Hi, my horse spooks seeing a cow/peacock when we are practicing and sometimes even bolts. I've fallen during some of these occasions. My fear now is if he spooks during competition, its going to be a problem, Pls suggest (Sukh)
Sukh – One of the greatest challenges I face as a sport psychologist is to explore the fine line between a horse training problem, a riding skill and experience issue, and a rider’s psychological challenge. In the circumstance you describe, my instinct is that the initial focus should be on the horse and working on the spooking issue. There are many talented horse trainers that could help you with your horse’s reaction to distractions on the farm such as cows and peacocks. In this way, you may face fewer dangers from spooks at home as well as in competition. (Click on Question Title above to read full answer)
When you look down, your shoulders follow your eyes and begin to drop downward and forward. This makes it much more difficult for you to communicate correctly with your horse through your seat - often causing you to need to use your reins more than you should.
When doing movements like turn on the haunches, pirouettes, haunches in, and half pass, even the most experienced riders have to remind themselves to sit over their inside seat bone throughout the entire movement. Consciously thinking about stepping into the inside stirrup every couple of strides during these movements is necessary to avoid any tendency of the rider's weight slipping to the outside.
I've had so many near-misses when hacking I now fear it more than I do a round of jumps. My horse is as safe as any horse can be on the roads and I know it's good for him to get out of the school but I get to the point of being physically sick at the thought and I'm tense the whole time we're out. Can you give me any advice on getting past this? (Meghann)
Meghann – When we have strong emotional reactions to situations that we know are reasonably safe (or perhaps better stated as situations with acknowledged risks that are well within a range of risk we are willing to accept), problems often arise when we get too far outside of our comfort zone too quickly. The strategy for tackling fear and anxiety is simple and straightforward. Find the edge of your comfort zone. Step slightly out of it. Stay there until you get more comfortable. Reward yourself for your courage. While simple, this strategy is often very difficult to implement. It is especially difficult in riding because the traditional riding routines, along with other riding culture pressures, do not easily align with the pace, timing and patience needed to transform our experience. (Click on Question Title above to read full answer)
"The rein connection should be like a solid handshake. Don’t have a wimpy handshake. You know what a bad feeling you get when someone gives you a creepy handshake, so don’t give that icky feeling to your horse." ~ William Fox Pitt
A strong back is necessary for the horse to be able to achieve and maintain self carriage and collection for any length of time under a rider. Make sure you don't ask for too much too soon. And be diligent and proactive about strength training and conditioning.
I recently took over the ride on a talented but fairly willful Half Arab, a breed that's a bit outside of my wheelhouse having always owned and ridden OTTB's. He's a dream to jump and is light and responsive over fences, but is the complete opposite with flat work.
He did not have the best start, being jammed into a false frame with a kimberwick and pelham from 3-5 years old, so now at 6 I have quite a bit of undoing to do.(head tilt and all) He's making progress in straightness and leg yielding, but he's a total crab about it all. He'll try all the evasions(above the bit, behind the bit, the occasional rear) to get away from actually using himself before he realize I won't give up, then he grudgingly does what I ask. It is getting easier as time goes on, but I worry about making him sour, but I also know that I need to get him through it, So I have to find that balance of insisting he do that work and but not over doing it.
So I guess my question is do you have any strategies for a horse with a defiant personality like this? Any exercises that you could recommend blending to together that could mitigate his dislike of flat work? I have started to end my flat sessions with just a few jumping lines to remind him that we have fun too.
I'd love to know your thoughts. (Amy)
This sounds like a good challenge for you! Every horse has something to teach you, and it sounds like this horse will have plenty of things to teach you. :) Have a look at this article, which discusses dealing with horses that are somewhat dominant or defiant by nature. You say that since he likes to jump you let him end your flat sessions with a few jumps... But what I would try instead is... (Click on Question Title above to read full answer)
"Don't delude yourself into thinking that you have light, soft hands, if you ride with loose, almost dangling reins on a strung out horse. That can be done with insensitive hands as well. A soft hand requires the rider to feel whether the horse is softly on the bit, chewing, and whether it responds to a light pressure, in other words, whether it has an active mouth. If he rides with loose reins, the horse can have a dead mouth, which will only show up when you use the reins to stop or to shorten the strides, as it will either let you pull its nose onto its chest, or it will invert, and in both cases it will open its mouth." ~ Oskar M. Stensbeck
If you have a refusal at a cross country jump that offers an easier option, it can be a good idea to take the easier option on your next attempt. You are likely already out of contention with the 20 penalties, so don't try to be a hero, and instead make sure that your horse has a good, positive experience on the rest of the course by taking your time, and choosing the easier options if there are any. Adding more refusals can easily demoralize both horse and rider, causing a setback to their confidence for future events.
Think of your leg, seat, and rein aids as communication with your horse. You don't physically push or pull him anywhere, you give him subtle signals. And if he doesn't initially respond to your subtle signals, you need to teach him to - EVERY horse can learn to respond to light cues, if taught properly.
Remind yourself to breathe before and after every difficult exercise. Of course you need to breath while riding each exercise as well. But thinking about checking your breathing before and after is a good first step!
"You see a lot of horses drifting over their fences. There is no such thing as the ideal horse – they all need help somewhere. That’s why the rider is there – to help the horse. You must use your aids to keep the horse from drifting. You must keep operating in the air. Don’t be a passenger, be a pilot. Don’t put your safety belt on as you take off and say – 'See you on the other side!'" ~Jack Le Goff
Never forget that the way the distance rides between two jumps changes as the fence height changes. The horse will land further into a line or combination when the jumps are larger, which makes the distance effectively shorter.
This fairly complex jumping exercise is most suitable for Event horses that are at the Training level or above, although it can be modified for more green horses and/or riders. It will test your ability to make accurate turns onto angled lines, while keeping an even jumping pace. Read on to learn all about it! (Click on Article Title above to read full article)
When you ride powerfully forward to the base of your jumps you allow your horse to jump in such a way that is actually the easiest and most natural for him. Building the horse's power right to the base of the jump means that he stresses his hocks less on the takeoff. The horse that is underpowered has to push that much harder to get over that jump. And being balanced with his hind legs well under him means less stress on his front legs on the landing side.
"Your horses are all capable of jumping more than they are asked to do at events and they should be. He has to jump a five foot, nice, well-made fence, if he cannot, he flies too low as far as I am concerned. I am not going to ride a low flier! It is one thing to jump a four foot fence fresh, it is quite another to jump the same fence at the end of a cross country and you come to a big fence at the end. If you don’t have a horse with enough scope, you are in deep trouble."~ Jack LeGoff
Always think of pushing your stomach towards your hands, rather than bringing your hands backwards towards your stomach to connect. And if you feel like you must bring your hands back to connect, your reins are too long.
It’s what the surgeon in the OR shouts immediately preceding something like, “Get the mop!” So you might think that this is one of those blogs that harps on making your horse sharp, quick, and attentive to the aids. But in this case, NO! This “stat” is short for rheostat, that device on your dining room wall that dims the chandelier for an optimistically intimate dinner or cranks it all the way to a piercing brightness suitable for removing splinters or conducting a Jack Bauer-style interrogation. Most significantly, it allows you to choose any level of illumination in between. (Click on Blog Title above to read full entry)
You will spend much more time galloping than you will actually jumping when out on cross country. Learning how to gallop well on uneven terrain will help to keep your horse sound, as well as make for successful jumping.
When working with horses, always be mindful of the feedback you are giving your horse at any given time... whether intentional or accidental. When your horse misbehaves, make sure you don't give him an accidental reward by stopping to regroup (which to him is a rest and a reward.) Keep moving, get the horse to do something (anything) well, and THEN stop to regroup if you must.
Gridwork and gymnastic lines are meant to teach the horse to better solve problems when jumping. They develop the horse's "eye" for jumping, as well as his mental focusing skills, timing, and judgement. And of course to be more clever with his footwork. Make sure you leave your horse alone through the gymnastic lines as much as possible, to let him learn from the specific exercises you have set up. Your job is to get into the grid correctly - straight and balanced, with the right amount of impulsion for the specific question. And then leave him alone to let him do his job!
Did you know that horses push upward with their front feet to begin a jumping effort? That is why it is so important that you don't lean forward as the horse is trying to take off. Your weight leaning up the neck at this crucial moment hinders the horse's ability to raise the front end.
Just because you can't see your grass growing doesn't mean it's not. And the same can be said of your progress as a rider. Much of the time it is not noticeable until you stop and look back at where you came from.
How do you judge a horse's innate athletic ability without the ability to watch him jump? Are there any common traits or abilities that you notice in athletic horses?
Here are a couple of hints: What do you notice when the athletic horse plays in the pasture vs the less athletic horse? And do you notice any difference in the sound they might make as they move over the ground?
(Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to contribute to or read this educational discussion)
"Is the rider able to ride all the movements with a long rein, long with contact, then as long as possible? It is possible to ride piaffe on a long rein when the rider rides 100% with a balanced body, and the horse is on his aids." ~ Christoph Hess