Newbie--LOTS of Questions :)

Hey everyone!! I am brand new to the English discipline but have ridden and owned horses my entire life. I purchased my first “english” horse just over a month ago. He is a 9.5 year old gray Appendix. Before purchasing him I took about 4 months of English riding lessons, sent my QH mare to my trainer and was told she wouldn’t be a good fit. (Not to mention the mare and I never saw eye to eye so it didn’t hurt my feelings) We all agreed that I was ready for my own mount so enter my boy. He spent a couple of days with them last week and they told me he’s very green but has a lot of potential and that they think we will make a great team. I’m sharing all of this because I would love some advice on some exercises to work with him. Here are the problems I know for sure; 1) He holds his head SUPER high. My trainer wants to use a running martingale until he learns how to give to pressure and bring his head down. (would love your all’s opinion on this) 2) He doesn’t “get on the bit” but “follows the bit.” Her words, not mine.

I want to be as “contraption free” as possible and don’t want to force anything. Again all of this is coming from someone who has very little knowledge of the English world. My goals for us would be to show in Dressage and H/J. For a gelding of his age what is the realty of becoming competitive as a team at more than just schooling shows? I know I’m asking a lot of questions but I felt you all would have the best answers. :slight_smile:

If competition is your goal, I would suggest getting a good trainer as your first move. Maybe you should spectate at some shows in your area to become familiar with some of the local trainers and then take a few trial lessons.

Where is your new horse, do you keep him at home or board locally?

Is the trainer a dressage trainer or HJ? A good trainer in one won’t necessarily be able to help you be competitive for the other.

Martingales are a tool just like anything else and are not in and of themselves bad/dangerous. It’s worth trying one to see how your horse will handle it though before you go out and invest in buying one.

What was your horse’s training before you got him? He may not be fit enough to be “on the bit” yet. So it’s not a huge worry. If you bought a made level X dressage horse that won’t get on the bit, that would be an issue with either your riding or the seller telling lies. But for a new to the discipline maybe out of work horse? Sounds typical to me.

Has your horse ever jumped? That will make a big difference in being able to be competitive at HJ.

I keep him at home and we currently have a trainer to get us started. But I do think we’ll have to move to a show barn eventually. But I want to make sure we have the basics and foundation down first before we even think about moving to a true show barn. LOVE the idea of checking out some local shows though, definitely on the books.

Kind of hard to answer your questions without seeing the horse or yourself ride.
However, lots of circles, transitions, and lateral work are good for every horse. Don’t fight him with your hands to get him on the bit, you need to push him forward.

Did your trainer suggest the running martingale for you to flat in? Or specifically for jumping. I’m picturing a green horse who isn’t totally relaxed, and is looking around. If this was my horse I would be pushing him into a soft contact, with lots and lots of circles and serpentines until he relaxes. If I was jumping then I might put a correctly adjusted running on.
The other scenario I’m picturing is a lazy horse with his head up because he’s behind the leg and pulling himself along instead of pushing.

Congratulations on your new horse! It’s so exciting to start a new partnership. :slight_smile:

Regular lessons with your trainer should help the two of you get to know each other most effectively. If you ever feel your trainer is asking you to do something, or recommending a piece of equipment you aren’t sure about, the best thing to do is politely ask, “Why?” Hopefully, your trainer will be willing to explain how the exercise or equipment will benefit your horse and your riding without creating a “short cut” problem.

When you reach a point where it’s appropriate… Do you hope to attend AQHA competitions, or USDF and USEF?

Sorry, I didn’t even see that you already had a trainer. Foxglove gave you good advice. What has your new horse been doing for the last 9.5 years, does he have any jumping experience? You are smart to want a good solid foundation for both of you before you start competing.

I see you are working with a trainer, but make sure this is the correct trainer for the both of you.

As for homework at home, I wouldn’t run straight to a running martingale to fix a head set. In fact, the only time I ran to a running is when I needed a little extra breaks on my old jumper. It had nothing to do with putting his head down. Remember, there is a proper way to use a running and a proper set up, as any piece of tack.

A lot of transitions for one. Make him pay attention to you. A “frame” will come from leg to hand. Granted, I am the first to have a hard time getting a frame, but that is because I always want to revert back to my old hand to leg habits. Foxglove also made some great points about the horses fitness level along with its training level. You mention he is green, but how green is he?

Ok I’m going to try and answer all the questions here. You guys are awesome.

My trainer is neither dressage or hunter jumper. She has extensive knowledge in many disciples but doesn’t focus on any specific one (a big reason why I think we’ll have to switch barns once the foundation is there).

My gelding hasn’t had any professional English training as far as I know. His first owner wanted him for barrels, sent him off for 90 days, and he blew the first barrel at his first show and she didn’t try him again. His second owner bought him for a project barrel horse and decided she didn’t have the time or patience. In between he’s basically been a trail horse and a pasture ornament. He did do some free jumping a couple years ago but that’s the extent of his jumping knowledge.

My trainer suggested the running martingale because he never learned pressure and he keeps his head SO high. The way she explained it was that he skipped elementary and middle school and they put him directly in HS. When I asked her why she wanted to use it she said “one to keep me on because his head is so high if he goes to shake it (which he does when he’s being a brat) he could break my nose. And two to teach him pressure so he learns where his head needs to be and I have leverage instead of fighting with his neck muscles constantly.”. And once he’s learned that we won’t have to use it. And we’re not jumping at this time, only flatwork.

As far as AQHA, USDF, or USEF I have no clue. He’s AQHA registered but I don’t know the difference between the three as far as what would be best and why?

Ok, I think that covers it. :slight_smile:

Hi, Congrats on the new horse!

A horse that is coming from the barrel world and it sounds like he may have been a little rushed when he was younger, will need some time in the saddle to learn to relax and that there will be no running involved. Like many have already suggested doing a lot of medium and large circles, figure 8’s, serpentines, walk to trot transitions and trot to walk. Lots of praise when he does what you ask.

The head shaking you mention, I would get his teeth checked. It is possible that his mouth may be uncomfortable and that is why is he is carrying his head so high, and shakes his head.

Also, not trying to knock your riding ability, but since you just started riding English your balance might be a bit off, so maybe some lessons on a good solid lesson horse would be in order so you can work on you and not always on your horse while you are trying to start a new discipline.

Since he does not have any jumping experience, take it slow. Make sure you get a good solid foundation on him just like if he was a three or four year old that you were starting to train. He needs to listen, be relaxed, then you can start ground pole work etc.

And a good trainer is always helpful.

AQHA: American Quarter Horse Association
USEF: United States Equestrian Federation ( the governing body of all rated, breed shows )
USDF: United States Dressage Federation
USHJA: United States Hunter Jumper Association

You do not need to be a member of these associations to attend local/schooling shows
But if you plan to attend any rated shows you will need to become a member or pay non member fees to attend the shows.

Thank you!! :slight_smile:

I’ve had his teeth checked and he’s good to go there. Oh not a knock at all! I want honesty not sugar coating, LOL. But yes I have been taking lessons for about 4 months on well schooled lesson horses. I’m certainly not saying I’m a pro by any means and definitely need to work on my balance and foot placement since I tend to be in front of the girth.

Yes I’m planning on taking it very slow. You completely nailed at with “he may have been a little rushed when he was younger, will need some time in the saddle to learn to relax.” I think that’s 100% right. He’s super hot whenever I get on him at first, so I ride him with little contact and wait for him to kind of settle into a rhythm and then we’ve just done circles so far and he’s relaxed sooner and sooner at each ride.

Now when you say slow, would 6 months of flat work and working on the basics be a decent timeline? Obviously if he needed more time then I’ll adjust but typically is that enough time and then start working towards ground poles/low jumps?

It really depends on your horse, you may be able to start doing ground pole “courses” sooner than that. Cavalletti work can start once he starts to relax and gains strength to carry himself. It will also help him to learn where his feet are. When he is bored to death doing flat work then he is ready to move up LOL

Sounds good to me. :slight_smile: Thanks so much!

Flatwork needs to be done correctly and very consistently to build a correct foundation. No knock but this is when you really need a good trainer and he needs some good Pro rides and a well defined “program” or clear plan and schedule.

That basic foundation is quite a bit harder then most think and easier to screw up with lasting effects. The real training is the basics, not the discipline specific trimmings that build on the solid foundation later. Get the best help you can now, with building the foundation. Not later.

Its harder to untrained and retrain as you must do now with this coming 10 year old career changer that, apparently, has no idea about the basics he should have, even as a Barrel horse. Even more reason to get good help now.

Oh, is this your first horse? You say you were “ready for my own mount” when speaking of stopping with the mare and starting out with the gelding?

findeight—I’m meeting with our trainer next week in a private lesson to get him set up on a good program. And we’ll be going to lessons together once a week on top of whatever I do with him at home. So I’m definitely getting the foundation built with a good trainer now, I was planning on moving to another trainer once he has the basics down to get ready for rated shows. And I am aware and 100% OK with that either being 6 months or a year down the line. I don’t want to rush him or me into something we’re not ready for.

No he’s not my first horse. I’ve had horses since I was 12. Have started and done remedial training for a lot of horses over the years but it was always western. He is the first horse I’ve ever worked with for English. My trainers and I felt like it was a good time to move to my own English mount and not rely on the lesson horses anymore. They felt my foundation is solid enough that I could move on to a horse like him. He did spend two days with them last week to see how much he did (or come to find out) didn’t know and we’re getting the program they feel is best in the works next week.

I don’t mind a martingale when necessary. Dressage and jumping go hand in hand. Your current trainer may have a foundation in both. Are there dressage clinicians that travel to your area once a month or so?

Sometimes big show barns are just more expensive without better training.

Have you checked your saddle fit?

How does he act on a lunge line with loose or sliding side reins?

Don’t wait to show, it’s fun! Dressage schooling shows have starter tests that are walk trot. You can do the flat classes in a hunter jumper schooler.

I think that 6 months of 5-6 rides a week for the horse before he’s doing some low jumps sounds conservative. Are you a weekly lesson taker? You will probably need to increase your rides per week in order to get strong enough to help him. Remember the formula green + green = black and blue. Which is to say if you have a green horse and a green rider, you’re just waiting for an accident. One of you needs to be more advanced than the other. It doesn’t matter which one.

It really sounds like your horse needs training from the beginning, as other said, to fill in the holes in his foundation. Get some solid WTC work on him and by the time you both feel comfortable doing that, I bet he’ll be fit enough to start working on contact and all the rest of it.

melula–I’m sure there are clinics, I’m so new that I haven’t even gotten that far yet. But I’m only a couple hours from Lexington so I’m sure there are a plethora of hands on clinics for me to attend. Yea, my saddle was fit for him last week and we’re good to go there as well. I’ll have to check out some schooling shows, especially to just expose him to the atmosphere.

Foxglove–I’m sorry, you think 5-6 rides a week for 6 months isn’t long enough before we start him over low jumps or you think it’s too long? I currently take lessons once a week and he will be accompanying me to those lessons beginning next week.

I just remembered that there were vids of him free jumping from 3 years ago. Let me know what you guys think.

I’m planning on working with him some tonight and/or this weekend, I’ll see if I can get anything decent on video and post it here as well to see what you all think. Even if it’s picking me apart, LOL

I think if he is getting 5-6 rides a week then 6 months is probably the right amount of time for low jumps. You could do it faster but that might be too fast. You could do it slower but there may not be added benefit.

If you are also only riding once a week right now, you’ll need to increase your rides as well or add on additional physical training to get fit with him.