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Inconsistent Gait Correction

I recently heard of a lesson pony who upon landing a jump will occasionally shift into high gear and bolt becoming extremely difficult to control.

It is used for beginners and needless to say his erratic explosive gaits are very unwelcome. Only the barn's most experienced riders are allowed to ride him. Apparently after a couple of session with advanced he becomes somewhat controllable. With the beginners, not so much. It seems beginners are the slot he's placed in.

Most barns are geared to riding. People go there to learn riding. The horses are bought into the lesson progam to ride. Riding lessons are often a major source of barn income. Lesson horses are supposed to be trained and suitable for riding lessons, not horsemanship lessons. Oh, riders consider riding to be horsemanship but in essence most are merely mannequins, or robots, you sit on the horse according to the proper form. The percentage of horse people who consider themselves to be good riders who will sit on a horse without a saddle is very slim. The idea horrifies them.

They may understand technical riding but they are usually at a loss when the horse is not technically responding.

When all you have is a hammer, every problem that pops up is a nail.

The question in this situation is "How do I stop him from landing the jump with his afterburners ignited?"

I can very often simply look at a horse and tell you why the horse is not doing well at an activity such as jumping, roping, cutting, or the like. In the case of the subject horse I have no idea what it looks like so we'll deal from a training standpoint. Training horses with physical problems can be very frustrating.

Wearing him out is one way. Just keep at it until he tires of it. That could grind someone's patience to a fine powder. He may even better and more dependent at bolting.

Another way is instilling the basics in him.

Most barns don't do a whole lot of basic training because basic training is not riding.

Usually when I suggest ground work the dismissive reply is, "Oh, he's a dream on the ground, he leads fine, you can groom him, no problem!"

By ground work I mean being able to get the horse to do anything from the ground that you want it to do from its back. I basically recommend, "If you can't, don't get on it.

I believe 98% of the horses in this country are not rideable and 98% of those who are rideable are not trained, they are happy mediumed. As long as neither horse or rider don't do anything that the other party can't live with, they consider the horse trained. If the horse does something beyond their skill set the horse is usually replaced.

There are two possibilities in almost every horse problem. Either the horse is not trained or the horse has a physical problem which can be caused by a condition within the horse or by a rider's actions.

The first thing to examine is the horse's conformation. Is it physically able to do what is expected of it?

I know of a riding program that concentrates on jumping. They are always going through horse after horse to see whether or not the horse will jump. To them, all horses are jumpers, some just jump better than others. I have seen them go through conformational nightmares unsuited for the demands of jumping only to keep looking.

If a horse does not have flowing lines, it will not flow over the jumps. Oh, it may jump for awhile but sooner or later it will start evading in some manner.

If you have been reading through this web site you should notice that I do a lot of talking about a procedure that has come to be known around the world as "Marv Walker's Bonder." (Click here to email for a free copy of the Bonder) Actually, it is a herd dynamics procedure that creates a leader / follower relationship between horse and human by mimicking the same methods that horses use in the herd to establish the leader / follower relationship. It is the FIRST thing I do with ANY horse I work with.

Once I have established a connection with the horse I teach it to give to, or rather, move away from pressure. I say "moves away" because the horse will feel the pressure on the side away or against it and to relieve it it has to move away. I hook a long line to the halter and pull lightly in a direction keeping tension on the line. AS SOON as the horse moves away from the pressure of the pull, it gets relief. I vary the direction of the pull and keep at it until the horse automatically seeks relief no matter which direction I pull. I vary my pulls in every direction and way I can, up, down, left, right, diagonally over the back, any way I can. I want the horse to keep moving away from the pressure until I stop applying it.

Once the horse is consistently giving to pressure I start longeing the horse.

When most people longe a horse they start by putting it on the end of a longe line and then work at getting the horse to smoothly go around them in a circle. You have probably seen this. More often than not the horse erratically goes around often jerking the longee's arm from its socket as it jerks the longee hither and yon.

I tell those who seek relief for their longeing problems from me, "If the horse doesn't longe at two feet it won't longe at twenty." I start longeing at two feet from me. I stand beside the horse in the mounting location, a zone of relative safety, and teach the horse to *walk* and stop with encouraging and voice commands assisted by a longe whip as an extension of my being. I do not care where the horse goes, the direction is not important at the moment, I want it to start and stop on command. If the horse takes off, since I have taught it to respond to pressure it will circle me. I stop it when it does and then when it is calm I begin again. I walk alongside it as I work on the "Walk," "Whoa." ALL I want it to do is stop and go on command.

Once the horse longes at 2 feet I double the distance to 4 feet. Once the horse is accepting direction well at 4 feet, I increase the distance to 8 feet thereabout and begin adding shape longeing.

Shape longeing consists of longeing the horse in various shapes; circles, ovals, rectangles, squares, triangles and straight lines.

Most longees only longe in circles and they tend to do for considerable lengths of time. Circling is strenuous on a horse's body because of the effects of centrifugal forces, mostly on the legs. The faster the horse circles the greater the forces acting up them. The younger the horse the greater the risk of injury to the horse.

The intention of traditional longeing is to get the horse listening but in effect the main result is conditioning the horse. Shape longeing teaches the horse to listen to the longee because it does not know what command is coming up next.

How do I longe the horse in a straight line? I use the longe whip with the lash wrapped around the length in a windshield wiper manner creating a barrier between the horse and I as needed to keep it out at the end of the line length I'm using. The horse's yielding, giving to pressure keeps it from pulling away. The longe whip can also be gently used to urge the horse to keep moving.

The longe whip is not used to strike the horse. It serves as an extension of my being. The ONLY time the whip is used as a whip is when I have to use it to defend myself. It may not be sufficient, but if it is all I have I use it with with all the effort I can put into it. It is NEVER, EVER, NEVER EVER applied to a tied up horse. The horse MUST be given the chance to stop the aggression. I use the whip to increase my influence direction for guiding and encouraging.

I gradually increase the length of the line until I'm walking alongside the horse at the full length of the line.

At this point I then begin to work turns into the longeing. Turns are incredibly simple because I already have trained the horse for them, I simply stop moving. Walking alongside the horse there is no pressure other than the weight of the line but when I stop moving the line will tighten and the horse will give to it and begin to turn toward me. When the horse has turned enough to be facing the direction I wish to go I simply start straight lining in that direction.

Using only straight lining and turns I can get the horse to go in any shape I want no matter what shape I want the horse to go in. It is just a matter of telling the horse when to start and stop going in a straight line or when making the turn.

Let's suppose I want to longe the horse in a triangle. I straight line the horse to the angle point by moving alongside the horse until I reach a stopping point that will have the horse at the turning point when it feels the pressure being applied. It will give to the pressure and begin the turn. I keep the pressure on until the horse is facing the angle direction I want and then I straight line it from there to the next point.

If I want an oval I straight line it, turn it until it is facing the opposite direction and then straight line it until I turn it back along the original line.

I can move the horse anywhere in the longeing area I want it. My movements control the horse's movements and I vary my movements to vary the horse's movements and speed.

When I want to change the horse's direction I turn the horse until it is committed to the direction change and then I simply move into the longeing position called for by the horse's direction of travel.

How does this affect bolting? Shape longeing greatly increases the horse's sensitivity to pressure and as soon as the horse begins the speed change you longe from the saddle and change the direction of the horse which will change the speed and increase control.

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