View Full Version : "Crazy brave" Greenie

Apr. 20, 2009, 09:53 AM
Hi all. Long time lurker here, who has finally worked up the courage to post! I've been riding for 20 odd years or so, and started quite a few babies, but i've finally come across one who has stumped me. Help!!

I have a project mare who has gotten a rather late start in life. She tends to be quite mentally immature and is on the hot and spooky side. I've been jumping her for about a few weeks in total. She will trot single fences quietly, landing in a lovely quiet, balanced canter, etc. But when she canters fences, it's like jumping a completely different horse. She runs, is tense and has temper tantrums. Nothing backs her off the fences. We've put them up, decorated them with the scariest things we can find and nothing even makes her blink. I've been working with a BNT who says she is the boldest greenie he can remember working with in 40ish years of training -- she's been like this since day 1.

She is much easier on the landing side of the fence. She actually lands fairly quietly and doesn't really run AWAY from the fence, she just runs TO them.

My trainer suggests to keep changing the fences in order to keep her from getting too comfortable. Unfortunately, this is difficult as a, i am boarding at a barn with plenty of plain fences but only a few fences that are not simple rails, and b, this would require me getting off after pretty much every other fence to change them if i intend to jump when he is not around. His other suggestion for work in the meantime was to trot into lots of grids but as her issue is with cantering fences, i wonder if this is not addressing the problem directly.

It seems that part of the problem is that she is super athletic. She will run at something getting herself to a spot where any normal horse would hit a rail and feel it and then learn from it. But she doesn't.

It takes the entire lesson to get a couple nice fences at the end. I'm trying to stay patient and not to get discouraged but it seems like it is going to be a very long road at this rate until the lightbulb in her head goes on.

Anyone had a horse like this that can offer any advice?

Apr. 20, 2009, 10:18 AM
I am not even close to an expert on this, but I do have an OTTB who raced until he was 6.

He used to like to really run at the fences when he was excited. I got into the habit of anytime he rushed anything (fences, when being led in hand, the long side of the arena, etc.) we would circle. The more he tried to rush, the longer it took him to get where he wanted to go. We've been doing this for a couple of years now and I rarely get a rushed fence anymore. If he tries it once, all it takes is a single circle away from the fence & he remembers what he is supposed to do.

I know that sometimes rushing comes from fear of pain at the jump - I'm assuming that this isn't the problem with your mare, but just something to keep in mind.

Good luck. She sounds like a fun, albeit challenging, project!

Apr. 20, 2009, 10:35 AM
Oh this is SSSOOO my guy! We just took him cross country schooling and he never once refused. Even our XC darling refused stuff that my horse happily trotted up to, jumped over and bridled up for the next fence for.

having said that, I got a lot of "your horse must be in pain that's why he rushes". I spent a GOOD deal of money on having him looked at only to not find any pain anywhere. he likes to jump. He likes to canter. He LOVES to jump. LOVES to canter. So putting the two together sometimes makes for a total maniac. And he, much like your horse, will jump from anywhere and since he's athletic he'll make it.

I'm not saying don't have your horse checked for unsoundness but if you feel she's sound, I wouldn't think too much on it IMO.

Circling works best as mentioned. Be ready. They get PISSED! Nothing angers them more than being refused their "reward" which is the fence. My horse will either buck or break to the trot so keeping the impulsion up is a problem. The other issues is that when they rush, they FLING themselves over the fence and it shakes loose your lower leg and they aren't really using their hocks. Make her circle until she calms, let her jump and then move on.

I don't suggest attempting jumping anything more than 2 or 3 fences at a time. Start out early. Warm up 5 minutes, trot a cross rail, go back to flatting out. Work a little more, canter a few fences, back to flatting. Keep her guessing. The more and more you just jump and jump and jump the hotter a tamale you are going to get.

I had an hour and a half lesson on my guy the other night, all jumping all the time and he loved it but it took and hour and a half to get something decent from him!!!

Another suggestion is a pole 9' before and 9' after a fence. That makes them rock back on their hock. Also settling into your heel after a fence and asking for a firm "whoa" helps a rusher as well.

Apr. 20, 2009, 10:43 AM
I would go back to basics, this is a green horse and it is important to teach them from the start that rushing is not the way to go. Put a pole on the ground between two standards and establish a rythimical canter, count 1-2, 1-2 as you canter keeping that same rythum, then approach and canter the pole in the SAME rythum, do this REPETITVELY until she is basically bored, then turn the pole into a TINY cross rail and repeat this whole exercise KEEPING the same 1-2 rythum. DO this for several training sessions gradully in creasing the height of the fence, but do NOT go up or change fence until she stays in rythum. Then introduce a line but make the second one a pole on the ground, repeating the process until she canters a fence and a pole gradually raising the second pole DON't be in a hurry to get to "jumps" with her. Set the tone right from the start. Another thing that I do with very eager horses is to halt several strides from a fence (from a canter) wait til horse is settled then trot the fence, I do this inside of lines as well. Until the horse is expecting the halt, then I change it to a Half halt and the horse will respond. If they expect the halt, the half halt becomes easier. Anytime they DON'T listen to the half halt go back to the halt and trot to make them understand what you are asking

Small Change
Apr. 20, 2009, 11:31 AM
Dad's mare was the same way, and is now getting far, far better. She was incredibly bold to all her fences, which caused him to ride to the fence very defensively, get left behind, and then sit down to quickly only causing her to rush even more.

What worked for his mare was getting her into a hackamore, as she was very suspicious of her mouth being touched (I think she'd been nailed a few times when leaping at fences, and therefore was anticipating being hit in the mouth when she jumped). She is much more settled in the hackamore, and far more willing to take a bit of a joke without getting frazzled.

Also, plenty of flat work with the focus being to get her forward without rushing. When Dad was anticipating her zooming to the fence, he'd back her off the pace too much, which in turn meant she leaped at the fence to make up for a lack of momentum.

Plenty of flatwork around the fences helped too, as she learned that she could be around the jumps without expecting to go over them.

He would also circle her in front of the fence when she came in too strong, but this wasn't as effective as quietly halting if she tried to rush. The circling meant that they were "motorcycling" through the turn in front of the fence if she was strong, and that they were doing an Uncle Wiggly on their approach if she was soft (as she expected to go around the corner). Instead, by halting, the approach was always the same, but there was just no reward for zooming. He would ride his approach the same each time, and ask for a quiet halt before the placer pole if she got strong (which was only effective because the mare's flatwork was quite good; otherwise this can just lead to an ugly head-flinging pulling match in front of the fence). If the mare was soft and anticipating the halt, he would let her flow quietly over the fence instead.

Now that she is quiet about her fences, we incorperate small fences into all aspects of her flatwork. We found that she was also getting revved up by having a specific portion of her schooling be all about jumping, and she would be constantly looking for the next fence. By mixing it in with quiet flatwork, it is now just another part of the ride.

Good luck and stay patient. It takes a while, but if you can get your brave horse to work with you, you'll be laughing. Dad is really excited to get his horse out to some little jumper stuff this summer, as she is a real confidence booster to ride in the ring - with her braveness now tempered by ridability, she jumps softly and quietly over anything from anywhere.

Apr. 20, 2009, 11:57 AM
Things I have used for a horse like this:
--set a small jump on a circle. Canter circle, occasionally adding in the jump
--canter towards jump and come back to a trot a few strides out and trot it. Repeating this tends to make a horse think it is coming back to a trot, so the horse tends to balance and slow itself a bit coming in to the fence. This is the one I have had alot of luck using.
--cavelletti and/or ground poles coming in to the fence.

Apr. 20, 2009, 12:15 PM
With a hotter horse, I wouldn't do things repetively because all it does, especially for a horse who is anxious to a fence, is makes the situation worse. I tried canter poles on a circle and all it did was make my horse hotter and hotter. And rushed more and more. And when we added or subtrated a stride, it made for a bigger and bigger struggle, thus accomplishing nothing.

Also, I'll be honest. My guy will canter up to a cross rail and canter away the same all day long. But if you give him a bigger 'reward' in the size of a 2'6" fence that's where he gets forward so if she's fine at cross rails, you need to move up the ladder and go to the next challenge.

But you know, lots of this will be hit or miss. What works for one horse may not work for yours.

I also advocate the halt before the fence and the reason why is because they are already never going to stop. FORCING them to stop is the ultimate in denying them their reward. I used that on a rushing pony once and it cured him quickly. Circling out didn't do a thing for him.

Apr. 20, 2009, 12:44 PM
She tends to be quite mentally immature [/quote]

She runs, is tense and has temper tantrums.
That doesn't sound brave to me, that sounds scared.

People tend to think that a horse who ruuuuuns and pulls to the fence is eager and brave and loves their job. They are often really horses whose flatwork is lacking and who are not confident over fences.

So, if it were me, I'd go back to jumping several little fences every day as just part of the flatwork - oh darn, look, a little jump is in the way, oh well, over we go, on with flatwork we go. Trotting, cantering, whatever you're doing, jumps just 'get in the the way". Even walking - so yes, that means they are small things to jump or "jump" over.

Apr. 20, 2009, 01:30 PM
That doesn't sound brave to me, that sounds scared.

People tend to think that a horse who ruuuuuns and pulls to the fence is eager and brave and loves their job. They are often really horses whose flatwork is lacking and who are not confident over fences.

So, if it were me, I'd go back to jumping several little fences every day as just part of the flatwork - oh darn, look, a little jump is in the way, oh well, over we go, on with flatwork we go. Trotting, cantering, whatever you're doing, jumps just 'get in the the way". Even walking - so yes, that means they are small things to jump or "jump" over.

Based on my (very limited) experience, I would be concerned that this is exactly the case. This very much describes my mare's behavior when I was jumping her. She would just rip the reins away from you and just barrel towards anything you pointed her at. We thought she loved to jump, she was always dragging you to everything. My trainer at the time would set us up with exercises where I would have to pull her up hard before the fences so she wouldn't anticipate going towards the jumps. All of this culminated in a rearing problem.

The problem ended up being that the poor thing was terribly overfaced. She was not nearly broke enough to be asked to do what she was doing. She just had no clue, and ended up rearing in frustration. She didn't have a balanced enough canter on the flat to begin with. She didn't have any adjustability in her rhythm off of the seat. She had a tenuous grasp on lateral movement, and frequently misunderstood any cue with the leg to mean "go faster." She didn't have enough understanding on bending. By the time I got smart enough to stop jumping her and find some help, she was so frazzled that it took months of pro training for her to relax into a rideable state.

I'm not sure that this is the case with your mare; you sound a lot more experienced than I am, so you would know better than I. But my mare was an older "project" like yours, and we were under the impression that she was a heck of a lot more broke than she actually turned out to be. I thought I would mention my experience because some of the exercises that would be helpful in a more educated horse actually caused my mare a great deal of confusion and stress. She needed some serious flatwork before even considering asking her to do some of the things I was asking of her.

Apr. 20, 2009, 01:58 PM
Honestly, you won't like this but...if she is still that green and mentally immature? You are asking too much at this point. She is just reacting this way because she has not learned what else to do. When a greenie acts like this, they are trying to tell you something.

How is your flatwork? Can you do all 3 speeds at all 3 gaits? Halt every time when asked within a reasonable distance? Shoulder in/out and leg yield? At least the basics of all these need to be firmly in place or you have little or only erratic control when you add something that excites them-like jumping.

How many days a week are you flatting and how many days working over fences? And how long has this mare been on your program?

When the wheels come off, you have to step back and take only baby steps. You need to go back to flatwork and do only poles on the ground until you get a better handle on this one. And, sorry, I don't buy the "hot" excuse. Had a few that were hotter then hot and I still expected good behavior plus did not tolerate any spooking, that's no excuse either.

We had a long and contentious thread not too long ago about Western horses being better broke overall. More broke on the ground, better manners and much more broke on the flat. Basically that's true, we are in too much of a hurry to jump and let too much go.

Get this mare more broke before you start to challenge her.

Apr. 20, 2009, 02:13 PM
Your project sounds a lot like my little mare. I got the ride on her from owner because the primary trainer at the barn didn't want to deal with the crazy horse. Panache is very sensitive and a bit on the drama queen side of life (read: likes to overreact). She is also tremendously athletic and loves to jump. When I started with her (summer '07) I was doing w/t/c and small jumps. She would rush and pull to the fences and always be hunting for the next one. I know she loves the jumping and she loves the cantering, our issue was that she didn't have the muscle tone or the mental maturity for them to be combined.

Our solution was (I bought her) going back to TONS of flat work, and only trot work through the winter - lots of transitions, bending, accepting leg. Early spring we started adding back in a little canter work but again, she had a hard time balancing and tended to revert back to rushing a pulling. She finally grasped the concept of carrying herself on her hindquarters by doing a lot of transitions to/from trot and walk into canter and cantering over random ground poles. Predictabilty was a no-no with this horse; once she figures out the pattern she gets rushy again. To start back over fences we jumped random small things, both in trot and canter; like another person mentioned it was approached as an "oops, there's something in the way, oh well." During this period we were also solidifying some of the lateral work (leg yield, turn on haunches, and shoulder-in) and introducing the lead change concept. By late summer early fall we schooled a few course and did three shows. Lead changes were there on one side, the other I made sure to land in it. This winter had a lot of down time but some light lead change exercises and just general conditioning work. Here we are nearly two years later and this past Saturday she laid down to nice trips (2'9) complete with lead changes!

The key with this horse, and most sensitive types I've worked with, has been to take everything very slowly, ignore the boldness/dramatics, and to give them time to understand the concepts. If they don't understand go back to something easier, regain their confidence (in themselves), then ask again. If it doesn't happen after a few tries leave it for another week. Often times the light will flicker a bit more strongly after they've had time to ponder the question while doing the things they know. Best of luck!

Apr. 20, 2009, 06:50 PM
I would set up canter poles, starting with one, then adding poles in a line. If your horse rushes down a line, set up poles four or five strides away so you can circle in the middle before going to the second pole. Circling is probably one of the few ways to get an excitable horse to calm down. Then do this A LOT. Once you feel like your horse is good about the canter poles, put them up to small cross rails but keep the exercise the same. Sometimes setting up canter poles one stride away from each other helps teach them to regulate their stride a little better.

If your horse will allow you without getting fussy, you can mix it up a bit and try trotting in between the line to see if the horse is on your aid or not. Avoid jerking and pulling hard, instead substituting lateral movement or circling for abrupt pulls, if you can.

Sorry to say, there's no quick fix to the problem. Just patience and time. Linda Allen's jumping exercises book should also have some excellent exercises for your problem.

Best of luck!

Apr. 20, 2009, 07:35 PM
findeight said is perfectly. I've worked with young, hot horses before and making them repeat excercise can make them hotter and stronger. It's best to fix their flatwork first, and then add in a small cross rail here and there. Then you can build from there. JB's suggestion is spot on too.

Apr. 20, 2009, 07:50 PM
JB and Findeight are absolutely right.
Don't use flower boxes, spooky or bigger jumps to back up or slow down your horse and make up for insufficient flat work. You are only kidding yourself.
Make sure your horse has had a turnout or a spin on the rope before you start -don't make your job harder than necessary.
Lots of proper flat work, aound the jumps, circles and rails on the ground. Fit a jump in then go back to the flatwork. Teach you horse the meaning of a soft whoa on the flat.
Getting your horse to do well with low, plain jumps will be best in the long run.
I am not big on the x's as for some horses they teach the horse to be uneven with it's front end. Many will learn to dangle a leg into the x.
Good luck.