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Ask Polo - Article 1
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   27th Sep 2012   •   3,950 views   •   4 comments
Ask Polo - Article 1This is the first article in my new series, ‘Ask Polo’. In this series, I will be addressing equine problems mentioned by players, and giving suggestions to assist in solving their problems in article format.

Today’s problem was posed by Ponybox player ‘Bright Horizon’.

Name of Horse: Moon
Gender of Horse: Mare
Age of Horse: 4 years
Discipline: Hunter

Number of Years in Training:
Extensive groundwork since birth, 30 days at professional trainer, 1 year under saddle since then.

Detailed Description of Problem:
“Moon does not want to accept contact on the bit. She leans against the bit, and does not want to come into a proper frame. Moon tends to ignore leg aids when she thinks she can get away with it, but she responds to rein aids quite well. I think (but I could be wrong) that this is a matter of her not understanding how to be "on the bit", rather than a behavioural problem.”

Steps Taken in Solving Problem:
“ I have tried all sorts of transition exercises, bending, circles, lunging, everything.”

Duration of Problem: “3 months (the entire time I've had her)”

Other Important Information: “Moon is an incredibly smart horse who gets bored with things very quickly.”

--
Bright Horizon is correct about this not being a behavioural problem. Moon is young, and from what I can tell, she has been appropriately produced thus far.
That being said – Moon’s issue could well become a problem if not correctly addressed.

My first suggestion would be a change of bit. In my experience, a Waterford bit makes a huge difference in horses that lean. The design of the bit makes it impossible for a horse to grasp in its teeth, and thus it is very difficult for them to lean on the rider’s hands. This bit should bring about an instant improvement – but it still is not a solution to the problem.

As a young horse, Moon needs to learn how to carry herself properly and work between hand and leg. To accomplish this, I would suggest that – if Moon is not too upset by it – Bright Horizon should try a small pair of spurs, just to get Moon a little more responsive to her leg, and make her leg aids clearer so they are easier for a young horse to understand. This should get Moon working better from behind, and hopefully lift her off her forehand slightly.

Moon also needs to learn that leaning on the bit is not acceptable behaviour. When she leans, instead of trying to pull her back, Bright Horizon should give with her hands, and ‘drop’ Moon. This way, the horse will have nothing to lean against – so hopefully she will be less inclined to lean in future. One must take care, however, to keep the horse moving forward off the leg, and lift the hands somewhat, so the horse does not try to snatch up the loose rein. It should only be a momentary release; we’re not giving Moon the contact, we’re just letting her know that it is not there for her to lean on.

That is how, from a rider’s point of view, Bright Horizon can handle and correct the problem; but now to the more important issue: How can she fix it?

All of the steps that Bright Horizon has taken to solve this problem are correct, but luckily I have a few more exercises that I can suggest.

Flexing. I cannot stress this enough. While working on a straight line, keep the horse’s body straight with your legs, and flex her neck to either side as far as she can stretch. She should become more and more supple each time you do the exercise. When she is loose through her neck, Moon should be more willing to accept the bit, and work into a frame.

Rein backs. Although an advanced movement for a young horse, one cannot argue with the logic of a rein back as a solution to this problem. Rein backs get a horse back on its hocks, engage the hindquarters, increase responsiveness to hand and leg, and encourage the horse to work through the back.

To teach Moon to rein back, Bright Horizon should have somebody on the ground pushing her backwards, while she as a rider lifts her weight slightly out of the saddle, squeezes with her legs behind the girth, and asks gently with her hands low and wide near her knees.

Spiraling . While on a circle, ride Moon from the inside leg to the outside hand, and leg yield her slowly from a 20m circle to a 5m circle and back out again. This should get her more responsive to the leg. Be sure to do equal work on both reins.

Serpentine. Ride lots of serpentines with exaggerated bend, and transitions in between. As an intelligent horse, this should keep Moon from getting bored, and help her to become more responsive.

Halt-trot and walk-canter transitions. When you skip a gait in a transition, the horse has to respond more sharply to your aids, and use itself more. This should get Moon concentrating and listening better.

Giving with the hand. Once Moon has started accepting the contact, try riding her up into your hands with a firm leg, then give the inside rein. She ought to maintain her frame, which is an indication that she is working off the leg and not off the hand, and it should also help her to soften onto the hand.

Bright Horizon, I do hope that you find some of these tips to be useful. Please do let me know how Moon is progressing. Best of luck with her!

-Polo the Weirdo

(To pose a problem for ‘Ask Polo’, please visit this thread: http://www.ponybox.com/forum_view.php?title=Ask-Polo--Official-Question-Post&pid=250681)
Horse News More In This Category:  Horse Training      Horse News More From This Author:  Polo the Weirdo
weezapony  
Love it! Very good advice!
  Sep 27, 2012  •  4,405 views
 
Bright Horizon  
Thanks for the article, I will definitely try these exercises with Miss Moon. :)
  Sep 27, 2012  •  4,410 views
 
IggyPogo  
Polo, you're brilliant! Can't wait to try these out!

If I even want to get Pogo on the bit. ._.
  Sep 28, 2012  •  4,357 views
 
Emmurr  
Brilliant advice!
Even though I don't currently have a horse like this, I'll use these tips in the future.
I do lots of serpentines, sometimes with a circle or figure of eight in the centre, when I'm riding my four year old because she's rather clever and just like Moon, gets bored easily, so it keeps her attention where I want it and not on the monsters in the hedge xD
  Oct 18, 2012  •  4,624 views
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