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Corky
Jul. 9, 2012, 10:19 PM
Went out to a clinic yesterday, all excited. I was riding a horse who has little XC exposure; a few logs/tires at home, one good school on a technical course, then a short course last week. He has been brilliant so far, bold and keen, too keen sometimes, has had a few stops but not dirty ones, just baby gawking type stops. He's always jumped everything on the second or third present, assuming his rider didn't botch the second approach ;)

So we sign up for a clinic on Sunday, and I haven't taken a real XC lesson in a while, so I'm really looking forward to it. It was a charity type clinic with a lot of clinicians, so I was also hoping to use it for 'coach shopping' as I want to get back into a few regular XC lessons (I have a dressage/jumper coach, but she doesn't do XC). I've had a few bad coaches in the past, so I want to be sure I'm not just trying lessons with just anyone. So clinicians asks for background, I tell her the horse is green but keen, looking for confidence and a challenge or two, and btw I'm a totally ditchy rider, totally scared of them, so I really want to school them with the hopes of doing the itty-bitty coffin they have. Today I'm going to face my fear! I tell her we jumped a ditch XC a few weeks before, he was terrified, popped it, then came in too strong, stopped, popped it, etc. He's done them, but not smoothly yet.

So we do some warm up, mini course, etc, working on gallop to canter transitions, light to full seat, etc. Emphasis on forward to jumps.

We start working the ditch...'trot in strong' she says....we do, I know I wasn't looking down because I certainly didn't see it coming...we come in at a sharp trot, he drops nose to look, and I *think* he had too much momentum to stop, slid, tried to crawl over maybe? Clinician said I threw my shoulders. Usually I'm really good at not doing that, but either way he ended up in the 2ft+ deep ditch and I took a good roll off his shoulder. Thank god he scrambled out unharmed and without climbing on me. Remounted, took him for a look, and he won't go near it. Won't take a lead, won't walk up with someone holding him, won't go near it. Clinician says too bad, gunna move on, so I figure I'll come back after or find another ditch.

End of day, I've felt him hesitate over things he is usually bold over, like drops, he tried to run out of a bank up which was odd and he didn't care for the bank down, so I think his confidence certainly took a hit but he jumped a few things bravely and cantered the water, which was new. Went back down to a different ditch, which was actually the narrower, shallower of the ditches on the farm and he won't go near it. Treats don't help, a lead doesn't help, tried getting off to lead him, won't budge. I ended by circling around it on both sides, trying to get him to move along the side of it without actually asking him to go over it. This at least got us nearer the edge, but only going past it. Turn to face it and he won't go up to the edge still. We were both burnt out so we climbed up a bank just to do something, then called it a day.

Now I have a sore knee and a horse that is terrified of ditches. Oh and did I mention, he is as stubborn as a mule once he gets something in his head? Just plants his feet and refuses to move. No rear, no buck, no aggitation, he just does his rock imitation. 99% of the time he is the keenest, most generous horse, but once he decides he's not moving, thats it.

So I read a thread from last year, have been watching Lucinda Green on youtube schooling greenies on ditches, have googled a few articles, and have some good ideas to move forwards. We have a baby ditch at home, not 2ft wide and maybe 4in deep, so we'll do it until the cows come home, and I'm going to jump him over a tarp in the ring, then put the tarp in the baby ditch, then in an open field with logs on the sides, then just jump logs, then take the tarp with us when we go ship out to a real ditch and do it next to the ditch, then maybe he'll do the tarp in the ditch but I can forsee him turning 'rock' once I point him at the real thing. What do you do with a rock that won't go over a ditch? He's just to large to throw over, despite the days I would like to!

Anyone else been here? What worked for you? Clinician suggested lunging, but if I can't lead him there (had someone behind him with a dressage whip, he wouldn't budge) then I'm doubtful of lunging him over. Really doubtful. I'll take a lunge line and whip when we go to school the 'real deal' but I need a back up plan! Last time I never got frustrated, more dejected actually, but I worry he's going to simply lock up and refuse to move and I am going to get really frustrated. I want to be sure I have some resources and am as prepared as possible. So please, share some wisdom and stories with me!

yellowbritches
Jul. 9, 2012, 10:31 PM
Take it all the way back down to the basics. And, do it from the ground a time or two. I find horses with real issues gain a lot of confidence with their rider on the ground with them. Start with the liverpool/tarp, and move to the baby ditch. I always suggest to people who haven't done a whole lot of in hand stuff to first do it over poles and itty bitty jumps so everyone knows the drill.

The other thing I have found to work is to go hang out by the ditch until it gets boring. Let them pick at grass, take a nap, whatever. The only thing they are not allowed to do is turn away. Let them just hang out and analyze and think. Most times they will skitter over it after a few minutes, with very little persuasion. Lots and lots and LOTS of praise. And don't press your luck. Do it once, maybe twice, and call it a day.

Rinse and repeat both exercises as often as you can (even a couple of times a day if you can). Keep the drama out of it. Make it all about being relaxed, low key, and no pressure. When you are on board and aiming at a ditch stay tall, relaxed, eyes up and ahead (look where you want to go). Give just enough rein so they can put their head down and peek, but not so much that they can spin away. WALK the ditch...they can do it with zero speed.

Good luck!

Corky
Jul. 9, 2012, 10:41 PM
What about when you can stand in front of it, pick at grass, get bored, have a snooze, with NO forward inclination?! I put leg on, he ignores, I start kicking/spur or spank and he'll tail swish, or turn away if I really drive him enough. But he isn't dramatic about it. He just WON'T go up to the edge or even consider going over it! Forward is completely gone. At one point I went and galloped him off just to get him thinking forward, get his blood going, and trotted back down the hill and tried to slow trot/walk up...nope, stop, stand, plant, and grow roots :(

Neigh-Neigh
Jul. 9, 2012, 10:47 PM
Give it a few days and then try again. He isn't going to say no forever. No horse ever has.

And, I'm GLAD you're ok!!

Lynnwood
Jul. 9, 2012, 10:49 PM
What about when you can stand in front of it, pick at grass, get bored, have a snooze, with NO forward inclination?! I put leg on, he ignores, I start kicking/spur or spank and he'll tail swish, or turn away if I really drive him enough. But he isn't dramatic about it. He just WON'T go up to the edge or even consider going over it! Forward is completely gone. At one point I went and galloped him off just to get him thinking forward, get his blood going, and trotted back down the hill and tried to slow trot/walk up...nope, stop, stand, plant, and grow roots :(

Work on the ground and get someone to help "convince" him to go forward after he shows no fear anymore. Practice walking up to a mini ditch step across it and expect him to follow etc.

retreadeventer
Jul. 9, 2012, 11:46 PM
Your problem started with the trotting presentation. In my experience, that was a no-no. You now have scared him and he does not trust you. Whatever stuff you do, and it doesn't matter what familiarization method you use, you must gain back his trust. When he is confident, he will move his feet when you ask, rather than stand still like a rock. His rock is his way of saying I am not sure what to do, do I won't do anything. Keep asking him and you'll get him back. Just takes a little time. I don't blame you, but Ithink the instruction you were given was not appropriate....jmo...
(

Right on Target
Jul. 9, 2012, 11:53 PM
When I got my current horse we had a trailer incident on the way home, which was also his first time on the trailer. In the subsequent attempts to load I learned that my horse had a leading problem and he only lead because he wanted to, not that I could "make" him do anything including leading him where he didn't want to go.

I am not into natural horsemanship, but I did some research and they seemed the best with leading/loading/dominance work and that is what I needed. I had a trainer come out to work with my horse and in one session he was able to get him to self load and I learned what to do and we've had success ever since. Part of the problem was that I didn't have good lunging skills and I wasn't able to make the horse move his feet in the direction I wanted without him trying to jump on top of me in a panic to avoid the trailer or rearing because he was done with the whole thing. The rearing was cleared up quickly and a much better forward button was installed. Once he got "forward" the self loading came along pretty quickly.
My homework was to send my horse on the trailer, over XC obstacles, and through anything else I thought he may not want to do and he had to do it calmly.

I know it isn't exactly the same situation, but it sounds like a similar challenge- the horse is scared of an obstacle for a good reason and you can't "send" him over it.

This may not be super helpful because sort of like the Dog Whisperer if you have watched the show, the person has to get trained too in order to make it work. Before the trainer I was doing things that were almost right, but I just wasn't getting it done.

Here is a rundown of what I learned. First start with being able to move the horse's feet forward, back, and sideways which establishes "forward", your personal space, and who is in charge. Add in some lunging with frequent changes of direction. The horse should be looking at you and not staring off at other things.

Once the horse is lunging well and paying attention he has a chance to rest while he addresses the obstacle. As long as he's going towards it and looking at it he can stand there and chill. Once his attention wanders, back to work for a minute or two. Then he can again address the obstacle and he's expected to move a bit closer to it than the last time. Eventually he will realize that the obstacle is a great thing to be near because he can hang out and relax near it and the pressure is released.

One pretty important point is that he can't try to jump on top of you as you are sending him towards the obstacle, you use the whip as a barrier to defend your space so you don't get squished.

I don't know if this is even slightly helpful and I may be mangling it a little, so I guess what I'm saying is that it worked for my horse to get over scary objects, but I would suggest a trainer because it is worth the $$ to nip problems like these in the bud.

fanfayre
Jul. 10, 2012, 12:56 AM
Rather than go "up" to it, ride around and around the ditch, both directions, until he's completely "bored" with it, then WALK him up to it and over. As soon as he hesitates, send him around the ditch again. At no time is he allowed to let his feet stop moving (forward). Once you can walk him up to and over, let him trot the last couple of steps, then send him over in trot. Remember to approach in a slightly deeper, defensive seat, with lower leg a "titch" more ahead than is "normal". Repeat daily, ad naseum. Remember, ditches are places where horse-eating monsters live and you have to re-earn his trust. If you're afraid you'll catch his mouth if he leaps over it, there's no shame in using a neck strap. That's been my method for the last 25 years and umpteen babies, and it hasn't let me down yet!
Oh, and if you feel that he may go into the ditch rather than over, put a pole diagonally across the ditch so he understands he's not to go in, but over.
Good Luck, and update us in a few days/weeks with your progress :)

Corky
Jul. 10, 2012, 03:18 AM
Your problem started with the trotting presentation. In my experience, that was a no-no. You now have scared him and he does not trust you. Whatever stuff you do, and it doesn't matter what familiarization method you use, you must gain back his trust. When he is confident, he will move his feet when you ask, rather than stand still like a rock. His rock is his way of saying I am not sure what to do, do I won't do anything. Keep asking him and you'll get him back. Just takes a little time. I don't blame you, but Ithink the instruction you were given was not appropriate....jmo...
(

Ya, I'm really mad at myself for trotting him in. I listened when I should have just gone with my gut and walked like I've done with him in the past. I was given a picture of us moments before he fell, and yes I did lean forward. But he had too much momentum to stop when he tried to and basically slid into the ditch. This is why I am so wary of new coaches, I have had too many tell me to do things that have not gone well, that I now question everything anyone tells me. It makes me hard to coach because I don't trust new coaches. But hind sight is perfect. I'm trying not to 'blame' the clinician, but when I specifically started off by telling her I was afraid of ditches, they are my 'thing' and she didn't address that AT ALL, I am really annoyed by that. I was watching videos of Lucinda Green introing ditches...she did exactly what I did the first time I showed him a ditch! Just walks up, gawks a bit, pops it, repeats. Lovely. Why the hell didn't I stick with that approach?! Especially for the first present?! hrmp

enjoytheride
Jul. 10, 2012, 06:09 AM
I don't have much experience with ditches and neither do my horses but I've always walked them first. I think your fall plus the inability to get him over it right there plus your previous fear of ditches did him in.

I have found that if you're worried about something based on a past experience even if you think you're riding it right YOU ARE NOT.

I would skip trying to jump the ditch on your own because we simply can't stop ourselves from riding crappy when we are remembering a past issue like that. Find a regular instructor and work on the ditch issues with them, someone that knows you and has the time to deal with the problem.

Larbear
Jul. 10, 2012, 06:41 AM
I was watching videos of Lucinda Green introing ditches...she did exactly what I did the first time I showed him a ditch! Just walks up, gawks a bit, pops it, repeats. Lovely. Why the hell didn't I stick with that approach?! Especially for the first present?! hrmp

I was just going to say...watch some Lucinda videos :) Well, don't beat yourself up, hind sight and all. I think if you go back to basics as Yellowbritches mentioned and work up to walking over baby ditches you'll get there. At a Lucinda clinic this spring I rode in we were walking over some pretty good ditches...even the seasoned horses were started out with walking over ditches.

I would say if you could get a good x-country school in with someone that you trust etc., that would go a long way to restoring your confidence and your horse's confidence. This will be helpful you when you go back to working on ditches.

JP60
Jul. 10, 2012, 07:15 AM
I am surprised know one had said this yet, though it would seem good advice for the horse ;) ....perhaps it may also be good for you to get some ditch training. By you're own statement you mention you are "a little ditchy". Perhaps that emotion/mental process worked/works down to you're horse. If you are afraid of the dark, how can you convince me to go into a dark room. :eek:

Get with a trainer and a good school horse; go out schooling and focus on ditches till you feel confident riding them. To take a green horse out and ask it to do something that scares you, honestly he was the smart one :) "Hey Ma, if you're that scared then I am not going there". It does not mean you don't do all the other things mentioned here (some I will try myself), but work on yourself as well.

yellowbritches
Jul. 10, 2012, 08:35 AM
What about when you can stand in front of it, pick at grass, get bored, have a snooze, with NO forward inclination?! I put leg on, he ignores, I start kicking/spur or spank and he'll tail swish, or turn away if I really drive him enough. But he isn't dramatic about it. He just WON'T go up to the edge or even consider going over it! Forward is completely gone. At one point I went and galloped him off just to get him thinking forward, get his blood going, and trotted back down the hill and tried to slow trot/walk up...nope, stop, stand, plant, and grow roots :(
Then you are not being patient enough. Wait. Just wait. Don't ask him to go forward. Don't make it a big dramatic thing. Just wait.

You need to find a coach you can trust and really work this out. Xc is too dangerous to wing in on your own, and you admittedly have your own phobias that haven't been addressed, and now your horse has one, too. JP90 is right. Find someone you can work with (where are you? Maybe you can get some recs here), borrow a horse who is BTDT for you to get over your own issues, and have someone else help your horse out.

millerra
Jul. 10, 2012, 09:04 AM
someone already mentioned it - but I've seen the following technique work exceptionally well...

don't ride "at" the ditch. Go out for a school by the ditch. Start up a circle as small around the ditch as he will comfortably do (no hesitation, no "pushing out the airplane feel", no shying away). slowly, over days as necessary, make the circle smaller until he is walking or trotting along side of it (parallel). Let him give it the hairy eyeball. Let him understand it. Then you can approach the ditch.

As for trust, that is a big deal. I lost my young horse's confidence stupidly believing a BNT when the footing was a grease pit for my very careful young horse's first xcountry school. It has been a long time coming back. But, I try to present stuff to him that make him question, and then convince him it's ok and I DO know what I'm doing. And I am overly careful about over facing him. He's getting it. And, of course, I do reinforce the lesson that leg means forward NOW.

Good luck.

rmh_rider
Jul. 10, 2012, 09:20 AM
If he doesn't come around like Neigh-Neigh said, I would find somebody who endurance rides and hit the trails.

He will have a buddy to look to, and trails have all kinds of terrain. Also the exercise and cross training is very good for an event horse. I have ridden with many event horses with my little arab gelding. And yes, it made th horse/rider better eventers. Maybe after several rides with the same endurance rider/horse then you go back to the dreaded ditch and both of you just go on business as usual and go across it.

I have had endurance horses who had "issues" about an obstacle, oh yeah. Having a buddy show the ropes is a good thing to do. And yes, I have also had a horse terrified of a white rail in an arena. And yes, I had a horse who was terrified to have a lesson in an indoor arena. But with a buddy and some practice things went very well. Works both ways.

I find trails give horses lots of confidence. Keeps their minds fresh looking to what is around the next corner. Which is what eventing is: what the next fence is, arena, cross country course, barn, lesson, situation, footing, etc.

I was amazed at what my event friend would jump - on the trail! Eventers rock!! They are tough as nails, and very brave - imo! They make GREAT trail partners. We always ride with safety and care of our horses in mind. I always do on the trail. Always. I find eventers, and endurance riders do this.

Good luck!

Snugglerug
Jul. 10, 2012, 09:28 AM
Yikes. I thought this thread was going to be about my big fat silly fear of falling in a ditch--as in, horse DOESN'T SEE BIG DITCH and we both go tumbling in at speed with dire consequences.

Has my horse ever not seen a ditch? No.
Ever refused a ditch? No.
Ever thought about being goofy at a ditch? No.

Clearly my horse is the brains of this operation.

Win1
Jul. 10, 2012, 04:16 PM
So sorry to hear you had a confidence crackdown, I've been there, several times. I'd forget about the ditch for a little while, until you fluff up his confidence and trust in you with his day to day work again. Do some super easy stuff that you know he will get right (and he knows it too) and then praise him like he's the most amazing creature alive. Start with ground work, practice making him lead properly, make him feel like a superstar when he walks over a ground pole, does transitions when asked, whatever you chose. Then do the same under saddle and step back up to where you were, but not all at once. Then start small like you mentioned with the poles and a little tarp showing, then gradually make it a teeny bit bigger and so on.

This may seem silly to a lot of people, but I personally find it works well to build up the relationship on both ends when we've had a set back.

I agree with others, that it would be beneficial to get on a school horse to get over your own ditchy-ness. We communicate to them in ways that we will never be able to control completely so making it fun in your head could really help him.

EventerAJ
Jul. 10, 2012, 05:05 PM
Lots of good ideas here, I agree with all of them. Especially the point about riding a school horse to build YOUR confidence, so you don't encourage the issue in a green horse.

I love rmh's idea of going out on the trail. Trail riding and hacking in the great wide open is huge for building confidence in a young horse. All of my green horses have conquered natural ditches and creek crossings before their first xc school-- they already have confidence in me, and in themselves, before they are challenged with real ditches and water.

That's not to say it all goes well-- on the trail, sometimes it will take me an hour to get a greenie over the first little rocky ditch, or get their feet wet the first time. But it's very important to GET IT DONE. Don't ever "give up and go home." That just reinforces the fear, lack of confidence, and encourages the horse to think "If I don't like it, I can throw a fit, quit, and go home." I don't attempt these questions with a young horse unless I have all day to devote to it, if needed (never have, but you need that mindset. Don't rush and be in a hurry!).

I had one green OTTB mare who was slightly spooky, completely lacked confidence in herself, and was hot hot hot. I took her for a hack, alone, and went to cross a shallow rocky ditch. She would not go near it. I worked her in circles, closer and closer to the edge, riding her parallel to it (it was a dry creekbed, over a hundred yards long). She wanted to lose her mind, but I wouldn't let her. I praised her for getting close, kicked when she tried to turn away. I'd let her pause and look at it (on a long rein) but she was not allowed to turn for home, and she had to move her feet immediately when asked. It's important that ANY time the horse shows inclination to go over it (or near it, in the beginning), that you relax, soften, and quit "chasing." Yes, you want to be supportive with your leg, but you don't want to chase and scare them over it either.

It took about an hour of sidepassing and paralleling the ditch, a couple threats to rear (growl, send forward on a circle), and a lot of lathered sweat, but the mare finally leapt over the tiny ditch. I praised her immensely and her confidence soared. She learned a few things: ditches aren't scary; GO FORWARD is not negotiable; and she believed me when I told her she was a big brave horse. Approaching another shallow natural ditch, she popped her eyes at it and hesitated, but when I said Go, she went. Their first experience is so important...you can turn a wannabe-ditchy horse into a brave one, if you avoid trouble.

What to do once you have a ditchy horse? Do the 1st Time routine over and over and over again. Find every natural ditch you can and get over it. Go over tarps in the arena. Find any "scary" situation you can that might make your horse hesitate, and conquer it. (Don't overface, of course, but give them a reason to think "Maybe not?" and ride through it. Hack through a field of cows; walk across a bridge; anything unfamiliar that the horse has to trust you.)

alicen
Jul. 10, 2012, 08:24 PM
So you say you have a baby ditch at home? Maybe you could grain the horse at the ditch, in the ditch, stretch for grain on the other side of the ditch? Put side rails up so horse has to walk thru ditch?
Story: I once had to get a horse from A to C through point B which had been a source of fear and temporary pain, but no injury. It wasn't happening. It wasn't happening all day. I could not get said horse from paddock back to barn through gate. Tempted horse with grain. No go. Light bulb moment! One thing a horse can't stand is seeing another horse being fed, while he's doing without. Brought out shallow grain -filled rubber bucket. Waived it under stuck horse's nose and plunked it in front of horse at point C. Instant presto, horse is where I want him. Walked horse back and forth through gate. No problem.

Yeah, it was sneaky and manipulative, but I wanted to get home to supper.

Tuesday's Child
Jul. 10, 2012, 10:08 PM
I don't have any other suggestions but I think you've gotten some really good advice here. Stick to your gut and try and find an XC coach you trust who you can work your way back up with to get over your "ditchiness". Good luck!

Corky
Jul. 11, 2012, 09:44 PM
See finding an XC coach I trust, close enough to access regularly, is a challenge itself. There are lots of options, lots of crappy coaching, and after riding with a german riding master for a decade in jumper and dressage, I have high standards. Finding someone I can trust, has facilities to school over, and I can get to regularly is the hard part. And how do you figure out how you trust, and who knows their stuff? Some clients swear by coaches who are utter crap. Infact I've seen the most loyal following to coaches who are useless, so I've been asking knowledgeable friends who they train with, and going from there. I have a good recommendation from someone who had a very similar experience with a ditch and the trainer/course that helped get her and horsie over it, but the person recommended to me is a bit of a hike to get to. Not impossible, but a 2+hour drive.

I plan on working at home for a bit before going out anyway, need to get him confident in me again then worry about the ditch itself. I may even leave it and go XC a few times again just to get him happy in his work before going back to the ditch. I know that working on it every ride can be exactly the kind of repetition he needs, but I also know this can sour a horse and make them think that its not fun anymore. I want to be sure I don't take the fun out of riding for this horse. He enjoys every challenge so far and I don't want to change that my over-doing one thing.

EventerAJ - I respectfully disagree. you said you have to 'get it done' no matter what. I disagree. The horse had a nasty fall, trusted me enough to keep jumping and do some new things, even if he wasn't his normal bold self, and I was left with three options after trying the ditch for a while at the end of the day - 1) stand there all damn night with him going nowhere, cause he would stand there that long and longer without going over 2) beat him over it, and I don't mean reinforcing the leg, which I'd done, I mean beat him 3) go home without going over ditch. We had tried EVERYTHING at that point (treats, crop, dressage whip, in hand, in saddle, riding around it, riding past it), and horse was done. You don't teach horses who have shut down, you may get what you want, but they don't learn positive things from it, they just learn that you are a bully. I firmly believe that and I think this 'can't end on a bad note' idea does not hold true in all scenarios. Agree to disagree if you like, but I stand behind my decision to pack it in.

Oh and this horse trail rides all the time, easily goes lead through all kinds of crap, and I'll take him out fox hunting this fall. He's a doll usually, keen and thrives on a challenge, but once he decides he's not doing something, OMG is he a donkey about it. Actually he makes donkeys look cooperative!

As for my ditchiness, the fall was actually kind of a good thing. The worst case scenario happened - horse fell in ditch. He didn't break a leg, infact he didn't get a scratch. I bashed my knee, but it didn't even bruise. Otherwise I rolled and was on my feet before anyone really knew what happened. I survived my worst case scenario without a scratch, as did the horse. So actually, I'm not as worried now as I was then. Go figure. My horse fell right in a deep ditch, and carried on with his day. I rode a horse that fell in a ditch and I rolled out of it with a tiny grass stain. I'm less afraid now than I was before! I won't be taking a greeny at a ditch in a 'strong trot' again, no matter what anyone tells me to do, but I actually feel less worried about ditches then I did before this happened. I thought ditch fall = death, but apparently not! Could it have been different, of course, but experience just told me that its not as bad as I thought it was, even when the worst thing happens.

So, in terms of simulated ditches, what do we think is the most realistic material that I can use on flat ground, or in a very shallow ditch, to simulate a 'normal' deeper ditch? Black tarp/bag, mulch etc? I noticed in a Lucinda Green video that she had them do a shallow ditch with a blue tarp, then moved the blue tarp to the deep ditch and did it like that. Do you think that using a recognizable colour like this in a ditch is the best way to make it more understandable for a horse? Think this would make new ditches less scary for a few schools before he's brave enough to loose the crutch, or is that a crutch that should be avoided entirely for fear of creating a dependency issue? Thoughts?

fanfayre
Jul. 12, 2012, 01:03 AM
So, where exactly in Ontario are you? Maybe some of us could give you some names of coaches we know and trust.

Actually, I get where AJ is coming from. As eventers we get ONE (uno, eins, 1, I, aon[gaelic] - you get the picture) chance to get it done on course, or we've just blown a wad of hard-earned, and usually much-needed, cash. We don't get to go back the next class and retry. So the horse HAS to learn GO, and go NOW and Get It Done! My caveat- once you as trainer has taught the horse to trust you implicitly, so you can't have ANY doubts about anything you're jumping.

Here's what I did this spring, before I took my youngster out into the big, bad world of x/c. I built a roll-a-ditch(TM) ;), with a 6x10' BLACK tarp and 2 landscape ties. I folded the tarp in 1/2 and placed a landscape tie along each long end. I screwed the tarp to the ties, and voila!!! I had a ditch that could be as narrow as 8" (ties rolled together) or 4-1/2' wide (rolled out as far as ties will go). I then used my method above to introduce my youngster, and within 10minutes she was happily hopping over it at about 2-1/2' wide. I move it around from place to place so she doesn't freak when she sees a ditch in different places, and I've had no problems with ANY of the real ditches she done since. As a bonus, I now have the base material for a trakhener, weldon's wall, coffin, liverpool, etc. This training tool can be yours too, for the most-exorbitant price of ~$20 total. Benefits: Priceless
Good Luck

JP60
Jul. 12, 2012, 09:20 AM
... Could it have been different, of course, but experience just told me that its not as bad as I thought it was, even when the worst thing happens. ...
Corky,

Hubris can have a nasty bite. You may be convinced all is good, but surviving a fall does not "cure" you of your fears, just distracts them. Have you been over a real ditch since? You haven't said, but if you have not, then you don't understand the mind and how it will reach out and firmly remind you your fears.

If the one coach you trust is 2 hours away, then schedule a day, take the time and confirm, by actual riding, whether you've shaken off the monkey or not. You can work on your horse any day and Sunday over fake ditches at home, and you both will be fooling each other. You'll think all is good, I have no fears, he'll think this is okay, because it is in a safe place and my rider "seems" confident. First time back at the ditch you fell at, doing schooling will be the real test and if you have not proven your hubris true, it will take twice as long to fix.

The other day in a lesson I commented that my horse may need chiro because he seemed stiff on one side. Obviously the horse's fault I can't get a good canter transition. Trainer verbally spanked me by saying, "Certainly there are times when a horse needs adjustment, but when the rider is stiff on that side and stepping on the wrong stirrup then perhaps it is not the horse!" She had me shift my weight, alter my seat and bam! good canter transition and balanced canter. The lesson for me, don't blame the horse, before the rider, unless the horse is the leader, and that should never be the case.

Drop the ego (I'm all better, no need for help), be absolutely sure you're "cured" before taking your horse back out into the wild, asking it to trust you again.

Good luck.

fanfayre
Jul. 12, 2012, 11:45 AM
^ Well said

WW_Queen
Jul. 12, 2012, 12:28 PM
a few logs/tires at home, one good school on a technical course, then a short course last week.

So clinicians asks for background, I tell her the horse is green but keen, looking for confidence and a challenge or two.

I tell her we jumped a ditch XC a few weeks before, he was terrified, popped it, then came in too strong, stopped, popped it, etc. He's done them, but not smoothly yet.

Even though hindsight is always 20/20, perhaps you guys had a miscommunication about his experience level? I always make it a rule to tell my clinician if I'm uncomfortable with an exercise, esp. if I'm on a greenie.

You said that YOU were ditchy, but judging from these statements I would think it's pretty reasonable to ask for a horse with the experience listed above to trot over a small ditch.

leahandpie
Jul. 12, 2012, 01:40 PM
Hmm...
My gelding has a ditch issue that we are working through. I think that EventerAJ actually hits the nail on the head here- at least from my experience.

If you aren't confident about it, then he is not going to jump it, period. He's already found out he can say "NO" and get his way. Sooner or later, there is going to have to be a "Come to Jesus" about the ditch. You can take baby steps, work from the ground, etc. but no matter what you have created a situation that will take some serious encouragement to get him over.

I created the same issue with my gelding- overfaced him with a ditch that I didn't inspect before asking him to jump. It looked like a baby ditch...nope, it was actually a training ditch. Very bad move on my part...but he is almost completely over it now. Just had to re-install "GO!" over smaller half ditches, move to a small ditch, and then have a serious "Conversation" over a Novice ditch.

For Pie (and I'm guessing most horses who are scared/stubborn combo) beating him over the ditch from a standstill does not work. Coming in at a trot gives him a chance to slam on the brakes. Instead we come in at a forward walk, and if he stops the forward motion I'm constantly pushing him towards the ditch with strong LEG ON, supported by CROP. Keeping his head towards it, his body straight, preventing him from doing anything but going FORWARD over the ditch. Pie was leaping sideways, rearing, bucking, everything but going forward. Finally, he realized his only way out was going over the ditch...he jumped...I make sure to stay out of his way... bigggg pat and then do it again! and again! and then again from the other way!

I have found that it doesn't work to wait for the horse to decide to jump, let him be calm about it, etc. When he is straight up refusing, what works better is to match his level of intensity, and give him only one option out. I'm not really sure how to describe it, but it is almost like raising the level of stress enough for the horse so that he realizes that his own efforts are not saving him from the ditch situation, so he decides to listen to you and move forward~ releasing the pressure and removing the stress.

Hope that helps :)

EventerAJ
Jul. 12, 2012, 02:30 PM
EventerAJ - I respectfully disagree. you said you have to 'get it done' no matter what. I disagree. The horse had a nasty fall, trusted me enough to keep jumping and do some new things, even if he wasn't his normal bold self, and I was left with three options after trying the ditch for a while at the end of the day - 1) stand there all damn night with him going nowhere, cause he would stand there that long and longer without going over 2) beat him over it, and I don't mean reinforcing the leg, which I'd done, I mean beat him 3) go home without going over ditch. We had tried EVERYTHING at that point (treats, crop, dressage whip, in hand, in saddle, riding around it, riding past it), and horse was done. You don't teach horses who have shut down, you may get what you want, but they don't learn positive things from it, they just learn that you are a bully. I firmly believe that and I think this 'can't end on a bad note' idea does not hold true in all scenarios. Agree to disagree if you like, but I stand behind my decision to pack it in.


To be fair, my "Get it done" statement was referring to a green horse's first-ever ditch experience. I'm not advising to relentlessly beat a horse over a ditch-- you should not be punishing them for *not jumping,* you are negatively-reinforcing the lack of response to your leg. That's why it's important to relax/back-off pressure when the horse goes forward and shows inclination to get near/go over the ditch. If you beat the horse for going forward and approaching the ditch(in his mind), he doesn't understand WHY you are punishing him, and he associates punishment with ditches, which makes ditches even more scary and something to avoid.

Essentially, it's not a "ditch" problem, it's a Going Forward Because I Say So problem. (Sorta like how trailer-loading issues are Basic Leading issues.) Your horse must move off your leg pronto when asked, anytime anywhere. Now, you may have to back off away from the ditch and re-establish Go Forward on a circle, and work your way back to the ditch, constantly reinforcing the concept of Moving Off The Leg Now. You may have to let a scared horse learn that ditches are not full of horse-eating alligators and it's ok to walk/trot/canter parallel to them.

Beating scared horses is never a good idea! Now, beating lazy/stubborn horses is a different story. ;) It's up to you, as the rider and trainer, to know the difference between Fear and Disrespect. Ultimately, even the fearful horse must move off your leg, but you have to be tactful about it to earn the horse's trust (and PATIENT-- that's why I said it could take all day, and give it the time it needs). The Disrespectful horse needs a spanking.


If a horse is truly, 100% against going over ditches; if it takes a crew of people with lunge whips, and riders are getting hurt, maybe it's time to face that he doesn't want to be an event horse. You truly cannot FORCE a horse do anything; they have to want to do it. Maybe they don't "want" to jump ditches, but the horse's desire to please you should be great enough to encourage him to try. Open ditches-- the concept of a gaping hole in the ground to leap over-- is far different than any other obstacle. It's difficult to see from a distance, and can catch a horse by surprise. Many horses jump ditches very naturally (and it's still possible to screw them up with rider confidence issues). Plenty of horses can have confidence to jump anything in the world, and go forward from the slightest touch, but have a serious problem with crossing a trench in the ground. Those horses are then called Show Jumpers or Dressage horses. :p


That's not saying you should give up on your horse-- but if I were you, I'd put a very experienced, confident rider on my horse and see if that helps. I'd also work really hard to build up his confidence and trust in you as a rider-- going over tarps, jumping scary things, and testing other situations that will challenge his trust/confidence. His respect for you will not grow unless it is stressed or challenged to some degree; you must "win" small (tiny) battles where he may question you. You have to be fair, consistent, and confident. When you are successful, his respect and confidence will grow; but you have to be careful not to overface him (or yourself) or you will go backwards.

bornfreenowexpensive
Jul. 12, 2012, 04:46 PM
Ya, I'm really mad at myself for trotting him in. I listened when I should have just gone with my gut and walked like I've done with him in the past. I was given a picture of us moments before he fell, and yes I did lean forward. But he had too much momentum to stop when he tried to and basically slid into the ditch. This is why I am so wary of new coaches, I have had too many tell me to do things that have not gone well, that I now question everything anyone tells me. It makes me hard to coach because I don't trust new coaches. But hind sight is perfect. I'm trying not to 'blame' the clinician, but when I specifically started off by telling her I was afraid of ditches, they are my 'thing' and she didn't address that AT ALL, I am really annoyed by that. I was watching videos of Lucinda Green introing ditches...she did exactly what I did the first time I showed him a ditch! Just walks up, gawks a bit, pops it, repeats. Lovely. Why the hell didn't I stick with that approach?! Especially for the first present?! hrmp


Don't have time to read the whole thread so sorry if I'm repeating what has been said. I will be a bit different from your take...your issue wasn't trotting...it was leaning.

Trotting isn't per se wrong so I wouldn't blame this coach. Rushing them off thier feet, getting them off balance...and leaning at the ditch is wrong.

You have NOT ruined your horse, just exposed a hole in his training (and in your riding). It sounds like he doesn't respect your leg (and you jump ahead). This probably is true all the time, not just with ditches. It just shows up with things he doesn't really want to do.

So work on getting him in front of your leg and respecting your leg (and work on not jumping ahead ;).

Then work on confidence over new things. Keep things small and easy but if you present him to something...he needs to go, even if it is walking over. That means you can NOT lean at things and do not jump a head. When he does jump....make a BIG BIG fuss over him. He is the best and most brave pony in the world.

After you have his (and your) confidence back up jumping things, to restart the ditches, start with two poles on the ground with a pole diagonally across the top of them in the ring. Jump this in the ring. When that is easy (w/T/C over it)...move it somewhere else. Still easy...take it out side. Once easy out in the field...move the poles next to the ditch and jump...easy. Move the poles over the ditch--do NOT ride it any differently than you did when it was near the ditch....once he is jumping them easy, you take the poles away and jump the ditch (the diagonal one first, jump then the ground poles). Always make a huge fuss over him as soon as he lands. Big pats and good boys...even letting him gallop off. You can fix that later...for now, it is about building his confidence.

But he does need to be in front of your leg, you need to NOT lean (and not look in ditches)...and when he does jump...go with him and reward him extensively and immediately..over all jumps.

Do not focus on what happened in the past...move on and move forward.

Rabtfarm
Jul. 12, 2012, 09:22 PM
Great thread..a lot of real riding advice. I hope that you will stay with this and please continue the learning experience for everyone with updates. If this continues I will come up there and build you your own ditch for training!

Corky
Jul. 13, 2012, 03:38 PM
Well, since trust comes from the ground, we went back to ground work. I started with the horse in hand, with a long whip, and worked first on manners; forward, back, sideways etc based on body position and placement including the whip as an object he moves away from. I stayed further behind him than you usually would lunging, almost like ground driving but with one line. We played a bit, and when I felt I had control, steering and focus, I added a tarp. We played over a very narrow tarp, then a wider tarp, and were totally non-concerned about it.

Moved tarp outside and continued. Great progress, respectful of forward, no tensions - great! Time to make it a little harder. I put the tarp in the baby ditch. I didn't ask him over it, I just let him look, chill, stand in front. He huffed and puffed, danced etc but I just had him hang out there until the tension left. Once he was trying to drag me to graze, I figured we were ok. We started going beside the ditch. He starts all upset, skitters and runs, so we keep lapping around and around. We do it the other way too. I don't punish him for overreacting, I just lead by example, keeping calm, walking nicely, bringing him back to me. He settles and just walks or trots (whichever I ask for) past the ditch, no tension. Win.

Asked him to step up to the ditch and he had some tension return, tried to go around. Well near the baby ditch is an under-construction trakhaner-to-be that is currently a large, shallow ditch with no reinforcement. Its been so dry that it is very hard (so no collapsing sides) so we try the wide (3'5-4ft wide) 'thing' that is really a mini bank down, one walk step, and a mini bank up if you walk it. He hesitates but walks in. Important here was that I never really 'led' him and I wasn't lunging him, I was walking more beside him at his barrel, with the whip behind him in my left hand, no contact on his face. He walked through it. Repeat, then represent the baby-ditch with the tarp, he hesitates and dances a little, but pops it! Praise, repeat, adding in a mini-circuit of the construction-ditch and the baby-ditch until going nicely with rhythm and relaxation at a walk. Add trot, he is fluidly trotting. Push him a little at trot and he is now jumping the big open ditch and hopping the baby-ditch like he's done it his whole life. By this point I am lunging him, because he is getting enough momentum that I can't really jog beside him anymore. We did each direction many times, then mixed up the circuit so he'd go around one ditch, over one, walk one, trot the other, etc. Relaxed and cool the whole time :)

Its a first step, but I am pretty thrilled with it. I think the catch for this horse was not leading and not lunging but going with him. It gave him the confidence and gave me the control and proximity I needed to ensure that he didn't go out and that he understood the forward. I also didn't get jumped on. Win win!

Right on Target
Jul. 13, 2012, 09:19 PM
That is so great, congratulations! Sounds like you did all the stuff my trainer had me do with my horse. I'm glad you are making progress!