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 Post subject: Horse Doesn't Want to Lope, What Do I Do?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2007 1:14 pm 
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Someone training a young mare told me she is having trouble getting her to trot or lope. I gave her this advice, and the next day she contacted me and said it was completely successful. She had been thinking of using spurs or a crop. This is what I told her:

To get your mare in a trot and lope, I would try everything else before I'd resort to spurs/crop use. NOT that I am against using spurs or a crop, but you really don't want to train using them, or you'll always have to rely on them with your mare. If you use gentle cues asking for her to transition to a trot, then reinforce them with the crop, that might work. But you want to teach her to listen for the cue, not wait for a swat.

Sometimes if the round pen is small, it is very difficult for a horse to get into a trot and lope. You don't want to lope her very much unless your round pen is over 60 feet in diameter. She needs to be able to move out. But I would try longeing her under saddle, either freely in the round pen, or on a longe line if your pen is too small. What you are teaching her are your cues to speed up. I use a "ck-ck-ck" kind of clucking sound to transition to a trot, and then for a lope, it's more of a kissing sound. My young horses learn this quickly. When you ask for a lope and make the kissing sound, you might really have to get after her with the longe whip to get her to MOVE! I'm not saying you whip her mercilessly--just whip the ground behind her fiercely if she doesn't want to lope. Some horses just aren't scared of a whip, if this is the case, you have to teach her to respect it by whacking her with it once really good. It won't hurt her, she won't hate you for it, but she'll learn that when you ask her to move, you mean it. If you don't get a good reaction (a nice lope) from her, you haven't taught her this lesson, and it will take you years of nudging with spurs and patting with crops to get her to actually lumber along in a lope...not the real result you want.

Then when you are in the saddle, ask for a trot with the "ck-ck-ck" sound, lean forward with your seat, and encourage her with your heels. I use split reins and you can swing one back towards her hind end or straight down smacking her shoulder to get her to move, or use a crop. Be ready--when she does move she may come unglued! But whatever you do, don't pull back on the reins. You asked her to move, let her move. A lot of times, that first lunge makes a rider want to pull back, but this is going to confuse your horse. Let her move and slow down on her own...just hang on to that saddle horn, if you need to! Same for the lope, when she is trotting comfortably, give her the kissing sound, and immediately follow it with leg squeeze, then the rein/crop slap if necessary to get her to change into a canter. Again, let her move, don't pull back!

You might try this in an open field or larger arena if she won't lope in the round pen. But if you're moving to an arena, I would make her lope around with just the saddle on for awhile, you on foot with the longe whip. You want her to get any bucks out of her system before you step on.

Finally, I know what you mean by saying you don't want to hire a trainer, you want to do it yourself. I would say you definitely can finish training her, just be patient and practice with her a LOT! If at any time she gets too much for you, ask a respected friend who has training experience to help you. Hopefully your filly will turn out nicely for you. Good luck!


If anyone else has any thoughts or ideas on this topic, please post them here!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 8:23 pm 
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My method of teaching a horse to canter/lope off cue is very simple. It is so simple that I am kind of embarrassed to mention this crude method. All healthy horses can canter. If they can canter in the pasture, they can canter under saddle. Here goes :oops:... I simply "get after them" with body language and heels until they run into their canter. Once they break into the canter, I let them go for a lap or two, bring them to a gentle whoa, hop off and praise the daylights out of them. I even go so far as to rub their neck and goosh all over them all the way back to their stall where they'll receive an apple treat. I do the same thing every day, making the canter the last thing that I do in their workout until they nearly canter from a stand still.

I told you, it is embarrassingly crude, but for some reason, my horses end up loving to canter. I like my horses to canter straight. I don't enjoy seeing a horse "dog track" down the rail. If a horse is lazy or uncoordinated, I like to canter/lope them in a fairly large area (60'x100'). As they learn to collect, they can handle a smaller area. If you are worrying about the horse running off with you, then you may be inadvertantly giving "please don't really canter" messages.

Currently I am working with a horse that kind of fears cantering (just bought him). He walks and trots nice, but when I ask him to canter, he moves out like a freight train, lunging into this gait. It kind of tickles me, but my goal is to get his transition into the canter to be smooth and relaxed. I am actually using a similar method of reteaching the canter to this "bolting locomotive". When he transitions in a relaxed manner, I gently stop him, hop off and goosh all over him. His workout ends. We'll see what happens... (by the way, the new guy is 10 yrs. old). I never ask a horse with a tentative canter or "fast" canter to stop quick. I think it just makes them more anxious.

Any thoughts?

Edited to say...I also use verbal cues, because in time, they recognize the word walk, trot and canter. As for leads? While I'm rushing or running them into the canter, just before they feel as though they are going to break from that ground covering roadster trot into the canter, I repeat the word canter and use my outside heel fairly strongly. Amazing how they learn to make the relationship between words, seat and leg in such a short period of time. If they miss the lead, I like to take them calmly back to the trot, then try again. It is important that they are "framed up" properly. It is difficult to get the lead if they are off balance. Many horses automatically get the correct lead if they are properly framed up. Eventually (5-15 rides, depending on the horse, his psychy and how many days between workouts) the horse can pick up his/her canter from the walk in just 2 or 3 strides. Also, retraining may take longer than initial training. It is more difficult to break a bad habit than consistantly build a good one.

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Last edited by ASBSrock on Sat Oct 13, 2007 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 10:12 am 
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:D I like your methods, ASBSrock. Whatever it takes to speak the language your horse responds to. I think a horse kind of adapts to its rider and they learn what works together.

My sister would kind of spook the colts she was training into running. She'd make all kinds of weird "whoo-whoo" growling sounds and kind of lurch forward in the saddle. I never liked riding the colts she trained, because they were so jumpy. We both trained colts for our dad, since he only wanted to ride a horse who "knew what it was doing and could go get some cattle work done". Her colts were really responsive, but seemed like they were waiting for her to scare them and they'd jump into action. My colts turned out pretty laid back and not quite as disciplined. We never rode the colt the other one was training, because horses were kind of a competition with me and my sister. We didn't agree on most methods, we rode very differently, and if we did ride one of the other's horses we would say how bad it was, or what we didn't like about it. We were just teenagers, but we still don't really see eye to eye on most things, even though we're thirty-ish now.

I always thought horses kind of take on the attitudes and personalities of the people who ride them. My brother was a goof-ball, and his horse was TOTALLY a goof-ball. We would go for rides bareback down the road on summer evenings after supper, all four of us younger kids on horses. My silly brother would back his horse up into ours, like bumper cars, just goofing around. His horse would also attack on command, when riding side by side, he would rein his gelding over toward the neck of our horse and say, "Get him, Gunner!" And his gelding would pin his ears back and bite at the neck or face of the horse we were riding! Yes, I know--a bad thing to teach a horse to do, but we were just goofy kids.

The horses my dad rode all developed long ground-eating trots. Dad trotted everywhere he went, and usually we had miles to cover. My legs would get SO sore from trotting! I'd hold my horse back, then lope up to catch up with dad. But he would just trot on. His horses were always sensible, liked to trot, didn't break into a lope very often.

We had a horse named Peppy that was about 14 hands tall and as many inches around his belly as he was tall...a short, fat, bay paint. When we had learned to ride on our more gentle geldings, Peppy was the next horse we moved up to. He was so smart about what you were saying...we would tease him, just singing "P-p-p-pony!" at him (like the song "K-K-K-Katie, beautiful Katie...") and he would lay his ears back and his eyes would get sad like one of those dogs with sad eyes. He was part Arabian, part Quarter Horse, and he had huge expressive eyes. We always said he had the heart of a race horse, but his body just wasn't up to it. He loved to run, but his short legs made him about as fast as most horses trotting. He was ornery (threw my sister off into a barbed wire fence) and we have a lot of memories of learning to ride him. He had the most personality of any horse I've ever known. When we got home from school, we would be walking from the car to the house, and could see him grazing up on the hill in his pasture. We'd say "P-p-p-PONY!" and he would whinny at us. We outgrew him of course, and Dad said he wasn't much good on the ranch (he rode him a few times for cattle work, because he said no one was riding him and he was just getting too fat--I still remember Peppy's sad eyes at having to carry Dad and his heavy saddle, he was all sweaty and panting, but he was proud that he could be "top horse" for a day!) and Dad finally sold him to a neighbor girl and I think he had a good life, but I often wonder where he is now.

Anyway, I got far off the topic, but thanks for posting!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 3:03 pm 
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DaisyKJ...I totally agree with you about horses sort of taking on the personality and/or traits of their rider/trainer etc :D. What about appearance? Do you suppose they start to take on that too?? :shock: .

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