View Full Version : The jumps are IN the ring, my dear ...

Apr. 5, 2009, 04:42 PM
Lovely warmblood chestnut jumper mare (LJM) is 8 now, and schools 4'3" comfortably at home. At shows, well maybe I'll get lucky and maybe I won't. Today, LJM was horror-ified by the very scary people on the the hill.

In the past it has been the people in the lawn chairs, or the kid hanging on the rail. She's not an easy ride to begin with, but when she does not find some life threatening distraction to be concerned about, she jumps whatever is in front of her. She doesn't stop or spook at the fences, but is sometimes so obsessed with scary somethings outside the ring I can barely get her to agree to go.

Is there hope for LJM ? OR should I just shoot her (not likely, but tempting nonetheless.) FYI she does not like dressage, and does not find hunter rings to be any more attractive than jumpers. If anything, speed, etc. makes her pat attention better in the jumpers. She will not kill you on a foxhunt, but you will feel like it is a definite possibility.

Her behavior seemed silly young horse nonsense, Once Upon A Time.... But now, well you can only jump a combination from a standstill up to a certain height, and then some sort of forward movement is required. Not to mention, you can't pin or win if you come to a COMPLETE HALT (once or twice) on course.

Advice, suggestions?

Apr. 5, 2009, 04:52 PM
Hang on, she's not 9 or 10 ;) That seems to be a nice age for them to actually grow up :D

Apr. 5, 2009, 05:02 PM
How's her flat work? We have a couple of guys here who if allowed to let their minds wander outside of the ring and the job that is there, will spook, spin, bolt, stop, you name it. By spending the time at home to get their flatwork really, really good and be borderline obsessive that they BEND to the inside and stay focused, they are much better at shows. But you have to do the work on the flat to show a difference anywhere else.

Also, consider possible physical issues that might make her SO spooky. Have you had her eyes looked at? Have you had her scoped and/or treated for ulcers? Is her body in good, working order? Pain sometimes manifests itself in strange ways.

She may also just need her butt kicked. Possibly because she has been doing this for so long (like you said, it seemed like silly young horse nonsense) that she thinks it is acceptable. You might have to take her in the ring and put the fear of God in her when she reacts poorly (some horses do definitely spook for the sake of spooking). Can you take her in some lower level classes where you can focus on the bad behavior between the jumps and not have big fences to deal with, too?

Hunter Mom
Apr. 5, 2009, 05:19 PM
be borderline obsessive that they BEND to the inside and stay focused, they are much better at shows. But you have to do the work on the flat to show a difference anywhere else.

YB may be on to something. When I took my old-enough-to-know-better mare to our first rated show, there was something on one end of the arena that was definitely a horse-ivour. She would NOT go down there, no way, no how. My trainer had me keep her bent way further than normal to the inside and she was fine. The one time I didn't bend her, well, lets just say that was a quick way to spend THAT entry $$.:yes:

Apr. 5, 2009, 06:04 PM
The key is to continue work so she uses the thinking side of her brain First over her reactive side of her brain.

You don't say how you react when she pulls this.

I just got done reschooling a coming 8 year old WB who was pulling this stuff with his owner. Sure he would try a few stupid things with me undersaddle but my demeanor never changes. "we are going forward and this is what we are doing.... His owner on the other hand would get flustered, tense etc. She's a good rider too but her tenseness would convey to him and they would just feed off each other.

My own 8 year old WB gelding will pull a bolt some times and he's immediately told to cut the crap and move foward. End of story. Consistency and exposure go a long way to getting her brain to think and listen to you and not fixate on other things.

Apr. 5, 2009, 07:56 PM
you should try putting fuzzies (like the halter fuzzies) on his cheek pieces so he has to focus more. I did this with my guy for a summer of showing and schooling and then he was fine! its just enough to make them focus more!

Apr. 5, 2009, 08:01 PM
It sounds like while she jumps big she isn't FORWARD off your leg or obedient. Especially since she decides to stop and stare. You might try having someone else school and show her and see if their timing is better.

Apr. 5, 2009, 08:20 PM
A horse working on complex math problems doesn't have enough brain-power left over to worry about what's going on outside the ring. Your mare is a redhead, a mare, a young warmblood and a game athlete, so she needs really, really tough problems to keep her occupied.

But there's more. In general, yellowbritches nailed it. But to be even smarter, think about this logic: When she is doing what you want, she gets a tactful, mentally uncomplicated ride. When her mind wanders, you hurl a problem at her. She must change direction, gait, do something unexpected at your request. When she says "yes ma'am," go back to "leave her alone" ride.

A top Western Pleasure guy explained this technique to me as a way to make sure those horses cruise along with a minimal ride in all situations. Your jumper needs to be just as broke. You can't spend your time preventing the spook or micromanaging her on course since your job of just getting around the course is (or will be) hard enough. She should find it much easier to listen to you than to do anything else.

She sounds great! She's smart enough and athletic enough to "multitask"--doing her job while looking out for other things as well. You just need to get even smarter and you'll have a really nice partnership.

Apr. 5, 2009, 08:28 PM
That's frustrating behaviour! I had one like that who grew out of it as he got older. At age 8 he was spooky about everything around him (but NEVER the jumps in front of him, thankfully). At age 10 he was basically a schoolmaster at the shows. Lots of mental development in that time.

Have you tried stuffing her ears? How about trying a shadow roll? I've seen various combinations of fluffy halter stuff on bridles for that very reason, and had clinicians suggest it for my spookier horses every now and again.

Apr. 5, 2009, 08:41 PM
While we're on the subject of spooking, what is it with horses and freshly bloomed azalea bushes and wisteria? All three of mine about flipped out this weekend when they went up to my ring and first saw the newly bloomed azaleas in the tree line along the ring. They do this every year. Apparently, blooming azaleas and wisteria are fire-snorting, horse eating monsters.

Apr. 6, 2009, 08:12 AM
While it looks stupid, my daughter cured my jumper by putting her in full cup blinkers (like at the race track). Only allowed the horse to focus on the fence and rider input.

She doesn't use them anymore and the horse goes around without any spooking or "lookies".

Hopeful Hunter
Apr. 6, 2009, 09:56 AM
After the usual "check for ulcers, maybe some magnesium and B vitamin supplements" stuff, I'd say two things:

As a WB she IS still young. Ride her like a greenie -- dictating ride, always bending, asking for subtle transitions, etc.

Make it more challenging. Since she's in the jumpers, you don't have to worry about the beauty-pageant strides. So ask her to change things up a bit sometimes if it's a safe option. If she has to listen to you or have a bad time, she'll eventually maybe listen to you. Of course, ask nicely, but nice can still be quite firm <grin>.

Good luck...

Apr. 7, 2009, 02:18 PM
Shoot me in the head -- I just wrote a long post and my computer ate it !! Arghh...

I will summarize, as enjoytheride mentioned, she is not FORWARD and OFF MY LEG. This has been a problem for a long time. She went to a cowboy after she was started, when it became apparent the Rider was an inconsequential figure in her life. Cowboy said "Good Luck. She's tough" when she came home. He did a good job getting her accepting of the trailer, and for that I am extremely grateful.

The whole concept of "Submission" is not in her paradigm. And if she ever finds the Human Idiot who put it into the FEI rules she will gladly straighten them out. She does not like bits, but is back in one now as the hackamore is just oh-so-not-useful when/if she gets seriously spooked/distracted. She has a fat tongue, a low-ish palate, and not quite straight jaw.

She also has that lovely warmblood 'not quite string-halty' thing with the back legs. Has never been shod behind without drugs. In fact, she is just so sensitive to pulling, twisting etc. that I don't think it is even possible. Must be careful putting on back boots, which she needs as she does interfere behind. She is aggressive in her stall (not with me, I will kill her and she knows it) and unhappy with confinement, constraint, or restraint of any kind. Overall, she can de described as defensive.

Because she does not cotton to being dictated to, it has made the "Differential Equations are Your Friend" methodology shaky, at best. She doesn't like being told what to do, so overwhelming her with directives can lead to her getting angry and frustrated. I try to push her into her 'stretch' zone without getting her into a 'panic' zone where she will not be able to learn. But that keeps us in on a dangerously narrow strip called "Who's in Charge Here Land?" So I have to be very careful with that.

Higher level riders than I have had less success dealing with her spooking, they were unable to get her around the course at all. 1,2,3 fences, then no deal. In fact, she wouldn't pick up the canter in the warm up sometimes until after she'd jumped something. So I don't think a higher level rider is going to solve the problem. They seemed to have no better solutions for "forward, off the leg" than I.

Right now, I am thinking of trying some blinkers, shadow rolls etc.

Gotta run.

Apr. 7, 2009, 02:22 PM
Try depo. She sounds a bit mare-ish.

Apr. 7, 2009, 02:44 PM
What is her breeding? I'm sure I owned her brother!

Clear sailing
Apr. 7, 2009, 02:51 PM
I think I own her mother...

dainty do
Apr. 7, 2009, 03:55 PM
Question: How much time does she get for turnout? If she doesn't like stalls or restaint of any kind, is it possible that her life attitude may change with pasture turnout 24/7? She may get a little beat up if she is out with other alpha mares. But better her than you. I've seen many horses become much better citizens after spending extensive time out in the pasture.

Apr. 7, 2009, 03:59 PM
[QUOTE= She will not kill you on a foxhunt, but you will feel like it is a definite possibility. [/QUOTE]

hehehe :lol::lol::lol::D

Apr. 7, 2009, 04:03 PM
Definitely try shadow rolls on the side. And, she DOES sound like she might be a candidate for "hormone therapy." :winkgrin:

Good Luck.
Seb :)

Apr. 7, 2009, 04:23 PM
Judging from your posts and your cowboy's opinion, she does sound tough.

So try anything and everything. But could it be that you have given in before she has? It sounds like she has a list of rules for your relationship that is as long as your arm. But you are capable of changing those. After all, you did cross out the rule that says she gets to threaten you in the stall.

It may help to decide that you don't care how strenuously she objects to something you know she can do. She doesn't have to LIKE anything you ask of her, but she does have to give it the old college try. It sounds like she has some legitimate physical reasons that make her think she's best off with the "Say no first and ask questions later" strategy. Still, she has to try.

I'm not saying you ought to pick a fight where someone gets hurt. But it may help to create a scenario in which she comes to understand that things will get worse and worse for her until she tries to do as you ask. Maybe you guys are in a stand-off of sorts. This doesn't take violence, per se. You'd be amazed at how many horses change their ways when you make it clear that you have all damned day to get something done.

Did your cowboy get a chance to fix the behind the leg issue? If not, that may be the under saddle place to start. It's hard to get anything done when they won't go forward.

In any case, I don't mean to question your skill or judgement. I'm just a English-riding fan of the way that western people define "broke" and how the best of them really get inside a horse's head to get that done.

Carol Ames
Apr. 7, 2009, 04:35 PM
can you turn her out 24/ 7 ? no feed:yes::o only grass or hay, you might try horse sense ( horse cents) feed; it has shown good results for some horses

Apr. 7, 2009, 04:39 PM
mvp, there are some mares that even the BEST cowboys can't "break." It's just who they are. What I get from the OPs posts is that this mare does NOT respond if you "tell" her what to do. And, it sounds like she's gotten further with her than most...by "asking."

I've watched some of the best FEI Jumper riders try to MAKE a mare do it...and let's just say, it didn't work out so well for the human.

One of my favorite quotes from Ludger Beerbaum is about his famous mare, Ratina Z. He said the most important thing she taught him -- was that EVERYTHING had to be HER idea. :winkgrin:

Seb :)

Apr. 7, 2009, 04:55 PM
Sebastian-- great point about "breaking" and horses' autonomy, free-will, whathaveyou.

Absolutely it should be the horse's idea! In fact, I think that's the whole key to creating a trained horse. While you think you are getting them to conform, they think they are manipulating you into giving them a break. Neither side leaves feeling particularly subjugated.

I was just bringing this up in connection with the cowboy "ranch broke" thing because the western guys I know are the ones who talk most explicitly and intelligently about this psychological point.

OK, sorry for the detour from the OP's topic.

Apr. 7, 2009, 07:36 PM
No worries, mvp. We're ALL about the free exchange of ideas here!! And, I see your point better now. Thanks!!! :yes:

Seb :D

Apr. 7, 2009, 07:57 PM
Does the back end thing sound like EPSM type stuff? I don't know much about it, but hind end sensitivity made my ears perk up. Try searching about that and see if her symptoms line up. Other than that, what do you mean everything has to be my mare's idea? It is, was, and always will be her idea. I just sit there :D I didn't know there was another way :lol:

Apr. 8, 2009, 09:09 AM
Thanks for the additional comments.

Her father is Anhalteiner E. She is also related to Argentinus, and her back leg issues are similar to a gelding I used to ride who also had Argentinus as a grandfather. He was also 'string-halty' and came to no use in the end. (We didn't shoot him, but he couldn't get past schooling 3rd level dressage movements or jumping 2'6" fences. He would jump a 2'9" fence and then stop when you raised it to 3'. And he never could 'really' collect.) He just could not put his leg down and push off. He would be concerned about doing even grids of poles on the ground, and truly he seemed to be uncertain about where or if he could manage his own feet. Many vets were consulted, not much was resolved.

It is pretty striking how similar the issue is, except this mare can put her feet down and push off. And if anything she has been not concerned enough about jumping (in that it took some time for her to begin care about maybe finding a good spot, as opposed to just launching when she got too close to fit another stride.)

She has lived out at times, but with the area we are in that means living 24/7 in mud for possibly several weeks or months out of the year. And that frozen mud in the winter is no good for any horse. Bad footing is not really an asset to her hind leg issues. If anything, this has improved over time, so from that I am concluding that she does not have something like Lymes or EPM. We have tried an EPSM diet, but there was no noticeable change. In dealing with gelding, there was not a gradual improvement over time.

I am going to give the shadow rolls a try, and continue to try to get her more 'broke.' I was thinking about riding in a Kevin Babington clinic this month. Does anyone here know his teaching well? I know he is big on flatwork (atleast now he is....:D) but my issue is more of a horsemanship issue. I am a little concerned about too strict demands. She an and I cannot "DO this now !" We have to figure ways to get this or that done.

Apr. 8, 2009, 09:38 AM
you know, there is that saying that you can tell a gelding, ask a mare, discuss it with a stallion. So making your mare do anything is against probably centuries of common sense. :lol:

I've got a VERY talented sensitive mare (and sensitive can be a four letter word or a godsend :winkgrin:). I mean SUPER sensitive...you just think trot, and it happens. I bred and raised her, although we took lots of time off during the 3-5 years while I got my business going. By then, she had a very different outlook to riding; my once super sweet, eager pleaser was now a bit head strong. Let's just say she can be a dud or ADD depending upon how you ride her.

So I've learned that it's got to be on her terms. I've got to connect with her and tell her how wonderful she is. She can go from soft and supple to flight response it two-hundreth's of a second if you don't keep her focused. If you don't spend a LOT of time grooming her, she is so uncooperative undersaddle (high maintenance much?). And I've learned that the second I start riding from negativity or frustration, it all goes to crap.

I worked FOREVER on our walk/trot. Got the hindend engaged. Got her in front of my leg. Did lunge and long line work. Got her to think "left foot, right foot, left foot" so she couldn't see all the monsters in the woods. And if you can believe it, she is about 98% stablized at the w/t, even with advanced beginners on her. :D We are now working on the canter.

Point being, I think solid flat work is your key. The bad news is you've got to take is step by step; no short cuts. But the good news is that her sensitivity will make her very careful o/f. If you can make a connection with her, you're 95% of the way to greatness!!

Good luck.

Words of Wisdom
Apr. 8, 2009, 12:59 PM
I have a horse with similar issues in the sense that you cannot force him to do anything. You absolutely must be slow and patient and convince him that it was his idea. However, the difference is that mine loves to rush at the jumps, to the point where he will put himself so far underneath the fence that he really has to struggle to get over them. He has by far the worst mouth of any horse I have ever ridden, and you can pull all the way down to the fence, but he will only be more and more against you. His flatwork is excellent, but only when he wants it to be. The rest of the time, you will fight against him. He is also very sensitive off your leg, and if you get the slightest bit angry with him, he will go completely against you, and you will lose the past few weeks of progress you have made with him. It wasn't until he was about nine or ten that he was able to do good, solid work, and his jumping improved immensely with that-- it turned a not particularly careful horse into a very careful one. He can be spooky at the ends of the rings, and we try very hard to avoid pushing him into the corners down there-- it's really not worth the fight with him. We do jump him in a hackamore, and on a fairly loose rein.

He is also a stallion, so some of the same hormonal/personality issues that are present with your mare are also shown in this horse. You will hear a lot of people tell you that the horse needs to be cowboy'ed around, needs to learn that they have to listen to you, needs to learn that you are the one in charge, etc., but I've found that it is an approach that often does not work. We took things very slow with this horse, gave him some time to grow up mentally, and made sure that anything we were asking him to do was not going to overface him too much, and he eventually did grow up.

Additionally, he is significantly better when he is tired. He always gets out in the morning before the shows, either on the longe or ridden, sometimes both. If we want to do anything productive over fences at home, we will often ride him for a while in the morning, put him away, and then bring him back out in the afternoon when he is tired. He's not a horse that you can apply any sort of formulaic method to, and absolutely must be treated as the individual that he is.

Apr. 9, 2009, 11:59 AM
Words of Wisdom that is not what I wanted to hear !! :winkgrin: Drats, work and patience, arghhh... ;)

I get your point, and appreciate that I am not the only one in this boat. I guess I am just really feeling the miles, at this point. She is progressing, but I was hoping at some point some sort of critical mass might be achieved and it would get less difficult. It's been 4 or 5 years now of steady work on this animal, and I am realizing how much it is costing me to put this much time into this kind of horse. Lots of years for not as much progress as I would like. That much time into a more willing 'partner' could have gotten me a lot farther by now, so that is hurting.

I guess I'm feeling, "oh, she's really NOT going to change, huh. Well what have I gotten myself into ?" I am thinking one more year, and if she does not start getting into a groove I may have to think harder about what it is costing both of us to keep at it.

Apr. 10, 2009, 07:47 AM
It may help to decide that you don't care how strenuously she objects to something you know she can do. She doesn't have to LIKE anything you ask of her, but she does have to give it the old college try.

I'm not saying you ought to pick a fight where someone gets hurt. But it may help to create a scenario in which she comes to understand that things will get worse and worse for her until she tries to do as you ask.

My mare is not nearly as tricky as yours but she will sometimes decide that she is going to do what she wants.

My trainer's advice is 'bring the fight to her'. It is amazing how she backs down when she is challenged, but it takes confidence to to this.

She is fantastic to ride once she has remembered who the boss is.