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HELP.....I CAN'T LET THE REINS GO

By
John O’Leary
Horseman
www.horseproblems.com.au

 ©2002

 

 

At a recent Equine Science Symposium, mention was made of the affects of incorrect riding, training or teaching upon the ultimate deaths in horses. I can attest that this is in fact true and prevalent.

It is a constant mystery to me why virtually no horse rider of the 'English' persuasion or learning can 'let the reins go' If only these riders' knew the great benefits that they could inherit, if only they could.

I have to admit that this subject is the cause of me grimacing daily and thinking thoughts of what might have been. If only. So where does it come from and why is it so?

It is deeply embedded within the Pony Club system. Here he goes again, Pony Club bashing. I must admit that I am aware that it must certainly look like that to any reader of my site these days but I simply must speak up for horses and for the clients of the Pony Club system. The culture does not only come from PC of course. I am yet to see or hear an EFA Coach who has ever told a pupil to 'let the reins go' 'Turn a horse loose'. Ultimately however, I lay the blame at the feet of the  British Horse Society, who in Horsemanship terms are still locked in the dark ages.

So, have you ever heard this? "Keep a contact" For God sake, don't ever a allow a loop to get in your reins. Heaven forbid As a result, in excess of 75% of Pony Club Horses in this fair Country, are being ridden around like this.

and as a result, they end up looking like this....

 

and why? Because riders are taught to go around all day, hanging off the mouths of their poor horses, for the sake of hanging off the mouths of their poor horses. No other reason, just that. Thousands every day with Coaches standing in the middle of an arena, yelling, "Change rein across the diagonal, circle here, figure of 8 there, yikes little Suzy, DON'T LET THE CONTACT GO." God horses must like that.

So what does this achieve? Correct training? An improved horse? No, it just progressively deteriorates the mouths of every single one of them and builds a plague of 'upside down necked horses' and riders' who can never learn to have an independent seat and real balance because they are hanging off the mouth of their horse endlessly, as a crutch or balance aid,  just like the jockeys at the races. At lease they have an excuse. :(

 

Why then are these countless riders' told to 'have a contact'? You tell me? I don't know. Is it because that's how they are supposed to put a horse's head down somewhere near where it should be if you were trying to ride an 'English Horse'? If it is for that, they all fail dismally because, as I said, over 75% of all kids in the Pony Club State that I live in, do not, don't know how to and can not. Good numbers! I am aware of a letter that is circulating amongst the bosses here, from a Senior Dressage Coach, that says as much. I hear you now, "But Pony Club isn't for learning such advanced things, it is for having fun" THEN GET OFF THE MOUTHS OF YOUR HORSES . How bout letting the horses have some fun instead of a days torture? Here is how a Pony Club horse should or could go.

 

Now here at a recent Hack Show held on our Equestrian Centre, this invaluable Pic was snapped and caught the two Worlds. The

frustrated Horse, the frustrated Owner, the two frustrated Faces versus below

all's well :)

 

which brings me to this point.

If the Coaches and Instructors, who ever they may be, don't know how to teach this, then why in God's good name are they telling riders' to "keep a contact" You can either do it or you can't. You can either teach it or you can't. If the answer is in the negative, what is any rider doing being allowed to swing off the mouth of their horse??????? So what are some of the major negatives and spin offs?

  • The complete deterioration of lightness and responsiveness of the mouth.
     

  • A building of the under muscles of the neck and a deterioration of the longitudinal muscles of the horse which completely changes the mechanics, carriage and paces of the horse.
     

  • Makes any future correct or remedial training of the horse far more difficult for the rider and completely traumatic for the horse.
     

  • Causes a proliferation of 'jig jogging horses', horses that won't stand, horses that lose their brakes, become dangerous in some cases and running fools.
     

  • Makes it impossible for any person trained in this way to be able to take on a youngster or newly broken in horse without ruining it in the first 7 days of ownership, and that is where my motivation for this article is found.
     

  • Causing a generation of horses that are crippled with incorrect muscle crookedness, stifle problems, sore backs and the dream of every 'chiropractor in the Southern Hemisphere'. Horses that are going around compensating for their new found muscle development and losing their natural way of going and use of their bodies.

When I break a horse in, every day, I have to escort the owner of it on a trail ride to show them which buttons to press and to try to give them as much information as possible before hand over. For the benefit of the owner and the horse. I suppose for my name also.

'Green Horses', in fact no horses, should be ridden with a contact at the pace of the walk, on a pleasure ride situation. Of the 'English trained riders', do you know how many that can actually let the contact go and actually ride on a 'pleasure rein'? Would you believe I haven't met one? Of the thousands, I have not met one that does not have serious psychological problems with letting the reins go loopy. Like this.

How mind boggling is that? So, the system has completely brainwashed all of those riders' so badly, albeit accidentally, that they simply cannot get their brain around riding with such a rein and they have a mortal fear of being asked to do so. You ask them 6 times in 50 metres, they go through the hand flapping motions but don't lengthen them. Meanwhile, at every stride, they smack the horse in the mouth as they use it as a crutch for their lack of an independent seat. That my friends is sad.

As I said, my motivation for this article is the newly broken in "Green Horse' If you ride such a Horse around like this, within 7 days, the Mouth of that Horse will have deteriorated by 40% from what the Trainer handed you.

Now I can't go into the hundreds of reasons why you can't ride such a horse with a contact here, but read my lips, it is a fact. Here are three:

http://www.horseproblems.com.au/Horse Problems on 'The Jig Jogging Horse'.htm
http://www.horseproblems.com.au/rein_snatcher.htm
http://www.horseproblems.com.au/problem_horses_and_making_a_hors.htm

There are many other reasons of course and they go right to the heart of the training of the proper Dressage Horse.

Then we have the thousands of riders' who whilst just sitting on their horse, gossiping to their friends, are still hanging on the mouth of their horse!!!!!!!!!!!!! I watch them at every Show. The tight rein, the CONTACT and the horse endlessly snatching and tugging against the hand of the rider who is completely oblivious of the fact as their hand moves back and forth whilst connected to the inside of the mouth of their horse courtesy of a Pelham Bit or a Double Bridle even. Don't you just love that thought too. I said 'Double Bridles' in the hands of the little dears'. Yes, wearing the brake pads out and taking the neck of their horse to the gymnasium for a jolly good workout on the under muscle. Onya. Oh, almost forgot......we wouldn't want to allow our horse to stretch and lower it's neck after being collected for the past hour, now would we.

It would be remiss of me to not mention cruelty on the other side of the coin however. By the Professional.

Here are some scientifically based explanations of the following, decided upon by an Equine Scientific Forum in Australia.
 

ABOVE THE BIT

 A posture characteristic of a hyper-reactive ridden horse exhibiting conflict behavior in which the horse attempts to escape the aversive situation by raising its head, quickening the pace, shortening its neck and stride and bracing its back, which becomes dorsally concave. The horse thus assumes a posture appropriate for running and therefore does not show impulsion.


ACCEPTING THE BIT

The way a horse responds to the bit in particular and aids in general. During locomotion and transitions, the horse’s mouth remains closed, soft in the jaw and with relaxed lips. A horse that accepts the bit does not shorten or lengthen its neck or alter its head position during traveling and transitions. Accepting the bit is generally accompanied by relaxation of the neck and body.


ACTIVITY

The rhythmical speed of movement of the horse’s legs within any gait. See Tempo.


AGAINST THE HAND

When a horse does not stop/slow/step-back from the bit correctly. Consequently the rein contact feels heavy to the rider. This is usually accompanied by a hyper-reactive (hollow) posture in which the neck shortens or lengthens during locomotion or transitions. There may be an element of learned helplessness in this behavior. A horse may also be described as being against one of the rider’s hands, in which case it is heavy on one rein only (lugging), demonstrating a diminished response to the turn signal of that rein.
 

ON THE BIT

Having said all of that, of course young Riders' of the English persuasion should be taught how to ride a Horse 'on a contact' and in a frame'. In Europe, they are all taught to do it right. If Pony Club Coaches were taught how to teach correct 'on the bit' then there wouldn't be a problem, but they are not. As I said, even the EFA Level One's are not taught it so Pony Club has no hope. Those young Rider's wanting to go on and improve and to become competitive, can only gain the required correct education from outside the system. In fact all of the young Riders on this establishment ride with a contact and 'On the Bit' Not a problem but read my lips, THE HELL BETTER LET THE REINS GO at all other times and they do :) 
 

THE PLEASURE HORSE

There are no each way bets after you choose. If you choose to ride a Horse on a 'Pleasure Rein' then having little rein collections because you are nervous is NOT doing it correctly.
If you are riding on a Pleasure Rein, then it should be such 0ver 90% of the time BUT there will be many times on a Pleasure Rider where you will need to pick up the reins and adjust a Horse for Speed or direction.


SPEED

If you are adjusting for speed and you 'take the face of the Horse', you MUST be meaningful about it and you MUST get the Horse to SOFTEN to the demand BEFORE you either soften if you intend on riding English for a moment or THROW the reins away instantly, back to the pleasure reins BUT ONLY AFTER the Horse has both slowed and SOFTENED to the hand.


STEERING

The Pleasure Horse should always be steered via one rein or the other but never two. That means that if you pull on the right rein the left rein must go correspondingly loopy and visa versa.
To not release the outside rein when steering a Pleasure Horse is to lock it up and in fact be putting the Hand Brake on whilst turning. That confuses Horses AND RUINS THEIR MOUTHS!!!!
 

ENGLISH RIDING ON THE PLEASURE HORSE

If you suddenly decide to pick up the Reins on a Pleasure Horse on a pleasure ride and ride some Dressage, fine. I do it all the time. BUT DO IT RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!! There are no each way bets. If your Horse is 'Above the Bit' or 'Hanging on your hands' and not SOFT, you are doing it wrong and YOU ARE RUINING THE MOUTH OF YOUR HORSE!!!!!!!!!! To ride English on a Pleasure Horse and do it right, with softness and contact etc, is to RETAIN THE INTEGRITY of the Mouth of your Horse.


ENGLISH RIDING


Nothing wrong with riding Horses with a contact and in a Dressage manner. PROVIDING you do it right. Here, the Horse must soften to YOUR HAND, not you to the Horse. Your responsibility is to soften to the Horse ONLY once it has softened to your ask. If you don't then nurture that softness, have good hands, good balance and rhythm, you don't deserve to have the English contact anyway and you should NOT be riding English.

If the English Horse is 'on a contact' of any description, that contact must be on the Rider's terms. If the Horse seeks to exploit the hand, the hand should never give UNTIL THE HORSE GIVES.
However, you know the many ways that the pure English Rider ruins the pact between Horse and Rider. If you ride English a lot, you should reward your Horse via the German Training Scale, often and in between all Official training periods, you should be on a PLEASURE REIN. Both at the walk and the Halt!!!! Throwing the Reins away.


BOSALS, ROPE HALTERS AND THE REST.


Even if you elect to ride in a Rope Halter. If you don't keep the rules of lightness by demanding softness WHEN YOU ASK FOR IT, you will pretty soon have no brakes at all and an ignorant headed Horse and a potential to Bolt as many do. Same with No Bit Bridles of all descriptions. The same with the Hackamore (proper one) The same if you are even going into 'Ed Connell' Territory.

So no matter how you ride or what you ride in, whether you are on loopy reins or elastic reins, the rules are the same. Softness must come from the Horse first, the Rider Second, softness must be demanded, maintained and rewarded always and in between all times, there are no each way bets.

So yes, of course every Kid who wants to ride proper 'English" should have a contact but ONLY IF THEY ARE TAUGHT RIGHT!! and probably only under a Coaches eye.
 

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION

Easy as. Fix the NCAS and Pony Club Coaching systems and the problem is 'solvered'. Get rid of the ancient old farts who live in the dark ages and never learnt correct riding in the first place. Get proven performers on the competitive scene into those positions.  Make 'horse training' an actual requirement for the EFA Level One, by far the most prevalent level of Coaches, to be how to train a horse? Not too difficult. Stop holding the good Level One Coaches back  or failing them from being Level 2   on stupid childish grounds and get them training the Level Ones who at the moment, are seriously deficient in the 'Horse Training' skills and yet are out there every day training horses with the Rider. Not their fault, in fact the system bars them from speaking about anything training and yet launches them out there where they teach the majority of Riders but not having any Official Training Lessons themselves. So we have a situation where 80% of Australia's Riding Coaches are not allowed to speak about training a horse, only a rider and we have around 75% of Australia's riders swinging off the mouths of their horses as a 'crutch' Enough said. Add that to GP Saddles and you have bad Riders throughout Life.

 

To all the horses out there......Hope I helped at least one of you

HELP - I CAN'T LET THE LEAD ROPE GO

 

TURMOIL VERSUS GROUND CONTROL

As you know, I regularly meet Horses with Problems, Almost all of them as you know, are caused by us, which is why Monty says there are no Problem Horses, only Problem Owners.

There is often a common thread with these Horses and that is this. When the Owners unload the Horse, they immediately enter a wrestling match in the Car park. That is because they follow the 'British Horse Society' taught way of leading a Horse and invariably, such People come equipped with a Plastic, Leather or Webbing Halter.

I have often spoken about the negative effects upon Horses, heaviness, ignorance, lack of respect but I have a little time Tonight and want to expand a little.

We meet a lot of stressed out Horses. Horses of the English Discipline and some of the symptoms include, tension, unhappiness with their ridden work, running in their work and with a complete lack of relaxation. It is obviously little known within the English Disciplines but well known in the NH Circles and the Western Disciplines, that Horses that are relaxed on the ground are happier in Life and their work.

It is also no accident, that when one observes the various Disciplines, the propensity of Horses 'on edge' and in turmoil, belong within the English Disciplines and especially Saddle Horse. Here is why.

Horses that are 'skull dragged', pulled, pushed, hip and shouldering the handler, can never find the relaxed state. Moreso, if they come from the Breeds that are more prone to be highly strung, like Thoroughbreds or Riding Ponies (mini Thoroughbreds) then the stress levels are continually heightened. The Horses are in continual turmoil on the ground and then that transfers to the Saddle.

So the things that work against the Owner are the prior state of unhappiness, turmoil and stress every time they are in hand but more, the lack of respect and often distain, for the Owner, which then transfers to the Saddle. Hence, problem Horses.

Have you ever noticed how many manures your Horse does at Home when you start plaiting for a competition? This shows how susceptible Horses are to stress. So, getting back to the leading of the Horse, every single time the Head of the Horse reaches the Hand of the Handler, bumps, pulls, pushes, resists, wins, fights, learns ignorance, hip and shoulders, spins, gets in front, changes the direction off the Handler from their chosen route and all the rest of it, they are in constant turmoil, are pre disposed  to stress. Then add the lack of respect of the Handler for they are not a leader they are a confuser and you have a recipe for a disastrous ridden career, which includes distain for the Rider.

So the next time you are at a Western Show or watch NH People who own Horses, have a think about it and for goodness sake, open your minds and "Let the Rope go"

 

 

 

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