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New Horse...No confidence

Discussion in 'Confidence Club' started by Lkins, Jul 30, 2018.

  1. Lkins

    Lkins New Member

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    Hi there,

    I am a long time lurker here and have been learning to horse ride for 18 months. I have just purchased my first horse and have been having teething problems the main one being that I have overnight turned into a bag of nerves! Hoping to be able to get some advice.

    The mare that I bought is 12 years old, ISH, and a been there, done that type. She has great ground manners, is voice trained and is absolutely good as gold out hacking (doesn't spook, behaves in open place etc). I have her four weeks and have ridden her three times in the arena and once out hacking. On the hack she was brilliant although it was only a walk and it was probably our most successful ride. The three times I've ridden her in the arena there have been issues when I have asked for trot. I'm nearly sure my aids are too harsh (I've come from riding school cobs where you had to be quite firm) and she takes off into canter when I'm only looking for trot. This frightens me as one of the times we did two and a half laps of the arena before I could stop her.

    I'm beginning to worry that the way I've learned to ride is unsuitable for the type of horse she is (ie responsive). I can canter no problem but don't like her doing it when I haven't asked for it (makes me very nervous). I'm used to being quite firm with my aids in order to get a response on riding school cobs. I'm beginning to think I should've looked for a bombproof cob similar to those used in riding schools as that is what I'm used to riding but I thought she would be the next step up which I did feel ready for.

    Any advice on how to keep her in trot and not panic when she takes off into canter?
     
  2. Skib

    Skib Well-Known Member

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    Dont know you and dont know the horse but you are probably fine.
    Any new horse takes time to settle in and to get used to a new rider.
    An unsolicited canter in the school following a leg cue is nothing to worry about. It could even be that the horse has not been doing much work since the purchase and is too full of energy, But you could get a more experienced rider to ride the horse to observe how she cues and then trots?
    But dont worry about adapting your riding. I too learned to ride as an adult in a conventional BHS riding school. Even in the school situation, it is no problem for a rider to gradually reduce their aids so that a riding school horse (once it understands) will respond to almost nothing.

    The secret of an easy transition is in the preparation for it and many of us on a horse we know well discover that, following the preparation, the horse will transition just on a thought. This is what I like as I am an elderly rider and save my energy.

    I once told my teacher that the problem with using minimal cues is that one had less certainty abut where the transition took place. And she replied that all students should learn to ride with minimal cues as some horses might be upset if one kicked at them. This sounds to be your position. Tho I dont think so. I think your horse misunderstood.

    As for cobs and riding school cobs - I cant ride a cob. Cobs are too wide for me. I learned on Irish horses and if I were buying a horse I would buy Irish like you. But my experience of cobs at our RS is that cobs are neither safer nor naughtier than other horses. Riding school horses may be safer because of their age and the amount of work they do, but that is not universally true. A horse is a horse. But this is not something you should be tackling on your own. With some professional help you will learn as you go along and all will be fine.
     
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  3. Jessey

    Jessey Well-Known Member

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    You are probably exactly right, you are over asking, plus only having ridden 4 times in 4 weeks is not much so she probably has excess energy to burn. I would try and get a lesson or two while you tune in to your new girls buttons :) Also you don't mention how she's being kept, but if you are feeding her it won't hurt to cut that out while you are doing such light work with her, she won't need the extra energy if she's not burning it off.

    When asking for a transition start with the lightest possible cue, just preparing and thinking about trotting is enough for some to go forwards, others might just need tension through your legs, others a nudge, riding school horses often need much more of an ask because they have learnt to ignore to get away with the minimum amount of work.

    I'd try not to second guess your choice of steed, you could have brought a cob right out of your riding school, got it home and with the reduced workload and 1-2-1 ownership they turn into completely different horses, it happens often! so you wouldn't necessarily be better off :)
     
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  5. domane

    domane Chatterbox

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    Yes, ditto Jessey.... Start asking her with a whisper....the lightest of aids. You can work up from there. Also bear in mind that horses are very intuitive and will pick up on the slightest of nerves. As a new horse she is in totally different surroundings and if she feels your nerves she will be thinking "Uh-oh, there's something scary...I need to be on alert then!". She doesn''t realise that it is her behaviour putting you on edge so if you don't nip it in the bud it could escalate and as your fears increase, so might her tension. I also agree about having a lesson. Also, ask your RI to hop on and assess her for you. If your mare relaxes, then you know it's you and you have something to work on.

    Let us know how you get on.
     
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  6. carthorse

    carthorse Well-Known Member

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    Everything Jessey says, particularly finding a local instructor who's prepared to come out to you for some lessons on her asap.

    I'd be wary of putting a more experienced rider up on her unless you trust them absolutely. Too often experienced riders aren't, and if they wind up or unsettle the horse they can make matters worse. However if someone is prepared to stand in the school with you that might help because they can tell you what they see, plus if your riding to date has all been lessons you might find having someone there reassuring.

    You say she works off the voice, so why not try doing that for a few rides & keep your leg aids out of it? No it's not "correct", but if it gets you relaxing & more confident it's worth a try & you can go back to riding more normally when you're happier. It might also get you out of the habit of using too strong an aid. Out of interest what do you view as a firm aid? How do you use your leg, seat, body & hand?
     
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  7. Jane&Ziggy

    Jane&Ziggy Learning together!

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    Before I got my pony Ziggy I had been sharing a very lazy Highland who needed a good bit of leg to get him moving. The first few times I asked Ziggy to trot he practically vanished over the horizon (scaring me to death at the same time)! My RI was very helpful in showing me how to recalibrate my aids. Ziggy just needs me to lift my back and squeeze and he'll pop into trot.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Jessey and Carthorse - get your RI to help you. It'll be better for you and your new mare in the end.

    By the way... may we see a picture? We love pictures!
     
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  8. Lkins

    Lkins New Member

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    Thanks for the responses everyone..they're very reassuring! It probably is just a case of over asking even sometimes inadvertently!

    I should probably mention she is living out 24/7 on a livery yard and seems to have settled in really well (she did have a couple of days of being in a stable when she first arrived so we could get used to each other). She doesn't get any feed at the moment, just grazing.

    After the 2 and half laps of unsolicited canter incident I asked the Y/O if he could ride her a few times just to make sure she would suit someone with novice capabilities and he loved her and said she was a very responsive mare that really tried to listen. She is a very sweet horse and very well behaved so I'm nearly certain it's just me being to hard with my aids. The firm aids for trot that I would have given for trot would be to shorten my reins, sit up tall and and kick with my legs (this is probably the issue). One of the times I rode her was a lesson and the RI has advised to use my pressure with my calf as opposed to kicking with my heel. When posting the trot on my usual riding school cobs I would squeeze with my legs when I sat to keep them going usually. When I do this on her she gets faster so again probably just need to work on "doing less".

    I'll continue with the lessons and just keep working on using softer aids! :)
     
  9. Trewsers

    Trewsers Well-Known Member

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    That is so true about riding school horses, someone I know bought one and got quite a shock when all they wanted was a hack three times a week!!
     
  10. Jessey

    Jessey Well-Known Member

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    Yeah if you 'kick' my girl that puts her into rocket launcher mode :p normally just shortening the rein is enough for her to be off in a trot :rolleyes: she knows what's next and enjoys her job :) its not that she's being nasty. Stick with your lessons and slow everything down a bit in transitions, by that I mean don't rush to do everything at once, shorten the rein, wait a second, then tension in your legs, wait, then if you need to nudge etc. etc. :) if you rush they can copy you sometimes :)
     
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  11. domane

    domane Chatterbox

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    Gosh, yes, if I kick Gracie she's go into canter too.
     
  12. Lissie

    Lissie Well-Known Member

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    Riding 4 times in 4 weeks is probably also part of the problem...
     
  13. Lkins

    Lkins New Member

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    Sorry, it probably wasn't clear but she has been ridden more than four times in the last four weeks. I've ridden her 4 times and the yard owner has ridden her twice a week for the last three weeks so she has been out a bit!

    I do definitely think it's a miscommunication between the two of us. I like Jesseys idea of slowing everything down in transitions and just doing bit by bit until the transition happens. I guess the main issue is I hopped on her and tried to ride her as though I was in my usual lesson on my usual RS horse and quickly discovered she's much more responsive.

    Fingers crossed the unexpected canters stop soon!
     
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  14. Jane&Ziggy

    Jane&Ziggy Learning together!

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    I think as @Jessey says you'll find it easy to discover what her level of sensitivity is. In the school, get a nice, forward walk, then try thinking "trot". I find when I do this that I unconsciously shorten my reins a bit and sit up straighter. This may be enough for her! If not, try a gentle squeeze with your calf. That's the aid I'm aiming for. If she goes off this aid, you don't need anything more vigorous :)
     
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  15. Lkins

    Lkins New Member

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    I will try that the next time I get on. I need to practise squeezing with my calf as opposed to kicking (sometimes I do this out of habit-particularly the few times we have been trotting and I've felt her start to slow down resulting in unexpected canter). So I need to get it out of my head that I'm still on an unresponsive RS horse and try my best to be soft with my aids. Feeling like a complete beginner again!!

    Pics coming soon :)
     
    Jessey likes this.
  16. carthorse

    carthorse Well-Known Member

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    I think kick is almost certainly your problem, he probably thought there was an emergency! Practice keeping your legs lightly resting against her sides al the time so that she knows where they are, then when you want her to move up a pace or be more forward apply some pressure with your lower leg without taking your leg away - think of a squeeze in a hug. If your leg is always there then it has less of a startle effect when you use it, plus it's another point of contact & therefore security for you.
     
  17. newforest

    newforest Why have grain, when you can have yummy grain

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    It depends on the horse. Mine is what I describe as behind the leg and a little lazy. However if I kicked her she would throw a buck and probably bite the foot that did it!

    What were you doing in the school. It pays to have a focus on where you are going, patterns after the warm up. What the purpose is, working on her or you.

    You could see what response you get from voice and seat alone. Mine understands the voice and I use it as a half halt.
     
  18. Lkins

    Lkins New Member

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    Just an update on this- I am still finding it difficult to get over my nerves about getting on her myself in the arena alone. I have had a few lessons on her but the last two lessons that I've had have been on the lunge line :eek: as I've been a) nervous since the unsolicited canter that felt like it went on for eternity b) feeling quite unbalanced in rising trot due to the fact on school horses I nearly used squeezing when I sat to propel myself up :oops: which I can't do on her as she is quite sensitive. I'm hoping this will help me learn how to balance myself correctly.

    I think what's also not helping is the arena at the yard is ginormous. It's very long and I nearly think it's not helping with my nerves as the last time we had the canter it felt like it went on for ages. I'm thinking about using these upright poles that they have to make the area I want to work in smaller? Does anyone know if that is likely to spook her? The YO has kept riding her 3-4times a week in the meantime so she shouldn't be very fresh!
     
  19. Trewsers

    Trewsers Well-Known Member

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    What are the poles like? I don't think I've seen those. When we were on a yard they had an olympic sized arena which I found huge and it did make me and Storm nervous. When they had different things going on there, they used white square poles to section it off. They would lay them flat on the ground. I don't know if that's something your yard might have? Though it may spook your horse - if the area is usually a lot bigger and the poles are unfamiliar.
    It's good your YO is riding her too. Hehehe, I feel your pain with the canter feeling as though it's forever!!
     
  20. newforest

    newforest Why have grain, when you can have yummy grain

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    If you've bought something that's been there and seen it, things in the school shouldn't be a problem.

    I guess my concern slightly is that have only been riding for 18 months and have bought the next step up from what your used to, without having ridden the next step up.

    Lunge lessons are great. They are not seen enough Imo. Great for all riders.
     
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  21. chunky monkey

    chunky monkey Well-Known Member

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    Now for me the bigger the arena the better. You could just put up a row of jumps and wings half way down the arena as a marker and then use the one half.
     
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