Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Seemingly great groundwork, but problems with riding?

Hi Franklin

I've had my horse for a little over three years, and our groundwork is going great. He seems eager to do what I ask of him both online and at liberty. He is extremely responsive to my cues and is a definite pleaser. However, we run into problems while riding. The main problem is staying on the rail and counter bending/listening to my leg. He stays on the rail one direction, but he occasionally veers off going the other direction. When at the trot and walk, he usually bends how I ask but I'm having a lot of problems getting him to canter on the rail, and sometimes even canter at all. I've worked on circling him on the line for canter and he has gotten quite good at that. However, it takes a lot of leg to get him to go and keep going when riding. I can't seem to get him to stay on the rail when cantering (he counter bends and if I try to bend him the right way, the circle will get smaller and smaller or he will just go back to trot) and I feel like I'm using much more leg to get him to go then I should have to use. The other problem with riding is listening to his bit. Unless the weather is stormy or he is a little off, he listens to my seat quite nicely and will usually come to a quick stop out of either a walk or trot with just a tilt of my pelvis. However, he's pretty hard to the bit and while I can get him to be responsive to it in the arena, it worries me when we go out on trails and I feel as if I would have no way to stop him if he were to take off (which he does in the arena on occasion). These are the two main problems I've been having with riding and while many sources say that great riding comes out of great groundwork, there is such a difference between our groundwork and riding that I don't really know where I'm doing something wrong. The only times we ever have trouble with groundwork is during the winter because my horse seems to react strongly to barometric pressure or something (he has a ton of extra energy in the winter and becomes spooky and a little hard to handle).

Thank you, Kathryn

Hi Kathryn,

First let me compliment you are handling the horse a lot on the ground as well as riding your horse. So many equestrians do not do anything on the ground and only ride their horses and they wonder why they have so many problems. I want to suggest you try double long lines with your horse. Ground driving is actually much more effective than simple longeing as one can drive the horse in any direction easily. Moving the horse down a wall line or fence line is much easier with long lines than a single line. Ground driving should really help your situation. I recommend you do this as much as possible as it will also help how the horse handles and accepts the bit, how it carries it's head and more. It is a wonderful skill for the human and excellent for the horse.

Next is that a horse may be great doing things in hand, but with a rider it is very different. Much of the time this is because it is carrying the weight of the rider and the actual abilities of that rider that the animal is contending with. So, first I would definitely having the animals back, legs, teeth, feet and its whole body checked for any pain that may exist. If there is any discomfort this will cause resistance to all sorts of cues and good performance when being ridden. Additionally, saddle fit and the best bit for the horse are factors as well. I would also practice bending the horse quite a bit to make certain it is flexible and works easily and smoothly off of your legs and seat. Leg yields are very important too. Focus on this slowly and consistently. Consider not doing the same exact move for more than a few minutes before you change something. Also it is extremely important to recognize the animal's effort (trying) and immediately reward the effort with a total release of pressure.

You sound like you know what you are doing and that you seem to have had a lot of experience. Sometimes, this experience causes us to push a bit too hard with our horses. I do not know if this is the case at all. I just know I have worked with many fine riders who, because they are technically so good, they tend to feel they have enough experience to push their horse a bit harder than is good for the horse and things begin to fall apart somewhere when they are riding. This is just something to consider. Thing is, any problems are never the fault of the animal. It is always something we humans have missed, overlooked, not noticed, or are unaware of.

Please do keep me posted....thanks for your question and I hope I have offered some useful information. I am currently winding up two weeks teaching in the UK and go back to the warmth of Corfu, Greece tomorrow. I am moving my base to a new equestrian center on Corfu. Info will be on my website shortly. If you would like a Greek island vacation and are attracted to my brand of wisdom based, compassionate successful horsemanship, a Greek Island vacation with horsemanship might be to your liking. Let me know.

Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: