move to the top of the tube and fill the area. But if you close the lid really tight and then squeeze the tube it will explode.

Your horse is the same, if you don’t hold some contact with your reins then when you squeeze she will just go quicker. If you pull his head in and kick hard then his energy will explode out in some way. You need to maintain contact with the reins and apply your seat and legs, get that hind quarter working hard and he will figure out it is much nicer to accept the bit.

With the above I would also assume your horse has a certain level of fitness, it would be very hard for a horse who does not have enough muscle to maintain that position. Think of it like going to the gym for the first time in a year, she will be sore. Do small amounts each ride and build it up.

You can lunge with side reins, but the same applies, start with short sessions and SLOWLY build him up, also start with the side reins quite loose and slowly tighten them until you have him just before vertical, no more. This allows the horse to bring their head into vertical and work kindly. You also need to lunge in a good working trot so they engage and work properly. The side reins are especially good if you don’t feel you have steady hands, you don’t want to be jagging at his mouth each stride. They are a tool and if used correctly can be kinder than a rider with hard hands.

Just remember the horses hind legs must be working as hard if not harder than the front. Your horse can be round but not be on the bit, you really want your horse on the bit. So this is not about getting your horses head in, it is about making his hind quarters work hard enough. When you get it right your horse will be soft on the reins.

Take it all slowly, if you don’t lay a good foundation, then the house will fall down. You need to have your horse supple and responsive. As to how long it will take, it will depend on her level of fitness and the amount of work you put into him.

Some horses cannot achieve "round" so really having their head vertical can still be on the bit, as long as that hind quarter is working hard enough. You ride with your seat not your hands, when your legs are sore you will be doing it correctly, you will need to condition yourself, just like you will your horses muscles.

Without leg pressure the horse would naturally want to stop. So you need to maintain enough pressure with you legs and seat to drive him forward into a working trot that engages the hind quarters. You WILL feel the difference when he is working correctly and your smile will be huge ;-) He will be light on the contact and will be working forward from behind.

http://www.countysaddlery.com/

5 thoughts on “Dressage help please from experienced riders only.?

  1. Ziggy

    Well if the back problem is definitely not giving him problems (it is hard when they can not tell us ;-) I would do some lunging.

    I’m not a fan of lunging every day, but you might have some success if you lunge with a surcingle and side reins. This will help get your horse working well and eliminate him arguing with you in the beginning. I alternate a riding day with a lunge day with a new or unfit horse. It allows them to build fitness and muscle.

    Which brings me to my next thought, has anything changed? Has he dropped condition or gained too much condition. Has he lost muscle tone etc. If so it might just be a case of getting him fit again and then trying for more collection.

    But if it is not that then I come back to the soreness (as he was ok before). So lunging will give you a good opportunity to see him from the ground and to assess his movement. Push him forward into a good working trot, as it is a bit easier from the ground and see if he will naturally collect, once he is engaging his hind quarters

    Also incorporate transitions in the session. Another good way to see if soreness or stiffness might be an issue. This is not about tying his head down, side reins set correctly are not dragging the head in dramatically and it is before the vertical so he will bring his own head in if he is able to. I have a stop watch with me, I time everything to make sure the horse is worked evenly on both sides ;-)

    The question of collection gets asked a lot, I will give you my standard answer to it. I was taught by a grand prix dressage rider. It may or may not be relevant to you ;-)

    To get your horse "collected" your horse must be truly working on the bit and engaging their hind quarters without false aids. If you pull your horses head in with your hands (I’m not a fan of sea-sawing on a horses mouth or the pulse) when you release the pressure then the horses head pokes back up and out.

    You need to drive a horse forward with your seat and legs and maintain a contact on the reins. Think of a tube of cream, if you squeeze without the lid on it will squirt out, if you put the lid on then it will move to the top of the tube and fill the area. But if you close the lid really tight and then squeeze the tube it will explode.

    Your horse is the same, if you don’t hold some contact with your reins then when you squeeze she will just go quicker. If you pull his head in and kick hard then his energy will explode out in some way. You need to maintain contact with the reins and apply your seat and legs, get that hind quarter working hard and he will figure out it is much nicer to accept the bit.

    With the above I would also assume your horse has a certain level of fitness, it would be very hard for a horse who does not have enough muscle to maintain that position. Think of it like going to the gym for the first time in a year, she will be sore. Do small amounts each ride and build it up.

    You can lunge with side reins, but the same applies, start with short sessions and SLOWLY build him up, also start with the side reins quite loose and slowly tighten them until you have him just before vertical, no more. This allows the horse to bring their head into vertical and work kindly. You also need to lunge in a good working trot so they engage and work properly. The side reins are especially good if you don’t feel you have steady hands, you don’t want to be jagging at his mouth each stride. They are a tool and if used correctly can be kinder than a rider with hard hands.

    Just remember the horses hind legs must be working as hard if not harder than the front. Your horse can be round but not be on the bit, you really want your horse on the bit. So this is not about getting your horses head in, it is about making his hind quarters work hard enough. When you get it right your horse will be soft on the reins.

    Take it all slowly, if you don’t lay a good foundation, then the house will fall down. You need to have your horse supple and responsive. As to how long it will take, it will depend on her level of fitness and the amount of work you put into him.

    Some horses cannot achieve "round" so really having their head vertical can still be on the bit, as long as that hind quarter is working hard enough. You ride with your seat not your hands, when your legs are sore you will be doing it correctly, you will need to condition yourself, just like you will your horses muscles.

    Without leg pressure the horse would naturally want to stop. So you need to maintain enough pressure with you legs and seat to drive him forward into a working trot that engages the hind quarters. You WILL feel the difference when he is working correctly and your smile will be huge ;-) He will be light on the contact and will be working forward from behind.
    References :
    It is great that you have an instructor already, you get great benefits from one. They are great at encouraging you to keep working hard. I have an instructor and she has one.. and so on.

    In the beginning you have a lot going on at the same time and it is easy to concentrate on one thing and then another thing slips. LOL. You need to keep riding with your legs and not your hands. As you get tired your seat becomes lazy ;-) It just takes practice to get all the balls juggling at once.

    Fitness and correct muscle is VERY important. Use the above lunging and side reins to build his muscle and to be kind on him. The last thing you want is for him to "think" it hurts to be collected. When ridden correctly the horse will come to the vertical with minimal contact on the reins from the rider. It will take time so be patient ;-)

    Only attempt to collect him for a minute or two. When he does it, reward him by stopping and a big rub. Set yourself up for success and always end on a good note you might get 10 seconds more the next day ;-) You can also try for 3 or 4, 30 second periods, as you will both need to build fitness.

    I had a very large horse a few years ago and he sounds similar, he took an enormous amount of set to ride and hated the bit contact. The lunging helped him and once he figured it out, the riding became easier.

    It definitely sounds like you have the ability to do this. A lot of that middle part is aimed at beginners, but it might be of use to you ;-) You have been able to do this with him before, so dig a bit deeper and see if you might find any tiny trigger that helps him ;-)

    Good luck with your horse ;-)

    33 years riding/owner

  2. bleuisland09

    Has anything changed recently with him? Regarding anything…physical change, increased sore back, foot problems, leg problems? I would check all the physical problems first to make sure nothing is bothering him.

    If all seems ok with him physically, I agree with ziggy, and he should be lunged. My trainer and I have had to teach my horse dressage from the ground up and I can definitely agree that lunging will help. And not just free lunging, but with side reins too. Look up some lunging exaercises to do with him like the position and tightness of the side reins and the size of circles that you make him do.

    Your horse may have simply become weaker, possibly to him being worked less or differently? Also have you ever done any hill work like leg yields on the hills, halting, backing up etc? (conditioning with a twist lol?) it can help strengthen him and can most definitely help your dressage.
    References :
    Experience with own horse

  3. Amanda

    I would have your saddle fit checked, your horse’s teeth checked, and then I’d get a second opinion from another saddle-fitter, another dentist, another chiro and another vet. I would bet you a lot of money that there is a physical problem here. Other thoughts, your bit may have developed a sharp edge, many are made out of rather soft metals and they wear away near the joints especially.

    How long has this been going on? If it is sudden, he may have recently injured himself slightly in pasture. If it has been slowly developing then perhaps he’s developing arthritic changes in his hocks or back.

    It’s not easy figuring these things out, but again I would bet you this is not a training issue. Good luck!
    References :
    http://www.DempseyTraining.com

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