An exercise regimen

This teenaged bay Arabian gelding is in rehabilitation. Watch his progress as he goes through eye surgery, gains weight and returns to his original beauty!

An exercise regimen

Postby Juliane on Mon Apr 09, 2007 10:26 pm

Buddy has become so wrapped up lately in his testosterone driven desire to know where my mare, Dandy, is at all times, that it's become very un-enjoyable to do anything with him. :( I even decided not to go to drill practice on Sunday night because I wasn't in the mood to fight with Buddy.

So, tonight I pulled him out and figured I'd had enough of his spastic behaviour. It was time for him to behave properly. So, as he stood in the cross ties, practically bouncing up and down - every muscle trembling as he called out to Dandy, I brushed him down. Once clean, I saddled him up, grabbed my bridle, driving lines and a lunge whip.

We headed out to the round pen, where I first put Buddy to work. He was full of energy and we spent 20+ minutes just cantering and trotting to get the 'edge' off. It had rained the night before, so my round pen was a bit soft, making the footing a bit deeper than usual. Buddy really had to work hard, but still hadn't broken into a sweat when I had him come to a stop.

The next thing I wanted to work on was lunging Buddy in side reins. He tends to hold his head up high and his nose out. He's developed a bit of an ewe neck. I am hoping the side reins will improve his neck's top line, while teaching Buddy to give to the bit.

I haven't used the side reins before, and in fact have owned them for a very long time :P So, I'm not sure exactly how they are supposed to work, but I didn't see a huge, vast improvement in Buddy's headset right away. Does anyone use these things often? Any thoughts?

After about 20 more minutes of lunging with the side reins, I had him come to a stop. I removed the side reins and hooked up the driving lines. I proceeded to drive him around the round pen. He was doing so well, I decided to ground drive him outside of the round pen, down my driveway, down the road and to the covered arena. I am sure we looked quite strange to my neighbors who don't know how to train horses :P Here I was walking behind a saddled horse down the road.. LOL Oh well, it was a great experience. I was very pleased with how well Buddy did.

Once in the covered arena, I had him move out in both directions before heading back. When we got back home, Buddy's demeanor had changed incredibly. He was no longer the wound up, pacing, impatient gelding. In fact, he stood quietly and patiently in the cross ties for about an hour while I finished cleaning stalls and feeding before I put him away.

I think it would be a good idea to work Buddy as much as possible. He definitely needs a job. And he really needs to be as far away from Dandy as possible. When I put him in his stall, he was quiet and happy to eat his hay and mash. However, when I walked Dandy by a few moments later, he started pacing, spinning in circles, whinnying and rearing. *sigh*

Buddy, Buddy, Buddy!!!

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Postby ptownevt on Tue Apr 10, 2007 3:27 pm

Lunging in side reins can be a tricky proposition; not always good for the horse. If you are going to do it, maybe you could get a set of those elastic attachments that hook between the bit and the reins to allow a more forgiving contact with the bit. I wouldn't really worry about his head set right now. He may be naturally high headed. How is his neck set on his shoulders? Maybe he has been an English horse where he hasn't been expected to drop his head down like Western horses are. Just some thoughts.
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Postby Juliane on Tue Apr 10, 2007 3:47 pm

He's always been very high headed - the idea behind the side reins (aside from his ewe neck) was to get him to learn to give to the bit better. He has a dangerous habit of tossing his head under saddle that I'd like to work on fixing.

My side reins are half nylon, half elastic, so the pressure isn't a hard stop - he can pull past it, but the elastic pulls him back.

Mostly, Buddy needs basic schooling and miles to gain some softness to the bit and some collection, and of course, a lower headset would be nice :)
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Postby barrelgurl on Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:25 pm

A training fork worked wonders with one of the geldings I used to ride. He would throw his head like a maniac and then would rear if that didnt work :shock: . The training fork stopped both those things.

Another route is a Tie Down. It worked on a pinto/arab I had that kept his head too high.

Either way works...Maybe its something to try?
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Postby ptownevt on Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:30 pm

I had a very high headed horse when I was a kid. He also tossed his head. I put a standing martingale on him right after he hit me right between the eyes with the top of his head and almost knocked me out. Yikes!
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Postby Juliane on Tue Apr 10, 2007 4:42 pm

Yea... the story goes that Buddy injured his eye due to a bad session with old owner and a broken tie down or something.. I have not tried a tie down, though I have quite a few of them. They seem to fix the issue but not the problem.

I do have a couple of elastic training forks that I LOVE and have used on Buddy once, though can't recall how good it worked as he was particularly worried about Dandy at drill that night. :roll: I will work with him in it again, though I am not sure it is good for his training when I am NOT riding.

That's why I thought the side reins might help - because he'd be working himself and learn to give to the pressure himself, not with me on his back. I dunno... training horses can be such a mystery - figuring out what works for one might not work for another.

Pam - I got a black eye from my gelding, Whisky, once due to him tossing his head. Looking back to old videos I can see my own greenies errors at the time (the glaring use of a very severe long shanked bit, for one), but yea, that was NO fun! Ouch!

What is a standing martingale?
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Postby cat_67 on Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:04 pm

Juliane, I was just going to suggest a surgical tubing training fork but it sounds like you have an use one already. LOVE them. They never cause a panic because they have a lot of give to them.
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Postby Juliane on Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:33 pm

Yep! They are definitely awesome! They were instrumental in teaching many horses I've worked with a proper headset as well as collection :)

Here's a couple pics of my mare, Dandy, after 30 days under saddle, using the surgical tubing training fork:

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Postby ptownevt on Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:54 pm

A standing martingale is basically a tie down, but in English terms. It has a strap that goes around their neck, a piece that goes between their front legs and attaches to the girth, the other end attaches to the noseband.
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Postby cat_67 on Tue Apr 10, 2007 6:16 pm

I started using the tubing fork with Lacy when we first got her, in 1988. She wanted to go 3,000 mph and if you tried to slow her down at all with the reins, she leaped like a kangaroo. She was also very high headed. I put her in the fork with a Dr. Bristol full cheek snaffle and every time she wanted to go fast, instead of trying to slow her down, I would just turn her in a circle and let her tear around. The fork would gently encourage her to bring her head down and balance, and eventually she started to figure things out. If she slowed down, she got to go straight - if she tried to run off, we went back to the circle. She turned from a nut case into a really nice horse within about 6 months time, both for polo and for jumping, and now she's my oldest horse - 28 and on permanent vacation in Tennessee. :)
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Postby seahorse on Tue Apr 10, 2007 7:42 pm

My suggestion would be looser side reins and attach them to the girth just below the saddle......I loop mine under the girth. I have slack in mine- just enough contact to reward a lower head set and offer resistance to a higher one. If they have a lower head set there is no contact at all and then I run the longe line through the inside bit ring over the poll and attach to the outside bit ring so that there is subtle pressure over the poll and even pressure on the bit like if you were riding......I used to train yearlings and 2 year olds this way and have good success. He looks beautiful and I would love a ground driving lesson- definitely something I think I could use with Heidi!
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Postby schwung on Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:08 pm

I agree with Chelsea's approach. Side reins should be set pretty low - like girth level, and you should start out with them quite loose. The idea is not to force their head down, but to encourage them to stretch and reach down for the contact on their own.
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Postby schwung on Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:16 pm

Here is a photo to contrast - this is one of Vanna's first sessions in side reins. They are very loose so that she did not panic with the pressure (even with the elastic), but yet as you can see, as she adjust to them they have the desired effect. You can short them up as they adjust and build up their topline and back muscles, but never any shorter than when the angle of their head is such that their nose is just in front of the vertical when viewed from the side.

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Postby RockinCircleC on Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:27 pm

I know you guys probably see this coming from me... No mechanical gimmicks are going to "fix" Buddy. Just some much-needed feel, timing and balance. And it's going to take lots of TIME. He's got major baggage and it takes major time to get over major baggage. If Buddy was here with me, I wouldn't use any type of leverage device at all. No side reins, no tie downs, no martingales. Just time and LOTS of lateral work. And it's oh-so-hard to explain in e-mail and online the how and why of it.
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Postby Juliane on Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:35 pm

Thanks Jaime & Chelsea! It makes much more sense to me now to have the side reins down lower. I will give that a shot next time I work with him and see if it helps at all.

Liz - I appreciate your point of view, and am sure there are a million different ways to train a horse a 'fix' their respective issues. However, as I'm sure you can respect, I have too many horses and not enough time. I'm lucky if I can work with Buddy once a week - so if side reins or any other leverage device is a method that will work, I'm more than happy to give it a shot (so long as it's not abusive).

You may have noticed when I rode Buddy that night at the arena that he tends to toss his head in such a way that the reins go up over his head, causing me to lose control. Even at a walk.

I need to do whatever I can to get him at least 'safe' enough to adopt out as soon as possible, because the reality is that, again, I have too many horses and not enough time. I would be more than happy to let you have him and give your training methods a shot! In fact, you'd be doing me a huge favor!
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