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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2009
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    22

    Default how do i bomb proof my horse? Help!

    I recently bought a TB mare that I love that has so much potential as a hunter except one thing--> She is smart, calm, cool, and collected, but gets anxious in open fields.

    What are the steps to working through the problems to make her into a fox hunter. Is it really just repetition, repetition, repetition?

    I am currently walking her down the same path everyday and have been doing so for the past 8 days, but it doesn't seem to get any better. I know each horse is different, but is this process something that takes months or years and what else can I do?



  2. #2
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    Jul. 5, 2002
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    Default try this

    some are more confident in a group
    more hay, less grain



  3. #3
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    Aug. 28, 2007
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    Triangle Area, NC
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    Default

    tb's decompress mentally when they can move forward. the kiss of death for a nervous tb is to be forced to walk. go for trot hacks and wear your saddle tite and helmet.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble



  4. #4
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    Aug. 28, 2009
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    Default

    I think you are right as she seems to be more comfortable at a trot when she is nervous, but what do people do when they train horses for fox hunting... Everyone always says.... "oh, I totally bomb-proofed my horse" but what do they literally, actually do to achieve this wonderful state of bomb-proofness



  5. #5
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    Aug. 28, 2009
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    Default

    also, wouldn't it be bad training to teach her that every time she is nervous it is okay to trot off? There has to be some way to show her fields aren't scary and is it really just repetition. What is the secret trick to bomb-proofing



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul. 25, 2003
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    Boston Area
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    Default

    To get my TB ready for hunting I did lots and lots and lots of rides with other horses. For him, the challenge was following. When I first got him he would throw a tantrum if he wasn't in the lead. Not a great attitude for a foxhunter.

    Going out with a steady eddy to get your horse used to the fields will likely help. My last TB (a mare) had a really hard time with open fields. She was on full alert when we started going out in them alone. She calmed down considerably with other horses.

    I agree that TBs do better when they are moving, but I have a few other suggestions for you:

    - Use a one-rein stop to get your horse to stop and focus back on you. Even if you need to stop a hundred times the first few days your horse WILL figure out that she doesn't want to stand with her nose to your stirrup.
    - Just walk. At the beginning I used to just walk my TB. Mostly on a loose rein. Once he understood that we were going for a relaxing walk, he would stay relaxed. If I started to trot or canter he'd get wound up.
    - Hand walk your horse. I frequently hand walk my OTTBs when I first get them. It seems to reassure them. I walk them in a bridle and will incorporate some work in hand.

    Good luck!
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.



  7. #7
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    Aug. 28, 2009
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    Default

    That was really helpful, especially the part about actually getting off the horse and walking them in a bridle. Never thought of that...

    Is the consensus that most horses are able to be desensitized with enough repetition and patience? And if so, is this a process that takes months or years (I know each horse is different) but how long do most slightly anxious horses take?



  8. #8
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    Aug. 18, 2009
    Location
    Unionville, Virginia
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    107

    Default

    My OTTB was on stall rest when I got him. What was a sweet horse turned into a nightmare. That was understandable. He was 3 and had so much energy. However, when his stall rest ended and he was turned out for a month I started to try to hand walk him around a ring that was attached to his regular paddock. He nearly killed me every time I tried. It wasn't until he was turned out with another horse that he calmed down. After the first few rides in the ring we went on a trail ride with the barn owner. She was a former eventer and so trail riding with her meant mostly not walking. We walked and trotted at first. My horse loved it. He got a little nervous but the combination of having company and not being forced to just walk made him much more comfortable. Of course now I do have the problem that he does not like all walking trail rides. He thinks trails are for trotting and cantering. But at least he's not nervous.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan. 3, 2007
    Location
    Chicago, Il
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    80

    Default

    This has worked for me for the past 12 years :

    TURN OUT
    And lots of it.
    In huge huge open fields, where most horses go out for the first time and say "Oh my GAWD where's the fence?"

    (seriously, so many horses are stabled in small paddocks, it is no wonder they get a little agorophobic in the field).

    Then I start to leave them out overnight. After a summer of wildlife tramping through the fields, all sorts of noises, and plenty of places to gallop to, they pretty much calm down.

    Then I start leaving each horse out alone (sorry, my pet peeve is herd-bound horses. I absolutely cannot STAND to have a horse worry at the gate or pace the fenceline when you take away his buddy. All my youngsters have learned how to tolerate being alone, and hey, when there is all that grass to eat, who cares about a buddy).

    PLAY WITH THEM ON THE GROUND

    No . . not Parelli.

    But be in a safe place and get your horse used to using his "thinking brain" instead of his "reacting brain". I have found this is easier on the ground than in the saddle. Once you have thrown everything at them for a few months, you can try this riding.

    I put all sorts of obstacles in the arena, tarps, plastic bags, a mailbox on a post. Things your horse will come across in the real world. How can you expect your horse to be calm around these things on a trail ride when he cannot experience them on his relaxed "home turf"?

    (Oh, but don't try putting carrots in the Big Scary mailbox to help bombproof them. I have one gelding that will drag you off the rode to molest black mailboxes. He swears it is a carrot-feeding-box and has to check each one out. Can't rightly explain to the neighbors why there are horse teeth-marks on their mailboxes!)

    Flap tarps, set free whispy plastic grocery bags. Enlist friends to bring over strange dogs. Have kids ride motor scooters around the outside of the arena.

    Anything you can think of. I take down people's election signs that they had in their yard (after the elections, duh) as one of my horses just HATES those little colorful plaques that get poked in to the ground.

    Somedays I mix it up and put these things out in the pasture. A pile of tires in the corner of the arena becomes boring after a week or two, but when you put the exact same tires in the pasture . . well, that's something new to spook at.

    You just have to keep "setting" your horse up, not to "Fail" and to spook, but to be ALLOWED to react. Over time, the reactions get smaller and smaller. And you can learn to judge each individual horse. Does he rear when he is scared, jig, turn a whirl? It is nice to know this BEFORE you get him out on the trail. . .

    I know people who just take their horses out and expect to learn as they go. I'm too much of a coward for that. Too much can happen in the real world if you discover your horse it totally phobic of trash. I'd rather do it in an enclosed arena with other people around.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr. 29, 2009
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    163

    Default

    LYR - Wonderful post, a lot of really good info. As for the OP, unfortunately, you don't get the luxury of knowing "how much time". They are all different and some of them never get it. At my barn:
    Irish gelding - 10 years old - now leading first flight. 4 years ago was dangerous to ride downhill, absolutely had no idea how to cope with his body when the world wasn't flat and 2 years ago was not honest to his fences.
    OTTB - 9 years old - quiet, quiet, quiet. I can put anyone on this horse and send them out in 3rd flight for a glorified trail ride. Or I can tack him up as a staff horse and ask him to rise to the occasion. He has had an injured hound draped across the front of the saddle and carried it out for 20 minuted to get to the road. Came that way - didn't have to train him.
    Chestnut TB/holst. mare - 9 years old - will never hunt has had every bombproofing, desensitizing, repetition, allowed to grow and age - it's just not in her. She would hurt herself or her rider or it would be a miserable day for everyone.
    My own staff horse -10 years old, had done the job for 3 years before I got him - just now (we are approaching 2 years together) we are in tune - often we are an extention of one another when hunting. We've learned each others habits and cues and come to speak softly more often than not. Doesn't mean we don't have an off day or an awkward moment, but I trust him and that takes as much time as at takes.



  11. #11
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    Jun. 7, 2006
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by weebs07 View Post
    also, wouldn't it be bad training to teach her that every time she is nervous it is okay to trot off? There has to be some way to show her fields aren't scary and is it really just repetition. What is the secret trick to bomb-proofing
    The trick to bomb-proofing is to EXPECT your horse to be bomb proof.

    EXPECT the horse to behave as normal.

    When she starts getting anxious, pleasantly tell her, "I know, I know life is hard, but you still need to behave. Now carry on and walk past this [insert worrisome object] here like a normal horse. Yeah yeah yeah whatever, get over yourself and walk on."

    Then pet her when she does.



  12. #12
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    Nov. 10, 2005
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    Va
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    Default

    I have never hunted(hope to this fall). I think there are some very good suggestions posted here so far. For my TB mare, I did tons of bombproofing stuff at clinics and then at home. She was a show hunter initially and could be spooky. This all changed when I moved her to another farm and put her on pasture board and less grain. She was pastured by herself for several years after my gelding died. I had started using ear pom-poms when she showed, and have continued to use them. Probably don't really need to any longer, but hey it's a cheap crutch. I have done lots of group trail rides which I think helps alot to get the horse used to being in groups and changing spots in the line or moving at different gaits. I was trail riding recently with another boarder at the farm where my mare lives. We rode the horses out to one of the back fields and her TB gelding was getting very "up". What I tried is to move the horses over to the woods line and had her ride along the trees and I rode on the outside next to the big wideopen spaces. This really helped her horse settle. My horse also used to be a little more up in the wide open and I found the boundry of a fence or woods line helped to settle her some. I also did trail walks with the tack on, and if the mare seemed settled would then get on and ride for awhile. If she got antsy, I usually got off. I did this as I was by myself, didn't have any steady eddies to start our trail riding with at the show barn. This actually was a blessing in disguise as she is totally non-herd bound. She doesn't care if horses come or go. She is bonded with me, and doesn't need to catch up with a group that moves off. Good luck working with your horse.



  13. #13
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    Feb. 6, 2003
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    Deep South
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    Default

    Set off some bombs - silly!



  14. #14
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    Jul. 13, 2004
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    My short answer - there is no such thing as a bombproof horse

    But the advice you've gotten here is a good start to a 99.9% bombproof horse!



  15. #15
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    Feb. 23, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by meupatdoes View Post
    The trick to bomb-proofing is to EXPECT your horse to be bomb proof.

    EXPECT the horse to behave as normal.

    When she starts getting anxious, pleasantly tell her, "I know, I know life is hard, but you still need to behave. Now carry on and walk past this [insert worrisome object] here like a normal horse. Yeah yeah yeah whatever, get over yourself and walk on."

    Then pet her when she does.
    I think this attitude helps a ton. You can show a horse a million things, but there's always that million-and-one'th thing they never saw before. The better technique is "no matter what might be around, pay attention to me and follow my instructions".

    And I highly recommend the group trail work (and ring work!). Do planned work with a friend, trainer, or neighbor who will cooperate. Practice passing, going opposite directions, standing while the other person trots or canters. Practice jostling each other, accidentally getting too close, etc so that doesn't upset your horse (we run into each other all the time, and it doesn't freak anybody out - but I know some friends whose horses lose it if they get bumped).

    Think of hunting situations: I've only gone twice, but I remember standing with the hilltoppers and there came the hounds and first flight... at a gallop, right past us on both sides. Three of us had green horses, and three of us were practically galloping in place as our horses wanted to join the run. But we all held our positions. Or what if the master sends different riders out to hold different positions around some cover - you need to be able to go a different direction than the other horses sometimes, or a different speed. You need to be able to hold your position in the group, you need to be able to go from a canter to a halt and back to a canter without a battle, etc.

    Then there's terrain - hills, mud, water, low hanging tree branches (my mare used to be afraid to go under them!), thorny bushes poking you....

    So maybe make a list of all the specific skills you need to learn, and then get some friends together and practice each skill. Start at a walk, take turns in the different roles.

    When you feel ready, try some hunter paces.

    It could be a fun project, something you could spend at least several months on.



  16. #16
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    Nov. 23, 2006
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    New England
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    Quote Originally Posted by weebs07 View Post
    it really just repetition.
    It really just IS repetition and putting in the saddle time consistently. My TBX came to me at 13 with a background in dressage and minimal experience riding in the open. For quite awhile going into a field meant jigging, head tossing, etc.. If I let him canter he would get very strong. I did let him do alot of trotting but it would take him awhile to settle. Needless to say at that time I never dreamed foxhunting would be remotely possible in our future

    Now 5 years later he will hack out alone in fields, jump XC, haul out alone to new trails etc... basically go anywhere in the open completely calmly and quietly. We've hunted a number of times in the last few years too. It's just taken alot of time spent riding in similar settings and getting him used to everything. I've spent the last two years getting him quiet about riding in groups, particularly jumping XC behind other horses and going through fields at the canter and gallop behind others. 4 years ago I would have NEVER cantered him through a field if I wasn't in front.

    If you have a horse that is been there done that you can go out in the the fields with that remains calm and quiet it helps tremendously.



  17. #17
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    Dec. 28, 2003
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by weebs07 View Post
    There has to be some way to show her fields aren't scary and is it really just repetition. What is the secret trick to bomb-proofing
    Time and wet saddle blankets.



  18. #18
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    Sep. 16, 2003
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    Flint Hill, Virginia
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    Default

    Liver Yang Rising is my new hero. I/we all do those things 'without realizing' that's what we're doing (just had 2 new OTTBs down in my arena - someone left a big tarp behind when they delivered fencing so we were walking and trotting and cantering over it and through it.) But you put it very eloquently.
    Indeed. Your horse just needs time in the tack. Treat her like she's a good horse. She'll become one.
    * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.



  19. #19
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    May. 31, 2008
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    Flemington, NJ
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    Default I second the "expect them to be good"

    This is my first season out with hounds, on a horse I never thought would leave the ring. Expect them to behave, praise them, and keep going.

    Trust is everything. Even the big chickens will comply when their rider exudes confidence (fake it 'till you make it). As long as they have a strong sense of preservation, and a good heart it will come in time.

    Forward always helps. The large group gives her confidence. Although we're still figuring it all out, it gets better (almost) every outing.

    Good luck!

    Learning to stand...
    http://www.pleasantmeadowfarm.com/foxhunting.cfm



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