Question: I have a four year old Morgan who was doing terrific in her training and then I hurt my back. I couldn’t ride, had her trainer working with her and an experienced rider exercising her. I had just started to get back to walking on her in early August when she started pinning her ears for everyone who got on her back and refusing to move forward. We had her saddles checked by a certified saddle fitter, had the vet come out and check her (she’s also a chiro/accupuncture expert) and we let her rest for over two weeks. I’ve stayed off her; only her trainer works with her but she still will sometimes put her ears back or kick out when she’s asked to move forward into trot. It’s now mid-October–what haven’t we thought of to solve this? She was doing so well all of last year and had moved into learning to canter before this started!
Answer from April Reeves: Hi SallyAnne. This is a common problem but not easily solved at this stage. There may be several things going on here to build this mare up to this point so I will go over them individually.
Jane Savoie – Should I Ride My Dressage Horse ‘Deep’ or ‘Up’?
You’ve probably heard lots of discussion about whether or not to work your dressage horse “deep.” There are a variety of opinions on the matter. Some riders warm up and cool down their horses “long and low” to stretch and loosen the muscles. Others always school in a balance and frame appropriate to the level at which they are working; they never stretch their horses. Many trainers school in a deep frame only during the movements when the horse habitually comes above the bit. Still others do all of their work “extremely deep” with the horse’s nose almost on his chest; they bring him up only when they are getting ready to compete.
So what should you do with your dressage horse? Use benign antagonism to help you decide.
Question: We recently bought a 3-year-old horse for our daughter. I know it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do but the horse was very quiet and we were assured that he had no problems. He does seem quiet most of the time but every now and then when your not expecting it he will blow up. It’s not a bolt but more of a jumping straight in the air and then striking out. I think he is simply trying to avoid work, but I am worried that someone will get hurt. I am trying to decide if selling this horse now would be my best decision as with a more experienced person I’m sure he will be great, I just want something safe for my daughter (she is 14 and has 6 years experience riding). We are an experienced horse family but if this is likely to progress into a continuous problem I don’t know if we want to deal with it. Thanks for any advice.
Answer from April Reeves: This is one of my favorite questions as I deal with this every day. First, buying a young horse for a young girl who has had time in the saddle does not bother me. This horse does not sound aggressive enough to do any real damage, and in fact may become one of her better ‘teachers’. But the learning curve begins here, as there are differences between a horse below 7 and a horse above 7 that we will discover in this answer.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged behavior, collection, foundation training, gait, green horse, green rider, Groundwork, horse training, thoroughbred, young horse
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “Can you help me sit the trot better?”
So here are some quick tips to help you with this all too common challenge.
1. First and foremost, your horse needs to be on the bit. If his back is hollow, stiff, or tight, you’ll find it impossible to sit comfortably. (And, in turn, you’ll make your horse uncomfortable too!)
To put him on the bit, review the “connecting half halt”. If you missed it, there’s an article on it in the August archives of my blog at wordpress.
2. Slow the trot down. Ride “sub-power” and when you can sit easily, increase the impulsion for just a few strides at a time. Then slow down again.
How do I Get My Horse To Pick Up the Correct Canter Lead Every Time?
Jane Savoie and 'Moshi'
Do you struggle getting your horse to pick up one of his canter leads? If so, here are some tips and exercises to help you with this all too common problem.
The first exercise is done completely in the walk. It’s great rider coordination exercise. You’ll practice positioning your horse alternately for the left lead and then switch to the right lead after
a few strides.
Let’s say you decided to pick up left lead:
Question: Can you give me an outline of one of your typical rides? I just want some kind of idea of what you do with the horse, what you try to do yourself, and how long you took. Oh, also what you were trying to achieve. Thanks, Mandy.
Answer from April Reeves: I will give you a day in the life of a somewhat green Andalusian that is going very nicely (Mya) and has no real issues. She already has 100 days on her. She is not being worked for anything in particular, just as a pleasure and trail horse. This is just Grade 2 foundation work. I will put links in to find the exercises in case you are not familiar with them. The writing is short, more of a guideline.
– Follow, stop, back, trot off, stop, back, turn sharp, back… Does the horse respond quickly? Obedient? Politely? Groundwork link
– Sending exercise to test if horse is fresh or ready. I will ride right away if the horse feels right. No spooking, must have both eyes on me. I don’t mind the horse having energy. I do mind if the horse is not ‘with me’. 5 minutes or more.
Posted in English Riding answers, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged colt starting, foundation training, gait, Groundwork, horse forward, horse training, Natural Horsemanship, western training
Question: Can you integrate Natural Horsemanship into jumper training? I read your dressage article on blending them, but I have an 8 yr old hunter – Dutch Warmblood – thoroughbred cross mare who continues to spook at fences at shows. She’s not what you would call hot, but has lots of get-up-and-go. What Natural Horsemanship exercises or training can I start on to get my mare less spooky with more even tempo? I have tried all the traditional methods with little to no success. She also tends to walk over me too when I lead her. Thank you April.
Answer from April Reeves: Of course you can integrate NH into your program! In fact, hunter/jumper is one area of traditional training that really gets a boost and solid foundation from NH. All my H/J students go through this basic foundation before advancing into fence work. There is no technique or method in particular that works with hunter/jumpers better than dressage horses: the methods are universal to all disciplines.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship
Tagged behavior, english riding, foundation training, gait, Groundwork, hunter, jumping, Natural Horsemanship, spooky horse
Question: My horse breaks into the canter from the trot all the time. Why would she do this and how can I keep her in the trot? I ride hunt seat and flat – English. I have tried to bring her back to the trot but she just keeps breaking.
Answer from April Reeves: While you can simply continue to ask the horse to go back to the trot, this will not solve the problem, as you are only compensating for an underlying problem. It’s like taking drugs when your stomach hurts. Just find out what caused the painful stomach!
Several causes could be:
Question: What’s the difference between Hunter Under Saddle class and a Hunter Pleasure class? I have a nice half thoroughbred that I want to show in hunter flat classes but I’m not sure which she may be best suited for.
Answer from April Reeves: Let’s start with Hunter-Under-Saddle (HUS). This class is judged primarily on the horse’s way of going (movement), type or conformation, and last their manners.
Horses need to learn balance and lateral flexion for slower gaits
Question: I was wondering if you had any tips for me concerning my horse. I have a very typey and sensible 7 yr old QH mare. I would love to do lower level western pleasure with her! Her jog is amazing, she keeps her head perfect and has a very slow legged, reachy, consistant jog. Her lope is very different. She is very quick, but I can get about 4 slow loose reined strides, then she speeds back up and she’s flying. I believe this has to do with the girl that was riding her before I did. She wasn’t a very experienced or strong rider, and let her just do whatever. Any tips?
Answer from April Reeves: When horses speed up at the canter it’s usually a sign they are moving flat without enough spring and too heavy on the forehand. While you are enjoying a slow jog, it may be one of the causes of your problem as horses often lower their heads and move slowly without any form of collection, engagement or spring. While they are able to move slow at the jog, the canter propels them forward into a more suspended gait, and in order to sustain a canter they have to pick up speed.
Question: I bought a 5 year old paint mare and all she is is green broke and I’m just not sure how to start trying to teach her how to start learning to neck rein. Please help me.
Horse running left, facing right
Answer from April Reeves: True neck reining is the result of a long training regime. You will often see two styles: one where the horse turns his head in the direction of the turn on a ‘soft’ rein, and the other is where the horse turns his head the opposite direction of the turn with the reins reasonably tight. The latter is not the style I hope you are working towards.
In their natural existence, the movement of a horse at speed (canter, gallop) is to lean their shoulders into the turn, but keep their heads in the opposite direction. The instinctual purpose of this is to keep their heads away from predators that may be chasing them. It’s important to know this, as it allows you to understand just how much training is required to reverse such a powerful instinct in a horse to neck rein into the turn, and the amount of time to do that.