Tips for training a v hot horse?

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6 January 2019
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looking for some exercises/training tips for my very forward going but very sensitive in the mouth ISH. Here’s the problem - in the warmup, he behaves like an angel, not at all hot or strong, accepts downwards transitions etc, but as soon as I ask for canter he immediately becomes very forward going and strong. If left to his own devices, he will just gallop around the school for as long as he is allowed to. Luckily he is also quite soft in the mouth, which makes him somewhat more rideable in walk and trot, but once he’s cantered in the warm-up it’s all he can think about for the rest of the session. His sensitivity in the mouth means I can’t have too strong a contact or put a stronger bit in (he’s in a snaffle) otherwise he chucks his head up. Lungeing before I ride isn’t really an option bc of time especially in the winter... also I doubt it’d do anything as I don’t think I’ve ever really tired him out during a schooling session.Any advice on how to take his mind off going fast would be appreciated, in particular I’m trying to teach him the start of a half-pass at the moment and would love to be able to ask him to move over without him surging forward...
Thanks!!
 

be positive

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There are several approaches to this type of horse and the two I would use, mixed up so you don't set a pattern, are 1 regularly work in walk and trot with no cantering, if working properly and really using himself, which he should be capable of if starting to half pass, he should get tired or at least relaxed enough that he stops thinking about cantering and a few sessions without doing any are very useful.
2 get into canter earlier in a warm up, just walk and trot for long enough that his muscles are warm and start canter work but make sure it is constructive work right away, don't allow him to become rude or strong by moving him around constantly, lots of changes of bend, varied sizes of circles, spirals, transitions in and out as well as within the pace, get his brain engaged so he has no time to set against you and keep going until he is soft and listening, you shouldn't need to take a strong hold if you ride from your seat and keep him moving constantly, if you can do that for 30 mins and he is still not tired and settled I would be very surprised, he can then cool down in trot rather than finish working in canter and walking to cool off.
Most rude horses have just been allowed to canter as they please because people don't do enough work on it and spend far too long trying to get everything right in trot so the canter becomes the 'fun part' added on afterwards, often the rider is too tired to do much more than have a spin around so the horse takes advantage and the situation gets out of control.
 

oldie48

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Totally agree with everything BP has said and certainly I found doing the canter work first with Bisto, who could be a bit unruly in canter helped a lot and it improved all the work in trot and walk that came after too. I don't know if you identify with this, your horse may be quite different, but Bisto wasn't really accepting of the leg, so a leg on always meant go forward, not bend round my leg, or go sideways and for a very long time he wasn't accepting of the contact either and really the difficulty in canter was a symptom of that because at the lower paces I was able to manage the problem better. I changed my trainer and we worked on getting him properly "on the bit" and properly "through", it transformed the quality of his work and although I was initially very resistant to the idea, so did moving him into a double bridle. He was very difficult in the mouth and a visit by the bit fit people was an eye opener as I realised the kind snaffle bit I was using was actually unsuitable for him. I had just moved him back into a snaffle with a different bit when I sadly lost him, so please don't assume that the bit you are using is not contributing to the problem. Good luck.
 
Joined
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There are several approaches to this type of horse and the two I would use, mixed up so you don't set a pattern, are 1 regularly work in walk and trot with no cantering, if working properly and really using himself, which he should be capable of if starting to half pass, he should get tired or at least relaxed enough that he stops thinking about cantering and a few sessions without doing any are very useful.
2 get into canter earlier in a warm up, just walk and trot for long enough that his muscles are warm and start canter work but make sure it is constructive work right away, don't allow him to become rude or strong by moving him around constantly, lots of changes of bend, varied sizes of circles, spirals, transitions in and out as well as within the pace, get his brain engaged so he has no time to set against you and keep going until he is soft and listening, you shouldn't need to take a strong hold if you ride from your seat and keep him moving constantly, if you can do that for 30 mins and he is still not tired and settled I would be very surprised, he can then cool down in trot rather than finish working in canter and walking to cool off.
Most rude horses have just been allowed to canter as they please because people don't do enough work on it and spend far too long trying to get everything right in trot so the canter becomes the 'fun part' added on afterwards, often the rider is too tired to do much more than have a spin around so the horse takes advantage and the situation gets out of control.

Thanks that’s really helpful - given me a lot to think about!! And yes he has definitely has been allowed to canter as he pleases... he was at the yard for a few years before I bought him and I’ve been told that when he had a few less experienced sharers he would just gallop them around the school whenever he liked!! So I think it’s a naughty habit that he’d got used to doing whenever he wanted to - he’s v v muscly especially his hindquarters so finds it quite easy to tank off...
 

blitznbobs

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It sounds like he’s just not accepting the contact to be honest - he’s holding you to ransom a bit with it .

If my horse won’t come back from canter can you shorten and lengthen it with your back - sit down in the saddle on your seat bones and move less with your core or even half halt by pushing your pelvis forwards and tightening with your thighs... if that isn’t working make the circle smaller spiral in - not many horses can gallop round an 8m circle... and it’s very difficult to gallop on in shoulder in. Basically you need to teach the horse that his rules are out of the window and your rules are in for the hour in the school... but a horse who won’t accept the rein isn’t sensitive it’s rude. If he was sensitive a gentle feel would bring him back to you but throwing his head around is bad manners
 
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It sounds like he’s just not accepting the contact to be honest - he’s holding you to ransom a bit with it .

If my horse won’t come back from canter can you shorten and lengthen it with your back - sit down in the saddle on your seat bones and move less with your core or even half halt by pushing your pelvis forwards and tightening with your thighs... if that isn’t working make the circle smaller spiral in - not many horses can gallop round an 8m circle... and it’s very difficult to gallop on in shoulder in. Basically you need to teach the horse that his rules are out of the window and your rules are in for the hour in the school... but a horse who won’t accept the rein isn’t sensitive it’s rude. If he was sensitive a gentle feel would bring him back to you but throwing his head around is bad manners
Will definitely try the shoulder-in and spirals, that sounds like a great idea! I’ve probably explained it badly in the first post but he doesn’t toss his head around if I have a normal contact and he will come round immediately if I squeeze each rein - I meant to say more that I can’t grip on to the reins anticipating him surging forward because then he will get antsy and chuck his head around. So probably still a bit rude but I can see where he’s coming from!
 

Shay

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I'm not sure I'm reading this right - so if I have the wrong end of the stick my apologies... Might working on your balance help? You say you can't take hold anticipating a surge - and absolutely you should not. That brings all its own issues. But if you were deep and stable in the saddle might you be able to go with him in balance for a stride or so before bringing him back? Many (IME) ISH's have a sort of rushy canter which comes from the manner of being backed. They sort of scoot, hindlegs under, a bit out of control. And whwn you take hold they hollow. Some of them are a lot worse! It can take a while to learn to ride to it and riders not used to how they present try to hold them back with sometimes unfortunate consequences.

The first ISH we bought I wondered why folk in warmup etc would say "Oh - thats just irish broke". Now - several ISH competition animals down the line - I really do recognize that stamp. NB: That is not to say all Irish horses have that issue or are broken in a certain way. Its just a sterotype that has become true over time - like shetlands are cheeky and Sec D's opinionated. Of course it is not true of all of them!
 
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Totally agree with everything BP has said and certainly I found doing the canter work first with Bisto, who could be a bit unruly in canter helped a lot and it improved all the work in trot and walk that came after too. I don't know if you identify with this, your horse may be quite different, but Bisto wasn't really accepting of the leg, so a leg on always meant go forward, not bend round my leg, or go sideways and for a very long time he wasn't accepting of the contact either and really the difficulty in canter was a symptom of that because at the lower paces I was able to manage the problem better. I changed my trainer and we worked on getting him properly "on the bit" and properly "through", it transformed the quality of his work and although I was initially very resistant to the idea, so did moving him into a double bridle. He was very difficult in the mouth and a visit by the bit fit people was an eye opener as I realised the kind snaffle bit I was using was actually unsuitable for him. I had just moved him back into a snaffle with a different bit when I sadly lost him, so please don't assume that the bit you are using is not contributing to the problem. Good luck.
Yep sounds a lot like paddy!! Can do lovely lateral work when we’ve just started trotting but after he’s fired up from canter then the leg just means go.... He’s my first horse after about eight years riding school horses so I’m not the best judge of whether a horse is properly working through their body (we’re both learning together really!) but when my instructor comes she thinks he is and from the muscle he’s developed along his back and hindquarters he seems to be doing something right... I think paddy’s problem is that he finds it very easy to push with his back end and uses that momentum to run away - more like a medium canter than a bolt really but v hard to stop. I looked at the horse bit bank and it sounds really interesting - have been thinking about getting a Sprenger bit for him so it’d be good to get a professional opinion on what would be best - thanks for mentioning them!
 
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I'm not sure I'm reading this right - so if I have the wrong end of the stick my apologies... Might working on your balance help? You say you can't take hold anticipating a surge - and absolutely you should not. That brings all its own issues. But if you were deep and stable in the saddle might you be able to go with him in balance for a stride or so before bringing him back? Many (IME) ISH's have a sort of rushy canter which comes from the manner of being backed. They sort of scoot, hindlegs under, a bit out of control. And whwn you take hold they hollow. Some of them are a lot worse! It can take a while to learn to ride to it and riders not used to how they present try to hold them back with sometimes unfortunate consequences.

The first ISH we bought I wondered why folk in warmup etc would say "Oh - thats just irish broke". Now - several ISH competition animals down the line - I really do recognize that stamp. NB: That is not to say all Irish horses have that issue or are broken in a certain way. Its just a sterotype that has become true over time - like shetlands are cheeky and Sec D's opinionated. Of course it is not true of all of them!

Oh that’s v interesting I didn’t know it was a thing but that does sound very similar to Paddy at least when I first got him - my instructor squinted at him a bit and asked if that was his ‘normal canter’. And yes he used to hollow in the canter massively - with training I think that’s been solved mostly and he’s now comfortable holding an outline in canter but it took a very long time to get at first and I always wondered why! He’s been in England for five years now but has been doing very little (mostly in a field) so I suppose that’s come from his upbringing in Ireland. In terms of going with him and then bringing him back - that’s what I always do, mostly just let him surge but then turn him quickly to bring him back to walk. And yes I definitely do need to sit deeper in the canter especially as one of his favourite tricks is leaning on my hands and then plunging his head down to pull me forward so will be working on that!
 
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My last mare sounds like she was very similar at the beginning
She did get better (eventually!) but that was a long process, pretty much based around always being one step ahead of her
So absolutely loads of changes of pace, change of pace within a pace, change of direction, shapes, lateral work - but I simply couldn't do what I can do now on my gelding and 'practice' something several times until it got better, as she found a faster way to do it if I did that...
I tried cantering at the beginning of a session and then taking a big long rein walk break as though we were finished before working on the walk and trot, it worked some times, but she got wise to that too.
A lot of the progress was made through getting her listening to my voice and my seat (she just tanked on in canter otherwise). To give you an idea, at the beginning I couldn't sit two beats to change diagonal as she was off like a rocket - so I stood two beats instead to begin with, then stood and sat and moved around for various durations until she wasn't sure what was coming next. She got really angry if i did what some instructors wanted such as putting her on a 20m circle and forcing dozens of canter / trot /canter transitions- and the more worked up she got the harder it was- so we had to work with her brain to get the same result.
Doing walk to canter really helped to get into a balanced canter rather than a pully rushy one - but again, had to be careful not to use it too often or she would have never trotted again (!). We learned this on the lunge, from the voice, rather than having to give a big leg aid at first which can then lead to a big jump into canter and sort of defeat the purpose
Also cantering across the school and then using the wall or a corner to come back to walk, then maybe changing direction and cantering over somewhere else and doing the same, so that they are never 'just tanking around'- theres always an instruction to come and they learn to listen for it.
Good luck :)
 

oldie48

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Yep sounds a lot like paddy!! Can do lovely lateral work when we’ve just started trotting but after he’s fired up from canter then the leg just means go.... He’s my first horse after about eight years riding school horses so I’m not the best judge of whether a horse is properly working through their body (we’re both learning together really!) but when my instructor comes she thinks he is and from the muscle he’s developed along his back and hindquarters he seems to be doing something right... I think paddy’s problem is that he finds it very easy to push with his back end and uses that momentum to run away - more like a medium canter than a bolt really but v hard to stop. I looked at the horse bit bank and it sounds really interesting - have been thinking about getting a Sprenger bit for him so it’d be good to get a professional opinion on what would be best - thanks for mentioning them!
I used bit fit to assess what bit might be best for Bisto they come out to you and assess the horse but got the bit on trial from the bit bank.
 

Pearlsasinger

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Will definitely try the shoulder-in and spirals, that sounds like a great idea! I’ve probably explained it badly in the first post but he doesn’t toss his head around if I have a normal contact and he will come round immediately if I squeeze each rein - I meant to say more that I can’t grip on to the reins anticipating him surging forward because then he will get antsy and chuck his head around. So probably still a bit rude but I can see where he’s coming from!

Can I suggest that you have some lessons with an instructor who is not associated with the RS?
It doesn't really sound as if you have had a particularly good standard of teaching - the squeezing each rein to bring the horse 'round' is what gives it away. Good teaching will help you to ride the horse from your seat, which is far more effective and encourages the horse to engage his hindquarters and develop the correct muscles to come round from behind, rather than just pulling his head in. When he gets used to be ridden effectively he will behave himself, far better.
 
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Can I suggest that you have some lessons with an instructor who is not associated with the RS?
It doesn't really sound as if you have had a particularly good standard of teaching - the squeezing each rein to bring the horse 'round' is what gives it away. Good teaching will help you to ride the horse from your seat, which is far more effective and encourages the horse to engage his hindquarters and develop the correct muscles to come round from behind, rather than just pulling his head in. When he gets used to be ridden effectively he will behave himself, far better.
Oops I think you’ve misunderstood me slightly!! Probably my wording - when I squeeze the reins, it’s an aid to bring him back into a steady contact, not collection. Obviously if he’s just been chucking his head in the air he’s not going to be working correctly, but I’d rather get a good contact and rhythm first and then i think I stand a better chance of getting a proper collection with some degree of self carriage. I’m very happy with my instructor, she’s not attached to any riding school and she’s a bhs examiner so I’m sure she knows what she’s doing. But really he’s not a dressage horse, he’s only been working in a contact consistently for a couple of months now and so as long as he’s engaging his hindquarters decently I’m quite happy with him for the moment! He does definitely behave himself better when he’s working from behind, however, this is only possible when he’s already calm. But if you have any advice for using my seat to ride him when he is in a bad mood I’d love to hear it because he definitely seems to prefer seat aids in general.
 
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Okay I have found the problem.... the horse is scared of the dark 🙄🙄. Took me a stupidly long time to notice this because the only day I’m able to ride in the light at the moment is Saturday, and that’s his jump schooling day so he’s naturally a lot more forward than he would be doing dressage... We have lights in our arena but they’re very very dim so not much help - he’s just a lot more tense than he is during the day. No idea what to do about this as it isn’t very fixable ( until summer when it’s light of course) but will keep using the exercises suggested as they seem to help at least a bit!
 

Pinkvboots

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One of my horses is an absolute idiot when his ridden in the dark, he just doesn't like the shadows that are caused by the flood lights and he becomes very much on high alert, luckily I don't have to ride in the dark so I don't do it now.
 
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