Knowing when to move on from current horse

Nov 4, 2008
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I have not posted often but always check in when i have a horsey issue to new rider or fancy a browse!
I currently have a lovely sweet confidence giving cob who has taken me from almost giving up riding to being able to go to pony camp (low level) and hack on my own unphased by anything i have 100% trust with him....however...i am finding i am wanting to do more now i have all this confidence and his ploddy ways are somewhat frustrating at times as i would really like to be able to progress with things like schooling etc but he isnt overly keen on schooling and again his build makes it difficult for him, he is so laid back he will never be a forward ride? this is his character and he is very chunky so not built for speed so i dont blame him for this i am just wondering when do you know you should take a 'step up' with horses?i have been back and forth with this a few times and he stayed as he is so lovely and i worry i wouldnt be able to find him his perfect home? any advice appreciated :)
 

squidsin

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Feb 16, 2013
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He sounds lovely and I am positive he would be snapped up in a heartbeat. So many people just want a safe hack they can take to sponsored rides and camp. If you want to do more, I don't think you should feel guilty. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to keep every horse they ever own until they die! And if you did that, you'd be depriving another rider of the chance to have the fun with him that you've had!
 

newforest

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Mar 15, 2008
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It's up to the rider to get the horse forward. As you lacked confidence he has given you what you asked for. If you sit there, enjoy the ride and do nothing, then he will just plod along. Mine is pretty much a long rein plod out on her own, I haven't asked for more as I was building up her confidence to hack.

If you want to do more, what things are you thinking of doing that you can't now?
I have an Irish Cob and yes we are limited in jumping but I don't compete so the odd pop a pole is fun. She isn't built for dressage either but we have fun doing basic low level things. We enjoy polework.

Have you been to the beach, hunting, fun rides?
 
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Kite_Rider

Cantering cabbage!
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Agree with NF to be honest, I bought a ploddy and very safe Haflinger mare over three years ago, after lots of ups and downs with her health last year and my health, I now have a very safe but forward Haflinger who will try anything I want her too, this has been achieved by schooling and lots of lessons, she'll never win badminton or compete at high level dressage but she is more than capable at low level stuff and is happy to have a go at anything. She also loves jumping and can jump way beyond my capabilities.
That said if you don't want to or don't have the time to school your lovely plod more forward then by all means sell him on and move on to something that is more forward already, no shame in selling and buying something else for what ever reason, one thing I will say is never underestimate what a cobby, ploddy type is capable of. Good luck whatever you decide and I'm 100 per cent certain he'd find a super home if you did decide to sell him. :)
 
Nov 4, 2008
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Thanks for replies so far i have had lessons and that helped as we got him into walk and trot from squeezing instead of kicking, we also did turn on forehand etc to get him responding to leg aids, i have had him on fun rides (he remained same as at home!), local intro dressage tests and pony camp before he can jump a little but hard to get the impulsion to get a 'proper' jump, unfortunately canter still eludes us in the school...i would like to be able to go round a course of jumps (nothing huge) and move up to prelim for local dressage so nothing hugely ambitious. I have tried lots of things to get him thinking more forward so it could be me not being able to get him going thats the issue? He does not respond to schooling whip as i tried the ask, (squeeze), kick, whip approach and he does not dash forward or even move faster (kite rider any tips would be fab as if i felt like we were progressing then i would certainly feel more positive about keeping him)
 

squidsin

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I wouldn't move up to a sharper horse unless you're definitely ready - if you go from not cantering in the school to riding something really forward, that's an enormous jump. I don't mean to sound patronising, sorry! Does he lack energy or is he just being lazy? If it's the former, you could maybe feed him up a bit, or change his hard feed to something that'll give him more energy. Might be worth giving one of the feed companies a call and seeing what they say.
My RI says that if you use your schooling whip, you need to get a reaction straightaway. Are you being definite with your aids?
 
Nov 4, 2008
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I ride my friends cob x irish draught w/t/c in school and am fine on him but know what you mean as a sharp horse would be a big step up, maybe i mean more a little step up so responsive but still steady-ish? I.e. forward enough to keep cantering round easily
I canter kennedy out hacking all the time it is a very steady canter though! We can canter in field so maybe the school is just too tight for him? He is always keen to return to trot the second i ask, he is a good weight and ridden often both by me and a sharer so i believe he is fit enough, just lazy. He is not fed anything except grass and hay when in his fatty paddock as he is an extreme good doer (vet thought he may have EMS as hard to keep weight off but luckily he doesnt) do you think a feed may help for energy?
I believe i am consistant with my aids as i use a squeeze and expect him to go into walk/trot from that and if he doesnt i up it to a kick and if no reaction use schooling whip, if he is having a really lazy day sometimes he ignores that so have to pony club kick which i dont enjoy doing, i have the book cobs can so try using that method mostly, canter i always need to kick and if i stop he drops back to trot
 

squidsin

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Feb 16, 2013
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I'm not an expert on this and wouldn't want to recommend a hard feed that might blow your horse's mind, but it might be worth having a chat to Dengie or Dorrell & Hodson as they're really helpful if you ring them about any feed-related matter.

I looked at a couple of very ploddy plods when I was looking for my horse, and turned them down on the basis that they'd be too much like hard work! So I agree you don't have to jump from your horse to something Scott Brash might ride. It just really depends on whether he can be got going! Some horses really are just plods, and nothing wrong with that, but they're not going to take you up the levels. Why don't you get a trainer with a good reputation to ride him, and see what they say?
 
Nov 4, 2008
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That is a good idea i will try find someone who is used to cobs to see if he can be got going or if this is just him as id hate to try change him too much as he is very good at his job of confidence giver, he was on good grass before and was bit more enthusiastic and even trotted when being led (normally unheard of ha) so maybe the feed route could be an option also
I know how you mean with ploddy plodders they really are hard work to ride!
 
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newforest

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Mar 15, 2008
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For canter I use a field, mine loves it. Our very first canter in company took me by surprise and I ticked gallop off the list! She was alongside the other horse, didn't know that was in there!

She has manners though so I can walk round on a long rein and if it crosses her mind to hint, she just walks with more impulsion.
My RI was surprised to see us do walk to canter as I have been focusing more on it. Transitions and lots of them.

How big is your lad?

I don't wish to change mine, but if I ask it's there, if I don't it's not.
 

KP nut

I'd rather be riding.
Dec 22, 2008
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I think you can get any horse moving off the leg and offering you more responsiveness. However not every horse is going to be athletic enough or have good enough paces for dressage and jumping beyond a basic level. So if you want a light, responsive ride then I'd stick with your cob and focus on schooling. However if you want to start competing or riding at a higher level at home, you may need a horse more suited to that role. There is no shame at all in progressing onto a horse that can take you where you want to go. And I agree that it sounds as if your horse will be snapped up!
 
Nov 4, 2008
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He is 15.2 and chunky (he has been on recent diet and is about 500kg)


The only time he really goes for it is when there is 2 or more horses infront cantering fast, if it is a horse we regularly hack with he is quite happy to be left behind and catch up later so not really sure if he has it there like your mare to tap into or not, unfortunately we do a lot of solo riding
 

squidsin

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Aww he is cute though! The sort of horse you just want to cuddle, like a great big teddy!
 
Nov 4, 2008
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Yep he is definately a teddy bear! He has the most cobby huggable bum lol everyone says he is one of the chunkiest they have met as his legs are like tree trunks and feet like dinnerplates!
 

newforest

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Ooh yes you won't have trouble selling if you choose to. I took a lad like him hunting, lovely armchair relaxed ride.
 
Nov 4, 2008
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I would really like to try find his 'go' button if i can as he is lovely, safe, bombproof just lacking the forwardness to not make him exhusting to ride and frustrating when he just isnt bothered even if i use whip...maybe i can bribe someone to take him cubbing/hunting see if that wakes him up!! Any takers? Haha!
 

joosie

lifelong sufferer of restless brain syndrome
Oct 28, 2004
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Hopefully @Mary Poppins will see this. She has got a chunky chap too (Shire cross) and has done lots of work on schooling him to be more forward and responsive.
There's no physical reason a cob like yours couldn't take you round a small course, a lot of cob types jump really well, and there are loads out on the hunting field. 60/70cm or so would be more than achievable as you can jump that height easily enough from a decent trot. They are also perfectly capable of doing a nice dressage test. You don't sound like you REALLY want to part with him so I would persist for now as he may have more potential than you realise!
 

Mary Poppins

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He is 15.2 and chunky (he has been on recent diet and is about 500kg)


The only time he really goes for it is when there is 2 or more horses infront cantering fast, if it is a horse we regularly hack with he is quite happy to be left behind and catch up later so not really sure if he has it there like your mare to tap into or not, unfortunately we do a lot of solo riding

Wow, your horse is the absolute spitting image of mine! Mine is a bit bigger (16.1hh) and has a longer neck, but otherwise they really are very similar. He also doesn't bother catching up with horses galloping off. I often think when we are at shows that if every horse on the showground bolted off in the distance, we would be left standing on our own watching them.

My horse is as safe as anything. While he can have his occasional moments, he is generally very safe and steady. For me, that is the most important thing. I would not enjoy riding a horse who was naturally more forward because I wouldn't feel in control. I like the fact that if I simply sit on Ben and do nothing, he will walk at the slowest possible speed and make the least effort. But if I ride him properly, he really can move nicely and we are now started to make progress in our prelim dressage scores.

It has taken me a good few years to be able to get the best out of him in the school. I have had to learn lots of schooling exercises to engage his brain and make him engaged. He likes have lots to think about, so if we do lots of transitions, (5 strides in each pace), add in some leg yielding and shoulder in etc. and lots of shapes and circles, he will become engaged and can work in a lovely outline. It is not about kicking him or using the whip. This makes him turn off and argue with me, I have to get his brain engaged and then his body follows. I don't like it when I hear people say that heavy horses are not 'built for dressage'. Prelim and novice dressage is all about getting out there and having fun and horses of all shapes and sizes give it a go.

We jump a couple of times every week as well. We do a maximum of 70cm but tend to stick to 60cm and under - more so because I don't like the big jumps (I am easily scared!). Ben really enjoys it and I am sure he could go higher. He really perks up when we jump and has been known to throw in the odd buck when we have been out XC.

Saying all that, I love him to pieces and riding him is complete joy for me. However, I realise that for the majority of people on my yard anyway, he would be the most awful ride in the world. He isn't naturally forward and even if I managed to get him nice and forward one day, the next day he would be lazy again and I have to start from scratch. It takes a great deal of discipline and energy to ride a horse like him and I do understand why some riders might find that frustrating. He will always be a laid back type and nothing I can do will change that.

So, in my long winded way, I am trying to say that I completely understand how you feel and how much work that it takes to get the best out of the laid back characters. I personally enjoy the challenge and wouldn't sell my horse for £10 million pounds, but if you are finding yourself getting frustrated and not enjoying yourself, it may well be time to find him a home with someone like me, and get yourself something a gear up!
 
Nov 4, 2008
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Thank you so much for that MP! Ben and Kennedy sound SO alike, he often just ignores the other horses if they take off in the field! Also true about if i do get him responsive one day it is forgotten the next!
We have done xc which he enjoyed and some jumping previously (up to 80cm single fence) however not managed a course as i am always concious he is so heavy and hard to get off forehand is it good for his legs (im a worrier!) but now i know you do that makes me feel more positive so i could try varying his work more to try get his brain engaged, as i think he is capable its just making him want to!
Did Ben pop into canter or canter in the school when you got him as this is one thing Kennedy struggles with and not sure if schooling issue or if he finds it too tight?
 
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Mary Poppins

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I discuss Ben's workload with the vet every year, who always tells me that Ben is perfectly capable of doing all schooling/jumping activities, but it is very important that I keep his weight down to minimise any potential problems with his joints. This is true of all horses, not just heavies, but for this reason I am always so careful about Ben's weight and do everything I can to keep it down.

We have a huge school (70m by 50m) so it's not so tight for him in there, but he can really struggle with the canter transition if he is in one of his lazy moods! He can be very evasive when he wants to be and we have had occasions when he will simply turn in and stop when I ask for canter. Or sometimes he will trot faster and faster and ignore my canter aid. The key is all about engaging his brain and trying to shift his weight off his forehand so he finds it physically easier to strike off into canter. So if I do lots of walk/trot/walk/trot transitions, and then some halt/trot transitions, this helps to shift his weight back and his mind on, so when I throw in the canter transition he is more forward thinking and therefore we are more likely to get it. Our first canter transition is always the worse and very rarely perfect. When I have the canter I always do a few laps of the school as fast as I can. My instructor tells me to think 'gallop' but in reality we are just doing what other people would consider to be an average canter. Once I have 'galloped' round the school, we often repeat and trot/canter transition a few times and this really helps to wake him up and sets us up for our schooling session. It is our standard warm up routine.

We do sometimes have lessons in a 20 by 40 school and initially I was worried that he may fall over in the corners but my riding instructor assured me that this was all in my head and she was right. He is perfectly balanced and has no problems at all in the smaller arenas. He actually goes better in the smaller space because he has to work harder changing direction etc. etc. All the dressage tests we do are in a 20 by 40 or 20 by 60 and he has no problems with the canter circles there. I have some friends with lovely heavy cobs and some are very well schooled and put the lighter horses to shame.

If you are worried about cantering a 20m circle you could always try lunging him first?
 
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