“I have a fantastic horse perfect in many ways apart from she goes behind the vertical at any opportunity! We lose marks in dressage for this evasion. Even when I push her forward try to maintain the contact she gets so stressy and does it even more or gets her tongue over the bit! I have tried lots of different bits and a variety of trainers. I know it is a sign of not working behind properly but I cant work through this!
I would be very glad of some advice? Carol”
“This is one of the most difficult problems to improve especially if it has been ongoing for some time. You do not say how old she is, or at what level she is working? I wonder if she had this problem when you bought her or may be you broke her in? Perhaps she stated her training in running reins?
The first thing I would suggest is to check inside her mouth. A horse dentist should look at her teeth for rough edges or any unusual or unsound teeth. Also check the mouth for splits and the cheeks for ulcers and sores. Some horses need their teeth checking every 3 months, depending on how quickly the teeth grow and the shape of the mouth. It is also important to know that there are no wolf teeth growing or that one has been removed but a root or chip has been left behind causing pain.
The next thing to ask is have you been advised by a bitting specialist as to the right shape of bit to suit her tongue? She may have a big fleshy tongue set in a little jaw space causing a lot of pressure on the tongue making it uncomfortable so she draws it back.
Having ascertained that there is no pain in the mouth, it can be presumed that your mare is very sensitive and is generally finding the contact unfriendly and unacceptable. I would suggest that the training has to go back to basics and teach her to stretch down with a longer neck taking your hand forwards. The feeling she must have is a light elastic sensation on her mouth with no ‘restriction’ or ‘holding’. No amount of pushing her through from behind will make any difference until she has the confidence to accept your hand.
Don’t forget that in the scales of training, the rhythm, suppleness and contact must be established before adding impulsion into the equation.
Whilst stretching the horse down in trot, it is as well to start bending exercises to loosen the neck and make the back more supple. You cannot bend the horse without a contact but the contact must be very soft and allowing. Don’t bend with the neck short as this will cause discomfort and stress.
Again, I have to say you have a difficult problem, but well worth sorting if your mare is perfect in other ways.
I hope the above suggestions are a help, but it would be more beneficial if I could see you working your mare, so get in touch if you feel this is an acceptable option.