View Full Version : Having Trouble Placing Higher than 5th

Equus Venatio
May. 3, 2010, 09:09 AM
I was wondering if anyone has some good advice - I'm feeling a little lost. I have put a lot of effort this year into showing - last three shows I place very inconsistently. The last show we did hunters 2'9 and my horse scooted at one side of the arena (although we recovered easily/ it dropped me out of placing at all - we made all the distances in between the fences). In the middle of an under saddle class she broke from the canter as I tried to steer towards the center line and was obstinate about picking the canter back up again - everything else was pretty perfect - I still managed to place even though the judge acknowledged the break in stride). At another show she kept getting distracted about what was in the judges stand (she can easily get distracted and my trainer wants me to be patient and not "hang on her face" when she starts looking at things - I feel I am trying to gain her attention by a check release action, but sometimes the horse just gets uptight about it) My trainer says I have been riding consistently better each lesson (I feel it too), but the horse I ride can be very inconsistent - some days she is "up" and some days is is sluggish. On some days I know she is perfect and I get a prefect ride. The days she is sluggish I feel she is resisting my leg. My trainer doesn't want me to use spurs and a crop tends to "freak her out". I don't know if it is my skill set - I take lessons 1-3 times a week on the same horse. I don't know if it's a relationship thing - the horse I ride is not "mine" and she is not what I would call a people oriented horse. Her ground manners are pretty annoying - she drags everyone all over the place - whether it's to get at a patch of grass or to see whatever she wants/ very pushy when she feels like it. I feel she would benefit from a ground manner training session at least once a week to get her focused on the leader/trainer - I don't get the sense my trainer thinks this is the issue. I think she feels it's all about my leg aids and focus, but I think there is more to it than that. I feel we are at a plateau until consistent behavior on the part of the horse can be expected. Any professional suggestions or similar experiences out there? I would like to figure out a solution. Thanks!

make x it x so
May. 3, 2010, 09:31 AM
Not a professional, but IMO, that's the nature of the sport. The fact that you're getting more consistent in lessons is great, and eventually it will happen at shows, too, but it usually takes longer. Horses are different animals at shows: when I jump my horse at home he is pretty much always soft and responsive, and therefore we usually have good courses. At the show I was at yesterday (3' A/A Hunters), he was extremely tense and we had at least one chip or extremely long distance in every class except my last course when I finally figured out how to ride the horse I had that day. It was like I was riding a completely different horse- one that only knew 2 speeds: up and down, or dragging like a freight train.

I didn't get upset about it because I know that my horse is more than capable of being soft and relaxed, even at shows, and yesterday just wasn't his day. Often, the first outdoor show of the season goes like this, and then we improve from there, so long as we are showing consistently (he's one of those thoroughbreds who THRIVES on work/repetition).

So instead of being upset about your show performance, be happy about your improvement in lessons, and keep showing as much as you can until it clicks there, too!

May. 3, 2010, 10:34 AM
Don't blame the horse for normal horsey behaviors. It's your job to learn to ride the horse so that the bobbles -- which are inevitable and which every horse does -- look smooth. Then the ribbons will come.

It is extremely common for horses to be different one day to the next. It is extremely common to ride better in lessons than at shows. And it is extremely common to be frustrated with the process. Hang in there. She sounds like a nice mare, particularly if you are getting any ribbons at all with major flaws such as those you describe (breaking gait, etc.).

May. 3, 2010, 10:46 AM
This may come across sounding bitchy, but...When someone complains about my (very nice!) lesson horses, it drives me crazy! Be thankful that your trainer has a horse you can show at 2'9" and be in the ribbons, that you didn't have to buy, maintain, or pay board for!

You know the way you can have a "perfect" horse? BUY ONE. And once you've done that, you will probably find that even your "perfect" horse has good days and bad days, good trips and bad trips, good shows and bad shows, no matter how much money you spend or how nice it is. If you want to ride something that behaves exactly the same way every time you get on, buy a motorcyle instead.

May. 3, 2010, 10:49 AM
As far as her ground manners go - you need to nip that in the bud ASAP - the longer she gets away with that stuff, the hard it will be to correct. If you need to, lead her with a shank and as soon as you even feel her start to move where she should not be give her a little "reminder" that she is to be paying attention to you.

Maybe start each lesson with 15minutes of ground work and then ride. If you're getting lessons 1-3x a week and you take 15mins each time to work on that, she should turn around pretty quickly. Ground work is the first part of training and if she's a lesson horse, she may have had kids letting her get away with that kind of behavior because they couldn't hold on to her well.

Per the spooking and the breaking stride, the more you take her places the better she will get. And just keep a firm leg on her so that you don't get jolted out of the saddle if she does decide to spook. Most shows let you school in the rings your classes are in beforehand so that way you can get all those little quirks out and you can actually stop and let her look at what she is shying at.

Breaking stride, you may need a small spur and keep it on her in the shows just to remind her, "hey, we're cantering and we're going to keep cantering until i say whoa" - Is she in shape? That could also be an issue with breaking stride.
And of course practice holding a canter a few trips around the ring in each direction when you're warming up.

You're paying your trainer, if you know she has issues, speak up to your trainer and let her know that you want to work on these issues.. even though they're the trainer, they don't always know best.

May. 3, 2010, 10:53 AM
Don't get discouraged, which is easier said than done. I don't ride the fanciest horse in the barn who also happens to suffer from ADD. So show days can be a bit hit-or-miss for us. Over fences I need to be consistent about riding the horse underneath me at that particular moment and quickly determine the best way to show off the horse's strengths. The under saddle part is usually more of a "hide the mistakes" effort at this point. It's taken quite a bit of experimenting to find the best way to hack the mare. For example, she gets hyped up after group canters but relaxes if you slip the reins and scritch her neck, which I try to do discreetly. If you reverse by making a half turn she'll get jiggy so we try to cut across the middle a bit. If you take up the reins too much before the upward transition she gets hollow, so we shorten the reins after the transition. She can get distracted about her left lead so I try to be off the rail to leg yield back or in a good position to circle or cut discreetly across the ring to pick up the left lead. For me, I look at shows as a guage of how well I understand my horse and how I've improved as a rider. Sure I can ride more consistently at home or in lessons but can I translate that increase in skill and consistency to a better ride in public and under pressure? The highlight of my last show season was my second place ribbon in an under saddle class. My critter is generally towards the bottom of the class for the hack (not fancy mover, a bit more knee action) but I managed to keep her organized and focused during the class to the extent that I could ask for a little more expression and "fanciness" when the judge was looking my way. And it paid off! Yep, ribbons are awesome, but do you feel like you got a better performance from the horse at each consecutive show?

Coppers mom
May. 3, 2010, 10:55 AM
Well, welcome to showing :lol:

I wouldn't worry about it at all. Everything you describe is completely normal. Everyone's better at home, not just ponies. You may be doing something without even realizing it to make the horse even more nervous at shows because, well, you payed for it and it's darn important! But, that's how it goes.

If you find her ground manners annoying, don't let them do the annoying things around you. She doesn't need a training session once a week, just good, consistent handling. And if you being consistent doesn't fix her for everyone else, she can at least behave for you because she knows you won't put up with being dragged and pushed around.

At shows, your trainer's right. A tense horse is only going to get worse if you choke up and ride with the E-break on in an attempt to get their attention back. I know it sounds crazy, considering you do care, but go in and try to ride as if you don't really give a crap about anything. "Oh, judges booth? What freaking ever! :rolleyes:" It'll help her relax and focus more than any kind of micromanaging that you can do. If you're loose, relaxed, and swinging along like you're out on a Sunday ride, she'll try and match you. Horses like it when you do your own thing, it comes off as leadership, and heavens do they like to follow.

Also, don't get too nervous to ride as if you're in a lesson. Would you not keep your leg on in a lesson and let her drop from the canter? No. So always keep your leg on, even if she's tense. Would you let her drift through a line in a lesson? Again, nope, use those little legs! If you think of it more as a lesson where you're just trying to get things done correctly, rather than a show where everything has to look nice and pretty, you'll ride much more efficiently and help her relax into show pony mode.

May. 3, 2010, 10:56 AM
It is extremely common for horses to be different one day to the next. It is extremely common to ride better in lessons than at shows. And it is extremely common to be frustrated with the process. Hang in there.

This. Please stop blaming the horse, and ask yourself what YOU can do to improve.

It sounds like you possibly get a little tense at shows. Could that be the case?

May. 3, 2010, 11:07 AM
In reading your explanation of te situation all Im hearing is that you are not at a level yet where you can adapt to what your horse is giving you. All of us out there in the show rin are dealing with little issues just like your horse has, we are just better able to cope with it and make it invisible.

Don't blame the horse for your pinks and greens. No, it is not reasonable tht you should expect consistency from a borrowed horse. You have to CREATE consistency through your ride. All of the things you mentioned that happened at the show started with "she" - she broke the canter, she scooted, etc. It should read, I was not on my game and failed to anticipate a reaction to the scary end of the ring, I forgot to support her with my leg when I cut across the ring at the canter.

Ask your trainer to set up show situations at home - scary objects in the corner, other traffic, a horse turned out next to the ring, and practice keeping the horse focussed underneath you.

May. 3, 2010, 11:08 AM
As far as her ground manners go - you need to nip that in the bud ASAP - the longer she gets away with that stuff, the hard it will be to correct. If you need to, lead her with a shank and as soon as you even feel her start to move where she should not be give her a little "reminder" that she is to be paying attention to you.
If this horse belonged to the OP and she was requesting suggestions on improving ground manners, that would be great advice. However, it is NOT her horse, and there is already a trainer involved.

Does this horse drag the trainer around? If so, I can see the OP's frustration. If not, the OP is the one who needs to improve her handling skills, not the horse. I have more than one adult student who has let my lesson horses drag them around on the ground...The horses are not stupid, and they sometimes take advantage of a timid or inconsistent handler. The students are the ones who get the "groundwork" lessons, not the horse. And there is no shank involved.

Believe me, I am the first person to put a shank on an unruly horse. But in most cases with the lesson horses? I'd be after the rider. And I'd be pretty pissed if one showed up with a shank for my horse because of some advice given on an internet BB.

May. 3, 2010, 12:02 PM
You are absolutely correct -

I guess I rely too much on hoping people have enough common sense to ask before they do things like that if it's not their property.

And like I said, the mare probably gets away with it with the other lesson kids, so yes, it most likely is the handler's.

May. 3, 2010, 12:07 PM
I know a lot of people, myself included, ride very differently at home versus at a horse show sometimes. I've gotten a lot better about it (now I just jinxed myself!) but sometimes I just get so nervous at shows that the great lesson I had the week before doesn't appear at all in the show ring because I channeled my nerves to my horse.

May. 3, 2010, 12:19 PM
There are some push button horses out their that go into a ring and do their job and figure out everything on their own - lead changes, strides, etc. But even these "perfect" horses will break from the canter and peek at some spooky objects. I understand being frustrated when your ride doesn't go the way you wanted to or isn't the best that you can do. But I don't think you can worry to much on placings because it doesn't always depend on how you do, but on how everyone else competing that day does.

It sounds like you feel you don't have enough tools at your disposal to get this horse to listen to your leg when she is not being forward. Perhaps your trainer could work with you more on how to respond when the horse is ignoring your leg? Also, if this horse is pulling you around on the ground, ask your trainer to show you how to handle this, too. This way, you are treating the lesson horses in the way your trainer considers appropriate, but also you will be consistent with how the trainer responds. That consistency across the board can result in some actual changes.

Go Fish
May. 3, 2010, 02:22 PM
Perhaps, if you are not consistent at home, you shouldn't be showing. Nothing personal, but I see an awful lot of this at shows these days. In their haste to get to the show ring, many riders are missing the basics that allow them to deal with a less than perfect horse at the shows.

May. 3, 2010, 02:27 PM
I think you should consider buying your own horse. I think you are pretty fortunate to be able to show a horse over 2'9" without having to pay the bills on it.

Most people plateau on lesson horses. That's the reason that people buy their own horses -- to move forward on and progress ESPECIALLY if showing is what they want to do.

May. 3, 2010, 03:00 PM
In reading your explanation of te situation all Im hearing is that you are not at a level yet where you can adapt to what your horse is giving you.

I agree with this. Part of learning to ride is learning to ride "whatever comes out of the barn" on any given day. Horses are consistently inconsistent as a general rule. Push button horses are rare, and even those that are truly "push button" will still break from a canter without proper instruction from the rider.

May. 3, 2010, 03:24 PM
Never blame horse. Especially one that is trained to do their job. A green horse just doen't know enough.

It is holes in your training not the horses. Do you do a lot of flat work in lessons or is it just jumping? The flatwork is where many problems happen from what I reading. Do you keep the outside rein contact and your inside leg on?

Oh and there was one show season that my old horse and I never came home with a ribbon at all. I was thrilled when we placed 5th or 6th.

Equus Venatio
May. 3, 2010, 04:32 PM
Thanks so much to all for the advice -

Just for clarification:

I own three horses (including a pony I purchased to help out with income for both my trainer and me)
I pay for trainer's fees and the use fee of this horse (I ride this horse as she is most suited for showing - my other three horses: a pony for others, a fox hunter and a very young/green horse)
I have ridden for many years as a youth/did some showing/ left riding for 20+ years to earn more money/ now returned and am loving that I can now afford to ride - I fox hunt with a wonderful fox hunter and have just recently started to show hunter ring.

She is a wonderful horse, just a little ADD (she has a hitch in her walk and occasionally bucks in transition from right to left lead canter). I wouldn't call her green - quite experienced actually - nor is she push button and I am trying to get a balanced judgement on what is reasonable to expect from me, her and/or possibly somethinge else I haven't considered.

I plan to speak to my trainer (of course) - I don't really use COTH much and thought it might be interesting to see/share in other's experiences.
Thanks again.

May. 3, 2010, 05:15 PM
As someone without a horse I can sympathize with the plight of the OP. It can be frustrating when trying to improve your skills when no matter how well you do with a horse, he will be ridden more often by others. Those "others" are out of your control and could be complete novices.
It doesn't appear that the OP is ungrateful for having a horse able to show 2'9 and it's not like she's trying to get out of paying for her use etc.

OP, you may still be a bit nervous in the ring and are conveying it to the horse. The only cure for that is to keep going until get becomes "boring." There is also the possibility that this mare's "maximum" performance is being attanined and she is just a step below the best horses in the division/area where you show. If that is the case accept it. Keep going to shows to build your confidence and you may see her step up a bit more.

May. 3, 2010, 05:31 PM
Keep in mind - Lessons will be where your performance peaks!

Do not expect the same results when you have no coach at your side along with the pressure of being all alone in a show ring.

May. 3, 2010, 08:39 PM
Here's the deal with riding, and competition in general. You can try your best, and your best can not be good enough, because someone else's best is even better. So your best bet is to keep trying in lessons and work on your riding so you won't take your leg off at the canter or so you can keep her straight.

May. 4, 2010, 07:41 PM
Consider yourself lucky. At least you're not riding a dirty stopper in the Maclay at Indio...(I don't know what my trainer was thinking telling me to do that...)

Ground manners - all horses should have good ground manners. There is no excuse. And what happens on the ground does translate to what happens under saddle. Chances are if your horse is a lesson horse, she's learned to just tune everyone out and doesn't have a bond or relationship with any one person. She's an independent, and as such, doesn't feel any responsibility for you or what happens. Mares are especially funny and require a certain amount of back and forth to come to an agreement of what is okay for you to do with them. She's a girl and probably feels unappreciated too. ;)

Showing successfully really just takes practice. The more you do it, the better you'll get. I can't tell you how many rounds I did when I was just happy to get around and walk out of the ring in one piece. A lot of times, the only way I'd place is if there were less than six people in the class, or someone went off course or fell off.

May. 4, 2010, 10:16 PM
'my' horse Tank is well.... her name is Tank. She likes to toss her head and bolt. She HATES it when I hang on her face, or really put any pressure on her at all. What I have been doing is small circles when she starts speeding up. I squeeze my inside rein and keep pressure on my outside, then push her out with my inside leg. Sometimes it takes a while, but she eventually settles down, and even stretches.

Vid: http://s869.photobucket.com/albums/ab259/mprantl14/?action=view&current=OSUandRolex025.flv

This was taken about 5 mins after she tried to bolt and got all fussy, I 'jiggled' the reins a little, alternating slight pressure and got her into a small circle, gradually making it larger until I could move her to the outside.

So, long story short, I'd do small circles when he starts getting strong.

ETA: This is how she normally acts when she's being good, I don't know if it compares to how your horse acts http://s869.photobucket.com/albums/ab259/mprantl14/?action=view&current=OSUandRolex030-1.flv