View Full Version : Trying to school & failing through fear!
20th Oct 2002, 04:51 PM
Im not sure whether to put this in training of horse or rider as it is both!
Yesterday I had a instructor/trainer come up to see my `newish' horse who has an inability to trot (walk, canter, gallop are her options) and the walk is very difficult to keep her in.
My confidence has been knocked with this horse and I am at a point where I am scared to get on her.
She tested this trainer big time yesterday which had me doubting my own abilities more so than before. However after putting a market harborough on her and changing her curb chain over to a flash she seemed a lot better although still taking a lot of holding back.
I have been told to school her in the arena only - ask her for a trot and starting rising immediately when she tries to canter then when I get the start of a trot releasing the reins a bit. I am to concentrate on walking and trotting only (which is a mammoth task on its own). Problem is I am all over the place and am tensing up BIG time which is not helping at all. I cant seem to get the rise as she is trying to break into a canter all the time - its like we have invented to trotanter - one step of each! I feel like I am giving all the wrong messages and she is trying to take advantage too. Can anyone give me any pointers about what to do with my and her `problems'?
20th Oct 2002, 07:20 PM
Is this the mare you were having hormonal problems with? Have these improved?
Re the schooling - what's she like to lunge? could you perhaps try to get her working at walk and trot on the lunge and then when she's listening and responding on the lunge progress to ridden work - maybe start the ridden work on the lunge to give you more confidence. Or csn you work in a smaller schooling area so she hasn't got the space to canter (provided it would be safe?)
20th Oct 2002, 11:51 PM
She sounds a very sensitive mare, I take from your post that she does not accept your legs in any shape or form - thats the first thing that you need solve.
I'd personally work her inhand, and take the pressure off you both. I wouldn't go directly into lunging, work on close up communication, 'walk on' 'halt'. Teach her to side step, making sure her inside back leg steps in front of her outer hind leg.
If you have 4 or 5 poles, set them out in a line, with generous spacing and teach her to walk over them with out clipping them, as she improves move them closer together, when she's good at that, raise one end of each pole, but at opposite sides, once again start with a generous space inbetween, then move them in.
Convert the poles, put them in an L shape path, which she has to walk in between and teach her to back up through them. Start wide and as she improves put them closer together, making it so that she has to really listen and think about placing her feet.
If you have a tyre, make a star shape with your poles, start by leading her round the outer most part of the poles, when she can do it with banging a pole move inwards, making her concentrte on picking up each leg individually.
These will all make aware of whats she's doing, and create a strong bond with you. Work very hard on establishing voice commands.
Mixed in with the pole work teach her to work slightly away from you, use a schooling whip all the time, and treat it as an extension of your hand. I know sensitive 'whip shy' horses can object strongly, but don't give up, be sympathetic, don't insist or demand she behaves, drop the whip, keep her on a small circle, reassure her and try again - stay within her comfort zone, but work on stretching it. My old mare had quite obviously had at sometime in her life a dreadful time, she waas petrified of whips flinched when I scratched my head - horses can overcome these fears, but they need to trust you, and I learnt trust is earned.
Once you have her working away from you, you can then slowly introduce lunge work, start by pushing her a little further out in walk, if she's insecure, gently move in towards her, don't ask her to slow down, until you're in a position to 'control' the situation. Back the work off slightly - do something she's good at and comfortable with give lots of praise and call it a day.
You want to work up to long lining, when you have developed a trustworthy bond, and established your voice aids, you can then work on your rein aids, but also get them used to 'rein leg aids' use the riens against her sides as you would your legs if you were riding, once again stay within her comfort zone, but slowly stretch it. I personally prefer to clip onto a well fitted head collar, which just exerts pressure on the nose at first. If she's strong, someone up front helping, will help the penny to drop. I then move up to threading the lines through the bit ring, but clip onto the head collar side rings, so they feel the bit, but its light on thier mouths. When that is cracked, I clip to the bit.
When you get back in the saddle (should you follow this epic:D ) have someone holding the end of a lunge line and work her through everthing you did in hand (apart from the long lining). Then try her through her paces on the lunge.
I've been in a similar predicament to you, I know how frustrating it is. There are no easy answers, but believe me, you must work through your horses anxieties, teach her to accept your legs, be relaxed, and have the courage to ride her into a free rien. Completely against your instincts, I know! Setting her head with a training aid is like putting a bucket under a dripping tap - address the source of the problem.
You have your work cut out for you, I hope this helps.
21st Oct 2002, 12:45 AM
Have you asked someone more experienced to ride this horse for you? Perhaps one of the instructors? You need to get an opinion on whether this is a control issue for the horse or perhaps a physical one.
You said that it was hard to even keep her in walk - have you checked all her gear? Back? A horse will run from pain and even if her gear is correct now, if she remembers a painful saddle or still has a sore back then she may be escaping by staying on the move.
If you've tried all of this then it sounds like you need to have a couple of lessons in a safe arena at the walk only. Don't even worry about trot until you can safely walk and halt (and stay halted as long as you like) on a long rein.
Does she also stick her head in the air or use other evasions to ensure that she can canter rather than walk or trot? If so then work on some 'head down' \ chill out training for a while - but do make sure that you check for pain problems.
21st Oct 2002, 08:11 PM
I have just recently taken a horse on loan (June) and after reading your post it is more or less identical to what I have experienced with him. He wouldn't accept my leg! Any type of contact with my leg meant he should go faster and faster and faster in an uncontrollable manner! He didn't know what walk was. Trot was either prancing around on the spot or going to fast you were breaking into canter. It took me 4 months to correct this and accept walking and trotting in a controlled manner. The muscle he had built up underneath his neck also showed me that he used this to lock against the bit when his old rider took a heavy hand in trying to control him. This was his method of evading.
You really need a good bond between you and your horse before trying to tackle these problems when riding. I used to lunge him all the time so he would recognise my voice as well as other ground work. He would also rush at walk, trot and canter while on the lunge. Canter used to get quite dangerous where he would use his strength to drag me around the school to get free! But again it was some panic factor that must have been built in through past experiences and this was his way of saving himself!
Honestly! There is not one bad bone in his body! If there was he could do a lot worse than going to fast and not understanding walk trot and canter! He has never reared, kicked, bucked etc! A nearly a tonne of horse you have to remember if they are that scared and wanted to hurt you they would. This just proves to me how good natured horses are and how much they actually put up with from us humans when they are in the wrong hands Ė bless them :( A phrase I was told by my instructor was "Horses are not born bad they are made bad"- all his problem was bad education. Hopefully this will be the same as your mare and now sheís lucky to be with you! At least you have realised her problems and you can work on them together.
Is hard mouthed? How is she at accepting her tack? Is she comfortable with the bit? The worse thing you could do with her is to hold onto her! Give and take! Sponge! Never lock against her! As my instructor says, "Thrust your Bust" I know my sweetie used to get gobíd and his mouth sawed to stop him! And thatís were the fear factor and getting faster in each gait came from - it was the sheer panic and apprehension of when he was going to get a sharp pain in his mouth by the rider pulling back hard. I have learnt to be so light handed with him to compensate - lol not washing lines - he has contact to reassure him Iím there but he has now after 5 months realised he will never get gobíd in the mouth! - As much as my brain might kick into panic mode when he gets out of hand I have to somehow override my fear factor and stay relax for his sake.
His Walk and Trot are fantastic now - not the best they can be but at least heís willing. He still finds it difficult to work from behind but thatís because he never has and is still building up his back/ bum muscles. I just started a few weeks back on his canter again with a lot of set backs and ending up very upset thinking we had ended up back at square one. He would get so fast it was dangerous and I would loose balance. I had to work on the basis of going onto a circle when he went like this. If I hadn't have worked on the walk and trot and getting him to accept my leg for bending round for so many months I would have been a lunatic to have tried cantering him, as I needed these techniques to do this safely!
Anyway I lost my confidence with canter completely for 4 weeks as he would prance on the spot in canter as I was asking him to stop and he would get all fizzed up. I would have a mental block and lock my arms/body against him which then set him off and we worked off each other making the matter go from worse to dangerous. Its taken me ages to learn NOT to panic and NOT to ask him to stop when he starts his prancing as really thatís what he wanted or what his rider before had taught him - to go straight from a mad canter to a dead stop on the spot all wild eyed and not willing to listen as he was too fizzed up. Now when he slows down and stays on the spot he gets asked to go forward in a controlled manner (on a circle) you can actually see him thinking! "Eh why aren't I just getting pulled up, why doesn't this scare her so I get smacked in the mouth and we stop and I don't have to do it anymore" He's such an intelligent horse and has easily come to realise that being ridden is a fun activity now - its always nice and calm and there is no pain ever involved! And BOY! The canter he gave me yesterday was the most gorgeous ever - even if it took 5 months to wait for! Iím soooooooo glad I hung around and the results are amazing!
But I have to remember he will always have this mental block from past experiences and I have to allow for these when starting something new. Itís been a huge learning curve for both of us! Loads of bad days! But the few good days demolish the bad days! I feel so privileged to have been the one to work with him through this! All it takes is time (a lot of time! Rome wasn't built in a day kind of time :) )! And building up a trusting relationship! I have not used any means or training aids except my voice. Itís amazing how the word "slowwwwwwwwwwwlllly" can change the pace in which he is working if he is unwilling to listen to my body aids. If thatís the only bit of advice I could offer is talk to her! All the time but with your basic words "Good girl" be precise when using it though! "No" and "Slowwwwwwwllyy". Oh and breath! I used to forget to do that a lot! And itís amazing how it helps in relaxing you and the horse!
Please also bear in mind I also had hardly any experience with this type of problem I owe a lot to the knowledge of my instructor! They can give you the knowledge to help but you will have to execute it! I don't know how much this information might help as every horse is different. Good luck and keep us posted!:)
21st Oct 2002, 10:32 PM
Hi all. Thanks for the replies.
Murphs - Yes this is the same girl and we seem to have got the suspected hormonal thing down to it being simply insecurity which has been overcome in most from the ground situations. We really have a good routine and she seems to have thrived from this. On the lunge she was rushing through everything and just wanted to canter around me in a silly, slipping all over way but we have combated this now and she has `chilled out'.
Lesley - She is VERY sensitive to the leg and I hardly need touch her at all before she is off which is new for me although I believe I am working ok with this bit at least! I am keen on getting her doing some pole work and increase her awareness of her feet. She is very keen to do new things although does get exciteable whilst doing them. She is a quick learner but is also very strong willed. I can lunge her ok which is one good thing. When I got her I could hardly even lead her as she was so exciteable and didnt respect me at all. Not her fault really as she had had to become the `boss' with the last owner as she did not feel safe in her hands.
Virtuallyhorses - Yes the instructor who came up on Saturday rode her and Rab tested her a lot although this girl was not scared at all and Rab soon `clicked' that she was not going to get away with anything. The instructor was very nice with her and used her voice a lot which Rab likes. The intructor commented that Rab has been schooled well in the past and has no malice in her - she just wants to canter which is what the last owner did with her a lot - no schooling just cantering around showing off in front of the tourists round here. She has been checked for back probs and teeth done. She does have a mild case of stringhalt but this is not painful apparently and reading up on this, it does seem to be the truth.
I do work in a smaller arena now and do not have a problem keeping her standing still most of the time believe it or not - it more when we start moving she gets quicker and quicker until she starts. Also yes she sticks her head in the air to try and `nick' off thats why she is now in a market harborough which is working. She either does this or curls her head right under but I think this is more about how she was trained rather than being evasive - she looks absolutely fantastic when she does this although thats irrelevant right now I suppose!
Nookster - It definitely sounds like the same situation as you have had. I know it is going to be worth it in the end but by god it is testing my nerve on a daily basis. We have had storms here for the past day so have not been on her since before I posted the thread. She is not hard mouthed - but seems to be fine with the bit and the rest of the tack. I could not stop her in a snaffle though - no affect whatsoever. I need to do the same as you and not hang on to that tension on the reins when she starts speeding up. I need to give her the signal and then release as if to reward her. Easier said than done though when I know she will probably try it again 2 seconds later. I need to RELAX and am so frustrated with myself with this tension thing - Im going as hard as a board and arms soldered to my sides. I dont want to make things worse when I really feel my actions here could combat this problem for both of us.
I have taken everything everyone has said and am going to consider doing more ground work and not just making this transition into simply riding and riding only. Im going to do some more pole work and lungeing and work on all aspects of this bond somemore. I am going to have to still get in the saddle and work on this too but am going to try and relax more and overcome this fear.
Thanxs guys. If anyone has any more advice following what I have said ... I'd love to hear it!
22nd Oct 2002, 11:14 AM
sounds like you are doing really well. To help with your tension you could try having an instructor lunge you on her - i've been doing Alexander Technique lessons and that's really helped with me relaxing - lots of whispered ah's (deep breaths in thru nose and slow release through the mouth) also on the lunge i've been working with my eyes closed - you'll be surprised how much tension drops from your body when you do that - but try it on the lunge first!
Good luck and keep us posted
22nd Oct 2002, 12:52 PM
:D yes I definitely think starting that on the lunge is the best idea. At the moment I have eyes as wide as saucers when she crosses that `line' and I am getting scared!
Ill keep you posted - am off to lunge her now :)
22nd Oct 2002, 02:06 PM
I still get a bit tense sometimes which the pony I am loaning picks up on straight away and tends to rush off (not as badly as you are finding though). I couldn't understand what it was I was physically doing and relax it - until the instructor said to try sticking my belly out. It felt unnatural like I was turning into a sack of potatoes but it loosened up the whole of my seat and I can feel a much more relaxed deeper contact with my seatbones. The effect on Carrie was instant!
22nd Oct 2002, 10:20 PM
Someone told me today today to have a bit of a `fantasy' thing while I am on her and psychologically believe her and I compete and are really good together. lol. This psychological fantasizing apparently makes you relax in the saddle but Im sure it could get you not concentating on what you are doing. Funniest thing. Apprently this girl used it to combat her nerves after a nasty fall from a new horse and it worked.
Someone else told me that they knew my horse when the previous owner had her. They told me a nice little story about her bolting one day along the Leas (3 miles of grass that runs the full stretch of beach length before the dunes). Apparently there was a lovely little moment where she stopped in the middle of the gallop for 20 seconds, reared and bucked for a bit and then continued. The girl stayed on. I could see my friend standing beside me mouthing the words `shut up you fool!' at the girl who was telling me the story. Mind the girl did add that this last owner used to gallop her along there all the time and this day did not so its hardly surprising Rabsha expected to go. She's a race horse for gods sake ...... 3miles of flat cut grass would obviously appeal at this time.
Note to self: not going near the Leas :p
23rd Oct 2002, 02:59 AM
I'm not sure how to help you but I feel your pain! Just thought i'd let you know theres others out there who feel the same way!
23rd Oct 2002, 08:19 AM
Spydgal - i agree, not sure how easy it would be to think about how good the pair of you are together whilst you are on her back - i might try that with Kaz today:) I know that thinking positive things can help and do believe in that - like thinking to myself that Kaz is NOT going to kick me again (then still trying to hold that thought as her back end swings around:eek: ) - fortunately she hasn't kicked for some months now but like you with the riding - she's done it and trying to be positive about her not doing again can be a tad tricky.
Nice story - just what you wanted to hear i'm sure. I suppose on the positive side of that you know it's not your riding that's giving her confused signals - just keep doing what you're doing and i'm sure it will get there.
How much work does she do a week - and is she turned out 24/7, just wonder whether she's storing excess energy. Also whilst you gone done the hormone route - have you tried a calming supplement?
23rd Oct 2002, 02:22 PM
The other thing I had to do whilst bombing round the school in canter was to repeat to myself "I planned to go this fast" over and over, while attempting to relax. I thought the instructor was nuts but it was true it wasn't until I was relaxed that she would listen and then I could slow her down! Apparently my face was a picture!
26th Oct 2002, 06:21 PM
Thanks Gracie. Im really glad we are all in the same boat with some things (even if they are difficult!). Non horsey people just cant empathise although friends, including my boyfriend, try their best!
LOL Hels. bless ya'. I can assure you my face is a picture whilst going through all of this!
Murphs did you try your positive thinking? Ive ordered some Steady Up from Robinsons - should be here on Monday. Ive had some good and not so good reports about it. Am going to start a thread about calming suppliments I think on horse care and see what other people have to say. Rabsha is out from 6am until 5 pm in the field with her `mates' and is stabled at night . She comes in at differing times to work and its about 4 times a week due to me working longer hours. Im not giving her anything that could give her more energy than is necessary ... am very careful about that! :D I definitely think the positive thinking can work so well with all aspects of being with horses especially when you have been scared - they can so sense it from you.
26th Oct 2002, 08:24 PM
yep,i'm trying the+ve thoughts- stillsome -ve ones in there though!! although have to say carried some hay thru the field today and was very good (if i was likely to get kicked at anytime then that was it as she is VERY possessive about food)
You're optimistic about your robinsons delivery -i've been waiting 2 wks for a rug and a coat that were in stock when i ordered and when i rang to check they said goods were despatched on 17/10 but are taking 7-10 working days to be delivered - would have been quicker to collect it myself:mad:
27th Oct 2002, 09:29 PM
oh thats not good. Mind I have had three orders in over the last month and everything came pretty quickly. Did you know their big shop burned down at the end of last month? I dont know if thats holding things up. Their mail order place is supposed to be unaffected though.
27th Oct 2002, 10:19 PM
it generally takes a week for stuff to get to me which is ok. Yeah, i did know the shop burned down but like you say their mail order runs completely independently of that. It's just typical that i'm waiting for a rug that i really could have done with over this rather "lovely" weekend that we've just had (horse has one but that's not the point - it's a weatherbeeta taka and i'm dying to see her go out in her silver & black rug:D ) If it's not here tomorrow they will be getting a rocket up their backside:mad:
28th Oct 2002, 10:24 AM
lol. you do that! I just got a Masta silver and black one for Rab. It looked fabulous for about 3 minutes and now its a brown, black and slightly silver. Its funny how we can look forward to these things each year - those 3 minutes of a clean smart looking rug still motivates me to see it again next winter :D
29th Oct 2002, 09:35 PM
OK so I have been using excuses all week about not riding because the weather is too bad (which it has been but its been more of an excuse!).
Ive lunged her a couple of times and she was quite good ... concentrated on walking and trotting and standing which seemed to go well.
Last night I tacked her up after a lunge and decided I had to get back in the saddle. I have been so bad with nerves that I have actually felt sick the last couple of times I have ridden her since the last `incident'. Last night those nerves were not so bad at all and I relaxed in the saddle. I wasnt sitting there rigid waiting for the lurches forward and the dickie dancing sideways - I decided I was going to be in charge and if she did `nick off' I wasnt going to die. She seemed to sense this and we had a successful little ride. She did want to `go' but it was ok.
I am still scared but I feel like we are making progress slowly but surely!
Thank you all for your help and suggestions. I am going to carry on the ground work but not avoid getting in the saddle at the same time :)
29th Oct 2002, 10:11 PM
Thatís great news! Well done!
I haven't seen my darling in over a week now as Iíve been away visiting my parents. I have a lesson booked for tomorrow and I am feeling really nervous as well! lol even though the last time I rode him he did the best canter I have had from him yet. But yet the nerves are still there - I guess we'll always have this anxiety we just need to control it (somehow!?!?). I think I am more worried that he won't do a nice canter when I want as I will be trying too hard to show my instructor just how well he has improved and also how well he is listening! :D she'll just have to take my word for it!
Keep up the good work Spydgal!
30th Oct 2002, 12:24 PM
Well done Zoe - that's good news. Little and often and i#m sure your confidence will go from strength to strength. I've yet to hack my 6 yr old out on her own - like you i keep making excuses. We've done the route in hand several times and she's been pretty good, was going to to it today but the weather is grotty (mind you i have ridden in worse!) - still we'll get there in our own time.:)
ps. my weatherbeeta Taka has just arrived:D :D :D
1st Nov 2002, 11:26 PM
Thanks Nookster and Murphs (glad to hear the rug arrived!) :)
Looks like we all have our little `things'!
Im going to ride again tomorrow morning. Am really not nervous about it ... hmmm. we'll see tomorrow morning when I am standing next to her about to mount. lol :D
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