Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Horses That Rush

Downhill horses can tend to rush, like a wheelbarrow, trying to catch up to themselves.

Sore backs can cause rushing. A poor fitting saddle, dirty pad or cinch or a weak back can all contribute to a horse moving short and quick rather than long and flowing.

If a rider is tense or nervous (in anticipation of a show, for example) the horse will pick this up right away and start moving quickly. Take a deep breath, settle deep into the saddle and relax.

Rushing can be a sign of a lack of balance. The hind legs thrust more than they carry, because their hip and stifle joints have not developed the necessary elasticity and the flexor muscles of the hind legs have not become strong enough yet.

Some horses will rush because of constant pressure on the reins. Eventually the horse needs to learn to hold a gait at a certain tempo "on the honor system" (dressage riders call this self-carriage) - that is, on his own without holding his speed down via the reins.

Here are some of the suggestions to get started on helping an Icelandic Horse with problems:

* Get an equine dentist to check his teeth and do necessary work (have the wolf teeth been pulled?)

* Get an equine chiropractor to check him out.

* Get his back muscles checked by someone who knows about saddle fitting.

* Switch tack, go to treeless, bitless; remove nosebands.

* Check his hocks.

* Get a knowledgeable farrier to check his feet for any problems, founder, crushed or contracted heels.

* Check for fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites, worms, etc.

* Put him on low-sugar grass hay and supplement with B vitamins (be sure to get B1 in there).

* Forget riding for a while.

* Work on the relationship between horse and owner.

* Make working with a person beneficial to the horse.

* Start on groundwork; include some clicker training. Try the PNH 7 Games, Dorrance ground exercises, Lyons groundwork, TTEAM ground driving and obstacles, etc.

* When you're ready to prepare to start riding, be sure the saddle fits. Be extra extra sure! Either do the learning yourself or check with someone extremely knowledgeable about how to fit a saddle (not necessarily a trainer).

* If you aren't comfortable re-starting a horse in a sidepull, bosal, halter, or otherwise bitless, be sure the bit fits. Single jointed snaffles aren't always the best fit for Icelandic Horses because of the low palate and shorter length of palate (equating to less room in the mouth for the action of a single-jointed snaffle).

* Start in a small area. Practice stand for mounting, get on, get off. Build up your "basket of yes" answers (positive responses). The more positive responses, the better.

* Try not to rush or get ahead of yourself or the horse. Try not to get into situations or ask for something that you are not sure of getting a good response. Remember he may have lots of negative stuff to be over-written by positive stuff.

* Still in a confined area, work on walk, walk, walk, with head down. Long and low.

* If a horse does not want to move in an arena, it may be because of his feet and the footing; or the turns required in the confined area which may bother him because of saddle fit or weak back, or the rider not moving in sync with the horse on the bends.

* Practice circles; catch the horse before he speeds up and ask for a circle; praise and reward.

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