Where Do I Start? (Reschooling an older horse)
“I have an older horse, broken but never really schooled. Are there any books you can reccomend and any advice you can give me?”
The important part of the whole process is teaching him to understand your aids, getting him straight and keeping his attention on you at all times. Forget anything about head position and focus completely on insisting he goes forward in a straight line without having to work too hard yourself. Once you do that you’ll find everything just happens naturally.
There are blog posts on my site on all of these and booklets in the shop on them which gives you something more permanent to look back on. I’ll leave links to them further down. As far as text books go I’m afraid I don’t know of anything that looks at this but I will ask about online and see if anyone can suggest anything. (If anyone is reading this please let us know. We need books on how to reschool/bring on a green but broken older horse).
What you’re looking for is a horse that goes freely forward and stays relaxed in his back. If he does that his hocks can step under him and his back will round because your contact will stop his body getting too long. (Check out this post – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/12/10/get-your-horse-connected/ )
Balance comes from straightness and keeping both ends connected; if his quarters are behind his shoulders then the power he creates from his back end propels his front end forward in the right direction (hopefully!). Lots about straightness here – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2012/07/07/body-talk/
Early work can start out on a hack (http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2014/07/05/sort-it-out/ ) but wherever you ride never change the way you ride, the way you use your legs and hands or your expectations. It’s so important to be consistent so he has no excuse to do anything other than what you’re asking him to do.
As well as your aids it’s important your body stays the same. Try this one – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/10/29/pull-up-to-ride-forward/
He should walk forward from the slightest squeeze from your leg so get going with this post – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2010/12/28/be-a-lazy-rider/ .
Your contact is the most important thing because however much you use your legs if your hands are too stiff and your contact is too strong and ‘backward’ (http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/11/12/ride-forward-not-back/ ) he’ll never want to go forward to it. Make sure you never pull back on his mouth, simply tighten the pressure on both reins so the contact goes from soft and mobile to restrictive. That change in feeling will be enough to make him sit up and listen without tightening his back. http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2012/02/25/thumbs-up-or-down/
I write a lot about using your thigh and knee as a brake rather than your hands and it’s the best thing you can learn to do. There are more details about it here –
When you get in the school make sure you don’t go round and round in circles. You need him to stay focused on you. Do short, packed sessions with lots of shapes and transitions to keep you both busy. Don’t stay in trot for hours because horses just switch off and stiffen up in trot. Use canter as much as you would trot or walk and focus on your own body as much as you do his.
When things don’t feel great always get back to walk. Get him moving forward off your leg and into your contact. If you spend a whole session in walk it doesn’t matter, it always improves your trot and canter.
Good luck and enjoy yourself!
Some booklets you might find useful –