Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bracing, Pulling and Rooting

Horses that pull or brace on your hands, or that root, are looking for a release.  Horses don't come braced, they get made that way by people.  The horse that pulls and braces, and is heavy in your hands likely has learned this by being pulled on and never getting a release.  The horse that roots has also likely been pulled on and has learned to get a temporary release through rooting.

The solution in all these cases is to teach the horse that there is a release to be found - a consistent, reliable, soft spot where everything's in balance and the contact is the merest whisper.  But it's up to the rider to define and deliver that soft spot every time.  When this happens, and the horse believes that the release is always there to find, all of the pulling, leaning, bracing and rooting behavior goes away, just like that.  It's that simple.

7 comments:

  1. I ended up with a mare that had a beginner nervous rider. And I never saw her ride the horse but she musta hung on. I am quite the opposite I usually have too long of reins but I used a pair from my other horse and they were loose but not for her, I was at a clinic and he said get different reins and loosen them on her. So I got split reins and just one more inch and she never bobbed her head again. Amazing how so little makes a difference.

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  2. Ahh, this seems so much easier than it can prove to be. Eagle pulls his head down so low that it's disconcerting. I feel like I have no horse in front of me. I try to keep the reins long and low, but it's a slow process I'm finding. Outside the ring, he's much better. He's interested in where he's going, the sites and such. He's bored in the ring. I will just keep trying.

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    1. Pie used to do this, too. It's possible to create and maintain a soft spot with your hands where the horse's head isn't too low - I ask Pie to raise his head by lifting one rein, and make sure he's got a soft spot to find and stay in with his head in line with his withers rather than below. This problem has pretty much gone away, although it'll occasionally show up in backing.

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  3. Year ago I was given a horse that rooted, pulled and braced on your hands so badly the owner just gave him to me. Really nice horse that has been circuit champion at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL - bitted up in a segunda pelham and tight standing martingale. It took months before I even cantered the horse. I would trot around on a loose rein (in a plain french link snaffle) and he would go faster and faster and faster LOOKING for the brace because he had no clue what else to do. The first time I cantered him I had to run him into the fence to stop and I prayed he didn't jump it. But I preferred that over hauling on his mouth. Eventually he became much more responsive and fun to ride and even ended up with a soft mouth, but starting out his mouth and sides were so dead it was months and months of slow, painful progress. I ended up doing some lower level dressage and eventing on him, and ironically he won almost every dressage test at training and first level that I ever entered him in - the horse I had to run into the fence to stop. I loved that horse with my whole heart and still miss him every day. He taught me how to forge a partnership instead of gadgeting my way into forced submission.

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    1. Melissa - that's a great story, and proof that even the most braced horse can find softness if you can offer it.

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  4. Yes, great story Melissa. My first horse I pretty much ruined in my ignorance, she was very braced because I had no concept of softness. I'm sure glad I found good mentors who helped me to understand the concept of release and softness. But I sure wish I could go back and apologize to that horse.

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    1. Shirley - you're not alone in your regrets about the way you handled past horses - I expect many of us, including me, are in the same boat.

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