Sunday, February 15, 2009

The "big horse, big mover" issue

I know someone who has a lovely horse. Sixteen hands, buckskin, sweet and a lovely mover. However, prior to her ownership, he had two speeds:

1) stop
2) go fast

She has put some training into him, and he has done very well but the problem she is still having is that he just feels big underneath her. He launches into gaits with an enthusiasm that is scary to sit on and she's having trouble making herself relax and not instinctively tighten up on his mouth. Her dressage instructor loves him - but this is a woman who rides warmbloods all day!

My friend is far from a wimp or a beginner. She trail rides all over on a hot-tempered Arabian mare who would be difficult for the average person to get along with. She's shown on the national level. But her previous horses, like the Arabian, have had very collected gaits. Getting used to a huge stride is proving to be challenging and intimidating.

I think this is a pretty common problem! We've all ridden big horses that don't feel big because of how well they collect. I've been lucky with the VLC that he doesn't have a big stride and his transitions have always been quiet, if on the lazy side, so I quickly became comfortable on him. By the same token, I'm pretty sure that if I got on something his size that had the great big step or the super-springy trot (you know the one I mean - the one where you constantly have to remind yourself "post low, relax, absorb" because the gait is launching you skyward), I'd be a lot less comfortable too.

So who has got a horse like that and what guidance can you offer for adjusting and adapting?

An interesting offshoot - who has a horse right now that is totally different from what you "normally" own - i.e. you've always been a QH person and now you bought yourself an Icelandic, or you've had Arabians up til now but just purchased a 17 hand part-draft? I think this stuff can be particularly challenging for people who've pretty much always owned their own horses rather than gone through the "I'll ride anything" phase that so many of us experienced as horseless teenagers in large lesson/training barns.

And some updates - the breath-holding Thoroughbred has relaxed quite a bit. Apparently you can touch him on the "scary" side of his neck just fine as long as you are feeding him a cookie with the other hand. Uh-huh. Breath-holding TB below. Reg. name Extinguisher, foaled 2003, rescued from Enumclaw kill pen late 2008.

The Drama pony I've talked about before is going to her first schooling show two weekends from now, so it'll be exciting to see her progress. I turned her over to a more size-appropriate person for jumping and she has been doing fabulously.

The VLC is doing fine - holding up sound after his October stifle injury and continuing to be ridden and fitted up for training. You all know what a stickler I am for conditioning so there's no way he'll go out until I know he can work a very solid 20-25 minutes without strain. That shouldn't take more than another month though, so we're getting close.

I rode Thai's My Mama, the old broodmare, last weekend and she was great. 100% sound and bright and well-behaved and eager to work. I can't believe I finally rescued something sound. She's technically available for adoption, because I really shouldn't keep the sound ones, but I won't cry if she doesn't leave. Still, if you have a thing for old but rideable, personable red mares, feel free to contact me! She would be a gift contract to the right reference and site checked home. No special needs, but she's a wimp and would do best living with another wimp.

I believe Lucy may have a home...she "picked her person out"...after almost a year of turning up her nose at myself and pretty much everybody else who has tried to work with her, and continuing to be hard-to-catch, snorty and distrustful, she went right to the farm owner's adult son where she is boarded and decided he was her new person. She loves him and walks right up to him. Go figure. I am waiting 'til he gets a chance to ride her and make sure they get along before I am calling this a done deal, but things are looking very good for her. I would love it as she loves the "herd" there and fits in very well and it would mean she'd stay with her friends.

I rode Bessie again a few days ago. She had a bad case of scratches that put her out of commission for awhile but the hair is growing back and she's not painful anymore, so I just got on her for a little walk around. I hadn't yet introduced her to a bit when I rode her last summer, and I think she's gotten away with being difficult for bridling since then as she really did her best to evade me. They have a very nice Mylar "comfort snaffle" on her and she doesn't seem to mind it once it's on - she's just objecting to the process. So, that's one thing to work on. She's still the same old Bessie though - very quiet - always going to be the type not to get excited about anything that isn't an alfalfa flake!

The flooded mess around here has subsided and the arena is almost rideable again, so I will get back to work with Sly and am looking forward to that. I'm also going to put some rides, weather permitting, on my friend's rescued large POA pony, shown below. She got her from the Chehalis auction last fall - I believe she failed to receive a bid - and spent the next few months putting manners on the competely mannerless pony, who would literally run you over. The good news is that the issues were all on the ground. Once that was fixed, she turned out to be a lovely riding pony. She is a packer on the trails, has super comfy gaits, a good mouth and absolutely no riding vices. The only thing we need to do is finish her canter - she'll canter nicely on trails but is lazy about holding her gait in an arena situation. This is definitely a pony that could come out of rescue to have a very successful show career with a little more work, and it'll be fun to help with that. (Yes, I know, the mane is hideous and needs professional help!)

The rest of mine are just sitting and eating, their favorite things! I did decide I'm going to sell my two year old palomino Appendix gelding this year, but I'm wary of doing so because of the fear that someone will break him out immediately. I'm going to take some time to shine and slick him up and try to find a nice, like-minded, sporthorse type person for him later in the spring. You never know what someone will do once you sell, but I know I'm not the only person who doesn't believe in starting two year olds, so I'm hoping that the right person will come along. His potential is going to be as a jumper or eventer, and those are things I'm never going to do so I need to find someone who will be able to use and enjoy him.


June Evers said...


In response to riding something different than you expected..that would be me. I've always ridden TBs or some sort of school horses. After 40 years of riding, I bought a PMU in 2000. He is a Perch/QH/TB cross and his temperment is so laid back but yet he is incredibly sensitive to the aids but not in a rush-rush manner, just in a okay that twitch from the rider means trot.

Totally different than what I'm used to and I really like it.

Your reference to the big trot, sometimes I see very small riders, ones who should be on smaller horses really struggling with that big trot. NOw don't get me wrong, many shorter riders can handle those big trots well but a lot of smaller riders with shorter legs can not. I think it's okay to accept your frame/size and then go with a smaller horse. There's nothing wrong with a small horse. Everything these days is big, big, big and maybe you as a rider are meant for small. There's nothing wrong with that and I wish it was more accepted.

polocrosse21 said...

Wow every thing sounds so good with VLC. The POA is so pretty she looks like shes going to be a fun one.

I'm so surprised you had problems bridling Bessy she has all ways been really easy to bridle and tack up lol what am i saying shes easy horses all around. I miss her, she was doing so good before she went on break in training. I'm so exited to here more progress on her.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

June, that's a really good point. My friend is 5'3 and I do think it feels very different to ride a big mover at our height than it does when you're 5'10.

Kyra, maybe Bessie was just annoyed that it was time to go back to work. But she was quiet to ride and after 2 months' layoff, that's always a beautiful thing.

LizB said...

I am about 5'4" and owned/showed my 22yo 16hh TB mare for 19 years now - she is very even and flat-strided. I bred her (I know, I know) to a DWB and her son is now 13yo (and still somewhat green, but I still own both of them and always will) I am getting back into the saddle after being a mom to 2 kids, and am now riding her 17hh son - and he has so much suspension! I don't know what the answer is besides 1) practice 2) being in good shape and 2)making sure you feel secure in the saddle. My gelding's trot is so much bigger - I have that down pat now, and we're working on the canter. I do feel that just because he is so much bigger I have a little more fear, because any movement he makes is just so much bigger in every way! The other thing I have found is that the more fit I am, the easier it is to ride him. I had to get my legs back in shape in order to be able to slow my post down and have more "hang time" when I am in the 2point position. (I absolutely could not do that a few years ago when I was out of shape after delivering my 2nd child). I am taking lessons on a different "made" horse who is narrower (TB), and I also find that my gelding is SO much thicker around the barrel that it also takes a lot more muscle in my legs just to ride him. (I am jumping 2'6" courses on the other horse no trouble, but my leg muscles always are sore after just trotting on my gelding due to his barrel size and stride).

The saddle I am currently riding in (english) is a flat panel close contact, and I am getting ready to invest in a saddle with knee pads that makes me feel more secure - which is also apparently the "in" thing in the hunter world. My poor saddle is 10+ years old and my trainer kind of teased me about it the first time she saw it. :) One of these days I will find the right western saddle with short enough stirrups for me for pleasure riding - but it will have to wait until I am rich and famous :).

I accept that a more vertically challenged rider will have a bit more trouble at first - but if you look at a lot of the grand prix riders - Beezie Patton, etc., they are tiny on those big horses, so I think it's a matter of practice and experience more than anything.

mulerider said...

Now that brings back some memories.

I grew up mostly riding smallish, short-strided, prancy hotheads. The first semester I rode in college, the riding program was being run by an old-fashioned, regimented, militaristic-type guy. The instructor did a little experience survey on the first day of class then assigned you to a horse that he felt would suit you. You rode the same horse all semester and you always stayed in the same order while riding. I spent the whole semester riding a smallish, short-strided prancy hothead, staring enviously at the butt of a huge, calm, long-strided, big moving retired Thoroughbred racehorse whose rider seemed to just float along.

The next semester, we had all new instructors and a whole new system. I was so excited when the day came that I was assigned to ride that big beautiful Thoroughbred I'd been drooling over for a semester.

HOLY SHIT!!! I thought I was going to fall off! I couldn't post his trot, I couldn't sit his trot, I felt like I was flopping all over the place. Actually, I don't think I looked nearly as bad as I felt, but I felt totally out of control. The more out of control I felt, the more tense I got and the more I bounced.

After class, I went straight to the stall of the horse I had been unhappily riding all last semester and told him how sorry I was. :-)

The big trot made it obvious that I had never really learned how to relax my back properly. Riding small, short-strided horses all those years had allowed me to cheat because they had relatively little "ooomph" to their trot.

What helped was an instructor standing in the middle of the ring shouting, "Cooked spaghetti, cooked spaghetti" until I finally "got" it.

polocrosse21 said...

ya thats kind of Bessys nature laid back, lazzy and annoyed if her eating goes on hold to have to do any thing else period. Well Im glad shes doing good next time you get on her tell me how her backing is she was kind fat cow about it when we started i wounder how she will be with her being out of work.

horsesandturbos said...

Yeah! I have experience with this one...

My Appendix mare is very smooth smooth I practice balancing on her without reins at a trot/jog & canter.

My step-horse, the Dutch Warmblood, has big, action-filled trot & canter. Like Mulerider, I didn't realize I was not relaxing my back/hips because my mare was so smooth. My step-horse *makes* me post correctly, *makes* me relax my back and rock my hips at a canter - his is is truly like a rocking horse - one of those old spring-loaded ones some of us older people had as a kid, only with a lot more power! I haven't asked him to collect yet until I get better at riding him - I can't imagine what that will be like!

My lower back was sure sore when I first started riding my step-horse just from the workout I got!

What is weird is I ride them one after the other, so I have to mentally switch gears. I am getting used to it...actually I am having a blast with it!


fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>I am about 5'4" and owned/showed my 22yo 16hh TB mare for 19 years now - she is very even and flat-strided. I bred her (I know, I know) to a DWB<<

You had a TB mare with a lot of show experience that you bred to a Dutch Warmblood? You don't have to apologize for that!

"I know, I know" would be appropriate in explaining the logic behind thinking your Friesian/Morab cross (just saw THAT on Craigslist) was a good idea at the time. I dubbed it a Moronesian. ;-)

By the way, really good input friend has a physical job and is often very sore-backed so I will bet that is affecting her ability to feel comfortable on this horse. And I'll bet that answer hadn't even occurred to her.

Lolas said...

Personally, I love big horses. My current project is a 17.2HH warmblood and just a dream to ride when he's actually behaving. The biggest thing getting used to with him was his `hang time' in his trot. I felt like a rank beginner when we were first starting out. I guess you could consider him a big mover.

A few years ago, I got a rather tall Tennessee Walking gelding to school for a friend and that was a huge adjustment for me. The difference in riding a gaited horse was extreme from what I'm used to and it took me several minutes to figure out he wasn't doing something weird underneath me or about to attempt to unload me, but just doing his thing. He was a total blast to work with and maybe when I'm old and just want to trail ride, I'll consider getting one for myself.

Shadow Rider said...

I have large horses, 16h TWH and 18h Clyde. I don't have trouble with bigger stride, but I do find it hard to ride a 14 h pony. The shorter stride bounces me right off the horse! I'm just used to as bigger stride, whether it's a trot or a gait.

I am only 5'4", and have welsh pony legs, so can't get my leg really down far, but I do work out, doing lots of Yoga-type exercises. I think it helps a lot. improves your balance, tones your muscle, and increases your relaxation and flexibility.

I bet if your friend did 1/2 hour of yoga every day, her problems would vanish.

ellen said...

With my lesson riders, I think the operative word in learning to ride bigger gaits (and my blessed little lesson horse is a big mover) is ALLOW. It is tempting to try to clamp down and fight bigger gaits and ride with "grip" rather than balance. Your muscles will never be strong enough to overcome the horse's muscles, so the only way to stay with him is to follow.

I have my riders stretch their legs down, relax their hips and lower backs, and engage their abs to keep them in the saddle. All the balance comes from the obliques and deeper core muscles. Keeping the rider's shoulders back and upper arms perpendicular to the ground recycles the energy of the horse's front end back into the seat, and deepens the rider's seat. Riders want to hunch forward and grab mouth when the horse is moving too big and scaring them, but that just sets up a chain of disaster.

Longe or even lead line time helps a lot since part of the panic comes in feeling that the horse is out of control -- the horse may be as relaxed as a dog in the sun, but because he moves big it's harder to feel like you're in control.

Tensing up in transitions usually results in the rider being left behind and then clamping to try to catch up -- it's better to visuallize the big strikeoff and be prepared to just go with it.

Truth to tell you WANT the big round bouncy gaits because that means the horse is using himself -- instead of hollowing out and dragging his hindquarters.

The scariest thing I ever saw was a very timid and unbalanced rider trying to keep a giant and big-moving WB gelding cranked back into a doggy gait -- rather than making it easier to ride him she was greatly increasing the odds of being hung from the rafters.

Amen to June, too about riders being WAY overmounted -- for some reason in some disciplines people have decided one must have a brontosaurus to be competitive - which leads to some pretty ridiculous and doomed-to-failure pairings of horse and rider.

ridewithjoy said...

I have only ridden my big pony laid back usually lazy mustang since 2000-( and very little riding before that since my insane ride anything teenage years) now I have a 3 yearold 1/2 Arabian filly a year away from riding who is leggy and has a huge trot. I have started taking lessons on a tall appendix QH who has a simular style to get ready. HOLY COW did those dramatic bounds into gait transitions take some getting used to. Fred is a total gentleman and when I froze up he just stopped OK now what? When lazy Joy makes an energetic move like that something really bad ( spook /spin)is about to happen. ps LOVE the POA

pines4equines said...

Ellen said: "Amen to June, too about riders being WAY overmounted -- for some reason in some disciplines people have decided one must have a brontosaurus to be competitive - which leads to some pretty ridiculous and doomed-to-failure pairings of horse and rider."

Yeah, and think of all the dough they'd save buying a horse under 16. The price seems to drop dramatically!

Miss A said...

Thank you for this post, I've picked up a few tips in the comments that will be helpful. I've ridden ponies off and on my whole life (I'm 5'3) and starting taking lessons about 4 months ago on full size horses, and those all feel big strided when you're used to ponies. Ack! I feel like a sack of potatoes up there, particularly at the transitions, and I feel like I'm never going to be able to post the trot or maintain correct position at the canter. I freeze up and pinch with my knees which just compounds the problem. I'm hoping someone will tell me it gets better with time..?

Kathryn said...

I think ellen's comment is spot on--riding bigger gaits is mostly just learning to allow the horse to move on without interfering with the motion. Granted, I've been riding bigger sport horse types (with some exceptions) but a handful of years now, but my new, 4 yo hano has big gaits with suspension--gotta love the hang time!! Anyway, for me the combo of hopping on a very green broke (3 mo u/s) big ol' baby WB was pretty intimidating, and the first couple times I asked her to canter I wanted to make her slower with a shorter step, to "control" her better. After a couple rides the light bulb went on and I realized 1) that I wasn't doing either of us any favors, and 2) that she is a saint for putting up with me!! Since that moment I focus on relaxing and moving with her, and again, like ellen said--relaxing through the lower back and hips while holding with the abs, and getting good, round turns, and we are both much happier :-) Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow!

Kathryn said...

One more thing: I think a big part of being comfortable with larger gaits, like so much with riding, is trust! Once I started to trust my horse to behave, it got so much easier. Now I really enjoy her big gaits and feel like I move too slow on smaller gaited horses.

mugwump said...

I'm no help. I stay in my safety zone for the most part.
Once I had a big drafty paint to ride. He was well over 16 hh and broad, broad, broad. He was placid and laid back unless he felt like moving out. Then he really would go.
You couldn't turn him, move a hip, nuttin', if he felt like going and his stride was huge.
So I got on bareback, rode in a sturdy, smallish arena and just let him go.
I slid around a little, but I held on to his mane and got centered and was OK.
Once I got use to his lumbering self I was able to find my seat.
Once I found my seat I was able to work on some cues to steer the beastie.
Then I was able to figure him out. But it took just sitting, hanging on and sweating it out until I found my seat before I got anywhere.

Jesse said...

I have the opposite problem. :P My mare is 17+ hands and quite springy when I get her going. She's a blast to ride, and at 5'11" my feet don't dangle below her belly.

I spent some time riding my friend's 14.1 pony, to explain things like, uh bucking with an 8-year-old rider is not cool. While he doesn't move anywhere near as big as my mare, he has nice gaits for a hunter pony. To me though, he feels like trying to ride a pop-corn popper.

Juli said...

My first horse is a 14.1 hand Paso Fino, complete with full paso gait. He's hot as hell, reactive, full of go, go, go, and never met a faster speed he didn't like. He hates going slow, and has always been a bugger to ride in a slow group.

The 3 year old I'm starting is a Paso/Arab cross. I expected him to be quite similar to the full Paso in temperment, however I couldn't be more wrong. First of all, he trots. I'm learning how to post again. Ugh... He's laid back, lazy, easy going, and couldn't give a flip about anything. I have to carry a crop to keep him moving without nagging with my legs. He's also very sensitive to correction, and tries super hard to please.

Not only do I have to work to learn how to trot again, constantly reminding myself to relax my back, drop my heels, and not tense my legs, but I have to change my mindset completely. I've always ridden my first horse defensivly, looking out for things that were going to cause him issues. I don't have to do that with the baby. Honestly, it's relaxing and I am really enjoying the relaxing ride.

Allison said...

I think you are using the term "collect" a little to liberally. I am thinking what you are referring to is when the horse is "on the bit" or "going round".

Real collection takes years to develop in the horse and rider and can actually make the horse and his stride feel much bigger because his weight has shifted to his hind end to provide impulsion. Collection cannot be acheived without impulsion from the hind end.

Just because the horse is tracking up behind and is rounding his back does not mean he is collected at all. Some horses naturally travel very round (think warmblood) and some horses travel "strung out" (think thoroughbred) and are much more difficult to bring round and soft. It is of my personal opinion that is the reason TB's lost in popularity to WB's in the dressage arena.

There was a video posted a while back with an ill-educated person ranting that the rider was "forcing" the horse into collection (which any experienced dressage rider would laugh at), which was hysterically untrue because you can't "force" collection. It literally takes years to develop and major conditioning on the horse and riders part.

Sorry for the rant, but I am sick to death of everyone calling a horse going on the bit as being "collected".

savinem said...

I also made the move from my comfort zone when I purchased my first gaited horse 3 years ago. I had always show nice, quiet, slow, collected, always arena ridden, quarter horses. After a short hiatus from the show world to raise my boys and start a business, I realized I no longer had the time or funds to continue to show. to find something totally different in an attempt to keep me from even trying to return to something I could no longer afford...showing. I had ridden a friends TWH and thought it would be something entirely different, and boy was I right!

It has took me about 2 years to get used to her exhuberance and fast moving, alert personality. When I first got her she was so herd bound and spooky I didn't think we'd ever survive each other. And trails??? What the heck was I thinking? I was an arena rider!

Well, after nearly three years and a lot of perserverance, she is now a well trained, responsive, quiet and non herd bound mare, and a gorgeous mover, who I can take nearly anywhere without a challenge. She still travels with an alert expression and forward movement, which can make you wonder what monster she's looking for and when she'll explode; but she never does, and I've come to learn that's just her.

I think a trip out of my comfort zone has made me a better rider. I'm also thankful for the lack of funds to replace her and go back to my old ways because she's now take top spot in my heart and list of favorite horses ever.

Karen V said...

BOY! I've got all kinds here.

Angel - pogo stick - the only time she's smooth is when you're standing besider her

Jazzy - Big and long - like riding a cloud she's so smooth

Dobbs - Carosel (sp) horse - big stride, rolling from behind.

Squirrel - typical cow horse - nice, smooth, level, even

What I find the easiest thing to do to "get with" any of the horses, is to spend time walking before trotting, and more time trotting before loping. I'm talking days or weeks. I owned Dobbs for two months before I ever trotted him. Another month after that before I ever loped him. I wanted to be completely comfortable with him at all speeds before I moved on.

The only one that doesn't intimidate me, believe it or not, is the broncy, green-broke, Music Mount-bred, unpredictable Jazzy. Go figure!

Serendipity said...

Oh gods, I'm going through that right now. I own a BS paint and ride my friends' POAs, and last spring my trainer decided that, in order to increase my versatility, I was going to start riding her retired medal horse.

Think of what I'm used to, then think of a tank who doesn't know how to save his rider because he's never needed to. He's only about 16H, 2", but his neck is twice as thick as my horse's. He drives from behind even when he's strung out, and his stride goes on forever. Alex is also a completely finished horse that knows his job, and gets really pissed off if his rider screws him up or doesn't know what they're doing. I fidget when I get nervous, and this drives him absolutely crazy. Which is why he is exactly what I need to learn on.

The best advice I can give your friend is to ride only him for as long and often as possible, with someone on the ground shouting orders to distract her. I've found that as my strength increased, my thorough-boat's huge steps and transitions were easier to sit. Focusing on instructions made me stop worrying about how I was going to stay on, and I found I was moving with him instinctively. I needed to stop thinking so much and just ride. Alex is a much more intimidating horse than my redhead, but I really feel that he has helped me improve as I've adapted to him.

I'm so glad Lucy seems to have found her person.

Are you referring to the BGY when you say you're selling your appendix?

smottical said...

I can't say I've had just one type of horse - I started out with a green 4-year old Morgan, then started a Thoroughbred, and now I have a solid-bred paint. However, I definitely feel out of place dealing with my latest project. She's looking more like a western horse by the day, and I feel like a complete doofus in a western saddle. I've always done dressage, but this little horse is not going to be well-suited for it.

doublekarabians said...

I have this in reverse. I/m 5'6" with longish legs. I have a older 15.2h half arab gelding, Leeroy, that has been a dream. Hes got arthritis so started riding my 4yr old PB arab gelding whom is 14.2 on a good day. Hes much lighter, reactive than Leeroy and I have found it almost impossible to post to his trot.. He "teleports" so quick that I am finding him hard to ride. I recently rescued a 15.2hh coming 3 yr old half arab half saddlebred filly. shes built almost identical to Leeroy so am hoping she will ride the same. In the mean time me and the boy will see if we can mmesh anybetter together. Anybody lookin for a kick butt arab reiner?? :-)

Katherine said...

The first time that I rode my TB Hank at a trot, I thought that I was going to be launched over his ears. He is quite a small horse. Only 15.3 1/2HH. But he is a big mover. My advice is to not get stressed, as that stiffens your body, and makes it harder to stay softly in the saddle. Don't grit your teeeth, as that also stiffens your spine and you will bounce out of the saddle. Don't be ashamed to hang onto to the saddle, the horse's mane or a neck strap. Assure yourself that you will be fine, and that this is a temporary problem. This approach worked for me.

deanna may said...

A lot of people have mentioned relaxing your back and hips as well as allowing the horse to move forward and focusing on just following him, but I have a couple tips that can enable you to do these things (as just thinking, "relax, relax, relax!" is usually not successful in ACTUALLY relaxing. Haha, if only!).

My gelding is an enormous monster of a horse with a huge stride. Some people who have ridden him tell me it feels like he's going really fast when from the ground it just looks like a regular working trot. There are two ways I've found help me when trying to sit this kind of trot:

1. Focus on your rhythm. A lot of the time, when a horse with a huge stride loses his rhythm, the trot feels like garbage and is barely rideable because you wind up feeling like a sack of potatoes up there. So focus on counting "one two one two one two" in your head or even out loud. This takes your focus off the SIZE of the stride and onto the groove that you're going to need to get into in order to ride that trot.

2. A dressage instructor once told me to visualize scooping up the hind end with your hips. So when he steps underneath himself with his right hind, imagine your right hip scooping up that motion. By focusing on this, your hips will naturally become less rigid, and it follows that your back will soften as well. Rather than thinking "soften your back!" think about scooping those hind legs with your corresponding hip.

I've found that the combination of counting a rhythm and visualizing the hip-scooping thing is REALLY helpful in comfortably and confidently riding a horse whose trot is way bigger than anything you're used to.

deanna may said...

Oh, PS: that breath-holding TB is totally gorgeous!

Polo Wraps and Louboutins said...


Morabs cross beautifully with Friesians. I bought my mare from the people who own that Morab/Friesian cross (I am assuming it's Sisco from Marysville/Stanwood)and she has an AWESOME mind. And her conformation is alot prettier than the VLC. I have gotten many compliments on her from dressage trainers and dutch friesian breeders. You shouldn't talk down about all crosses. They aren't all trainwrecks. Just sayin'.

sarcastabitch said...

Polo wraps, not all crosses are trainwrecks, that's true, but I'm not sure I'd go out promoting Morab/Friesian crosses. I'm sure that a few work very well, and I can think of a few Morabs that would cross hideously on most Friesians.

I think people will always have more luck (by luck I mean consistent, predictable results) crossing purebreds with strong pedigrees.

Polo Wraps and Louboutins said...


Polo wraps, not all crosses are trainwrecks, that's true, but I'm not sure I'd go out promoting Morab/Friesian crosses. I'm sure that a few work very well, and I can think of a few Morabs that would cross hideously on most Friesians.

I think people will always have more luck (by luck I mean consistent, predictable results) crossing purebreds with strong pedigrees

You're right. There is the right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. My horse was the result of a BYB operation, and by luck, she turned out fantastic. I would never promote the cross, but it's just not moronic. I hear that 3/4 Friesians and 1/4 Arabs are tearing up the dressage ring in Europe. Last comment kind of irrelevent, but thought I'd throw it in there!

Viva_Lolita said...

Marching band fundamentals were the gateway to mastering my Perch/App gelding's powerful trot. To hold your body in perfect, relaxed posture while your legs and hips are doing bizarre things- like marching 6 steps to 5 yards at a 90* angle to your torso at 120 beats per minute playing a 16th note riff creates a nice spinal/pelvic disconnect exercise. Not to mention gaining a great sense of rhythm & tempo.

Jess said...

Viva, sounds like you were a back field woodwinds player...or a really unfortunate tuba player. ;) That's how I learned my disconnect too, and how to keep breathing! Jazz running while worrying about getting wrecked by the colorguard and maintaining tempo is great practice! *grin*

Heaven Roberts said...

I've always rode Arabians and Arab-crosses. I ride bareback whenever I can (yes, even downhill ;) ) and have always told people "bareback, the worst that can happen is you'll just fall off- never get dragged or impale yourself on a saddle horn again!). But, a secret part of me always wanted a nice gentle QH with that stocky, wide build.

In comes Mia. She's got a long story, but the big deal right now is she's so wide! Compared to what I'm used to riding, she has no withers and I feel like I'm straddled on a barrel. I've got "Thompson thighs" as my family calls them so that makes staying on her even more difficult. Needless to say, I've started really loving my saddle!

I'm also not used to the intensity. I guess I got so used to riding horses that were afraid of everything I'm not used to a horse that gets caught on watching one particular bird and then gets the crap scared out of her when she realizes that omg! there are other birds!

Any advice is gladly appreciated ;)

athy said...

Purchased a 16.5hh Appaloosa this past fall. Why so big? Deep South & Sir Plaudit blood, close, top and bottom. And he has what they call the 'Indian Shuffle' which means he takes one step for every two of the average horse his size. Suspension galore.

His past owner was a 15 yr old barrel racer/pole bender. Yea. 'Stop 'n Go Go Go!'. And he had a sore spot toward the back of his spine, so no saddle.

So we went bareback. First in the round ring - then the arena.
The bareback exercises turned out to be very good for both of us. It gave me a chance to really get a good feel for his movement, to loosen my hips and roll with the flow.

You can hold yourself stiff with a saddle on. Saddles emphasize the movement to the rider. Bareback you have to relax, get your ass settled down in there - and stay loose.

I didn't even let him lope for weeks- sometimes I would get on him and just make him stand there for a while and then get off - lol.

Now he knows what a 'loose rein' means. But he is still hot enough to keep things fun.

We are having a wonderful time- and I still go bareback even though he now has a fitted Aussie saddle that clears his tender spot.

But I really encourage anyone with a new 'size' horse to go bareback for a while - it will give you a really good feel for it. Just be safe and smart about it.

PennysGirl said...


16.5? Surely he can't be that height?

Redsmom said...

Hey marching band girls! Trumpet player, hereThanks for making me remember I'm not completely uncoordinated if I could march and play the trumpet at the same time!

My trouble is not sitting the trot (my schoolie is smooth!), but I can't sit his fast canter. I have a certain speed I can stay in the saddle for the canter/lope, and then I go up into "2-point" because I can't sit it that fast. I've GOT to be sitting down when I go around barrels (which I've just started! at age 48) EEK! I need to get out my exercise tapes and get my tight back loosened up.

Redsmom said...

P.S. you guys make me laugh saying 15.3 is small. I'm 5'7" and my 15.3 boy is tall enough for me! Its a LONG enough way down from there!

FD said...

If it's possible, I'd recommend someone she trusts lunges him while she rides. Not having to worry about controlling direction and tempo and speed will help her relax and breathe, and makes it easier for her to focus on seat, and seat only.

I would also suggest exercises to improve core strength, and lower back flexibility - being able to stay with your horse is as much abdominal strength as it is back / leg muscle. I would also expect that her hip flexors will need work.
As a short person who rides big horses myself, it's an area that I constantly have to work on, because it's just not as easy for a short legged person to hold themselves in the correct (stable) position on a big framed horse.

Annoying, but true.

athy said...

Yep Pennys - that high.
The Deep South line of racing Appy's drops right into thoroughbred lines pretty close. On his dam's side it does the same past his Sir Plaudit grandsire.
But he is built like a tank.

That post sticking up behind his withers there is 6.5 foot high.
See his face marking? That's a dreamcatcher. I just love my big boy.

may said...

Y'know, I was already to leave the safe, comfortable, familiar world of Arabians and buy myself a 17.2hh WB jumper... but then I found myself another little Arabian mare who was just perfect for me. She's 15.2hh and grey, exactly like every single horse I have ever owned. Dangit!

I tried to get out of my rut, but I just couldn't do it. Next time, I promise myself I will get a real jumper!

MyhorsewearsPrada said...

The horse I am currently riding (Ransom)is a rescue saddlebred who moves all wrong for saddlebreds. He is 16.2 and has a lovely long stride. I coming from the 1960/1970 3 day world love that motion. We get along so well that Ransom and I typically clean up in the classes we enter _where the judges are looking at how good a team we are_ Don't look just at my riding or his action. the few times I have tried riding a "typical" saddlebred with "typical" saddlebred action (short and high) I thought I was going to fall off. I was being bounced all over. I had an awful time getting my posting to match the horses stride.
I'm 6 feet tall and rarely ride anything smaller than 16 hands.

Mara said...

I always found that really spectacular movers (HUS classes) weren't always so comfortable to ride. I rode a Thoroughbred filly who ALWAYS took the blues in the under saddle classes. Absolutely beautiful girl - the only thing that held her back was that she wasn't so pretty jumping anything over 2'9". Up to that height, she was lovely, with high, tucked knees and a nice rounded back, very neat behind.
But damn, I preferred to sit the trot on the 17-hand TB gelding with not-quite-so-pretty action. You could've written a dissertation while sitting his trot, he was that smooth. But he was never even entered in under-saddle classes unless he'd pinned well over fences and had a chance for champion or reserve.
Is it just me, or have others found the same thing, that good mover does not equal comfy ride?

LizGoldsmith, EquineInk said...

When I bought my Trakehner my previous horse had been a QH. I went from a smaller, short-strided horse to a big horse with huge gaits and lots of suspension.

Only cure: lunge lessons and lots of them. No stirrup, no reins, exercises and learning how to relax into his gaits!

Now, after owning a warmblood for 12 years I have a very hot OTTB. While I thought of my Trakehener sort of as a Hummer, my TB is definitely a Ferrari. He's got a huge hind end, accelerates from 0-35 in record time, and is very light on his feet and handy. He's fun to ride but completely different!

PennysGirl said...


6.5 at the withers doesn't make a horse 16.5 hands. I was referring to the fact that a horse cannot actually be 16.5 hands as a 16.5 hand horse would be 17.1. . . If your horse is 6 foot 5 inches at the withers. . That makes him over 19 hands. . .Which I also somehow doubt. Am I insane?

athy said...

I didn't say he was 6.5. The POST behind him in the picture is. It's a few feet behind him - but you can get a pretty good guesstimate from it on his size.
He's a tank, for an Appaloosa. Thankfully he is well put together so he doesn't look oddball.

PennysGirl said...

I think you are misunderstanding me. In your first post you wrote that you had a 16.5 hand horse. There is no such measurement.

Go here:

to understand how a horses height it calculated.

and even if that post is six foot five, there is no way that horse is 19 hands which is what he would be if he is just under 6 foot five at the withers.

Jessie said...

FHOTD: Do you know the bloodlines of the breath-holding TB? (I looked him up on Pedigreequery and he wasn't there.) I only ask because he looks JUST like my guy.

athy said...


Ok this is what I said.



The post behind him is 6.5 FEET high and it is BEHIND him by a few feet - as you can see in the picture. It is just an image reference as to his height.

I believe he is a Moosaloosa because of the TB blood being so close. His sire was a racing App- Deep South -grandsire Luminary (tb) and great grandsire Fair Trial - of the Fairway, Phalaris line.
Deep South sired a lot of babies- being a Hall of Champions sire, so we will probably be seeing some bigger app's on the west coast for a while.

And yes I have known what a 'hand' is since I was eight and tossed onto my first quarterpony.
That was almost 40 years ago so I think I have a handle on it, but I appreciate the nice link.