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How do I inspire movement when ridden?
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Tue Jun 12th, 2007
Posts: 149
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Sat Dec 29th, 2007 08:27 am
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Hi Folks,

Am feeling a bit of Jackass asking this question but after a few recent lessons from my 'Giant Shetland' it appears to me I haven't ever RIDDEN a horse....I have always just sat there and hoped for a good out come.  GS now refuses to move when I am on his back.  We are getting a pretty good relationship on the ground, the mannering has caused a lot of GS odd 'habits' to just disappear and he loves learning 'tricks' it takes almost no time to teach him something new, which is why I am getting a wee bit frustrated at myself for not seeing what I am missing as far as go forward goes!!!  I was searching the Birdie Book and found a bit in there where Dr Deb mentions never asking the horse to just go.  This is what I have been trying to convey to GS, just go, it doesn't 'work' what do I ask him instead?  How do I get his attention when mounted?  I sat on him today and we just played, acknowledge the rider and get a carrot but short of a carrot on a stick how do inspire forward movement? Movement of the horse moving the horse forward?  Any pointers to necessary reading etc greatly recieved.  GS needs all the help he can get as he is finding his 'student' a wee bit slow!!!!

Best Wishes


Super Moderator

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3232
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Sat Dec 29th, 2007 09:46 am
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Sam, first off, it should be a very rare thing that you offer the horse any food treats from his back. The reason for this is that in order to offer them or for him to take them, you almost have to be at a standstill. So you come to a standstill, and a carrot happens. Guess what that's teaching the horse to prefer?

I am VERY pleased however at your realization that "just hoping for a good outcome" is not to have the full equestrian experience. Evidently, prior to this you have been assuming your horse will work like an automobile.

Now that you have realized that there is more to this than just putting the key in and counting on an automatic transmission to idle you forward, it is time to learn some important differences between horses and automobiles:

(1) Automobiles have wheels and tires. This means that when they move, they do it as one continuous glide. Horses have legs and feet. This means that when they move, they do it by taking one step followed by another step, and so forth. There is NO continuity in a horse's movement; apparent "continuousness" is the result of stringing together an infinite number of steps.

(2) Automobiles have no will and no desires.

(3) Automobiles don't get tired, bored, afraid, or discouraged.

(4) You do not need to call, maintain, or direct the automobile's attention (your own while driving, most definitely yes! But if you're going to ride a horse, there are two in the tango).

So, Sam -- we are going to re-frame your question. You asked "how can I get him to go" and I am going to reply, no, I want you to focus on how you are going to get him to RESPOND.

TOTALLY ALL he needs to do is RESPOND. You NEVER ask him to "go".

If you were to step on the gas in your automobile, and your foot went down to the floorboard like you were squashing a ripe plum, and yet the car did not increase in speed, you would immediately take the car in for service.

Why don't people take their horsemanship in for service when they get no better RESPONSE from their horse?

So, Sam, first thing I need to ask you is: why haven't you taught your horse to come or go upon command during your ground work? Have you not been practicing "up" transitions on the longe line or at liberty?

You succeed in this by adhering to standards. The standard in this case is: you ask the horse to move, and he needs to at least PREPARE to move within a slow count of three from when you asked. If he makes no response, that is when Allen Pogue's whip-with-a-ball comes into play. Or, you can use a leafy branch or a whipstock with a bandana tied to it. You tap him at first, and you keep tapping until there is a response. Rarely will you need to raise the force to a smack -- tapping is quite irritating, and that's all the gradient most horses need.

On a postural level, you can help him get started in taking "one step at a time" by pushing or pulling, or else calling, the forequarter off balance. In order to take a step, a horse must first TILT his body either left or right. This is also how you as a bipedal human walk -- it isn't just back to front; you sway from left to right. When you sway to the left, that enables you to more easily pick up your right leg. All handlers need to realize this fact with horses, or else the tendency is to push harder and harder from the rear, which does nothing but load the forequarter, pinning it down.

The swaying technique will also help to get a horse "unstuck" if you're riding him, but it isn't the total or deep solution.

The real solution is that the horse must understand that he has NO choice. When you ask him to go, he must raise the life in his body, prepare to move, and then move. This understanding and this willingness is basic to everything else that you are ever going to do with the horse. You create the willingness by RELEASING ALL PRESSURE THE INSTANT HE PREPARES TO MOVE. This means "maybe even before he actually moves."

The other starter advice on this that I will offer you right now is that you must also have a standard at the walk. A horse of less than 14 hands, when walking, must make not less than 5 mph at all times. That means that there will be NO time when you are moving when you are going less than 5 mph on this animal. A horse of over 14 hands must make 6 mph at all times.

Whenever the animal drops below the minimum standard for the walk, you must commit to instantly noticing it and reminding him -- by bumping him with the calves of your legs, or with the ballwhip, in a most irritating manner. This reminds him that there is NO CHOICE -- the irritation will continue without break or surcease until he complies and responds. IT WILL THEN INSTANTLY CEASE.

Finally, check to be sure you're not hanging onto the reins all the time. When you ask for a down transition and the horse complies, release the reins. When you ask for an up transition and the horse complies, release the reins. In other words, anytime the horse complies with what you've asked, you must release the reins. MUCH later, when "raise the life in your body, get ready, now move" is deeply ingrained, then you can get away with the kind of murder that dressage people refer to as "contact."

Until then, my dear, you will have to ride on REAL contact, which has very little to do with the physical body.

If you do not get this solved, Sam, you will have a rearer or rear-and-whirler on your hands -- so please make the necessary changes in what you have been doing.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb


Joined: Tue Jun 12th, 2007
Posts: 149
Status:  Offline
 Posted: Sun Dec 30th, 2007 07:36 am
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Dear Dr Deb,

Once again, your time spent here is so much appreciated.  I had a delightful day with GS today, he is such a wonder.  I went back to the ground work to check my up and down transitions, it takes very little to make these transitions, I just let him know my intentions and he does the transition up or down.  I mounted up and we did a couple rounds of the arena with halt walk halt, walk trot, it took very little to get him to RESPOND, he does actually respond to my requests way before I was giving him credit for, no wonder he gave up wanting to move.  I was so excited at our discovery we played on the ground instead for the rest of the session, I didn't want to loose the feel he gave me!  He was most put out not to recieve carrots when I was on his back but I had to tell him that was not one of my brightest ideas, and they might appear at the odd time further down the track!

So I now commit to him to be there when he needs me to be, to monitor and inspire the good walk and continue to learn all I have to learn.  As to my other chap with the bad feet...I have made a study of Gene O's site and since trimming this horses hooves as per these recommendations, 'Houston, we have lift off!!'  The hitch in the horses stride is almost gone and we have a bit of Air time in the trot, and my horse is sooooooo relaxed,   I can even put the saddle blanket on his back with out hardly an eyelash flutter.  This is good stuff.

Happy New Year

Kindest Regards


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