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Question of the Week: Brake Failure

How do I get my horse to slow down on trail rides?

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Galloping trail ridersQ: My gelding has a lot of energy and loves to gallop when we trail ride. If I’m galloping with a group, I feel like he won’t stop or slow down until he’s run past the front horses. I’ve tried circling to slow him down, but he ignores me. My friends suggested a stronger bit with long shanks. Will that work? What else should I do?

A: Many riders keep more than one bridle or bit on hand for their horse and switch back and forth, depending on the plans for the day. A more substantial bit might be reserved for high-performance work or rambunctious group activities. But merely resorting to a tougher bit to control your assertive gelding won’t work unless he’s been schooled to respect your aids when ridden in a milder one. After you’ve worked off some of your horse’s excess energy by turning him out or longeing him, concentrate on retooling his brakes. Work him in an arena or enclosed area. Practice transitioning from one gait to another. Intersperse work at faster gaits with several laps at a walk. When you do circle your horse to slow him down and collect his stride (which will give you more control), make your circles about the diameter of a longe line. Spinning him around in tight loops will only antagonize and rile your horse. If it seems like you need some guidance, seek help from a riding instructor in your community. You might discover that a few lessons will do wonders to improve your relationship with your horse.

When you’re ready to return to the trails, don’t enable your horse’s tendencies by galloping in a group. He no doubt has a dominant personality and that, coupled with his high-energy drive, causes him to view group gallops as a race. He’s overcome with herd mentality rather than paying attention to you. So first try just walking and jogging together. Include the basics that you’ve worked on in the arena. There’s no reason why you can’t all do some large circles, halt and pause while you chat, and walk on a loose rein. Your riding pals should support you in your effort to be safe.

--Cindy Hale

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Question of the Week: Brake Failure

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TRAIL RIDER    ---, WV

8/12/2010 8:59:31 AM

I HOPE I DINT OFFEND ANYONE, BUT MY COMMENT BELOW IS JUST MY SHEER OPINION FROM MY EXPERIENCES. I INTENDED NO HARM, OR TO UPSET ANYONE. I APOLOGIZE IF YOU FEEL THAT WAY.

TRAIL RIDER    ----, WV

8/12/2010 8:43:13 AM

I AM A BIG TRAIL RIDER, AND I HAVE STARTED TEACHING MY HORSE BARRELS AND POLES. THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN FEELING LIKE YOUR HORSE WONT STOP. I WAS HAVING THIS SAME PROBLEM A WHILE BACK. MY HORSE ENJOYS GOING FAST, AND HE DIDNT REALLY WANT TO STOP OR SLOW DOWN. HE JUST IGNORED THE BIT I WAS USING. THIS MADE ME A LITTLE SCARED BECAUSE HE IS A FAST HORSE. NO MATTER WHAT I WOULD DO OR TRY HE WOULDNT LISTEN. HE DIDNT WANT TO BE AWAY FROM THE OTHER HORSES ON THE TRAIL. SO I GOT A NEW BIT, I NOW HAVE A MIKMAR FEATHER BIT. IT HAS WORKED WONDERS AND WAS WELL WORTH THE MONEY! WE DO SLOWER "EXERCISES" BOTH ON THE TRAIL AND IN OUR YARD, (I DONT HAVE AN ARENA). WE HAVE DAYS OF RIDING SLOW, AND DAYS OF RIDING FAST. I HAVE BECOME CONFIDENT, AND BEEN ABLE TO ENJOY MY HORSE MORE. IM SURE HE WOULD LIKE TO GO FAST ALL OF THE TIME, BUT HE NOW LISTENS TO WHAT IM ASKING OF HIM AND HE PAYS BETTER ATTENTION TO ME. WE REALLY HAVE A GOOD TIME! PLUS OUR OVERALL RELATIONSHIP HAS IMPROVED SO MUCH. WHEN I CANT RIDE THOUGH, I LUNGE HIM. LUNGING MIGHT BE A GOOD PLACE TO START WITH RESPECT AND COMMUNICATION. EVEN IF YOUR HORSE CANT LUNGE WELL, AS LONG AS HE MOVES FORWARD WHEN YOU ASK, AND STOPS WHEN YOU ASK, HE WILL GET BETTER WITH TIME. JUST USE THE SAME VERBAL CUES THROUGHOUT EVERY SESSION, AND WHEN YOU ARE ON HIM. (KISSY SOUNDS, CLUCKING, ETC.) LUNGING MAY REALLY HELP. IF YOUR HORSE IS AT A CANTER AND YOU GET HIM TO STOP ON THE LUNGE LINE IN ONLY A HALTER, YOU HAVE REALLY IMPROVED YOUR RELATIONSHIP. IF HE TURNS TO YOU AND LICKS HIS LIPS, HE IS REPSECTING YOU AND LOOKING AT YOU AS THE LEADER! THATS GREAT! MY HORSE IS NOW LEARNING TO NECK REIN. I DONT HAVE TO GET IN HIS MOUTH NOW, LIKE I WAS WITH THE OTHER BIT. HE DOESNT RESIST THE BIT NOW LIKE BEFORE EITHER. YES, I AGREE YOU SHOULD HAVE A RESPECTFUL RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR HORSE, BUT I BELIEVE YOU HAVE TO TAKE DIFFERENT STEPS WITH DIFFERENT HORSES, FOR THEM TO REALIZE YOU ARE THE LEADER. THEY ALL ARENT THE SAME YA KNOW! YOU JUST MAY HAVE TO GET A DIFFERENT OR A MORE HARSH BIT. BUT THE 4 POINT MIKMAR BIT (WHICH IS WHAT THE FEATHER BIT IS THAT I USE) ARENT SUPPOSE TO BE HARSH, THATS WHY I WANTED TO GIVE IT A TRY. I JUST FEEL SAFER AND IN CONTROL NOW, AND MY CONFIDENCE HAS WENT UP DRAMATICALLY. EVEN AT A FULL GALLOP HE SLOWS TO A CANTER OR STOPS WHEN I ASK, WHETHER WE ARE IN A GROUP OR NOT! IF YOU FEEL UNSAFE, DO WHATEVER YOU THINK WILL MAKE YOU FEEL SAFER. I THINK THATS THE KEY. IF YOU ARE UNCONFIDENT, AND UNEASY, YOUR COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR HORSE WILL BE A MESS. IF YOU GET NERVOUS WHEN YOUR HORSE PICKS UP THE PACE IN A GROUP, THAT MIGHT BE WHAT IS TRIGGERING HIS ENERGY, YOU NEVER KNOW. JUST REMEMBER, IF YOU ARE CALM AND FOCUSED, YOUR HORSE WILL BE TOO. I HOPE YOU FIND THE SOLUTION, GOOD LUCK! (YOU SHOULD REALLY CHECK INTO THE MIKMAR FEATHER BIT!)

Ashley    Amesbury, MA

8/10/2010 7:19:02 PM

My friend and I, who go out on the trails ALL the time, practice things that we could practice in the ring...like bending and expanding and reducing the trot. So in helping those "brakes", try to keep your horse's mind occupied and more focused on you.

Anna    Maple Grove, MN

8/10/2010 6:11:26 AM

That was a good article!

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