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Discussion on Retraining former Park Morgan

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Adria Weatherbee
Member
Username: adriaa

Post Number: 98
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Thursday, Nov 6, 2008 - 11:15 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi all, after just reading the post about the stifle issue on the Saddlebred and someone saying that retraining a saddle seat horse is a major challenge.

Monty, the companion I got for Rosie is a really nice horse, she is a Park Morgan but has really been a broodmare (she's 19) now retired from the baby thing.

She's nice to ride, bombproof, but as I tell people, hard to ride. She won't tolerate any forward seat at all, you must be back, almost exaggerated, I'm using a Dressage saddle.

She's quite fired up under saddle, not running or dangerous, she just snorts and gets prancy (which I hear saddle seat horses should be). Sitting trot is fine, but posting trot she gets really confused, and starts to weave and think about cantering, which by the way is the softest canter I've ever ridden. She has the high action in trot but also paddles a bit. Also when I cantered her last she kept switching leads behind, my riding I'm sure, I wasn't balanced enough.

She's so sensitive, she's extremely well trained under saddle, she stops perfectly, But, she also weaves, it's hard to keep her in a straight line at the walk, or trot sometimes. I don't know enough about saddle seat training (thats nothing). Which aids are used. Why is she weavy? On tiny bit on a rein and she's gone that direction, really hard to straighten her out. Legs don't seemto work.

So, I really like her in general and want to get her back in training, she is pleasant to ride. I don't believe she was trained much when being a brood mare and probably had a show career previously.

Any tips on guiding her into a new career?

Thanks

Adria
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Sharon
Member
Username: shanson

Post Number: 137
Registered: 5-2004
Posted on Friday, Nov 7, 2008 - 11:25 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Do you have access to a good instructor/trainer who can assess her training/fitness level and advise you on best way to bring her along?
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Adria Weatherbee
Member
Username: adriaa

Post Number: 99
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 - 10:33 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Sorry, been so busy. I am getting a new trainer,my old trainer was great, but since hello my horses are at home her schedule doesn't work to come here, so I have found someone highly recommended that has a serious background in dressage (maybe I'll get somewhere!).

Maybe she knows a bit about Park seat. I do understand that are really trained differently, they haven't been trained to reach into the bit and don't know about relaxing, this I can tell, the moment you are on her she gets tight, head up, seems to be a false collection since she really isn't engaged from behind, and she doesn't seem to know how to bend...

Does anyone know how they are trained, the aids used, that might help me understand her ways.

Thanks

Adria
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Shannon Steketee
Member
Username: stek

Post Number: 17
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 - 11:47 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi Adria,

Hope things work out well with your new trainer. While I can't offer any info about how park horses are trained, any time I radically change disciplines with a horse (such as turning an OTTB into a riding horse) or even work with a horse whose history I don't know, I start them back at square one like I would with a totally green colt.

They will of course progress up through the levels much more quickly than a green horse but the process usually uncovers holes in their training or ways that I communicate that they don't understand (i.e. teaching them to respond to my aids). If you can break the training down into smaller pieces it's easier for them to learn what you're asking and things will go a lot more smoothly.

From what you describe above it sounds like your mare needs lots of work going long and low which you can begin with a surcingle and side reins. If she is used to going high headed she will need to develop her back muscles quite a bit before she can comfortably carry you in this new frame.

Best of luck with your new partner!
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Jo Ann Widner
Member
Username: jowidner

Post Number: 275
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 - 6:05 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hi Adria,

I have been away from the Morgan show world for many, many years (make that about twenty-five) but many of the Park horses back then were trained by Saddlebred trainers using the same methods that they used on the three-gaited horses.

They went as you have described, high headed and hollow backed rather than rounded. They were guided almost exclusively from the bit, and as soon as the rider was up they would go from standing quietly to full show gear - head high, back hollow, and BIG trots. They were shown in full bridles and cut back saddles.

When one of my parent's horses came home from the show circuit I tried putting on my dressage saddle and eggbutt snaffle to see if he would like dressage. He responded just like your mare. He didn't get the concept of relaxing and lowering his head or of having any other way of going other than park style. I only got to ride him a few times before he went back to the show barn so I don't know how he would have progressed with training for another career.

I worked with some other horses who had been shown in English Pleasure, which was a lot like Park but not as extreme. We took them out of their full bridles and worked on getting relaxation and lowering of the head, as well as learning to accept leg contact and aids. Both of these horses eventually made the transition to new careers. One became a pony club mount and the other a nice trail and hunter pleasure horse.

If I were to do it again I think that I would try using methods borrowed from natural horsemanship as well as basic dressage. I'd even try restarting with a halter and ground work.

If your mare is safe out on the trail, that may help her to relax. Trail riding helped our two mares a lot. We'd ride them in a big field (I'd only do this if you know your horse is okay and under control out in the open) riding basic circles and changes of rein, transitions, and then walking on a long rein, poping over small logs at the trot, back to the walk on loose rein, etc...

I think that Morgans are terrific little horses. The ones I worked with were very smart and very forgiving, had loads of personality, and were very clever with their feet. I never worried about them putting a foot wrong and they always took good care of me.

Good luck with your horse. Be patient in your re-training and I'm sure she will reward that patience with some wonderful rides.
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Angie J.
Member
Username: ajudson1

Post Number: 2112
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 - 6:56 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I'd love to see what I could do with that horse, such an interesting challenge!

I think I'd also start at square one, and do lots and lots of natural horsemanship ground work, and forget about the bridle & bit for months if need be. Lots of slow work, because I think she needs to learn it's o.k. to be "down" and she doesn't need to stay hyped up. Every time I'd see any sign of "fire" I'd back off and work on calming things again. Let her be a horse and give her time to forget about her past life. And I'd use lots of words; "walk, easy, trot, easy" so you have that as calming tools for when you try riding again. I think the main thing here is working for calmness and get her focused on you then the super responses she gives will hopefully calm down too.

I am kinda jealous, she sounds like a really neat horse!

I'd love to see a picture of her if you'd care to post one.
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jos
Member
Username: paardex

Post Number: 1218
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 - 7:04 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Will horses like this get lower and round over groundpoles or cavaletti?
Jos
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Adria Weatherbee
Member
Username: adriaa

Post Number: 100
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 - 8:11 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Jos,

I was thinking the same thing, trot poles would probably help a lot, get her to reach down and find where her feet are and get balanced. I figured that they were guided by the bit since the whole leg aid thing seems quite foreign to her. I haven't ridden her on the trail and she'd probably be fine out in the field, she's not "hot" when you ride her just that I think that she thinks she should be all keyed up and flashy, she would never take off, just prance a bit. She's cute..

I have been doing some ground work with her, and using natural horsemanship, she does not have great ground manners, a bit bargy and in your space. Unlike my very polite TB, who has had extensive ground work training.

Jo Ann, thank you for your insights in to the Morgan show world, I know I have my work cut out for me, but even though I got her as a companion I really felt she would be a super horse to ride. She's really responsive and she listens, hard for her to stand still though, and she does that show stance (I don't know what it's called) when I stop her in the center of the arena, and she'll do it in hand too.

I think starting from scratch would be good, also just being a horse with one person might help her as well, more consistency and trust.

When my trainer comes we can assess and plan.

Cheers

Adria
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Jo Ann Widner
Member
Username: jowidner

Post Number: 277
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 - 8:22 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Yes, absolutely Jos. I had forgotten that we did ground poles as well. Started with one, then two, etc... But I'd work with rewarding relaxation and make sure the horse understood that I wanted them to work calmly with a relaxed head and neck before introducing that. Once they get that concept then the cavaletti would be great for teaching them to release and round.
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Jo Ann Widner
Member
Username: jowidner

Post Number: 279
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008 - 8:40 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Adria, Yes, they called the stance "parking out." It always tugged at my heart strings when our mares would offer that. They obviously were doing as they had been trained.

I would ask them to halt with their legs underneath them, and it would go pretty well, but if they got nervous their heads would come up and they would start to "park out." Then I'd gently step them forward and encourage them to drop their heads again and then halt and relax. Poor girls, it must have been a huge change for them, but it always seemed to me that a horse would really prefer to be relaxed than all keyed up.

One other tip, do not try and "wear out" your mare. Morgans have tremendous stamina and you will be all worn out long before they are and they will just get that much fitter!
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Erika L
Member
Username: erika

Post Number: 1437
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Wednesday, Nov 12, 2008 - 10:34 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Awww, all this talk of Morgans has me missing my little Timmy, who we lost this year at 35.

Morgans are wonderful little horses, aren't they? They are the "little engines that could", which makes me wonder if at 19 you will have much success with retraining out of the park stance. If you aren't showing, can you live with her just being who she is?

Thirty years after show retirement, Timmy would still offer up his parking! But no horse ever tried so hard to please, and he would seem to worry if you tried to change any fundamental action, or ask him to do anything very differently. Almost as if he was saying to himself "I'm trying so hard to do what you want, but I don't know!" You could see the cartoon sweat drops flying out of his brain, LOL!

Good luck with you mare, I'm not saying you face the impossible, but maybe let her be comfortable with what she's used to if you can stand it.
Erika
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Jo Ann Widner
Member
Username: jowidner

Post Number: 280
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Wednesday, Nov 12, 2008 - 9:31 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Erika, I would have loved to have met your Timmy. He sounds like he was a great little guy. You make a good point about retraining. At the point that it becomes mentally upsetting to the horse then the process has become counter-productive. As long as the horse's behavior doesn't present a safety issue and there is no pressing need to retrain, then like you say, why not go slowly and maybe even compromise on some things. Actually parking out can come in handy if you are short and don't have a mounting block!
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Erika L
Member
Username: erika

Post Number: 1441
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Thursday, Nov 13, 2008 - 9:17 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Jo Ann, I think we discussed little Timmy in the past (Bennfield's Ace progeny). Thank you for helping me remember the sweet little guy. He's buried under his favorite tree in the pasture and I can see from the house.

Back to the thread...Adria, I agree about not trying to wear your Morgan out. I think a Morgan would drop dead trying, rather than give up and slow down.

Upon rereading your original post Adria, it sounds like you almost have to ride as if you are driving her. (I don't know anything much about Park Seat, but it does appear that it is about "sit back and rein in the direction you want to go".) I imagine there was not a lot of leg involved, so as not to push them up into the bridle. Try holding steady contact on both reins and use them like bike handlebars for the turns: if the left arm takes back a little, the right should give a little, but keep the contact the same on both reins. Does that make any sense? Leg yielding, or bending cues with your legs probably just make her rush, no?

As for posting, I thought they do post in park classes? Maybe its the "forward seat" she is objecting to, rather than the posting itself?

I don't know, not a trainer or a park rider, but just extrapolating my experiences with Timmy.

Good luck, and try to enjoy that little roadster. It is fun to ride a revved up, forward horse as long as you feel you have control.
Erika
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Jo Ann Widner
Member
Username: jowidner

Post Number: 281
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Thursday, Nov 13, 2008 - 12:04 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Yes, Erika, I remember your post about Timmy's passing. His story took me down memory lane to the horses that I grew up with as a kid. How sweet that his final resting place is in his favorite spot and nearby you as well.

Your advice about using your hands as if riding a bicycle is exactly what I remember the instructors at the saddle seat barn telling their students. Most of the Morgans were taught to drive or at least to long line before they were ridden, so the cues remained the same as for a driving horse once the rider was added.

If you think about a saddle seat rider in a cut back saddle, the lower leg is positioned away from the horse's side, so the leg contact that one has in a dressage saddle is entirely different. One of the first tasks in retraining would be to desensitize the horse to the rider's legs resting against their sides, so that they don't immediately respond to the leg thinking, "Oh, I'm supposed to GO!" when they feel leg contact.

Adria, are there any Morgan show barns in your area? Morgan enthusiasts love to show off their horses, so I bet if you contacted one they would be happy to let you watch a Park horse during a training session, and then you would have a much clearer picture of how your mare was likely trained. You might even get lucky and find another person who has retrained a Park horse for another career.

I don't know if the Morgan show barns have changed since I was a kid, but I remember it as a very different world than that of dressage or natural horsemanship, so it will likely be an eye opening experience for you!
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Adria Weatherbee
Member
Username: adriaa

Post Number: 101
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Monday, Nov 17, 2008 - 2:06 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I had a whole post written, but when I went looking for photos it disappeared. I can't rewrite it now. Thanks for all the great insights. I guess I don't want to reinvent the wheel with her, since she is older, but I'd like to get her to relax, round her back, use her hind and learn some leg aids. Basic stuff, I certainly am not expecting a 3rd or even 1st level horse. Maybe training level??? She has the temperament to be a great show horse.

I'd like to understand her training so i can work with it, and not confuse her so much by giving her a flurry of aids she cannot comprehend.

I have been doing some Parelli ground work with her, Porcupine game, releasing to pressure, getting her to lower her head, starting on backing, disengaging the hind, she learns very quickly. I'm trying to get her to learn some of the leg aids from the ground.

She lunges well, and work in he balancing reins I have might help.

I'm sorry about little Timmy, he sounded like a wonderful horse. I've never had a Morgan before but some of my friends do and they just love them.

Monty is a great old girl, really sensible (except at the gate, but that's another story) and she's so willing.

I'm going to work on the "driving" and also keeping my weight back...

The woman who runs the tack shop is a Morgan person, maybe she knows...

Thanks again

Adria

Monty
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Jo Ann Widner
Member
Username: jowidner

Post Number: 285
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008 - 10:36 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

She's lovely Adria, and what a sweet photo! Just out of curiosity, do you know her bloodlines? Nineteen is not old for a Morgan for they tend to be long-lived. I'm glad you are interested in working with her and I hope that you find that you have many enjoyable years together.
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Erika L
Member
Username: erika

Post Number: 1452
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008 - 9:05 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Cute little mare. No, nineteen is still a kid! My neighbor's friend claims to have had more than one of his make it to 50.

Jo Ann, did you ever hear of Yellow Iris Farm Morgans in NJ? Leslie Blanchard, the famous haircolorist of the 70's and 80's raised nice Morgans near here. I'm told they were well known. He died in the mid '80s from AIDS unfortunately.
Erika
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Jo Ann Widner
Member
Username: jowidner

Post Number: 286
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008 - 7:17 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Erika, I did not know Leslie, but I do remember that they always had these beautiful ads in the Morgan Horse magazine with awesome graphics and lovely horses. I did not realize that he was a famous colorist. Funny, as a teen all the people at the shows were just people I knew from the shows, I didn't even think about what they did outside of horses. They may have been famous or the plummer from next door, I was just interested in their horses! The exception to this was Herbert V. Kohler. EVERYBODY knew that he was the famous and fabulously rich owner of Kohler Baths! Nothing anonymous about him!
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Adria Weatherbee
Member
Username: adriaa

Post Number: 103
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Friday, Nov 21, 2008 - 1:36 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

She certainly does not act old, sounder than my 8 y.o TB mare and she's in great shape other than a slight sway back from all those babies.

I believe she has got really good bloodlines, she was bred by T.D. Ulrich in Ohio. Shaker's Intrigue x Shaker's Kachina. Sire's sire was Tedwin Tijuana Dam's sire Troutbrook Playboy. Both sides have Orcland Vigildon and on her dam's side is Ulendon which I understand is a important line. There are pictures of a lot of these horses on the AMHA website. They seem to be pretty much all Park show horses. She's been a broodmare at 3 different breeders, so obviously she must have been a valuable broodmare.

I think she's great! Sensible, bomb proof, wise. While Rosie is careening around the pasture, looking over the fence checking everything out , snorting. Monty is just eating, saying "what is the matter with you girl, the food is here"

Adria
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Jo Ann Widner
Member
Username: jowidner

Post Number: 293
Registered: 5-2003
Posted on Friday, Nov 21, 2008 - 10:07 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Adria, Monty is very well bred. The Ulrich's had a great breeding program and lots of top horses. I'm sure that her previous owners were very pleased with her foals.

One thing that I would watch out for as Monty ages is Cushing's disease and laminitis. It seems to be a vulnerability of older Morgan mares. Other than that, they are very hardy and easy to care for.
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