Can you retrain an older horse to work in a nice outline with always being allowed to have a high carriage?

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Hi I am new here and hoping someone might be able to help me.

I've recently purchased a new horse after 8 years without one, I maybe purchased on heart without being completely realistic!
She's 9 and I don't think she's ever received the best of training, and has muscles in the complete wrong place due to being allowed to have such a high head carriage.
Her previous owner had her for over 3 years and wanted to progress in dressage but maybe did not have the time to develop her.
We have had 2 lessons so far and the instructor has done amazingly to get her starting to go on a nice outline, from walk to trot- he believes its in there but its going to take some time. I do not want to be a dressage pro, I know that will never happen.

But more to the point, with time, proper training and her developing the strength in her neck and hind (in the correct places) will she learn that she doesn't have to be so tense carrying her head so high? The Chiropractor advised I try to lunge her in side reins and trying a Pessoa? To get the strength where she needs it?
I'm just wondering if there's anyone else on here that may have endured the same issue in the past? And is it possible to retain a 9 year old.

Any advise would be fantastic, thanks so much for taking time to read.
 

m1stify

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yes absolutely myself and my mare only got into dressage when she was about 16 and we got to elementary level. It took a while to get her to go into an outline but with great coaching we got there, she is muscled so differently now.
 

sportsmansB

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It is possible. Its not much different to a person taking up something new in their 40's like a new sport- it mightn't be as easy physically as if we did it as a teenager, but its not impossible. Sounds like you have a good instructor. Remember, that her muscles are completely upside down for this work, so it will be physically challenging for her to start with.
Coud your instructor give you lessons in lunging? Just to make sure that you have the side reins at the correct tension and so on, and to get her used to the pessoa (some of them don't love them)
 
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yes absolutely myself and my mare only got into dressage when she was about 16 and we got to elementary level. It took a while to get her to go into an outline but with great coaching we got there, she is muscled so differently now.
Thanks so much for this info, gives me piece of mind that we will achieve this.
 

ownedbyaconnie

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got mine at 10 with poor/lack of schooling plus teeth issues meant a very tense high carriage with an "upside down" neck with muscles in all of the wrong places from tension. It can be done but takes time and I personally don't like to use any gadgets to speed it up.

I decided against a martingale despite her tendency to throw her head up, I just learnt to get on with it and ignore it. I scaled all tack back to a simple cavesson and simple bit set up, no martingale etc. We did months of hacking encouraging her to relax into a loose rein, hills are especially useful. Then lots of suppleness work in the school over poles, lateral work etc.

She gets very regular saddle checks as their bodies change so much with reschooling and she also has physio 4 times a year. It's a long process but so so rewarding.
 
Joined
13 December 2020
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It is possible. Its not much different to a person taking up something new in their 40's like a new sport- it mightn't be as easy physically as if we did it as a teenager, but its not impossible. Sounds like you have a good instructor. Remember, that her muscles are completely upside down for this work, so it will be physically challenging for her to start with.
Coud your instructor give you lessons in lunging? Just to make sure that you have the side reins at the correct tension and so on, and to get her used to the pessoa (some of them don't love them)
Yes we have spoked about having some lunging lessons with the side reins, which I know will be extremely beneficial. I have heard so many mixed reviews about the Pessoa!
 

milliepops

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personally i find it easier to influence the horse from a retraining POV when you are in the saddle rather than lunging with gadgets. as the horse has been in work it's a different kind of weakness to one that has been turned away and let down completely. therefore I don't think there's any harm in doing regular short sessions on board.

it's totally possible to retrain a 9yo, my horse that is training towards GP(albeit on hols at the moment!) did nothing until she was 9. really good regular lessons is what will help you to make steady progress :)
 

HufflyPuffly

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Absolutely, Topaz didn't start dressage training until she was 10 and I think it was a lucky thing we did it then as her previous way of going would have probably ended up with injuries (very high head carriage with a disengaged back). She's now competing PSG and working some higher level movements but at 18 now I won't be pushing her any higher as she's done quite a lot over the years :).

 
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Absolutely, Topaz didn't start dressage training until she was 10 and I think it was a lucky thing we did it then as her previous way of going would have probably ended up with injuries (very high head carriage with a disengaged back). She's now competing PSG and working some higher level movements but at 18 now I won't be pushing her any higher as she's done quite a lot over the years :).

Thats how my girl is at the moment! I'm so excited for our journey, this is such great information.
Your girl is so beautiful.
 

HufflyPuffly

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Thank you :), I will add that this was only done through the right lessons and then doing my homework. I don't tend to lunge or use gadgets as I don't find they always translate well into ridden work, my only exception in the Equiband under the guidance of my chiro vet.
 

mini barnes

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Yes!
Get a good trainer!

got mine at 10 with poor/lack of schooling plus teeth issues meant a very tense high carriage with an "upside down" neck with muscles in all of the wrong places from tension. It can be done but takes time and I personally don't like to use any gadgets to speed it up.

I decided against a martingale despite her tendency to throw her head up, I just learnt to get on with it and ignore it. I scaled all tack back to a simple cavesson and simple bit set up, no martingale etc. We did months of hacking encouraging her to relax into a loose rein, hills are especially useful. Then lots of suppleness work in the school over poles, lateral work etc.

She gets very regular saddle checks as their bodies change so much with reschooling and she also has physio 4 times a year. It's a long process but so so rewarding.
Could have written this myself about mine

well done you! And it is so nice seeing them a different shape and looking more relaxed about it all :)
 

ownedbyaconnie

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Others have mentioned it but adding that I agree a good sympathetic instructor is priceless! For me my instructor is happy to go with my softly softly approach with no gadgets so it has actually been a really fun process that has brought us both to tears when we have a big schooling breakthrough.
 

albeg

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Mine was 15 when we started schooling properly. At 17 he had changed shape/muscled up so much he needed a new, wider saddle. I'll dig out some photos later.

For him, he needs things very clearly spelled out, then once he understands what he's being asked, building up the strength to do it consistently.

I don't tend to use gadgets (except the odd use of a "balance" rein as my coach called it - a single rein through the noseband to prevent him flinging his nose up), but I do long rein him as he has found it easier to understand some things on the long reins, which then translates to under saddle.
 

Bernster

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I hope so too! Been working on lwvtb mare for about 2 months now. Very similar approach to ownedbyaconnie - back to basic tack, lots of hacking, light pole work, and regular lessons and schooling. Plus regular physio and saddle checks. She needs time to build the correct muscle etc. Trainer can get some good work and I’m getting glimpses of it and she is def improving. I’m working on being patient!

i think it will always be her default but assuming no physical conditions that would impact this, then I def think it’s achievable. Enjoy!
 

TPO

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Take the focus away from pulling the horse's head down/ in (which is what side reins and a Pessoa will do) and instead focus on suppling the horse laterally and teaching it to yield to the bit on both side of its mouth.
This along with using a good therapist (or learning yourself e.g. Masterson Method) as using herself in a new way and develop muscle will be a bit touchy at times. Just like us when doing exercise that uses new muscles.

Also keep a close eye on saddle fit as the fit can change very quickly as muscles develop.

Personally I think all pessoas should be burned!
 

albeg

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Hope these work. Don't have any recent ones thanks to covid and injury but the aim is to do some novice tests at some point.

 

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Palindrome

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You can definitely improve the horse by schooling. Some good exercises on the ground are ground poles and making a progressively smaller then progressively larger circle while lunging (with the horse sort of leg yielding away and back towards you). Ridden you can do quarters in and quarters out on a circle.
You mainly want the abdominal muscles to get stronger and lift the wither, the neck will then come down as a result. If the horse is weak, it can be good to work on the lunge without the added weight of the rider.
I found galloping out on hacks fab too to get the head down and back stronger (plus there is the fun factor).
 

oldie48

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Definitely possible but it takes time and consistency of work, it's not fair to school one day then settle for an upside down neck on a hack the next. It can take a long time to change their muscles so they are strong enough to work correctly, just be aware that they will go back to their default position if given half a chance. Totally agree that you need to have the saddle checked very frequently as they change shape quite quickly and can also get sore.
 

bca13

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Most defiantley!! Mine is 13 and is only just now starting to work over her back in an outline. Positive in some ways as haven't had their muscles hammered when they where too young!:) I have found long and low work in walk trot and canter very useful to get her swinging from behind and stretching over her back. I wish you luck, it is very rewarding watching them progess:D
 
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