Taking a Different Path to Rome

After Barbara watched me try to canter off we had a talk.  We both know why PJ has trouble picking up the canter: because he’s not pushing from behind, so he’s not reaching over his back and he’s on his forehand, so he has to throw himself into the canter.  She thought the best thing to do would be to put him in triangle reins.  These are reins that connect from the bottom of the girth, through the bit and then back to the girth under the saddle flap.  The point is to keep his head down (and out), but they’re not very tight – no Rolkur here!  It’s just a way for PJ to figure out how to keep his own back round.

She put me on the lunge with PJ in the triangle reins.  We were hoping I could ask for the canter depart that way, but he seemed unsure of the reins, so I got off and Barbara just lunged him.  I watched, and it was very obvious that he was starting to get it.  He changed his neck angle and head height until he felt comfortable – that’s the beauty of these reins – he can adjust himself but up and down and out and in.

We are going to try this before I ride for a couple of lessons.  PJ picks things up pretty quickly, so it shouldn’t take long.  Just a slightly different approach but still holding true to the classic principles of dressage.

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3 Responses to Taking a Different Path to Rome

  1. Dom says:

    I’m going to leave this comment after much debate. I hope it doesn’t lead to any hard feelings because that is NOT my intent. I respect you as a horse person and I respect your trainer. You have done a lot with PJ and I obviously don’t know the horse and am not an expert on what is best for him. Please take this comment with a grain of salt because my intentions are good.

    In my experience, those reins do more harm than good in the long run. They do work wonders for some horses, and perhaps PJ is one of them, but they need to be used VERY carefully and no more than three or four times total. They are a training AID, not a CRUTCH.

    Because these reins are an object, they cannot feel when the horse releases correctly, and therefore will not reward him when he does. Sure, they may immediately change his head set, but pushing from behind doesn’t come from his head set, and if he doesn’t get a release when he ACTUALLY pushes from behind, he’ll just learn to hang on the bit and he’ll be hard to stop. You’ll have a horse who is heavy on the forehand, more unbalanced than when he started, and who will have learned a false frame that he can use to evade actual contact.

    It’s very tempting to use these reins because they make your job ‘easier’ for a while and the results are, if nothing else, very visible. Please keep in mind that YOU should be doing the work if you want the results to last. Those reins are illegal in the show ring. What do you plan to do when your nifty gadget CAN’T be used? Horses are supple creatures who learn from the release of pressure. They are more than capable of running around with their necks arched and their hind ends still strung out and not engaged.

    I guess the reason I’m being SO vocal about this is that I just got a client horse who was ridden in a similar set up. He’s only been in it for two weeks and his training is already coming undone. When I showed the owner just how the reins had caused his most recent issues, she was appalled. I showed her how to teach her horse to use himself correctly (a few strides at a time until he builds the right muscles) and she was AMAZED at the results. By the end of the ride, he was carrying HIMSELF in the frame and his canter quality had increased significantly.

    Again– it is 100% your business what you do with your horse and I can totally understand why you would find these reins appealing. I just want you to be very careful and keep in mind that they may not be the magic fix they seem to be on the first try. I am not trying to lecture. Just share my opinion.

    • tryingtoride says:

      Dom,
      I’m glad you commented. I was a little bit…casual in my description of what we are doing. I agree completely with everything you wrote, and I wouldn’t have even considered these reins if I was the one doing the lunging. I don’t even like lunging in side reins b/c it’s so easy to do it wrong. I think, though, in this case these reins may be the way to go. I’ll keep everyone posted.

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