I think this is probably the biggest question that I get in terms of retraining ottb’s. How do you teach them not to go like a giraffe?
If you scroll down you can see video of Corcho during his first ride. This was Corcho last night. It’s been 10 days since the first ride.
Everybody has a different way of doing things when it comes to teaching a horse to relax and stretch into the contact. I think sometimes this part can be really difficult because it requires a lot of timing, feel and sometimes you may feel like you are riding like a monkey. My basic method is to start at the walk and just work there teaching the horse to yield into the pressure as I push forward with the leg. If I can push them a bit laterally than that is very helpful. You want to push from the inside leg to the outside rein.
What I think may be shocking is that sometimes it can take quite a bit of rein pressure and leg to even produce a little bit of yield. It’s not like you are pulling their head in because if you have enough leg on you should be pushing them forward into the contact that you are taking. I often feel like am using SO much leg but really you have to! The horse may trot faster and in some cases I really do want them to go a bit quicker. It’s hard to get a horse to yield if they are barely moving forward and because these Tb’s aren’t strong yet it is often easier for them to soften the back when they are slightly over tempo. That is the way that I do it but like I said there are so many ways to accomplish the same goal. I just believe going forward is always the right answer and it doesn’t make them feel “trapped.”
Corcho and I spent one ride where we just walked around doing baby shoulder fore and working on me pushing him together. When he even offered to lower his head than I immediately softened but without throwing away the contact. You don’t want to throw them away just soften enough to offer a reward. When they drop their head it requires them to use so much more muscle and they often go even slower so you have to be quick to soften the hand while keeping them stepping forward. We moved on to a bit of trot and he was like OMG what are you asking. It could be easy to get frustrated with them because as you take the contact sometimes they lean, pull, go higher or just tune you out. Just keep steady and stay patient. I hold the contact and if they go up then I follow them there. Keep the leg on and if they run a bit than just gently half halt. When he resisted I do add more weight in the reins but I’m careful to back it up with leg. You have to add the pressure because you want them to yield to the bit. He has to know that when I add pressure he has to soften. Eventually it will just be a tiny little bit of weight in the reins but when they are learning and they are resisting it can be quite a bit of weight in the reins.
He started to figure it out and he gave me a couple of steps. You really only start out with a little bit and that is fine. Reward them! I only do a short ride because it is physically hard on them when they are developing the muscles in shape they haven’t used before.
This ride last night was very short and sweet as it was getting dark. I only did a little bit of trot and some canter but couldn’t believe the improvement in his gaits already as he has started to relax the back. He is a really cool horse and has such a willing attitude. I’m excited to start him over some baby jumps this weekend.