Calming/slowing an overenthusiastic horse

Frosty

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Hello,

First of all, apologies to anyone who may have already read some of this in my post in the Mature Riders section, but no one had replied, possibly beacuse it was hidden under a misleading subject? ;) (Too soon for Progressive Riding?)

I have recently started riding a more 'forward going' horse (George:p ) and am having trouble calming and slowing him down.
The minute I mount up he becomes a bit overenthusiastic and tends to storm off at a very fast walk. Then when we trot he shoots off like a rocket! We are riding in a large indoor school with a group of horses (who he presumably knows well as he lives with them). As they are going a lot slower than us we keep catching up and having to turn away across the school to move into a space. Due to this we are spending more time crossing the school and circling than going round the outside:( .

I have tried half halts and turning small circles but they didn't seem to do much. When we are on the inside track or crossing the school George slows down nicely but the minute we are back onto the outside track he speeds up again, especially on the corners. Could this be him trying to get close to another horse because he has no confidence in me as his 'leader'? What can I do to make him listen to me more and feel more confident in me? I'm not used to 'forward going' horses and need to figure out how to calm them down as I feel that I may be having the opposite effect at the moment :). I am sure it is me winding George up somehow that is causing this as I was told he is usually lazy. Also I don't think he is being ridden much at the moment, could this be the cause of his enthusiasm?

Frosty
 

Esther.D

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You were wondering whether it could be you - are you are very nervous or very enthusiatic, excitable person. I used to be known as having 'electric hands':D whenever I got on any horse it got excited and wanted to charge about. The only explanation anyone could give for this is that I am a very bouncy, enthusiatic person and the horse could sense this. My current ponies are certainly all very fizzy.

This may not help with schooling but it is just an idea.

Does he seem nervous or is he just excited? Maybe you could watch someone else riding him and see if you can spot any difference. Otherwise I can't immediately think of any suggestions, other than doing slow work with him and steering clear of things that you know will get him excited for a while until he gets a bit calmer (that is what I'm doing with Rupert as he gets very fizzy, we are steering clear of jumping and cantering until he settles down a bit in slower work). However, this may be difficult if you ride in a group?

Probably no help at all, but at least it shows that someone is reading your message:D

I don't know what has happened to Mature Riders forum it is very quiet at the moment...as is adults who ride ponies....
 
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Bebe

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It could be that he wants to get behind the other horses but not necessarily. Some things I would try are:

think about taking smaller strides with your seatbones. To do this I imagine my seatbones having little feet attached to them and the feet move at the same time as the horses hind legs. If I want to go faster I make the little feet move faster, if I want longer strides I keep the same speed but take longer steps with them, and if I want to slow down I take smaller steps. Sounds silly but it works for me. If he's usually lazy it could be that you are using a driving seat without knowing it. I used to do this (not too badly thankfully!) and my instructor had me think of my seatbones like this and it stopped me from doing it after a while. I also had a much more relaxed horse.

If the half halts aren't working, make them more obvious. If you do a subtle half halt and get no response, make it louder (almost ask for a transition to walk if you have to) until he listens. If he's speeding up around corners it may be that he isn't balanced and a half halt before you go into the corner may help.

If it's more a case of him wanting to get behind another horse, don't let him. Circle away as much as you need to, if you can go on the other rein and work him that way. The moment he starts to rush off to the horse in front, circle or half halt. Repeat this until you can get behind another horse without rushing up and are able to keep a good distance between you.

In trot, if he starts to rush slow down your rising. Remember to breath deeply also, it really helps. If my horse starts to rush in trot I slow my rising and try to soften through my hips and knees. I focus on breathing properly and slow my rising. It also helps to try not to rise too far off the saddle, just rise so you're not in sitting trot but not obviously rising either (a friend of mine rises to the trot so quietly that you don't even know she's doing it).

Hope this helps!
Amanda
 

galadriel

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A person used to a slow horse, put on a forward horse, will often try to hold him back with the reins. If you start pulling a lot on the mouth of an excitable horse, he will become much more excitable and get worked up and want to go go go. (Particularly with ex-racers, as the harder you pull the faster they are supposed to go--but many horses are that way anyway.)

If you just grab the mouth and don't let go, you'll upset the horse, too. When you want to contact his mouth, make sure it is a very, very soft contact; when you want to half-halt, make sure you don't just grab and hold, but pull-release-pull-release.

[If you already know this, I apologize :) You sound like you have a lot of concepts down well, but you also mentioned, I think, that you haven't been riding for very long yet.]

Also, remember that although it seems counter-intuitive, you wan to leave your leg lightly on the horse' side all the time. If you keep your leg OFF of an active horse, he will interpret every little touch as a signal to go, including accidental bumpings. If you keep your leg softly on, and softly squeeze when you want to use your legs, you will have much more control over how much you squeeze, and the horse will be much more relaxed about your leg. You will also be more able to keep your leg still, so it does not swing and keep nudging the horse.

Easygoing horses can often ignore an accidental leg tap or a swinging leg, but more sensitive ones will be confused by it and try to respond to it each time.

You really don't want to be messing with the mouth of an excitable horse at all, really, and you don't want to keep your leg entirely off the horse, or it can upset him. This is the first impulse a lot of times with a rider who's never ridden a more forward horse: grab the mouth and pull your legs off so he will slow down and not go faster ;) You get the opposite result! Bebe's advice can hopefully help a lot, in using your seat to slw the horse rather than trying to pull him back.

Truthfully, though, I wouldn't want to be trying to learn about settling an excitable horse in a group. It's much easier when the horse doesn't have distractions to figure out what his responses to your aids are (and then later figure out what his distractions are). Sorry you're in that situation. Can you get more specific help from your instructor? Perhaps there is something in particular that sets this one horse off (like being behind one particular other horse--or being in front of him--or having your leg too far forward!)
 

Frosty

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Hello again,

Thanks for all your advice:) I will try to put it to use the next time I see George. I think I may have been hanging onto his mouth a bit and I was probably a bit nervous as it was only the second time I'd ridden him (and been in the indoor school ;) ). I know I do tend to tense up, curl up a bit and forget to breathe when I get a bit nervous!

I will try to keep a lighter contact with his mouth and make sure my legs are gently against his sides at all times. I'll also try and be more aware of the effects of my seat and try to influence him that way. I did try to rise a bit slower while trotting but we were going so fast it seemed pretty uncomfortable for both of us:( . Maybe if I can sort out my seat, legs and hands at walk first we may end up with a calmer trot that I can then influence a bit more with my seat instead of my hands?!

It's so hard to remember all the things you should be doing when you feel you may be about to be run away with:D. Unfortunately the self preservation instinct seems to kick in! I've had a break of 14 years from riding and only been riding once a week since last July, so I'm still very much a beginner and had never experienced a forward going horse before. I guess it will do me some good:p

Thanks again for all your advice:)

Frosty
 

bac

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This may sound a little silly but ----
Think slow. Possibly hum a really slow tune. If you are more relaxed it is quite possible the horse will relax more.
Another thing that might work is trot and if he's getting strung out walk then trot then walk - about say six strides between transitions.
 

Shiny McShine

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I would imagine if you say he is normally lazy and that he has not had as much work lately I would say he is probably more energetic than usual because of that. As others have said it is best not to hold onto his mouth - he just wants to use up some energy. It is probably just a matter of you getting used to going faster.

If you relax and stay off his mouth you may have to overtake everyone else in the group initially but he should calm down. Try to relax (of course that is hard to do in reality) and slow down your rising to encourage him to slow down as well.
 

DITZ

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My horse used to tank off all the time at trot and no amount of rein work seemed to have any effect then I read Heathers EE book and picked up on one thing and thats squeezing with your bum cheeks and inner thigh at rising trot. I can slow mine down now completely without the use of reins. Basically you squeeze your cheeks together (sometimes this is enough) if not you may need to squeeze your inner thigh too (try putting your hand on the inside of your thigh to see the amount of pressure there is). This will also work wonders at a fast walk or jog and is really useful to get him to recognise when a downward transition is coming. I dont know about you but I had always been taught to 'sit deep' or 'slump down' in the saddle when going from rising trot to walk but like you said at a fast trot this is really uncomfortable! Try using your seat first to slow him down then a downward transition is really smooth. Hope that helps a little. It was a real breakthrough for me even after years of riding!
 

Dogbert

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I was interested to read this thread, as I was in exactly this situation yesterday. We had been cantering quite happily in a 20m circle at first, but then the horse was getting faster and faster, and eventually decided to set off on the outside track at speed. (I was taken a little by surprise and couldn't stop him). I was starting to feel unbalanced by this point, and after we turned a corner at the end of the school I was thrown off the horse. After getting back on, he still seemed a bit fizzy, and the next attempt at canter was similarly wild.

I had been trying to slow him down by pulling and releasing the outside rein, but to no avail. (I've been told by my instructor to keep this particular horse on a very short rein. Reading some of the other comments makes me wonder if this was making matters worse...?) Does anyone have any words of advice for what to do with a horse who seems to get out of control in the canter ?
 

galadriel

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Two thoughts:

One, when you're tense (and when you're surprised or uncomfortable you often tense up!) people have a tendency to lean forward.

This does two things:
1) suggests to the horse that you want to go faster, and
2) puts more weight on his forehand, which makes him less balanced.

So you end up with a horse going faster with less balance--and the rider tenses up more, leans a little more forward, and so on. The trick is to realize (or get your instructo to tell you) when you are tensing and leaning forward, and to relax. Easier said than done, I know :) but you'll get there.

If you want a nice controlled canter, you must start from a nice balanced trot, which (I am inferring) you didn't when he took off with you--he was just running more & more on the forehand. Eventually he couldn't keep trotting and balance, so he went into a canter. You got a really bumpy, unbalanced, fast canter--and no wonder you fell off, it's hard for you to balance when the horse isn't balanced AND going fast!

To get the canter you want, you must make sure that you don't go into canter using the trot faster-trot faster-trot faster method. Get a nice trot, one in which you feel comfortable, stay relaxed, and signal for canter. Keep that relaxation and the same level of contact. Depending on the horse, he may bring his head up or want it lower down; you can adjust your reins, but don't "hang" and don't let them get slack. As long as he started out into a balanced canter from a balanced trot, you should be able to maintain it for as long as you are able to sit it. Don't worry if that isn't much at first; it's an odd sensation when you're first getting used to it (I usually call it "belly dancing" when teaching :) ). After a few strides you will probably lose synch with the horse and you'll both start to tense a bit--you should bring him back to trot (nice balanced trot!) before he gets unbalanced and loses his rhythm.
 

Dogbert

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The trot seemed okay before going into the canter (indeed the canter was comfortable to begin with).

I think it's likely that I was tensing up a bit though - the fact that I couldn't slow the horse down made it quite hard to feel relaxed !
 

Frosty

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Getting there!

Hello,

I finally got a chance to try out all your ideas on George last night:). Thankfully he didn't set off at a very fast walk the minute my bum landed in the saddle! I was very glad of this as he'd seemed a bit spooky on the way from the stable to the indoor school and I must admit I was slightly apprehensive;). Once we got started though he was still rushing terribly in walk so I tried a very light contact and legs kept well on but this made him rush even more (and made me realise that my legs do tend to stay in contact with his sides all the time anyway!). I then tried lots of half halts starting off very gently and gradually getting stronger as he kept ignoring them. Eventually with a combination of rather strong half halts and some serious seat and thigh clenching he slowed down and settled down a bit (hurray:D ).

The same thing happened once we started to trot, off he shot like a litttle rocket! Again I tried half halts getting stronger and stronger and managed to slow him down a little so that I could start trying to rise a bit slower. I also managed to sit up a lot straighter (as I tend to curl up when he shoots off) and try using my seat a bit more. After a while we finally managed to trot all the way round the school without catching up with the horse in front:D.

We then did some work over trotting poles which went really well as they were placed in off the outside track and he didn't try to rush over them! Later on we even had a nice canter:p. I know it's probably daft but I have a funny feeling George doesn't like seeing his shadow on the boards round the school. I was watching him last night (I know I should have been looking up and ahead but I was making sure my half halts weren't upsetting him!) and he seemed to be looking at his shadow zooming along beside us. Maybe this is why he's ok when he's in off the outside track?

Anyway, things were certainly a lot better than the previous time I rode him, but we still have a long way to go! I felt that the half halts I was having to use were a bit strong and very obvious (very much pull-release, pull-release rather than just gentle finger movements!). Do you think that now he's started to 'listen' to me a bit I could eventually get him to respond to more gentle half halts and seat aids? I hate to be using what seem to me to be such strong aids. He seems very responsive to legs and slight weight changes during 'steering' it's just his brakes that don't seem to work:rolleyes: . I know most of our problems are due to my riding and I'd love to become more of a rider and less a passenger, but in the most gentle way possible;) .

Thanks again for all the suggestions they really helped:D

Frosty
 

galadriel

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Once you can get him listening to your aids, you can hopefully begin to tone them down a little. Half of riding any one horse, I think, is getting your communication straight: "Listen up, when I do THIS I want you to respond THIS WAY." ;)

It's good that you're keeping your leg on all the time--so many peoples' first instinct is to pull the leg off entirely, which makes the horses very confused. You don't need to keep it strongly on, a soft contact will do, but just don't pull it all the way off!

Are you using lots and lots of seat in your half-halts? When you first start using your seat to slow a horse, it feels like you're really overworking your muscles to just get a tiny response; it's an unusual way to use those muscles, and they're not really very strong yet. It takes a while to build them up so that the use of the seat aid feels light and so does the rein aid.

Incidentally, want to apologize for nything I'm saying this week which doesn't make any sense. I usually try to read over before I post to make sure it makes sense, but I'm slightly drugged (see ow ow ow ow ;) ) and I honestly can't figure out if what I'm saying makes sense at all.
 

Bebe

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Hi Frosty

Glad you had a better ride this time.

As he begins to understand what you mean when you give the aids for a half halt you'll be able to be more and more subtle with the aids themselves. I am schooling my horse from scratch as she's never really done anything more than hack and at first I had to be very obvious with the squeeze and release part of the half halt as she would just run through the aids. Now that she understands it I barely touch the rein but use more of a seat aid and get a good response. It just takes a bit of time to fine-tune the communication.

He could be afraid of his shadow on the boards. I know that some of the horses on our yard aren't 100% happy working in the outdoor school at night and it seems to be because they don't like the way that the floodlights throw shadows onto the wall of the barn, or the not quite lit corners that are very spooky. You can get them used to it if you persevere but if he's a riding school horse and has been there for a while I wouldn't expect this to be a problem. Then again, I had a whole week where my horse wouldn't go on the track at the far end of our school and I ended up riding around that area for a bit. After a week it didn't bother her anymore, even though nothing obvious had changed.

Amanda
 

virtuallyhorses

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Is it possible to spend time on this horse outside of the group lessons? If so a few 'chill out' lessons might help. These will also help with his mounting up behaviour (you described him walking off as soon as you're mounted I think) .

'Chill Out' lessons involve getting the horse to relax on a long rein - standing still and doing nothing. Sounds easy but for very forward horses this can be a difficult lesson and will take some time, determination and patience.

One other suggestion is to check his gear - being VERY forward can be a sign of an ill-fitting saddle - back soreness or pinched shoulders\withers will cause the horse to runaway from the pain - this is esp true when the horse wants to 'run off' as soon as mounted.

The final suggestion has already been covered here - that simply getting used to a forward horse and changing your riding style a little is all that's required :)
 

DITZ

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If your horse feels like he is speeding in trot just try sitting a while longer to get him to slow down and settle into a reasonable pace before you start rising. My horse seemed to just want to go like a butcher boy the minute you asked for a trot but i discovered that remaining seated seems to make him think 'oh, i though we were trotting..obviously not' and he drops the pace quite quickly at which point you can take him forward properly at a pace you are comfortable with.
 

Emi

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Hi, I hope you figured him out but here are some small tips and an exercise in case you ever have this issue again. Small circles while they are effective in some cases it's not actually good for the horse's feet, especially if you have a larger horse. I have found that large figures of 8 combined with bending and collecting prove very effective.

What I find also helps is to do a very lazy rising trot barely come out of the saddle, so minuscule that it looks like a sitting trot and as you stand up squeeze your hands like a sponge this prompts the horse to lower their heads and invites them to relax, if he goes off during the canter try pushing deep with your seat and as you bring him forward squeeze your hands this causes him to become more pulled together turning his bolting into a working canter that is easier to slow down.

If you want him to listen more to your legs and reigns stay in a figure of 8 to stop him from running off and do transitions over and over again, walk 4 steps then 4 steps trot, once he has this down well and is listening, go from trot 4 steps to stop 4 seconds, then back to trot from a standstill, then when you think he is ready, do 4 trot to 4 canter, then walk to canter and vice versa. Then if you think he is advanced and responsive though canter to stop and stop to canter. This exercise challenges him because he needs to read the pressure exactly, If you are going to do this exercise don't start something new once you think he's don't, cool him down with a lazy rising trot and invite him to stretch his neck, don't just throw the reigns at him, have him ask for hit by bringing his head down and tossing it a bit to get more reign, don't let him stop to walk until he has everything and his head is down. after about a week of this, he should stop running off on his own. if it comes up again just start the exercise from square one.

this exercise is actually the first thing I do with a new horse before I start any kind of training with them. Jumping and dressage horses need to be able to react on cue without going off on their own. I have an Andalusian that I have to do this with every week, he's slowly getting there but he has other problems as well because of damage in his jaw from a strong bit before I got him.
 

Mary Poppins

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I would have hoped that the OP would have made some progress in the last 16 years. I can't believe this thread was from 2003, that is even before I joined NR. It's nice to see some old names pop up but I think that everyone who contributed to this thread has long since left the forum.
 
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Emi

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I know, but if you look up how to calm down strong horses the thread is one of the first to pop up so just leaving it here in case someone new has the same issue