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View Full Version : Tell about your spooky, herd-bound, or not-too-brave XC horses



PolarXtu
Dec. 11, 2011, 05:15 PM
I've recently acquired a little 9yo gelding who has spent his life doing dressage and low level jumpers. I'm interested in giving it a go with him in the eventing world, maybe do a beginner novice or two this spring. But, he's an Oldenburgx and is rather... lacking in the smarts department. Rather spooky, doesn't like leaving his friends. He jumps like a star, is pretty fancy... but seems to have this road block.

Give me your advice, tell me your stories.

retreadeventer
Dec. 11, 2011, 05:23 PM
Well, my Rugby is spooky and not very brave either, and his list of accomplishments as an event horse would be a big long brag....so I won't include it....but I would say, just keep him in front of the leg ALL the time -- that is the key. Yes, they can look, but no, they cannot be reluctant, or blow you off when you politely ask with your leg. My spooky horse needs my leg as his guidance pretty much whenever I'm in the saddle, and once we got that learned, it was not hard to keep him going over just about anything and doing whatever was asked.

enjoytheride
Dec. 11, 2011, 05:48 PM
I think it depends on how herdbound.

My gelding would jump the first fence on XC and run backwards while rearing until I gave up. He did not make it as an eventer.

My mare comes out of the startbox on fire, tries to run back to warm up between 1 and 2 and then gets down to business. She is worse in stadium and she has taken some time to get used to jumping in arenas with fences around them or not trying to run out of the ingate. She doesn't stop at the fences though but the in between was pretty hairy for awhile.

If I can figure out how, my next horse will have zero herdbound issues.

Toadie's mom
Dec. 11, 2011, 06:01 PM
My fancy, not so brave, spooky event horse is now a show hunter in Va. :winkgrin:

jenm
Dec. 11, 2011, 06:06 PM
My green mare loves to jump, loves to go fast and feels the need to try to look at everything around her, because she knows there is something lying in wait to catch her in a vulnerable state.

Yesterday we did our first hunter pace. I thought she might spook at a truck near the course that had a very energetic barking beagle tied to it. She couldn't have cared less about that, but took a big sideways elevator spook at a rabbit hole with freshly dug dirt around it...:yes::confused:

This was the first time we jumped a course we had never schooled before and I was happy with how she jumped, I just figure the more I get her out, the more confidence she will have. Which I hope will turn into less needing to be concerned about all the crazy things that may attack her. Fortunately, she's quite independent and not herd bound at all.

Hopefully, the more you get your guy out, the more confidence he will have. The show jumper horses at my barn don't ever go anyplace other than their paddock or arenas, so if that is what he is used to, it may take him a while to get used to the great wide open. Good luck, I hope he comes around!

Hilary
Dec. 11, 2011, 06:10 PM
If he is obedient enough to go when and where you say you will be OK. If his spook and/or herdbound issues are stronger than his obedience you might have problems.

My spooky spooky mare is now a hunter. She needed too much assessment time for "new and different" and couldn't think fast enough to be a good event horse.

VicariousRider
Dec. 11, 2011, 06:42 PM
You can overcome this to some degree (degree depending on the horse) and you have gotten a lot of good suggestions on how above.

I just want to add that a horse such as this does not turn out to be a fun eventing horse for me because I, too, am an x-c chicken, tend to be spooky, and hate leaving the herd.... or at least the human equivalent! :lol: In all seriousness, this type of horse does not work out well for me because we feed of each other and eventually have a melt-down so it's important to know one's own limits and tendencies with a horse like this.

Highflyer
Dec. 11, 2011, 06:52 PM
My gelding is quite spooky and a wimp, but loves to jump and has largely done okay (but OMG his first BN event! I do not think he looked at one fence in stadium because he was so busy looking at everything outside the ring! He stopped at pretty much every fence xc-- it was a very low-key unrecognized-- and eventually we parted company at the ditch.) We had a lot of one stop trips when we first moved up to Training, which is where the stuff Retread is talking about really started to come into play. And he still does things like
this (http://www.photostockplus.com/home.php?user_id=41021&tmpl=127&event=891498&action=viewphoto&photo_id=51105704&album_id=891562&pcount=44) unexpectedly. You can't see it in the picture, but there was funny colored dirt in front of this fence so he was taking no chances! I'm pretty sure I said something completely inappropriate when I felt him start to take off 12 feet out, but at least my trainer wasn't there ;)

I think all you can really do is try it, and it might take time and a lot of patience, and it still might not work out. But that can be true of any horse.

jenm
Dec. 11, 2011, 07:00 PM
he still does things like
this (http://www.photostockplus.com/home.php?user_id=41021&tmpl=127&event=891498&action=viewphoto&photo_id=51105704&album_id=891562&pcount=44) unexpectedly. You can't see it in the picture, but there was funny colored dirt in front of this fence so he was taking no chances! I'm pretty sure I said something completely inappropriate when I felt him start to take off 12 feet out, but at least my trainer wasn't there ;)


Wow, that horse can jump! :eek::yes::)

kt-rose
Dec. 11, 2011, 07:01 PM
My gelding who was spooky XC and not very brave, though a really good jumper, is the best fox hunter ever. Eventing him was no fun, hunting him is the best...they have to want to do it or it is no fun for anyone. You can only change so much with education, they are who they are in many cases...

yellowbritches
Dec. 11, 2011, 07:04 PM
Spooky I am ok with as long as spooky does not also equal stops or run outs. Some of the funnest horses I've ridden would spin and bolt in the other direction because of a poorly placed golf cart or bystander, but were totally game to jump. And while one of my all time favorite horses could be very looky, he was 100% reliable to get over the fence if he trusted you and you kicked like crazy. I had some super fun xc goes on him...and some sketchy looking ones, but I never doubted him because he would ALWAYS jump if I just kept kicking.

But herd bound and not brave, I'm probably less tolerant of. While a little bit of it as a green horse or even a little bit of it as they are older is fine as long as you know they are more willing to go with you than back to their friends, if it is a nappy, horrible battle every time you have to leave the warm up, the trailers, the barns, the start box...well, just not worth it in my book. There are a lot of fun horses out there to waste time with a horse who is telling you he wants a different career.

Fancy That
Dec. 11, 2011, 07:36 PM
I agree with a few here who have said it isn't as fun if you are on a spooky, herd-bound horse that is "harder to ride"

I have to admit I have a point and shoot Morgan who is an angel and I have a BLAST on her (I was at the same Hunter Pace as JenM :) I started her myself when she was a coming 4 year old, and she is now 12 years old. She has NEVER been a spooky horse, and has always been willing.

I have to admit, for me, I wouldn't want a horse that was too difficult (whether that is spookiness, insecurity/unconfident, fire-breathing, what have you :)

I think if you are a strong, confident, experienced rider and you don't mind having to go through alot more "work" to ride/train - then you CAN get them going well.

Just seems alot harder with some than others :) I prefer to ENJOY my horses (sit back and relax and have fun) and appreciate not having them be "high maintainance" (or maybe I'm just lazy..hehehehe)

Aorrowan
Dec. 11, 2011, 08:21 PM
Oh, I have an XC chicken!! My greenie evented very successfully this past year, however, she is very spooky and not at all brave. And while we got around (and won quite a bit, thanks to our dressage), it was not always the prettiest round xc! Stadium was less spooky, but then, there aren't a lot of round bales with aliens...er, spectators...sitting on them in the stadium ring. I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt of being young and never having schooled at these places this year, BUT i suspect that she will not be the bold, enthusiastic xc ride that i would choose if i was buying them already going. And I suspect that as the questions become harder and more complicated that we will not have nearly as much success as we did this year.
IME, the best thing you can do is keep them in front of your leg and give them as much of a quiet, confident ride as possible, and hope that it rubs off on them :)

jackalini
Dec. 11, 2011, 08:54 PM
I wanted to chime in to say it depends. :lol:

My mare as a youngster (up until 6) was spooky, herdbound, and not very brave. I did my homework with her, suffering through a lot of verrrrrrry hairy trail rides :eek:, hauled her to a bunch of shows just to hack, and gave her a lot of positive, fun jumping experiences.

From about age 7 on, she has been a rockstar, clocking around all our xc courses with no stopping, looking or spooking. Trailriding can still occasionally be interesting, but no issues if there are jumps on the menu.

Action42
Dec. 11, 2011, 10:18 PM
My somewhat-less-than-brave, herd bound 17yo ex grand prix dressage horse started out his eventing career with a stellar schooling trial where he refused to leave the start box then had 2 stops at the first jump because he was sideways looking at the trailers. Since then, I have just made sure that every time out of the box, I am positive, have my leg on and my whole ride says "go!". Since then, he has really turned on to XC and now really enjoys it. We still have the occasional sticky moment if we have to pass back by the trailers/barns but for the most part, he is fairly well self propelled these days. Good luck!

slp2
Dec. 11, 2011, 10:28 PM
Sold him. Got really tired of having to school him endlessly and having to ride him around a x-c course like an angry German. Now have 2 mares that are brave, not spooky and not herd-bound. Way more fun!

Karosel
Dec. 11, 2011, 10:55 PM
Sold him. Got really tired of having to school him endlessly and having to ride him around a x-c course like an angry German. Now have 2 mares that are brave, not spooky and not herd-bound. Way more fun!

:lol::lol:

deltawave
Dec. 11, 2011, 11:41 PM
She's now my dressage horse. :)

Herd-bound I can live with as long as they GO. I can handle whinnying, a little wiggling leaving the start box, etc. but once they're rolling that should go away.

Lots of sschooling solo, and hacking out will let you know if it's just the separation or if it's the XC itself. If it's the latter, I'd move on . . . at my age I only want to be out there on a horse that LOVES it. :)

besum1
Dec. 12, 2011, 12:12 AM
you don't really know if it's fixable until you try it! So if you're willing to spend a lot of time working through the spooky/herdbound issues go for it! I'm currently in the same boat as you :)

My overgrown pony neighs constantly but it doesn't effect his work- he keeps trucking a long and throws in a scream to anyone listening every so often. He's also Mr. What is that? But once he sees it he's golden.... soooo I think there is a future eventer hiding under the chicken suit he pretends to wear ;) I know he's not a complete chicken because I've made him do some pretty hairy stuff!!! Like canter through a flock of canadian geese b/c they were in the riding arena and in our way! hahaha (the Pony didn't even blink an eye)

Also making sure that he really trusts you...this is most important in a spooky horse... but hours in the saddle schooling through these issues is going to be the best way to tell, and not every horse will get over it, but it's a gamble (aren't all things related to horses???) and if you think he's worth it- do it!!!

FLeckenAwesome
Dec. 12, 2011, 02:35 AM
Fleck was a little herdbound when I got him, although I wouldn't call him spooky by any means!! ha!! He's the horse that trips while walking and is like "Who tripped me"!

But he was herdbound and just before I bought him he got eliminated at an event because he was anxious to get back to the herd. I spent many hours trail riding him out alone... just the two of us. He started off a little sticky and worried, but now.... we can school with a group, then leave that group and go off on our own. And he strikes out with a great forward walk looking for adventure :)

Good luck!!!

jenm
Dec. 12, 2011, 04:02 AM
I agree with a few here who have said it isn't as fun if you are on a spooky, herd-bound horse that is "harder to ride"

I have to admit I have a point and shoot Morgan who is an angel and I have a BLAST on her (I was at the same Hunter Pace as JenM :) I started her myself when she was a coming 4 year old, and she is now 12 years old. She has NEVER been a spooky horse, and has always been willing.

I have to admit, for me, I wouldn't want a horse that was too difficult (whether that is spookiness, insecurity/unconfident, fire-breathing, what have you :)

I think if you are a strong, confident, experienced rider and you don't mind having to go through alot more "work" to ride/train - then you CAN get them going well.

Just seems alot harder with some than others :) I prefer to ENJOY my horses (sit back and relax and have fun) and appreciate not having them be "high maintainance" (or maybe I'm just lazy..hehehehe)

Ah, just rub in the fact you have the type of horse many of us long for...lol. :lol:

On a side note, I want to give huge props to Fancy That for being the perfect person to hold my hand for my first hunter pace. You have a wonderful zen-like persona, so I can see why Fancy turned out so fabulous. :yes:

englishcowgirl
Dec. 12, 2011, 06:10 AM
I don't event but I ride out alone at least three days a week! My mare would not leave the barn even with a group when I got her and would spook at any little thing. She goes out without an issue a year later and while we were cantering the other day a plastic bag blew up to us then caught on her hoof. She shook it off and didn't miss a beat or take a bad step. How did we get her to this point? Lots of miles on her and lots of work. Many scary moments and spooks but I'm poor and she was the nicest horse I was going to get so I had to do the work!

mugsgame
Dec. 12, 2011, 08:16 AM
I had one who was spooky and I was able to overcome it but it took serious discipline on my behalf. Everytime he dropped off my leg or had a slightly backwards jump he had a crack on the backside. Mostly he would try it on in the warm up so I made sure the adrenalin was flowing with short sharp pipe openers to check he was off the leg and focused. After about 6 months he got the message and was one of the bravest horses xc and would have gone Intermediate if he had not been diagnosed with hock spavins.

Another I had was a big warmblood who was very capable and very established at Prelim. I was hoping he would take me intermediate but he was incredibly spooky and would need to be jumped round a course of jumps away from home at least 2 days before a competition. He pulled himself up cross country despite making it feel ridiculously easy and I could not stay off his case at all. It made it no fun for me as he was not genuine enough to keep going up the levels to make it worth all the effort so I binned him and got another one.

I do not mind a spooky horse but they have to play the game and not make it a miserable experience in the process. I am happy to manage them in a special way to get the best out of them but I am not happy about being on their case the whole time and not being able to enjoy the round.

goodmorning
Dec. 12, 2011, 08:37 AM
I have a herd-bound one. He has a great work ethic, so, we don't doddle around and it works. If he has time to get the little wheels spinning, oh boy!, but avoiding situations I know will cause a melt-down are key. And if I kick on & ask him to work, the answer is always 'yes, Mom.' If not (can't remember the last time he wasn't ready to work these days), a good smack & forward are reinstalled ;) When he was 7yo I was convinced he would never leave the ring. At 11yo he loves to gallop around XC. I don't do group XC schools anymore, and trail-riding isn't something I'd risk. He will hack out, and likes to be the leader. He takes life far too seriously for ambling around, I don't think his TB mind knows why one would walk around aimlessly. Interestingly enough, if I hop on him bareback out in his field, he is a gentleman. Halter & leadrope & he is a peach. Add 2ft of snow to that & go for a canter = heaven.

However, we are not traditionally spooky. Walks calmly by someone w/a chainsaw cutting down trees, school-buses, dirt-bikes...quite the character, to be honest. Loves to jump, might put a couple feet between himself & a scary jump, but that's about it. His favorite XC task is w/o a doubt jumping or dropping into water. The smile on his face is absurd, and as his rider less enthusiasm would be appreciated ;)

So, there is hope. You just have to give him time to figure it out. Put him in situations you know he will succeed in. Figure out what makes him tick, and go from there. He can't stand still in an open field - walk him in circles. Give him lots of comfortable, safe options. Heck, I hand-walk mine all the time. Make him do lots of looney things in the ring, as well. Tarps & have you ridden w/a flag?! Lol, despookify that horse where he's comfortable, first. A tired horse is a good horse when it comes to hacking, or trail-riding. At the end of a long, intense dressage school, they might surprise you with a well mannered hack.

Tucked_Away
Dec. 12, 2011, 09:20 AM
Spooky is fine with me. Spooky, I sincerely like when it goes with an overall sharp/attentive/interested personality.

My guy was a wicked reactive spook for a long time. The catch is that the jumps were never the issue - if I could get his eye on the fence he was game. His problem was that the rest of the world existed... But training and mileage = confidence and ride ability. He still has a big spook in him but it's rare to see it these days and all that awareness of and curiosity about the world turned into a knack for/enjoyment of problem-solving on xc. He is super and a whole lot of fun.

But his spooky behavior was almost always "eek" rather than "no." I think that's relevant; I am much less thrilled with horses that manufacture stuff to be scared of or that aren't basically willing and eager to try.

FlightCheck
Dec. 12, 2011, 09:49 AM
BTDT....

Had the beautiful TB who was always in the top 3 after dressage, always jumped clean SJ. People would stop me to tell me how beautiful he was! Won a few events (terrible when you choose events solely for the fact that there are NO LARGE OPEN SPACES on course).

But he was TERRIFIED of open spaces. Over the 3 years I had him, I tried everything.

Trail rides: happy as could be with company, until we had to turn around and he was the lead horse with OPEN SPACE in front of him.

Turnout: sent to place to be turned out with others in progressively bigger pastures. He stood by the gate and shook, especially when the other horses left to go over to the other part of the farm.

Sent him to a BNT, who said he would probably always have this problem, but it could be "managed" if I paid attention the entire XC ride.

Went to next event with BNT. My xc went something like this: Jump fence #1, land, halt, spin, try to bolt back to warmup. Battle to get him to see fence #2 - "Oh, yes, a fence to jump! Right away!" Land, halt, etc...

Got 1/2 way around the course and fell off after an enormous over-jump. Horse was caught (of course, hiding in the safe trees), I got back on, MadAsHell, ignoring the well meant advice of the outrider "You know, you don't HAVE to get this horse around".

Came across the finish line, whereup the BNT shouted out "SELL THE m$%#%$f$%$^!! DOES ANYONE WANT THIS HORSE?? THE FIRST DOLLAR TAKES HIM!! $%$^&

Two weeks later I sold him to a hunter barn for a LOT more money than I paid for him. The new owner loved him, brought in an animal communicator who told her to put a mirror in his stall for him to admire his handsomeness, and he had a successful career in the ring.

MtyMax
Dec. 12, 2011, 10:43 AM
I had one....well I rode one and then promptly gave her back to the owner after a year of trying to complete a HT;)

We could school XC all day long. Bold in water, banks, and ditches. But try to go on a trail ride...absolutely not. And this horse wouldn't just say no, she would promise to try and kill you in the process. We usually placed top 3 in dressage, but couldn't get past fence 2 on XC. Our first HT went like this: 1st after dressage, clear on stadium, refused at each of the first 5 fences, usually before we were even close to the jump. Luckily it was a schooling show and we were allowed to continue. After fence 6 we rolled around the rest of the course without any problems. That was the one and only time we made it past the 2nd fence.

I quit riding her after I couldn't even get her to approach a maiden sized fence at our last HT. Life is too short!

Fancy That
Dec. 12, 2011, 10:52 AM
Ah, just rub in the fact you have the type of horse many of us long for...lol. :lol:

On a side note, I want to give huge props to Fancy That for being the perfect person to hold my hand for my first hunter pace. You have a wonderful zen-like persona, so I can see why Fancy turned out so fabulous. :yes:


Awww....thanks, Jenn!!! :) I'm impressed with YOUR positive and happy attitude -even with the sometimes less-than-perfect ride. You go girl!

Easy for me to have fun when I have a point-N-shoot pony, but for you to have so much fun on a more "high octane" type...that's awesome!

BTW - do you know who the photog was? Hoping they got some pics!

Jealoushe
Dec. 12, 2011, 10:57 AM
My moms dressage horse was very spooky. I started showing her hunter, and taking her to the local fairs to desensitize her. It took a few months but by the end of the summer she was significantly improved.

I write a lot about it on my blog. Search "Ace" if you have time for some reading.

EventerAJ
Dec. 12, 2011, 11:15 AM
I had success with a spooky, timid mare...but her problems were solely the result of greenness, inexperience, and lack of confidence.

She was an OTTB broodmare. The first time I got on her, she spooked at every tree and every rock we passed. Terrified of the jumps in the arena-- wouldn't get near them. Took 15 minutes to walk her over a pole on the ground.

She was ok hacking out, but it took 35 minutes of pacing, lathered frantic-ness to get her to cross a shallow walk-through ditch heading home the first time. After that, no problem.

However, the key to her was PRAISE. With every pat, with every "Good Girl!" she grew ten inches, her neck arched, her ears flicked forward, and she would try. I could feel her say "That's impossible!!!" But she would try for me. And when she found she could do it, she gained faith in me and in herself.

It took a couple months before she quit spooking around jumps in the arena; and she still gave the occasional sideways jump at shadows, but she learned to focus on me. Once she learned to JUMP those scary things, her confidence grew. It was all completely foreign to her, and fear was her first response...but that was replaced with trust, and soon she would go anywhere I asked.

But I had to be VERY careful not to overface her and risk that trust. Every jump school started with a tiny X, and then grew from there. She was jumping 3' courses very easily, schooling 3'3" gymnastics...but I couldn't start out the day over a 2' verticle; it had to be something very tiny.

I took her to her first BN event completely on a last-minute whim. Schooled xc the week before, she loved it, and confidence soared. It was an away show; she handled the atmosphere perfectly, jumped around clean (with lots of encouragement). It was great fun working with her, despite the spookiness in the beginning and occasionally thereafter. She really grew to trust me, developed confidence in herself, and she would try her guts out to do whatever I asked. She was still a spooky horse at heart, but it was not a problem when she trusted me and gained confidence.

scubed
Dec. 12, 2011, 11:27 AM
I've had reasonable luck getting them past herd bound (as long as it was moderate) and spookiness isn't the end of the world for me, but the ones I've had that weren't brave pretty soon after starting to school xc have other jobs now.

flash1
Dec. 12, 2011, 12:29 PM
Dreamer is a 20 yr old TB....has done dressage,jumpers, hunted and evented...Our issue was always how to get him out of the start box...he was very herdbound to his buddy Flash...and if Flash wasnt there would attach to whomever was closest....over time we started taking places by himself...not letting him get close to other horses to " make friends"....took a while...but he is fine now going out on his own on a X-C course...patience...:)

Abracadabra
Dec. 13, 2011, 01:50 PM
i have a 15yr old DWB/TBX who although pasture boarded 24/7, doesn't like to work outdoors AT ALL. she could put in a brilliant lesson in the confines of the indoor arena, but take her outside, and the footing freaks her out, the trees, the wind, the noises, and even things that are completely invisible to me. She runs backwards, and just shakes. i don't know what it is, but i've decided she's just not an outside horse!! is that even possible?

mackandblues
Dec. 13, 2011, 07:11 PM
I wanted to chime in to say it depends. :lol:

My mare as a youngster (up until 6) was spooky, herdbound, and not very brave. I did my homework with her, suffering through a lot of verrrrrrry hairy trail rides :eek:, hauled her to a bunch of shows just to hack, and gave her a lot of positive, fun jumping experiences.

From about age 7 on, she has been a rockstar, clocking around all our xc courses with no stopping, looking or spooking. Trailriding can still occasionally be interesting, but no issues if there are jumps on the menu.

may I ask what kind of "homework" do you do specifically? Thanks

RiverBendPol
Dec. 13, 2011, 07:18 PM
My coming-9 year old OTTB is as brave as can be about the jumps. On XC, a misplaced hay bale/bystander/golfcart will get me the prop-and-stop, the spin 180 degrees and/or the 7 lead swaps in a row. It never has to do with the actual jump. Same in SJ...could be the judges' stand or the food tent 100 paces away. Super frustrating, makes for a not-fun trip around the xc. I will say he's better at Training than he was at Novice since the jumps are more interesting.

I called and chatted about it with Lucinda Green on Eventing Radio a couple of weeks ago. She says it is all about balance and timing. I have to be balanced well enough to stay in the middle of the tack when my horse is bouncing me around (hello core strength and Saddle Tight) AND that my whack-you-now timing has to be right on. She said she has one who sounds similar to mine. If he's proppy or naughty or anything but FORWARD on course, she whacks him 3 good ones in a row and 99.999% of the time he's perfect from then on. I haven't had a chance to try it in competition but I sure am going to try. Lucinda also said maybe I should move him up to Prelim. It has been a while since I went Prelim, I'd rather be able to trust the ride a little bit!!! ;)

Hilary
Dec. 13, 2011, 07:42 PM
[QUOTE=FlightCheck;6016810]

Came across the finish line, whereup the BNT shouted out "SELL THE m$%#%$f$%$^!! DOES ANYONE WANT THIS HORSE?? THE FIRST DOLLAR TAKES HIM!! $%$^&

QUOTE]

Ha!!! My experience like this didn't involve such colorful language but a local pro with whom I do not ride came up to me after one of her "one stop wonder' courses and said " you are the most PERSISTENT person with that horse! You give her the best ride and she lets you down every time." Something sunk in there (that a relative stranger would notice and care) and that was the beginning of the end of her event career. She now teaches beginners hunter stuff. (Beginners! The horse with the nastiest buck/spin maneuver in the world happily dogs along in the ring.) Find the right job for the horse.

Peggy
Dec. 13, 2011, 09:23 PM
Mine (http://homepage.smc.edu/kline_peggy/images/peggy_cool.gif) became my dressage horse. Showed thru 4th. Got a USDF bronze medal. The next horse wanted to jump but wasn't so keen on the dressage thing.

Rainier
Dec. 14, 2011, 01:16 AM
My "namesake" Rainier was just like the horse you described. All I can say is that I wanted so much to event with him that despite the frustration and tears, i just kept trying to go xc schooling (where I would leave the group and do lots of jumps in a row sequentially with him) and getting to as many unrecognized events as possible for inexpensive experience. His trail rides started out just as bad with spinning, spooking (at everything -- rocks, aspen trees, whatever!), bolting, you name it. I just know that he got better and better over time (I had him 5 years) and with more exposure. If he hadn't had a bad pasture accident, I would still have him and be competing him.

I now have the absolute opposite, a very calm, steady, ho-hum eventer that is as cool as a cucumber and as honest as the day is long and yet often yearn for my "spicier" rides on Rainier. The grass is always greener I guess ...?!

Catie79
Dec. 15, 2011, 10:11 PM
Take the pony out everywhere for the spooky stuff. And I mean everywhere. My mare was looky and reactive when I first got her, but ignoring it and just taking her out everywhere has definitely helped. She went out for trail rides, hunter paces, schooling in the town arena, lots of xc schools, schooling shows, any excuse I could think of to go out. For the first months I had her, I made it a rule that she was off the property at least once a week.

As to herdbound, the same thing technique has helped a lot. She used to get so distracted with where the other horses were or what was going on at the barn that it was hard to even school dressage in the ring because it was down the hill and no one else was with her. I stuck it out and just insisted that she had to keep her brain between her ears. And it worked. I can now trail ride alone (she's still more looky and jumpy, but it keeps getting better) and school alone. She no longer tries to drag me back up the hill. Kick the pony up in front of your leg and just ignore any hijinks.

She still calls at horse shows, but only while we're outside of the ring waiting for our turn. When we go to work, she's too busy working to check who else is in the area. She'll call while walking around the start box, but as soon as she hears go, she's gone and won't say a thing until we're through the finish flags. I guess it's a matter of what you want to deal with. She's probably never going to be quiet at shows and she's probably always going to be distracted by where her friends are, but she's so honest and game I don't mind working through that.

JP60
Dec. 16, 2011, 12:04 PM
I called and chatted about it with Lucinda Green on Eventing Radio a couple of weeks ago. She says it is all about balance and timing.
That was you? Neet! I listened to that show and when ypu asked the question I was right there (having recently suffering a fall on course because of ... something ... Well I listened to Lucinda and she was reflecting what my trainer had been telling me as well, balance, timing, and most important, keeping him in front of the leg.

The first two I understood, but the last...huh? So armed with sage words from Ms Green I went back to my trainer and simply asked, "What do you mean by in front of the leg?" that was it. My last two lessons have been torture tests on balance (two point one handed, no handed arms sticking out forever then over a jump, jump no stirrups), on timing, (5 canter poles to a jump in a figure eight path), and this "in front of the leg" stuff (nailing canter poles before we can do anything else). Honestly, I'm still not feeling it completely, but I am beginning to understand. What I am noticing is that when I ride Sterling with that level of balance, leg, and confidence he is much more present with me, not doing looky lou's (as much) and my confidence to a jump is increasing.

I'll confess my spookiness. I struggle with that fact that my heart still flutters as I come up to a new question we've not seen. I worry that he senses that moment of "question" and we lose the momentum. I love love love eventing and cross country, yet will my own heart be my undoing? Anyway, Sterling may have his moments, but in general he's learning to trust me before freaking out and that has made riding him now a joy!