Q&A WITH SCHOOL YOUR HORSE

Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse has worked with horses all her life as a groom, rider and instructor. She competed to Medium on her own horses and trained to PSG. Lorraine now spends more time writing than riding.

Lorraine is well known at Haynet and was our Agony Aunt a few years ago, answering all your equestrian problems. She now writes for PONY and Horse and Rider. Lorraine has also written for Equestrian Life, Ireland’s Horse and Pony, The Dalesman, Flair 4 Words, How-to books, The Countryside Tales and Debut.

Haynet is featuring her popular Question and Answer series which help riders to solve many problems that come up with riding horses. Should you have a burning question to ask Lorraine, then please contact her here.

Please find below some of the Q&A's that may help you solve that equestrian problem:

My horse only moves forward when I'm pushing - if I relax she stops

“I have a new horse. She’s unfit and quite green. I’ve had plenty of experience (5 years) but I’ve never had a green horse before and I could do with some pointers on how to keep her going without having to kick all the time.”

 

This is such a great question – and actually the whole reason I started my blog. So many riders know what they want to achieve but just need pointing in the right direction.

 

I’m not usually one to push my schooling guides but I’m going to give you the link to one which has five step by step ways to increase her reaction to your aids. It’s not written for beginners – it’s for riders like you to give you some clear things to do and try so you can set some goals for her and yourself.


So the link to it is here and it won’t break the bank as its 99p but having said that keep reading because I’ll give you some pointers further down!  


So, you need a plan. You’re first aim is right – she needs to go forward when you ask her – without you having to ride every single step. There’s a great post on the blog here  which will help.

 

Your aim should be to have your legs against her sides as an encouragement, more of a ‘we’re on the same side’ rather than ‘get going!’. You’re giong to need to tap her up with your whip at first so she starts to listen to you a bit more. She’s probably feeling unfit and less inclined to get going at the moment so she’s going to test you out a bit. You’ll need to be consistent – do the same thing every time you ride in and out of the school so she knows you really mean business.

 

Read more of this great advice from School Your Horse

 

Image Credit: Pixabay

I Avoid Canter If I Can Because My Horse Ignores My Aids To Stop!

“I’m guilty of spending too much time in trot and have recently introduced canter. NO problem cantering from walk or trot but my horse finds it so exciting he tanks off and won’t listen to seat/rein aid to slow or stop very easily. When I have to insist I get a lot of head tossing….is there any advice in your archives you can point me to please?”

 

I did a Q&A recently about a horse similar so there’s a post here that might be worth a quick read.

 

Having said that I think yours is a bit different. The main thing is to remove the friction you’re getting between your hand and his mouth which is causing the hollowing. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg – who knows who started it – but you’re going to have to stop it!

 

You need to get him really coming back to you through your knee and thigh to allow you to just hold your contact without really using it to slow him down. There’s a great exercise here to help you do that. Although it suggests to ride canter to walk transitions at the end I’d try to just bring him back to the slowest canter you can do (don’t worry if it gets so slow it’s 4 time) and then allow him to go forward again. The whole aim of the exercise is to teach him – and you – that you can slow him down without resorting to your hand.

 

There’s a great exercise here that will get you both really focused on the canter and where you’re going. It takes the soul focus away from the fact the canter is just getting stronger and stronger.

 

I’ve used both of those exercises with a lot of different horses and you may need to grin and bear it for a few attempts but just plug away. Repeat and repeat and repeat – and then suddenly you’ll find yourself grinning because you’ll get a sudden feeling of control! At that point on the first go put him away and enjoy the fact that it worked! Do it again and again until you really get a feel for it; the exercise is such that he won’t anticipate and avoid it, it always gets results. If your thighs aren’t screaming by the end of it you’re not doing it hard enough!!

 

There are a couple of posts here that will give you something to think about as far as your contact and your position go – they’re great for that stage of riding that needs a bit of finesse!

 

http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2012/02/25/thumbs-up-or-down/

 

http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/10/29/pull-up-to-ride-forward/

 

Read more super advice from Lorraine at SCHOOL YOUR HORSE

 

Image credit: Photopin

My New Horse Is Trained To Advanced Medium - But I Can't Ride One Side Of Him!

“I bought my new horse hoping he could teach me how to ride lateral work but it’s all I can do to trot a 20m circle without going off on a tangent! How can I find the right buttons? I feel like a complete novice!”

New horses are always a challenge and riding an advanced horse can feel quite daunting – they have so many aids in their heads it’s hard for them not to misunderstand what you’re asking. So the simple answer is don’t panic! You can’t half pass before you can walk!

 

There are ‘buttons’ to press but you need to define your own as well as try to find his. Remember he’s your horse now.

 

Whenever there’s a problem there’s always an answer – it’s usually the rider trying too hard and getting tense. This transmits straight to the horse and causes no end of trouble – and the more well-schooled the horse is the more there is to misinterpret.

 

Don’t put yourself down – you have every right to have this wonderful horse and enjoy riding him. It will come and you’ll look back and laugh – honest! Don’t forget to have some training with him – another pair of eyes can be really useful. 

 

I know you want to get going and practise lateral work but take your time. Slow things a bit until you’re both more relaxed. That way he’ll be able to think straight and you won’t be feeling quite so inadequate!

 

At the moment you’re both probably feeling your way a bit – he wants to do right by you and you want to show him you’re not stupid! Hack out, school in walk, trot and canter without even thinking about lateral work – perhaps have a jump or ride a few poles just to mix it up a bit. Until you can do that he’s not going to be able to understand what your basic aids are.

 

Remember you need to use your aids exactly the same every time – no matter what horse you’re riding. Do that and he’ll start to understand your way of riding not the one he’s used to. Practise direct transitions up and down really focusing on keeping your legs still and your contact steady – remember the slightest touch on a rein or movement of a leg means something else to him.

 

Less is more with a well-trained horse so get out there and practise transitions without moving too much – you’ll be surprised to find that a canter transition, for example, can happen without moving your leg even an inch back. Try using more pressure rather than actually moving a leg back for a turn or a circle aid.

 

Seat aids become far more important when you’re moving onto more specific movements. In walk have a play at turning your hips one way and see where he takes you. If your contact stays even in your reins then he’ll turn his hips the way you do – that’s enough to put him into shoulder-in position or travers; depending on the way your hips are turned.

 

The subtlety of your aids is important when you’re using them – and when you’re not! If your body is crooked then his will be too so hacking out is a great way to make sure you’re sitting as straight as possible. If you find yourself doing shoulder-in up the road make sure you look at your own position before you correct his.

 

One final pointer – remember you don’t need to ‘ask’ him to go onto the bit. Too many hand signals are really confusing. A still hand and a pushing leg is all it will take to push him together.

 

Best of luck – and don’t forget to relax and enjoy him!

 

Advice by Lorraine from School Your Horse

Image Credit: Pixabay

I Can't Hack Out On My Own

My horse has never hacked out on his own and if I try he spins round or runs backwards – with no regard for anything behind him. I’ve stopped riding out as it’s such a problem. Is there anything I could do to make him braver or should I give up trying? I really want to try some dressage with him next year.”

 

Firstly – don’t beat yourself up over this because you can and will overcome this. Although his behaviour is typical of horses that nap to get out of things it sounds to me like this stems from fear. If you’re worried about causing him more upset – which is understandable if you’ve spent four years building up his trust – then the chances are you’re riding him very sympathetically. That’s OK – nobody needs to set up a battle and spoil a good relationship – but I think he’s going to need you to take the lead here.

 

Taking the lead doesn’t mean bullying. It just means you setting some rules and sticking to them. Once he learns you’re determined and unafraid to get out there he’s going to start to relax – he knows deep down that you’re not going to put him in a tight spot. Make rules that are easy to stick to – don’t allow him to stop and don’t allow him to spin round – by doing that you’ll avoid the reversing problem.

 

So you need him to go forward and straight. Both things are worth practising in the school. Ride transitions at every marker so you really get him thinking about you and your aids. The more responsive he is in the school the better he’ll respond out on a ride (it’s good practise for your dressage too!). Forget about on the bit and focus on keeping him between your legs and hands and moving straight. Riding on the inside track can really help with that – use the centre line too because you won’t have a fence to help you.

 

Wear gloves so you can keep your contact and use a drop noseband to keep his mouth closed and a martingale so he can’t get his head up too high and avoid your aids. A snaffle with cheeks or a fulmer can help you to keep him straight too – stronger bits are more likely to make him back off. (Bits and Pieces) Carry a schooling whip so you never have to take your hand off your reins to use it.

 

Ride on quiet flat roads if you can or ride him out in a field if you have one so you don’t have to worry about traffic. Ride forward into a very good, even contact keeping his head and neck straight in front of him at all times. Trot as much as possible because it’s far easier to avoid stopping. If he does try to stop turn him – so you’re doing the asking – to one side for a few steps and then try forward again. If you have to circle and zig zag your way up the road so be it – just do everything you can to avoid him halting.

 

Before you throw yourself out there and set off on your own try taking him out with others (if you can) but make sure you take the lead. If he finds that difficult then ride alongside another horse while he finds his feet. (NB! Pick your friends carefully with this one – they need to appreciate what you’re doing and not try to show you how ‘wild’ their horse is!!)

 

If he struggles to go first without panicking them going out on his own isn’t going to work for a bit. Try riding out with someone walking nearby or riding a bike – it’s amazing how much that can really help. Just having an extra person for you to talk to will help you relax and it will help him too because he’ll listen to you talking instead of worrying about his surroundings. When you’re feeling brave try trotting ahead for a bit and then turn him round to go back to them. He’ll enjoy the going back but make sure you are the one who decides when.

 

If a horse is nervous it can make things worse if you leave home or ride away from other horses. You can use this to your advantage though by doing the opposite. Can you box him to a point that you can ride back to your yard from? That often helps because you don’t actually ride away from home. Or ride out with a friend in the distance – follow them out of the yard but a minute or so later and ask them to wait just round the first corner. If your horse realises he’s going out to meet someone he’ll have a reason to leave the yard. You can stretch the distance between you and the other horse as you feel braver.

 

As far as the dressage is concerned I think you should go for it! Go and check out a few venues first so you know what they’re like. If you can hire a school or book a lesson at a different place so you get used to riding him somewhere strange. That could actually really help his confidence for hacking.

 

When you choose a show to do find somewhere where he can see other horses so you don’t leave the warm up and ride into an empty quiet school. Try an Intro A or Intro B and enter two classes so you can write off the first class to let him get used to it. Watching a few tests can help you to feel more confident to if you’re not actually riding. You’ll always see someone who is worse than you! Remember dressage is about accuracy and transitions not your horse’s shape.  

 

I wish you so much luck with this! It’s a challenge but certainly not impossible. You’ve spent four years getting to this stage so hold that thought! This is just the next stage of his development. If there’s anything you don’t understand don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Great advice from Lorraine from School Your Horse

Image Credit

 

My Horse Is Great Out Hacking But Why Is She Nappy In The School?!

“I’ve recently changed yard and was so excited because it’s the first time I’ve had a menage to ride in. My horse has always been a dream to ride so it came as a real shock to find out she hates going in the menage! She refuses to go forward and does everything she can to get back to the gate. I’m staying in walk, trying to keep her in there for about five minutes at a time (if she’ll let me!) and once I get a few circuits out of her I take her back to the yard as a reward for her good behaviour. What can I do to get through this?”

 

As you are aware napping is an attitude and it’s something your horse will do to avoid something. In this case it’s the school! The fact she’s going so well out hacking means there’s hope though so don’t give up!

 

How is she if you ride in a field? Often horses are happy to school in a field but reluctant in a ménage. If that’s the case for her try to do a bit of schooling out in a field (subject to weather of course!) so she gets a feel for schooling without the confines of the menage – and actually just doing something different to riding out on a hack. Most people would expect a horse to find hacking more frightening than schooling but if hacking is what she’s used to doing then schooling may well be stressing her out a bit.

 

What I think you need to do is work out why she’s reacting like this. Do you always hack out with others? Or is she happy to go out on her own? That could well be a reason for her to constantly wanting to get back to the yard or field. Perhaps try sharing the school with someone else for a while – even follow them and have a trot round for ten minutes. Anything that helps to make the school more of a fun place to be will help.

 

Think about what it is you’re doing differently when you go into a school as opposed to what you do when you ride away from the yard to hack. It’s quite common for people to tighten themselves up a bit because they’re ‘going to work’ and take up a stronger contact, use more leg and try to sit up straighter than normal. These are little things but they immediately set up a tense feeling between you and her.

 

She’s only six and that can be a tricky age anyway – once broken horses usually have a sparkling fourth year which may or may not continue into their fifth. Eventually they start to feel as if they can test the boundaries a bit, and that’s exactly what I think your horse is trying to do. Congrats to you for sitting it out and getting at least a few circuits out of her before you call it a day – that’s a must! The second she realises that difficult behaviour means she gets to go in you’ve got a problem.

 

Change her mood about the school by using it as an ‘add-on’ to hacking – try to take her in the school before you ride out so you don’t make a big event out of it and at the end of a ride go in and walk her round on a long rein for a couple of circuits; especially if you have a friend with you who’ll join you for a few minutes.

 

When it comes to actually schooling always try to get on in the school rather than ride into it because it avoids any trouble before you get there and it means you don’t spend time trying to close the gate. Mount up away from the gate and work in circles that stay close to the gate end but not right next to it (about 10m away from it).

 

As you are doing already, keep your sessions short and sweet BUT busy. Loads of circles and turns which will give her something to think about – even if that means turning her head and neck by opening your hand like an indicator(!) to actually get her to budge.

 

Avoid walk if you can because it’s so much easier for her to nap. Get into trot (or even canter if it’s safe to do so) as soon as possible – really get going and forget about what you look like! If she’s wobbling about, sticking her head up or not really straight don’t worry – concentrate on going forward because that’s all that matters. Go forward anywhere you can – if you feel her trying to slow up or stop ride a turn across the school and kick on. Push on, sit up and look where you want to go and you’ll get there as long as you never give in to her. She might slow down at first and try it on but if you’re really thinking trot you’ll get it. This will work if you’re quick enough because it will break her train of thought. The more you can distract her the better.

 

Remember to be prepared before you go – get the plan in your head before you get on so you ride confident. If you’re in there wondering what you’re going to do she’ll take advantage of it. An ideal plan for a schooling session would be to lead her in, get on, get into trot heading towards the gate and then try to do a couple of circles on both reins. Then have a walk up the road or around a field before you finish so she blends all the experiences in together rather than huff and puff about ‘that school’!

 

I hope something here has given you a bit of hope and a few ideas! Any questions please ask!

 

I wish you loads of luck with her – hopefully in four weeks you’ll have a whole new horse on your hands.

 

Great advice from Lorraine at School Your Horse

Image Credit: Pixabay

My Horse Is Leaning On My Hands - Any Ideas To Help This?

“Dressage judges always comment that my horse tends to lean – especially in canter. He’s a big horse and I’m struggling to get him to stop. Have you got any ideas?!

 

Your horse is obviously a big lad and there’s a lot of horse to ride! Don’t be put off – there are some changes you can make that will make a huge difference straight away.

 

He needs to rebalance his weight further back onto his hocks – at the moment he’s just tipping onto his front end and that’s what you’ll be feeling on the end of your reins.

 

It’s easier to sort problems out from the start (so get it right in walk before you trot and trot before you canter) rather than work on it in canter when you’ll both get tired and be more likely to find it difficult. Once you get it right in walk you’ll be surprised how much better his trot and canter feel.

 

Check out this post – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/10/29/pull-up-to-ride-forward/ – because it will really help you to change your position which will change his.

 

(Having seen your video) it looks like you’re getting tipped forward off your seat which is making your seat less effective – and that’s making you look down. In halt pull up through your spine and then lean back until you feel your stomach muscles start to pull. Look directly ahead of you – not at the ground twenty metres away (so easy to do!) so you look above the school fence and up and around every corner or turn you make. It’s a difficult thing to do consistently so you’ll have to nag at yourself – try reminding yourself every time you pass A. C or X.

 

Looking up like that will put your whole weight back onto your seat and onto his back giving you a good base to hold your position; so if he tries to tip onto his shoulders you’ll be able to push him on from your legs and drive his hocks under him rather than pushing on and pushing his weight (and yours) onto his shoulders.

 

When you’re in that upright position you’ll find that your reins will be too long but when you shorten them up it’s going to feel as if your arms are miles out in front of you! This is normal – and correct. Your hands should stay above or slightly in front of his withers so your arms will still bend at the elbow but have less of an angle. If you can touch his withers with your little finger if you point it down your hands are too low. Also check out this post which will give you a really simple way to stop him bracing against your hand – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2012/02/25/thumbs-up-or-down/

 

This way of riding does take some getting used to but it’s going to make so much difference to his balance and stop him leaning on you. Have you read about using your knee and thigh to help you keep your horse together? It stops you needing your reins as a slowing down aid. Check it out here if you haven’t already because it’s a great way for us lightweight riders to really ride bigger horses. http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2010/12/29/the-other-way-of-stopping/

 

Just a final thing about your canter – make sure you sit into the third beat of the canter stride. Watch that video and you’ll see you just tip out of the saddle for the third beat and then sit again. This is the point that you’ll lose him and let him lean on your hands. Sit back and push down when you feel yourself coming up off the saddle.

 

Changing your position can be difficult if you don’t have anyone on the ground to help you. If you’ve got a phone that can video you a really handy way to watch yourself riding is to stick it on the fence at A and leave it running when you ride. You might not see everything but it will give you an idea if you’re getting things right.

 

Best of luck and I hope this all makes sense!

 

If you have a question about your horse do get in touch. You can find me on Twitter (@pollson) or on Facebook, or email me at lorraine@schoolyourhorse.com from School Your Horse.

 

Image Credit: PhotoPin

My horse is constantly chewing the bit - should I change it?

“My horse is constantly chewing the bit and I think she might be unhappy with it. I ride her in a stainless steel snaffle so should I change it to a rubber one?”

 

If your horse is chewing the bit there could be several reasons.

 

It might be that her teeth are bothering her – it’s always worth getting the vet/dentist to look at them but you’ll get a rough idea by pressing against her jaw line to see if she reacts to the pressure; also if she’s young she might have a wolf tooth coming that is upsetting the way the bit sits in her mouth (they come up just in front of the molars so can just catch the bit.  There are alot of other problems that might be going on in her mouth though so it’s always good to get an expert to check for you – if only to put your mind at rest!

 

Another reason might be that the bit is too low in her mouth – check the fitting by looking at the corners of her mouth – there should be a couple of small wrinkles on either side above the mouthpiece. If the bit is too loose there may be no wrinkles and you might get a finger into her mouth above the mouthpiece. If she’s always chomping on the bit while she’s waiting for you to get on – or shaking her head – it could well be the reason.

 

If she’s chewing at specific moments – such as when you turn or ask her to slow up make sure it’s not the way you’re asking – she might be trying to tell you to lighten up on the rein a bit. If you’re too tense in your arm it might just be that she feels restricted – or you may be stronger on the side that you write with. If you’re not sure then ride with your reins through your hands the wrong way round – it’s amazing how much it reduces the tension between you even if it
feels completely wrong and a bit daft! Check out this post to make sure it’s not you that’s causing the problem.

 

As far as a change of bit goes, if a horse is chewing because they’re unhappy with a bit I usually opt for a thinner mouthpiece so wouldn’t go straight to rubber as they tend to be thicker. Try a thinner single jointed snaffle or a ‘happy mouth’ (plastic) straight bar which are fairly thin. Some horses have a very low roof to their mouth so a thinner mouthpiece sits better in their mouth and is a lot more comfortable. There’s more on bits and nosebands here that might help you make a decision on what might suit you.


There’s also the thought that she’s just starting to evade you – so try (if you haven’t already) using a flash noseband. If you already are make sure the top cavesson noseband part sits just under her cheek bone and is done up well so it doesn’t drop down her face at the front. That way the flash part sits correctly under the bit and it will stop her opening her mouth to chew or evade your rein aids. BUT! Remember, if she’s trying to evade you there’s usually a cause – and that’s usually the rider! Check out this post or this post to make sure your contact isn’t the reason.

 

I hope something here helps. Best of luck!

 

by Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse

Image source: Pixabay

I Jump 1m 10 At Home - Why Can't I Jump 80cm At A Show?!

“I’ve recently bought a new horse. She’s 7 and loves jumping. I jump 1m 10cm at home so why can’t I get round the 80cm at a show? She warms up fine but then we get into the ring and it all goes to pot. PLEASE don’t tell me I need to do unaffiliated shows because I can’t afford my own transport and have to go to the affiliated shows because my friend takes me. I’ve competed on my old horse and it was never a problem. What am I doing wrong?”

 

Firstly don’t apologise for not being able to afford transport! You’re certainly not alone with that one. Yes, of course it would be nice to go and do a few unaffiliated shows first and pop round the clear round but you can’t and that’s OK. Your horse is happy jumping bigger ad wider fences so you’re doing the right thing by trying the smaller classes first.

 

You’re practising at home and enjoying yourself so the problem is clearly to do with the show. It’s early days with this horse so don’t pressure yourself. If you’re nervous you’re passing it on to her. It’s easy to freeze when you go into the ring and all eyes are on you – especially if you feel you should be doing better.

 

If you’re not riding forward and giving your horse confidence she’s going to shut down and wonder why you’re worried – eventually she’ll just anticipate a problem which is why she’s stopping at the first fence now. Most horses will take you round once or twice, or hop over a couple of fences (which usually means you get left behind and that makes things so much worse!) and then stop – does that sound familiar?

 

As you’re doing so well at home I’d suggest you keep doing that (keep up with your lessons too) but ask your friend to take her round a few times at a show for you (you said in your email she competes at Foxhunter). This is for two reasons – it will give your horse the confidence to settle when she’s in the ring and it will give you confidence to see her do it. Your friend is obviously used to competitions and she’ll probably think nothing of taking her round for you I’m sure. (She may well not want to suggest it because she thinks you might be offended.)

 

After a couple of shows you can then enter in the same class as your friend but non-competitively (HC) so you’ll know your horse can do it. That will really help you to push on and ride at the fences.

 

I hope this helps. Best of luck and keep in touch!

 

by Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse

 

Image credit: Photo Pin

 

I'm More Nervous Of My Trainer Than My Horse!

My trainer is always shouting at me and telling me I’m too nervous when I ride my new horse. I’ve had a couple of falls that did knock my confidence a bit but I feel fine now. Actually I’m more nervous of her than I am of my horse! I’ve owned him for six months now and I still haven’t cantered in a lesson. What should I do?

 

It sounds to me as if you need a change of trainer. A fresh pair of eyes to look at you and your horse – and someone with a different attitude. Some people thrive on being bossed and bullied but I don’t think it helps anyone – especially your horse.

 

If I were you I’d concentrate on enjoying your horse for a few weeks, avoiding lessons with this trainer, get back the relationship you had with him and then book a lesson with a new trainer. If you can, find a trainer that someone reccomends – asking at your local tack shop is always a good idea as they hear everything! 

 

Cantering really should be next on your agenda – the sooner you get on and do it the better. The longer it gets put off the more of an issue it becomes. Even if nerves are or were a problem this relationship with your trainer is getting you nowhere. Any lesson should be enjoyable and you should be itching to have another one.

 

There’s a link to post about feeling nervous here that might be useful and a post that covers a lot about canter here that should give you something to work on!

 

Remember that this is your hobby – and it’s an expensive one at that – so it’s important that you and your horse enjoy yourselves. Best of luck.

 

by Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse

 

Image Credit: Photopin - not related to article

I’m Having Trouble Keeping My Horse On The Bit In Downwards Transitions

I’M HAVING TROUBLE KEEPING MY HORSE ON THE BIT

IN DOWNWARDS TRANSITIONS –

HE’S FINE IN THE UPWARDS ONES. ANY IDEAS?

 

The thing with downwards transitions is they’re always the last to get worked on – it’s so easy to focus on the up because they usually cause trouble first.

 

If you lose shape and softness it’s because you’re not riding forward through the whole transition. However much you believe you’re doing it there’s a strong chance you’re holding your breath for even as little as half a stride – and that’s what causes the hiccup and tension. The instant your body stops feeling relaxed to him the instant he’ll tighten up and hollow. Find time to sit and really visualise riding transitions up and down – there’s usually a point that you think ‘and’ trot/canter/walk and it’s that ‘and’ that creates the hollowing. There’s a post on that here.

 

Downwards transitions need more positive riding than up and yet it’s so much harder to do because your mind is saying slow down. Try to think about all your transitions as a change of leg sequence rather than moving up or down a pace.

 

The other thing is your contact. Be really careful you’re not giving him a backwards feeling in his mouth. Ride into trot/walk or halt as if there’s a jump in front of you and ‘allow’ with your hand – you’ll find he’ll actually push into your hand and sit back on his hocks. This becomes a ‘forward feeling’ contact – a bit like going downhill with a wheelbarrow – the contact is still there (or you’d drop it) but it’s taking you forward. (Handy tip here! )

 

Practise trot to halt. Ride into halt for all you are worth! (Trust me on this he will stop!) 

 

Read more of Lorraine's advice from School Your Horse

 

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

My Horse Is Great In Walk And Trot, But Canter Is A Nightmare!

MY HORSE IS GREAT IN WALK & TROT, BUT CANTER IS A NIGHTMARE! PLEASE HELP!”

“My cob goes nicely in walk and trot, her transitions are soft and good, but when I ask for canter she throws her head up and her canter is unbalanced. I’ve tried to sit quietly but it makes no difference.”

 

This is a really common problem with cob types as they find trotting so effortless. I can see exactly what you’re describing!

 

The problem in the transition is she’ll be tightening her back and drawing her neck back towards you. Sitting quietly is very understandable and it’s a natural reaction to do it but actually what you need to do is drive her forward into your contact – you almost want to think about over-riding so you really ride the last few strides.

 

Her first reaction may well be to hurry and rush but sit it out and focus on keeping her as long as possible. A flat, four time canter is far easier to work on than a tight wobbly one! Remember to keep your hands still so you don’t give her any reason to hollow on you.

 

Work on canter transitions on a circle so she’s less likely to shoot off down the long side. Really nag at yourself to push on as you ride into the transition (it’s so easy to ‘hesitate’ at the moment of asking which will give her the chance to tighten her neck back at you). Don’t worry if she gets strong as long as she stays long in her neck – if her neck is longer so is her back and that’s what will improve her canter strides. Focus solely on the transitions. Once she canters, canter half a circle and then trot. Settle your trot and then ask for canter again. You want to do this over and over again – don’t get a good one and think ‘that will do’! Make sure you can really ride into canter without backing off and ride a good transition to trot. She might get a bit excited but if you stay relaxed and keep your legs on she’ll get bored – most horses do if you do the same thing over and over! Problems only occur if your riding changes – such as pulling or taking your legs off to ‘ease’ the situation.

 

Focus on the transitions up and down too – really ride the strides into and out of canter however awful she feels. Your legs are there to drive her hocks underneath her even if she’s rushing and the more you push on the further under her they’ll have to go. 

 

Read more of Lorraine's advice on this problem from School Your Horse

 

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The More I Try To Ride My Horse Straight The Worse He Gets!

“I’ve just got a horse on loan and either his shoulders are out or his quarters are in – I’m not sure which – but the harder I try to correct him the worse he seems to be. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!”

You’re right to be bothered about his straightness – without it no horse can do its best. I’ve done a lot of posts on straightness that I’ll put links to further down. Until he’s straight you can’t move on to anything else because the crookedness will affect his balance and his ability to push himself forward. There are loads of different ways to tackle it that should keep you both occupied. Here are the basics of what all my posts aim towards - 

 

When you’re riding him – in the school or out – stay focused on the fact that your hands ‘point’ the way in which you want his shoulders to go. If they’re together and level his shoulders will have to stay together and keep heading in the right direction.

 

Make sure his head and neck are straight in front of shoulders (keep your contact equal on both reins while you’re working on this) and ‘all’ you need to do is keep his quarters up behind them.

 

Your leg pressure controls his quarters – if it’s the same on both sides you’ll keep both hindlegs moving forward under his body equally which will help him to stay straight. 

 

Make sure your legs are in the same place on both sides too – if one is further back you’ll be pushing his quarters over without meaning to. That’s important after a canter transition too – always move your outside leg back as soon as he’s in canter, make sure it doesn’t stay back.

 

Your body weight – and the position of your body influences his hips. If you drop to one side he’ll drop the hip on the same side; if one hip is higher than the other his quarters will swing to the lower side.

 

To make sure you’re sitting straight check that the distance between your lowest rib and the top of each hip is the same on both sides – sometimes you think you’re sitting straight because your shoulders look or feel level but it’s what’s happening lower down that actually influences your horse. 

 

Read more of Lorraine's advice from School Your Horse

 

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How Can I Make My Horse Understand That There Is A Time And A Place For Jogging?

“My horse jogs and swings his quarters into other horses whenever he gets excited. I don’t mind when we’re on a bridleway but it’s a nightmare on a road. I ride him in a pelham and a running martingale to stop him taking off but the more I hold him back the more he swings his bottom into the traffic. What can I do to show him he needs to behave when we’re on the road?”

 

The simple answer is you can’t! It’s unfair to ask him to understand the difference between roads and bridleways and it’s going to make his behaviour worse because he’ll get confused and more uptight. That doesn’t mean you can’t improve the way he behaves – it just means you need to be more consistent with your rules!

 

Jogging starts because a horse is tense and excited and doesn’t know what to do with his energy. His back will hollow and his head will come up (which is where your martingale comes in handy!) making it harder for you to control his whole body. Strange as it may seem the one thing you need to do is push on! That doesn’t mean kick on as hard as you can but it does mean sitting into the saddle and squeezing your legs round his sides – it’s very common to see a rider with their legs stuck off and forward and their weight on the back of the saddle which is a guaranteed way to make a horse hollow. 

 

You need to decide to stop him jogging wherever you are so he can understand that it’s not acceptable. By doing that you’ll allow him to know exactly where he stands which will (in time) let him relax. Every time you ride work on riding him into your contact and keep your legs on even if he starts jogging.

 

Always make sure your hands follow his head – not easy when you think he might take off but trust me it does work! – so the pelham isn’t acting like a brick wall and stopping him going forward. Sometimes a stronger bit can feel to a horse as if the brake is always on – so all his energy bottles up with nowhere to go; that’s why his quarters swing about (where else can they go if he feels he can’t go forward?). If you feel safe to try it perhaps using ’roundings’ on the pelham would be a softer way of using it? This makes the curb action less severe. A Dutch gag can be a good bit to try too as it gives you brakes but without the severity of the curb chain. By following his head and pushing on to your contact you’ll be pushing his quarters forward up behind his shoulders – that makes his back softer and rounder so he doesn’t hollow and tighten up. (More on bits and nosebands here. Read more....

 

By Lorraine Jennings from School Your Horse

 

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I Want To Ride But I'm Too Scared! Please Help

“I had an accident three years ago and haven’t ridden since. My friend says I can ride her pony and I want to but I don’t think I can. Is it possible to get your nerve back or should I stop trying?”

 

Worry not! Being scared to ride isn’t as uncommon as you think! I get loads of emails about it – and they’re not all from horse owners. If you’ve had a bad fall it’s not surprising you’re nervous – it hurts! What you mustn’t do is think you’re being silly because you’re not. You’re actually being really brave because you’re trying to get back in the saddle.

 

There’s no reason that you can’t get back on track and start to enjoy riding again but don’t be in too much of a hurry. The last thing you need is for something to go wrong. Never push yourself too much because you think you’re being stupid – that’s more common than you may think! Do tht and you’ll end up doing something yuo’re not happy about and that could make things worse. Even if you spent two months in walk it’s an improvement on not riding isn’t it? 

 

Before you ride your friend’s pony I’d suggest you go to a riding school. I know the cost of lessons can be off putting but it will be money well spent. Just a few private lessons on a suitable pony with a teacher who understands your fear will really boost your confidence. Make sure you do have private lessons (half an hour is more than enough) so you don’t feel pressured to keep up with everyone else – and you don’t have to worry about anyone but you!

 

Why not ask your friend if you can help her with her pony? She might be glad to have someone who wants to do the grooming or mucking out. This would let you spend time around ponies without actually riding them. It’s amazing how that can boost your confidence.

 

Although you don’t have your own pony you can do alot without one. The top riders do alot of ‘positive thinking’ about riding without sitting on a horse. Try sitting down and imagining yourself riding. Think of how you would do it if things were going really well – imagine all the things you want to be able to do. Then imagine what would happen if something went wrong; imagine yourself as you’d honestly react (probably tensing up, looking down and tipping forward?). Then think of yourself sitting up and breathing, looking up and being a relaxed as you can – your legs pushing down not gripping up. The more you think of these things the easier it will be when you do ride. Trust me it really works! And it’s free! 

 

Read more of Lorraines advice on this problem from School Your Horse

 

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My Horse Won't Canter On The Left Rein - Help!

Q&A With School Your Horse

 ”My horse goes beautifully on both reins in walk and trot but when it comes to canter he just won’t strike off correctly on the left rein. I’ve tried everything I can think of and it’s driving me crazy! Do you have any ideas? “

 

As your horse doesn’t appear to have any other problems other than the canter lead I’d assume that it’s a rider error rather than a physical problem. That’s good news because it’s easier to solve!

 

Be careful that you don’t get too focused on this canter lead – often the more of an issue it becomes the more tension creeps in and that always creates more problems. There’s a strong chance he favours the right rein in walk and trot too but it doesn’t show qiute as obviously.

 

Work on straightness in walk and trot to get your horse working evenly on both reins. And look at yourself too because if he’s one sided you can almost guarantee that you are too. You’ll find you naturally turn to one side, step over things with one leg first or lift things with one hand 99% of the time. There’s a post here all about that. 

 

Here’s what I’d do on the flat – and there’s a more detailed post on it here

 

Work on a 20m circle in sitting trot. Forget about his head and neck and keep them straight in front of his body. The more you try to bend him to the stiffer side the more likely he’ll be to try to go the other way – imagine having to write with the ‘wrong’ hand.

 

Read more of this advice from School Your Horse

 

Image credit: Karen Baines - Wikimedia Commons

Why does my horse go 'on the bit' on his own in the field but not when I'm on him?"

Q&A WITH SCHOOL YOUR HORSE

Why does my horse go 'on the bit' on his own in the field but not when I'm on him?"

 

“I watch my horse float around his field and yet, try as I might, he won’t go on the bit in the school! What am I doing wrong?

 

Great question! The simple answer is – you’re asking! Horses,as you’ve so often seen, carry themselves naturally in the shape we know as ‘on the bit’. It’s only when we get on and intefere that problems occur. You need to stop thinking about where his head is and start thinking about the rest of his body.

 

What you need to do is ride him forward so he uses his hocks and back correctly. When his back ’rounds’ or arches he’ll naturally carry himself ‘on the bit’. 

 

The first thing you need to do is get him straight so he can stay balanced. (Riders so often get too focused on bending their horses to the inside but that unbalances them and makes it impossible for them to relax in their backs.) Read more....

 

SCHOOL YOUR HORSE by Lorraine Jennings

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons