I am currently doing a free lease on an Appy sport horse. Her confirmation is GREAT and she has a great free jump form. She is 4 years old.

She has most of her professional training in western pleasure, which she does not enjoy. This is why she is now in my possession.

She is having a hard time with the communication differences from WP to H/J. My first big problem was getting her to transition up to the trot...which I have done by using my legs, and if she doesn't respond, giving her a light tap with a crop. She seems to be getting better at this.

My other problem seems to be how she carries herself. She wants to carry herself like I want, but it seems she had the WP carriage beaten into her.

I'm working with her lunging with side reins to help her, but under saddle she still tries to drop her nose to her knees. Are draw reins something I should consider? Or is she too young?

Advice please???

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Hi Heather,
I am dressage rider, so I can't actually help you with the H/J frame, but I can comment on the side reins and draw reins.
Depending on how they are set up, side reins are used on the lunge line to help a horse come round onto the contact with the bit and/or to stretch out, sometime quite low.
Ideally, draw reins would be used to keep a horse from lifting its head up and hollowing its back and would be loose when the horse is in a round soft frame. I would not ever use draw reins on a horse that was already curling up, as that would make the problem worse.
Also, some people might disagree with me, but I believe 4 is generally too young to put a horse into draw reins as it might back the horse off the bit.

As for the side reins for lunging, it sounds like the horse is too low and, again, they might worsen to the problem with that particular horse.

Does the horse ever carry her head in the correct position? Can you think of what you are doing at that moment to get that reaction? You mentioned that she wants to carry herself that way. Perhaps you will need to reward her every time she does something right, so she starts trusting that she won't be beaten for doing it. Rewards for correct behaviour work miracles! p.s. It sounds like you are very patient - she is lucky she fell into your hands!
I've only had her for 2 weeks. At the walk she's pretty flat from whithers to poll somewhat on the forehand, since that seems the style in WP these days. At the trot she has her head pretty high, which is why I'm using the side reins especially at the trot. When I'm riding, I'm using very little contact at the trot since she is somewhat green to the whole English hand contact and I don't want her to freak, I want to introduce her slowly.

Right now I'm simply asking for a bend when I'm riding her around corners. As I progress in her training I will be introducing more contact. She seems to move well off the leg for bends, but doesn't understand the whole using the hind end concept.

Another big concern I have is getting her to come from behind at the walk, carrying her head more naturally in what you'd see in a Eq course. Round, not flat. And when I give her any contact on the bit at the walk she drops her head way down.

I begin every session asking for bends forward, left, and right at a halt in order to get her warmed up and to remind her how it's done.

I'm wondering if I should invest in one of those training devices that teach them to come from behind, or maybe riding her in a 2 or 3 ring elevator for awhile until she gets the hang of it.

I asked about the draws because I've actually never had this problem in a baby, because I've always started my babies toward the H/J, because it's good for them to always have that background, and teaching neck reining is easier than introducing bending, coming from behind, and carriage. Honestly, going WP to H/J is proving pretty hard with the differences in riding style.

Thank you very much for your reply, I look forward to your response. :)
Hi Heather,
All of my replies are with dresasge training in mind, so hopefully they will make sense. Since dressage is all about thinking back to front, self carriage, suppleness, etc., I might be able to provide some good suggestions for some of your issues.

Your challenges seem to be arising from inconsistent contact and confusion on the part of the horse. Here's what I would do and I hope it works for you.

1. When you first get on the horse, try walking her around purposefully with a light and soft contact and just see if she will relax and keep the light connection. You can walk her for as long as it takes for her to walk into your following contact and then praise her every time she does.You probably know this, but we all do it by accident sometimes - don't pull back - just softly follow her movement with your hands and think about walking her onto a connection with the bit. It sounds as though she was perhaps punished for trying the take the contact. I wouldn't warm up this particular horse at the halt, as it sounds like she needs a bit of forward thinking. If at some point during the walking she takes a stronger connection, let her stay there. She will get used to trusting that contact and stretching out to reach for the bit.
I don't know what an elevator is, but if you can slowly get this horse to reach into a steady contact you will be on your way to to bending, coming from behind, getting her round, etc.

2. Let's assume that you do have some success at the walk. Do the exact same thing at trot. Her head is probably in the air because again, she has no consistent contact, so you can't soften her or give her consistent aids. Think of inconsistent contact as a cell phone that keeps cutting in and out. It is impossible to communicate. If I were on her, I would think about forward and rythmic into soft contact and let her take a stronger contact for now. Just close you legs and think forward and rythmic into soft, steady hands.

I know this is only the beginning. Let me know how you make out after your next ride and we can put our heads together for more ideas.

Good luck!
Thank you very much for your reply.

Again, thats why she is with me. It's really sad how she was almost beaten into the WP submission.

I will be getting on her tomorrow evening, and will keep you updated on her progress.

She does have one good thing in her favor and that is she is very smart. Her improvement is 100% every day. Maybe I'll get some decent pictures of her as well to put up. :)

Again, thanks.
From your description of your horse's way of going, it sounds to me that while she may have been trained in WP, she wasn't very well trained. The flat "peanut roller" way of going, with the horse down on the forehand, went out about 15 years ago. Now days, if anything, there is too much lift in the shoulders and drive from behind in the pleasure horses, (which explains why there is so many hock problems with in them). I've have a couple of horses with extensive WP training who've made the transition to the jumping world and have loved their new jobs. Their earlier training taught them discipline and to use themselves, and they have loved the challenge of going over fences because WP is pretty boring in comparison.

I would suggest you work on exercises to get your horse off her forehand, lifting her shoulders and driving from behind. Lunge her over poles and cross rails, when riding her do lots of roll-backs, trotting and cantering over poles, etc. If she has to start using herself, the headset will come.

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