View Full Version : the spooky corner of the ring...

Oct. 12, 2009, 06:32 PM
I was as a horse show this weekend and after observing several people I'm curious what the general conscious is about getting a horse into the spooky corner. I understand all horses are different but I was surprised at the 180 degree difference in training techniques. It seemed it was either whip em in there, praise them when they go or let them get used to it, move into it slowly and cautiously, and then praise. What would cause you to do one or the other?

Oct. 12, 2009, 06:34 PM
What I would NOT do is move in slowly and cautiously. Nothing better to communicate to your horse that they ought to be afraid than a slow, tentative ride. I would just work my way into the corner by carrying on as I had around the rest of the ring. If you have seen other horses spook in the same corner, do not necessarily expect your horse to do the same and ride with an iron grip, but perhaps keep it at the back of your mind and put your leg on a little stronger.

Oct. 12, 2009, 10:32 PM
Personally, I have found like HARROLD that moving slow and cautious doesn't work - my mare has a chance then to think about the goblins and lose focus on me. It goes against all my instincts, but riding with a little loop in the rein and lots of leg is the best way to reassure my mare that everything is ok and keep her listening.

Oct. 13, 2009, 12:54 AM
having ridden several "spooky" horses I have found that each horse is different. However with most horses it's LOTS of leg and encourage an inside bend. The bend makes them think of what you are asking them to do, it makes them work and focus on something else. Gradually you can work less intense as you go by and then to regular work.

Now my new guy will go that way BUT if I have a scary sun spot, a new chair in the corner etc. I walk up to it he looks at it and then all s fine in his mind.

I take this approach because at 3 he was bought by a school and LOST his mind. After two years we have an excellent relationship and I like to keep it that way by not frazzling him if it's not necessary. Although HE DOES get over it through working in that area I just find this way more efficient and productive with this particular horse

Oct. 13, 2009, 09:26 AM
When schooling I ride into the corner with forwardness and focus. When showing, I still ride forward and focused, but I shave off the corner a little. We still get a hairy eyeball moment, but no OMG there's a monster moment. My mare tends to be a bit of a drama queen :winkgrin:

Oct. 13, 2009, 10:33 AM
What you don't want to do is let the horse "change the subject" from listening to you. It is so very easy to "train" them that they can slow down and stop when they get tired by allowing them to slow down and stop when they are afraid of something-all they really get out of that is they can slow down and stop anytime they don't like something.

Forward, forward, forward. Inside bend, do NOT let them look at whatever, make them listen to you. Do NOT whip them into the booger spot-you can tap them, hard if needed, to keep forward and that bend...but do NOT hit them to make them approach the spot/object-that just makes them more afraid that spot will actually hurt them. They cannot learn to associate punishment with an object or place anymore then they can stop.

If you cannot do that, the forward and the inside bend, you have a training/flatwork issue to work on. Not rocket science here, just thinking about how that horse perceives things.

And, you know, you don't HAVE to go right in there or hug the rail around that corner. Cut the darn corner a little. Work in another apart of the ring. Give them a little slack and win that war.

Oct. 13, 2009, 10:49 AM
Depending on the avoidance techinque, I have two seperate plans of attack. If the spook is a shy run out or spin out it is genrally a spoof. I concentrate on shoulder in and ignore the scary corner for a few trips as much as possible until it loses it's majick.

However, if there is something genuinely scary enough that brings my horse to a lock the brakes, full stop, I have to let him stand there a minute, examine the monster and move off on his own. Trying to force him towards the object is a pointless exercise. I want to ride past it, not too it anyway.

Oct. 13, 2009, 11:08 AM
The problem with letting them stop and look as a routine technique will really bite you if you plan on showing over fences on any of the better levels where you cannot go school the course and let them see everything.

Posted this before but, despite what I say and advise, I sometimes do something else as I did a few years ago.

Winter show, Indoors in a notoriosly spooky arena. First fence on the Hunter course was an enamel finish tunnel wall/aqueduct fence with alot of black reflecting the overhead lights. Set on the 1/4 line between the standards of outside and diagonal lines that blocked it from view until you were almost on it turning away from the in gate...maybe 5 strides from the fence.

After watching about 6 out of the first 15 to go stop at it and one refuse to go near it, I had the bright idea to shape my courtesy circle so mare could get a look at it.

That was stupid because she did get a good look at it...and would not go near it. I should have done as the Pros in that Open class did and just turned the corner short so they could not think about it for more then 3 strides and just jumped the dam thing. And we did just that when I came around for a second try, turned way short to it and she never saw it until she was on top of it and too late to stop.

I also spent about 20 years showing QHs, Arabs and Paints in the Trail classes where spooky obstacles are the norm...and they cannot just stop and sniff or refuse to go by it-they can look but that's it.

If you plan of competition with one, they have to learn to go even when unsure or flat out scared.

Oct. 13, 2009, 04:13 PM
my plan of attack is just to keep working and gradually spiral our workspace into the scary corner. hopefully by the time you get there pony is focused and paying attention, and doesn't have the brain cells to devote to being scared. always keep moving forward, asking for bend, etc. to keep their brains on their work and not on the monster in the corner. riding in the scary part with a steady buddy can help, too.

i also find it helps for YOU not to expect anything scary in the corner. the more laid-back and non-chalant you are about it, the better your horse will feel about it.

Oct. 13, 2009, 04:24 PM
I agree, going forward works much better- keep their attention so that they don't have as much energy to focus on the scary monster in the corner. If I can keep on the rail, I go for inside bend while keeping my inside spur on to make sure they won't scoot sideways (you can also use a little tap with your crop if necessary). If I have a feeling they won't even go near said monster, I will cut the corner the first time around then leg yield over to the rail. Next pass I will go closer to the rail, and so on, if I have time. I used to ride a mare that *hated* the far end of our indoor. I would have to pick up the trot as soon as I got on and do some serious leg yielding to get her into that end and keep her mind really focused- otherwise she would stop, plant, and threaten to rear. Keeping the forward energy going is a must, because even if they do spook, it's much easier to carry on what you were doing.

Oct. 13, 2009, 10:26 PM
Once my mare gets it in her head that there is some horse-eating-monster on the other side of the ring rail she will spook EVERY time she passes it. I had this happen to me the first day of a show where one of my flat classes was in a different ring from the rest. She spooked every time we passed the one side where there was a generator sitting just below the rail outside the arena. The next morning I walked her around that side of the arena before any classes started and made her touch it (they had a sign saying NO HORSES but I was quick). When we had our first class of the morning she gave it the hairy eye but inside rein and leg quickly put her back on track and she didn't jump 10 ft inward like before.

Last year when we attempted special jumpers 2' in the gigantic scary indoor it took four times to get her around the course (she's a greenie so i don't blame her). Before the last round we walked her all around the outside of the arena and let her look at the jumps inside from different angles and see all the stuff outside the rails. She flew around the course like a bat out of hell but didn't take down any rails :)