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Catie79
Aug. 5, 2011, 11:49 AM
After a year of work, the dear princess is out and strutting her stuff at the sanctioned events. She's got cross country figured out and isn't scaring people nearly as much in stadium. We're even looking to move up to Novice this fall! Unfortunately, since she's now fit and aware of how much fun is to be had at shows, our dressage scores have bottomed out. At home she can give me just beautiful dressage work, but at the shows we both seem to get rattled in warm up and are scoring in the 40's due to tension and occasional explosions.

Many people have said that I need a strategy and a plan for my dressage warm up (to help both of us settle), but I'm having trouble figuring out how to start that. I'm hoping to hear some suggestions from other riders that have horses with a lot of talent but are also rather distractable and tense. Typically she'll get above the bit and do a trot like a sewing machine, followed by canter transitions that can qualify as airs above the ground before settling into a nice canter. She tends to crane her head up to look around, and heavens help us if she can see her friends by the trailer while we're heading across the arena. While jumping she's not herd bound, but dressage isn't nearly interesting enough to keep her focus when her friends are heading the other direction. Not much I can do to prevent that when the trailer parking is across from the dressage rings (like at UNH).

What do you do to get your horse's focus and to encourage them to be calm? Long rein warm up, put them right to work, certain exercises? Any suggestions would be appreciated, since the combined knowledge of COTH certainly helped with our jumping issues over the winter. Thanks!

GingerJumper
Aug. 5, 2011, 12:01 PM
Some things I've tried successfully on horses that sound like your mare...

Transitions within the gait and into other gaits. She's getting quick in the trot? Give her a couple half halts to remind her you're still up there, then collect her into a tiny stide. She wants to get above the bit in her canter transitions? Right back down to trot, rebalance, regroup, back to canter, until she figures it out. Simple changes of lead through the walk or trot, transitions from stretchy trot back to working trot on a circle... any transitions you can think of.

Do you ride a lot with other people at home? If not, it's something I'd consider. Shows offer a lot of new distractions that a lot of times, horses don't see at home. Try to ride with as much going on around you as you can.... drape saddle pads and tarps over arena fences, spread spooky objects around, ride with other people and horses in the ring... anything you can do to get her to realize, "hey, wait a sec... none of that stuff matters! What was I so worried about?" I'd also try hauling out for schooling and clinics as much as possible so she gets used to going places and being away from her buddies. Ask if you can bring her along to just tag along at friends' shows just so she gets the chance to chill out in a show environment.

EventingChase
Aug. 5, 2011, 12:10 PM
Maybe try riding twice the morning of dressage? This helped my old horse and I a lot. He had a ride where he could look a bit more or be silly and "up." It did not bother me or get me tense since we were not about to go directly in the ring. Then I would bring him out again just 15 minutes or so before his test for true "warm up" and he was much more focused and disciplined.

purplnurpl
Aug. 5, 2011, 12:17 PM
I, due to my experience, have a hard time believeing the "dearest hottness horsie" is better at home than at shows bit.

I have ridden hot horses...horses that you have to be sure you sit just like so on or you'll end up in the next county type of hot...but even these horses have done great at shows in the dressage.

Now I have never ridden basket cases like Clark Montgomery's past Advanced horse who would lay down in the dressage arena. ;)

What I am seeing often is riders that turn into lightning butts when they get nervous.

So, you have mentioned that you get nervous or unsetteled.

1st, what is it that makes you nervous?

2nd, quick fix: take a Xanex. :yes:


As for me:
I warm up at shows EXACTLY the same as I warm up at home.

march, long and low
trot, long and low
canter, long and low
pick up the reins and engage in a lower frame and do all the same lateral moves that I do at home in the EXACT same sequence.
circles
then leg yield
then shoulder in
then travers
then shoulder in to renvers
then canter
then canter transisiton and moving of the quaters for engagement to bring my horse into "competition position".

Horses are creatures of habit. If you do the same thing--they know what is coming and feel safe with what they know.

For the hotter horses often I teach them to funnel their nerves by trotting with too much impulsion in a deep frame. It gets them moving and keeps them on the aids.

The deep frame and very forward is the trick.
If I need to to then I also canter in a deep frame in two point.

good luck!

Carried Away
Aug. 5, 2011, 12:55 PM
I am a big fan of riding more than once the day of the test (and sometimes even the day before too!). Lots of hot TB's with boundless energy have taught me to be very patient and methodical, even if the horse is trying to look around, spook, spin etc.

Lateral work is your friend! Even a tiny position of shoulder fore can be used in the ring to help keep the horse on the aids and steady in the outside rein. This helps with the distraction & speeding up issue. I use lots of leg yields, shoulder in, haunches in, and 10m circles in warmup to make sure the horse is really focused on what you're asking and not just speeding around. Other people in my barn use longeing in sidereins/vienna reins to help settle their horses before they get on to warm up. Good luck!

xitmom
Aug. 5, 2011, 02:04 PM
I agree with what purp said. My horse sounded very much like yours last year. The most commonly used word in the judge's comments on my test was 'tense'. 'Explosive canter depart' was an understatement.

The following things have really worked with my horse and I have ridden some really good tests this year.
- 100% focus on communicating calm and relaxation with my body
- Long rein as much as possible early in warmup to keep him relaxed
- Ride very forward at the trot and change direction a lot
- Aids on the upward transitions to canter have to be super subtle
- Do the same warm up patterns at home so that he can have some comfort in the familiarity of the routine at the show

Good luck!

netg
Aug. 5, 2011, 03:15 PM
I, due to my experience, have a hard time believeing the "dearest hottness horsie" is better at home than at shows bit.

I have ridden hot horses...horses that you have to be sure you sit just like so on or you'll end up in the next county type of hot...but even these horses have done great at shows in the dressage.


Aren't you the one who prefers not riding hot horses because they're so hard to ride dressage? I'm pretty sure you posted about prefering ones you can control more easily. There are definitely some hot horses who aren't going to be willing to go low, and aren't going to tolerate being ridden deep at their worst.






Some horses get to a show and are HOT. I think riding twice day of is great, and I tend to do as much lateral on a circle, bend, counterbend as possible. I liked riding under lights when we were boarded and just as it's getting dark at home, because he tenses up similarly to what he does at shows. It gives us practice doing the lateral work, changes of speed and direction to get his attention on me, and teaches me that even when he DOES take off bucking several times, he's still not going to get me off so I don't need to worry about it and just keep riding like normal.

The plus side to my horse being tense is he moves laterally VERY easily. The negative is he does it with his body stiff as a board. Once we get body bend, he's golden. The trick is getting there, though. I don't remember what your mare's best gait is - I think trot? If so, I'd warm up in trot a lot. For my guy, it's all about the canter. We typically have to canter about 30 minutes spiraling in and out of circles, leg yielding, counter cantering, etc., before we can walk at all. In his case it's especially bad because of a pre-me incident in a warmup ring that makes him very nervous about horses he doesn't know. But still, it's all about continuing to work out the tension. Yes the points about making sure you don't turn into an electric-butt matter, too, because the tendency when a horse is tense is to tighten and squeeze. But from what I've read on your blog, it's probably more about learning to manage her energy and turn it into brilliance than it is something you're causing.

purplnurpl
Aug. 5, 2011, 03:31 PM
Aren't you the one who prefers not riding hot horses because they're so hard to ride dressage? I'm pretty sure you posted about prefering ones you can control more easily.

Yup. Laid back horses are easier.

But lets not confuse a horse's abilty to be rideable vs. the horse's ease of rideability.

My first horse was a hells-bent small trakehner mare. 15.1h and she ran off with me often. ugh. little twerp she was.

I would gallop her friday night at the showgrounds and then often do a gallop in the dressage arena as well.
She was very rideable, though not easy.

Boomer on the other hand? "yes- ma'am" is what he would say before I even asked. :yes:
I like that type.

Janet
Aug. 5, 2011, 04:46 PM
Been there.

Done that.

I do not know what the solution, but I am now utterly convinced that the difference between "beautiful dressage work" at home and "tension and occasional explosions" in the competiion arena is

ME (the rider).

Try to figure out what YOU are doing differently.

Have someone watch you, or video you, in both contexts. Then analyze the difference.

Personally, I don't think that "fitness" (at least, when you aren't talking about ** and above fitness) has anything to do with it. My "hot" horse is "hottest" when she is completely out of shape.

I know that one of the things _I_ do is that I shorten my reins "just a little too much" right before I go in.

In termns of stategy, you need to experiment and see what works for the two of you.

Long warmup
Short warmup
No warmup

Warm up an hour ahead of time and then chill till it is time to go in the ring.

Lots of free walks
Lots of transitions
Very few transitions
Lots of lateral work
No lateral work.

You just have to experiment.


After a year of work, the dear princess is out and strutting her stuff at the sanctioned events. She's got cross country figured out and isn't scaring people nearly as much in stadium. We're even looking to move up to Novice this fall! Unfortunately, since she's now fit and aware of how much fun is to be had at shows, our dressage scores have bottomed out. At home she can give me just beautiful dressage work, but at the shows we both seem to get rattled in warm up and are scoring in the 40's due to tension and occasional explosions.

Many people have said that I need a strategy and a plan for my dressage warm up (to help both of us settle), but I'm having trouble figuring out how to start that. I'm hoping to hear some suggestions from other riders that have horses with a lot of talent but are also rather distractable and tense. Typically she'll get above the bit and do a trot like a sewing machine, followed by canter transitions that can qualify as airs above the ground before settling into a nice canter. She tends to crane her head up to look around, and heavens help us if she can see her friends by the trailer while we're heading across the arena. While jumping she's not herd bound, but dressage isn't nearly interesting enough to keep her focus when her friends are heading the other direction. Not much I can do to prevent that when the trailer parking is across from the dressage rings (like at UNH).

What do you do to get your horse's focus and to encourage them to be calm? Long rein warm up, put them right to work, certain exercises? Any suggestions would be appreciated, since the combined knowledge of COTH certainly helped with our jumping issues over the winter. Thanks!

Catie79
Aug. 5, 2011, 07:02 PM
Lo and behold, I've not communicated clearly on the internet. Alert the presses.

Yes, I'm aware that most of the issue is me. I get stressed, she feeds off of me, and away we go. Once she's wound, me relaxing isn't going to do a lot of good. The idea of putting together a strategy is as much to settle me as her, which I did mention. I've had several coaches suggest that a little vodka before going into the ring would fix me up just fine. The idea was to describe my horse at shows so that strategy suggestions could be fitted to her.

She can get tense and wild at home as well if the weather is changing or she's alone in the ring. It's just easier to manage while we're both on our home turf. We were able to do calm, solid dressage tests at schooling shows before she got fit. As she's gotten fitter, our dressage has started to suffer.

I'm aware that I'm the problem, but I still need help with a strategy, since I have no starting point. I'm still adjusting my ride to the new, fitter version at home as well, so our warm ups in general need help. Thanks for the comments so far.

yellowbritches
Aug. 5, 2011, 07:35 PM
hmmm...see, the thing is, what works for one horse doesn't work for another. And sometimes what works a time or two doesn't work the next. It REALLY is a matter of just experimenting and realizing that it may take a few shows (or a whole season!) to get your warm up figured out. Sometimes you never will (considering she can be good at home, there's hope!).

My first suggestion, though, that has helped numerous tense, firey horses I've ridden or been apart of is to get yourselves to a few dressage shows. Schooling shows are best, because usually the organizers are willing to work with you. We like to take them and do 2, 3, even 4 tests as close as possible. It kinda tells the horse, "the sandbox does NOT mean you get to go run and jump no matter what. Sometimes you just go right back in!" I did this at one schooling show last year with Vernon- he was an ass in the first test, but scored a 69% on his second one. He got it. :yes: The dressage trainer I work with some also suggests NOT going and doing the eventing tests but doing completely different tests. Vernon KNEW the prelim tests very well (even though I tried never to school them) and would anticipate movements he didn't like. By doing a few First level tests or a One star test, I kept him guessing. :yes: Going to a few dressage shows should also help YOU just relax and get used to being in the ring. Also helps figure out the warm up strategy!

As for warm up, here are a few strategies that have worked, to varying degrees, on Vernon and his dressage hating compatriots.

LOTS of warm up. Whether it's multiple rides, or just one looooong warm up. This sucks if you have early times. Vernon started to do better when I could hack him or do a low key school first thing, then let him chill for awhile, then warm up for the test.
Lunge, preferably with side reins. This warms them up without the added stress of the rider and some horses find it more relaxing and settling. Not always a good choice, but for some it is.
Little to no warm up. Some horses (and riders!) get buzzed by the energy and warm up and do better with as little time spent there as possible (this was true for my old horse for show jumping warm up. He'd flake on me in warm up, then take a big calming breath once we were in the peace and quiet of the show ring! I always tried to get things done as quickly as possible). At the level you're talking about, it shouldn't be much of an issue, but for the higher levels, it is good to try it at home to make sure the horse is physically capable of doing some movements without a warm up. We have a couple (not necessarily buzzy) that do better if they just go trot through warm up and straight to the ring. And I've known a few hot ones that do better and stay quiet that way, too (Lennamore, I read, does better with that strategy).
Aggressive schooling. Lots of transitions, changes of direction, ride quite forward, KEEP THEIR ATTENTION. Don't give them a chance to think about something else. This tends to work best with a shorter time frame and go STRAIGHT from warm up to the ring...no hanging about or breaks. Keep their feet moving and their brain thinking (this may require smart time management...checking the status of your ring before heading down so you don't find out that you planned for 15 minutes of warm up and they are 15 minutes behind!).Good luck! I totally feel your pain! It can be tough, but if you're willing to experiment and give it some time, you may make some headway!

yellowbritches
Aug. 5, 2011, 07:37 PM
Forgot one- long and low, stretchy warm up...don't pick up the reins until you start to go around the ring...do everything as long and low as possible.

enjoytheride
Aug. 5, 2011, 11:34 PM
Well, here's the thing. You can do nice dressage schools at home when she feels like it. When it's cold, or hot, or you push her when she's cranky, or ask her to slow down when she's fresh she probably has a drama llama moment.

So at shows when she knows that dressage is the devil and XC will come later, AND there are bunches of other horses and excitement you're screwed.

Better dressage at shows will start at home. The more often you get on her when she used to be wild and she behaves the better she will get at shows. The only way to do that is lots and lots more dressage to get her to submit even when she wants to have a stompy moment. If you can feel her on the edge of exploding but she behaves anyway you're halfway there.

Make sure at home you don't give up when she isn't in the mood, and that you push her a bit in your dressage schools instead of letting her get off easy.

At shows, be firm and ride forward. If you have to boot her in the ribs and give her a heave ho half halt to remind her of her manners do so and don't be shy about it. Ask her to put her pretty head on the bit and march her forward and serpentine the snot out of her.

From frustrated experience.

piaffeprincess98
Aug. 6, 2011, 07:39 AM
I agree with what YB said. Go to some schooling shows and do multiple tests. It will help you relax and slow things down in your mind too. You'll have no pressure to perform well and you can even go HC if you want.

My OTTB also used to get tense in the warmup and as we were trotting around the ring. Something seemed to click this year and he's been wonderful, but we've been going to lots of schooling shows and took some lessons with a dressage trainer/judge who has experience with OTTBs. She really taught me to get him to stretch. Now, whenever I ride, be it at home or at the show, stretching is his "happy place" for warmup.

Eggplant_Dressing
Aug. 6, 2011, 07:54 AM
My horse gets distracted at shows too so I know how the OP feels.

You do have to have a plan, I do, and it doesn't involve working my horse into the ground before ride time. It does involve helping him RELAX and FOCUS.

But in order for him to relax and focus, you have to too. Visuation before you get near your horse that morning - you have to get relaxed and focused before you even touch him. If it take a shot of vodka, a walk, jumping jacks, whatever - just do it and visualize from tack up, warm up, ride, cool down, tack down - that you are relaxed and focused.

Make sure you practice your warm up at home. I do a 20 min stretchie down walk, and I stretch my arms, back, hips, legs, etc, so I am soft and my partner knows it time to stretch too.

I then slowly roll him up, and do transitions, lots of easy breezy figure eights, flex and counter flex, lots of pats and 'Atta Boy', make sure I double check that I'm not gripping with my legs and breathing, and we take a resting break where I chit chat with someone - anyone - keep it short and positive.

Then before I go into the ring, I have some quiet time with my horse, recollect focus and relaxed, remember where I can score double points on my test, collect my horse and show.

The cool down is important too so your horse doesn't rush to get out of the ring/test. It should be relaxed and focused on stretches, rewarding pats, etc too so he knows not to rush the test through.

Hope that is helpful and best of luck and don't forget to practice it at home.

reay6790
Aug. 6, 2011, 11:06 AM
i'm very new to eventing, but my hunter can blow in up the ring (lazy at home, can be HOT HOT HOT in the ring). He will also lie to you in the warmup and be calm.

What I have learned to do is tack up and get on about 45 min before you need to be schooling for you to actually go in. School 15 or 30 minutes. take them back. take off their tack and clean them up. let them chill for 5-15 min in their stall and then tack back up and get on to school/show.

I have found this messes up my horse's cycle of thinking it's time to go and get up, and helps my nerves as well :)

hope this helps. i know its a totally different discipline but it might help a bit.

Janet
Aug. 6, 2011, 10:00 PM
Some things that seem to help.

Practice the test a LOT at home, as much as every day. That way you are no longer thinking about "what comes next", and can devote more of your attention to how you are riding your horse. Don't worry aout "anticipating". It isn't as big a problem as most people make out. And it is certainly a lesser fault that evading or exploding.

In my warmup I spend quite a lot of time on transitions betwenn medium walk and free walk.

Concentrate on your breathing.

Be sure you don't shorten your reins, or tighten your seat.

Spend a fair amount of time wandering around, just looking at everything, before you start to "work" (at the competition).

LaraNSpeedy
Aug. 6, 2011, 10:53 PM
Definitely calm yourself and really make sure you are soft. Also, have a long warmup perhaps - to really get into her back and get her to work through - My WB needs a long warmup because he gets amped up and so do I at shows.

I dont do a long stretchy walk because he cant handle it at first - I will walk to get things to swing - but I do a lot of trot circles, figure eights - for HIM it helps to keep the 8s small with a lot of bend and get him soft on the rein that way. I do a LOT of lateral work - trotting leg yields FOR HIM because he needs to stretch his shoulders - its not classical but it helps him. I do trot corners where I ask him to yield into them and I do haunches in - out - in - out to get him working on his butt. I really mix this up and really get him working off his rear and thinking - after 20 minutes, he will start to stretch and relax into the bit and I start asking him to work deeper and lengthen and we do spiral circles. There comes a point where I feel we have it and I walk for one circle, transition to a halt - and then walk on a long rein. Then I work on canter departs and then do a little bit of canter yields with maybe some loops and counter bend and flex. My horse's canter has gotten really jumping up lately in a very nice way so I have switched into asking him to stretch down some in the canter.

THEN I do a long stretchy walk and some halt walk transitions off my seat and voice. A lot of times the amp-up messes up the simple halt and salute and that is the judge's first impression.

Also, get it across to your horse that she can lighten up and relax. Sometimes my horse is so serious he adds things which is sweet of him but I just need him to settle down SO - I make sure when he gets uptight - I use my VOICE and laugh/soothe him and I say like "you are SUCH a good boy" - not sure if that works for others much but for my horse he really relaxes and seems to get clearer that we are 'dancing together' instead of negotiating a deal out there - LOL!

Give and Take
Aug. 9, 2011, 01:32 PM
Couple things - great older book called the 'Mental Edge' which has visualization exercises to help prep yourself for things going right rather than worrying about things going wrong.

and specific bending exercises for your horse - ex: haunches in without the shoulder moving out. be clear that the shoulders stay in a straight line as you move the haunches in. the more you can be clear about exactly where each foot needs to go (while riding from leg to hand) to more the horse will stay focused on you.

haunches in is a great exercise to ask for when the spook/ reaction starts too.

good luck!

netg
Aug. 9, 2011, 04:28 PM
I can't believe I forgot to mention Jane Savoie's Valium Exercise!
http://www.janesavoie.com/blog/ride-your-horse-proactively-with-the-valium-exercise-to-reduce-shying/

It's amazing to me how well this specific exercise works. I've only used it at home, and it gets the tension gone within the first few minutes of a ride - but I am pretty sure it'll work well away from home, too! I think focus on the timing of it will probably help you as well. You have to ride softly and support with outside leg/rein in order to not lose the shoulder with the head flexion - and that head flexion tends to automatically lead to proper body bend and bringing the inside hind up under better. It's a great exercise because it *seems* so simple and focused on the head... yet leads to so much within both the horse's and your body that's needed for relaxation without making you think about it. At least for me, relaxing without thinking about relaxing works a lot better!

coymackerel
Aug. 9, 2011, 05:25 PM
http://www.equisearch.com/horses_riding_training/english/dressage/stein41503/

LookmaNohands
Aug. 9, 2011, 05:38 PM
I have used Jimmy Wofford's suggestion several times. It usually works. It goes like this:

Canter for 10 minutes straight.

I like to find a quiet area to do this if I can. Just keep 'em cantering.
:)

Catie79
Aug. 22, 2011, 10:38 AM
I finally got a chance to try some new warm up with Fiona. This time we went into warm up early, before we did anything else and well before our test. That meant I was completely chill, knowing that I didn't show soon and the ring only had two other people in it. We worked for about 15-20 minutes until she was trotting around nice and mellow on a long rein. The ring started to get crowded and crazy, so we just left rather than try to do anything else. She chilled on the trailer, I retacked, and we headed to dressage and just walked right in. Worked beautifully! She was surprisingly mellow when she didn't get a head's up that exciting things were coming, and I was settled because I got to do my warmup without overly excited horses galloping at us.

We have a sanctioned this weekend and we'll try the same timing again. We need a little more time in that first warm up, since I didn't get into her back as much as I should have and we didn't have a lot of lift in our test, but we also didn't have jigging or any explosions. Best test of the season!

Thanks again for the suggestions, I'll probably end up trying several as we build out a custom strategy for the princess.