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  1. #1
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    Default What to do with a "bunny hopper"

    So I'm looking for useful suggestions on how to reprimand/break the habit of a bunny hopper.
    My guy was allowed to get away with bunny hopping previously and now that he is with me, I would like to correct this bad behavior because I don't appreciate it when he does it in the least.
    I know he is not in pain, which is often reason why they bunny hop, and I do know that they often bunny hop to rebalance themselves but him, he does it because he's being bratty. I've seen him playing in the field and he bunny hops instead of just bucks. He occasionally does it on the lunge or off, with or without a saddle, and only every once in awhile when we are riding. When he does it, I usually redirect his energy by moving him forward or side to side, something to distract the behavior.
    BTW, he does not have stringhalt nor does he have any pain anywhere. He is just being bratty. He has been vetted clean very recently so this is undoubtedly a learned behavior and not a symptom of something larger.
    I just recently bought him and he is a 12 year old recently gelded stud that hadn't been worked with under saddle for years just to give you some background.
    So I was wondering from COTHers experience if anyone was able to break this annoying habit on any of their horses?
    Last edited by onelove; Aug. 30, 2010 at 02:55 PM. Reason: more details



  2. #2
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    I'm not sure what you mean by bunny hop. Crow hop? Where they put their head down and do a sort of porpoise-y bouncy low leap, with their feet more or less together?

    Or does he have moments where he's traveling normally, but suddenly his back legs move almost as one?

    It's really hard to tell just by description what's going on, do you have a video by any chance?



  3. #3
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    treat him as un broken and green, and bring him up to speed via
    working him in lengthening and shortening his stride using the half halt stride in each transitions in all pacces of wlak, trot and then canter

    keep his work load variable dont nag and dont keep on doing the same old thing
    so work with ground poles to
    this will keep him focused and less likely to bunny hope epecially if you work with poles down the centre line and in two corners as opposites
    serpentines and boxes etc use your imagination

    then when you can get him out as much as possible - and on wuiter bits you can then do ly si and hh etc then let him out, shorten then back to walk be variable

    as hes more than likely knows buts hes unfit and just showing he excited a bit via bunny hopping so sit in well and ignore it

    have a plan ignore and work the horse in time he will stop and knuckle under then introduce - ground poles and add some small grids and work him over small grids then small courses of jumps

    changing is keeping him focused = so start his wrok as in 20 to half hour making sure you do both sides and build him up into an hour
    work



  4. #4
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    If by bunny-hopping you mean cantering in front and bringing both hind legs up together at once, then you have a problem. The horse is NOT healthy and you need to stop riding it and have a vet out. Could be a neuro issue, could be stifles, could be sacroiliac injury. Horses don't just bunny hop around for no reason, it's not a natural gait for them

    If you mean crow-hopping where the horse is standing in place and giving half-hearted bucks, then I will agree it could be behavioral.



  5. #5
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    As above, if you're talking the canter issue where the hinds come forward together, this has NOTHING to do with being 'bratty.' (Most of horse's actions/reactions have nothing to do with that... but... )

    This can be anything from serious pelvic injury/imbalance, to a rib out, to saddle fit, to a weak back/haunch.

    If it is the best case scenario, 'just' weakness, than lunging on a 20 or 30m circle, with a lunging cavesson (so the horse stays balanced without tilting) WITHOUT side reins of any sort, asking the horse to transition to canter from a balanced walk or trot, bringing him gently back if he canters like that behind, asking again, sending him forward in a loose, rolling canter--not a frantic tiltawhirl at the end of the lunge--*think* slow lope, but with enough impulsion that it is a true 3 beat canter. NO faster than he can stay balanced.

    Once he can hold a correct canter for a circle around, build to two circles, then three... then transition, transition, transition... one circle canter, one circle trot or walk, one circle canter, etc.

    A lot of Arabs have this canter, because they are weak and tight in the back. Once they begin to loosen and move forward without restriction, they can begin to get stronger.

    Cantering uphill undersaddle, in straight lines, can be helpful.

    Continuing to canter incorrectly only strengthens the wrong muscles. If he only holds a true canter for 3 strides on the lunge, transition down before he breaks, let him trot or walk (in balance) and ask again, for THREE strides, then tx, balance, ask again... lather, rinse, repeat ad nauseum.

    Many horses need to become very strong in the lateral work, HI, SI & HP before the canter can really be strong and correct.

    Many horses (most, in my experience) actually find it easier to step into correct canter when aided at the correct moment in the WALK. Often this will end up in a more true gait in these types of horses. The walk must be forward and with energy.

    Lastly, make sure when you ask under saddle, you are COMPLETELY allowing the horse to COME forward into canter. Make sure your are not grabbing the reins/hanging on/taking back, you're not throwing your shoulders forward into the gait, you're not holding with your seat or gripping with legs. EXPECT the horse to react to the aids for the transition, GIVE the reins, and ALLOW the horse to come forward. If you actually drop contact and sit balanced, most horses will go in to the most lovely, slow canter. It's when we bundle them up in *our* anticipation that they curl, counter-canter, anticipate, etc. etc. etc.

    I absolutely, positively would rule out a physical issue (just rolling can screw their pelvis up) and saddle fit first. A saddle issue OFTEN shows up first at canter, and also walking downhill... then again, walking downhill is also an issue for horses with pelvis issues...

    He's just not being nappy. Really. It might feel that way, but he's not.
    InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)



  6. #6
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    "Bunny hop" conjures up a gait issue, not a misbehavior. I think you mean "crow hopping". Some people call it "pig rooting". Are you talking about the nose down, back arched, bouncing more/less in place?

    Assuming that you are talking about crow hopping, it is behavioral. The root is a lack of forward. Whether the horse has simply learned he can play, is being resistant, or feels stuck (i.e., you're telling him to go, he feels blocked, and so he protests), you need more "go". That doesn't mean you need more tempo or speed. It means you need to get the horse reaching more for the bit, and you'll have to work harder to keep him in front of your leg. If he starts to suck back, get your leg on him and ask him to do something that requires pushing his poll out.
    Jer 29: 11-13



  7. #7
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    he is a 12 year old recently gelded stud
    We still don't know if you are talking about some sort of bucking, or the canter issue where the hind legs move together at the same time.

    A recently gelded mature horse is PLENTY of physical reason for lots of stuff in the back end, BTW.

    Could you clarify if you are talking about the cantering thing? Or using the term for some type of buck?
    InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)



  8. #8
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    I am guessing you are talking about your horse kinda bringing both legs under him together and pushing off at once, producing a very back jarring step?

    If so, I have had experience with this - a mare of mine did it as protest when she was tense and weak behind. There was no "lift" to this behavior, but it was definitely unpleasant.
    The good news is, that now that she has learned what is wanted of her, strengthened up and got more relaxed, the behavior is pretty much gone.

    I found lots of transitions helpful in strengthening her, and she really likes when I bring my hands slightly forward and down in transitions - like I am going to touch her neck/wither, for a split second. She is very good in the bridle. I think her head used to get ahead of her body and she would get all wound up and frustrated, hence the bunny hops, now it is not a problem.



  9. #9
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    Is the horse in the OP this horse?

    http://chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=263332

    If so, it sounds like he's got some discomfort of some sort going on, whether it's physical or mental is hard to tell just by description.

    If he really didn't do much for 12 years, and was a stallion to boot, you have a long road of rewiring his brain and body ahead of you. It will take time, and patience.

    This though:

    "I've seen him playing in the field and he bunny hops instead of just bucks. He occasionally does it on the lunge or off, with or without a saddle, and only every once in awhile when we are riding."
    makes me think that it may be truly a physical problem, not a resistance to training. Whether it is purely a strength issue or something more permanent is, again, hard to tell from a bulletin board post.



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aggie4Bar View Post
    "Bunny hop" conjures up a gait issue, not a misbehavior. I think you mean "crow hopping". Some people call it "pig rooting". Are you talking about the nose down, back arched, bouncing more/less in place?

    Assuming that you are talking about crow hopping, it is behavioral. The root is a lack of forward. Whether the horse has simply learned he can play, is being resistant, or feels stuck (i.e., you're telling him to go, he feels blocked, and so he protests), you need more "go". That doesn't mean you need more tempo or speed. It means you need to get the horse reaching more for the bit, and you'll have to work harder to keep him in front of your leg. If he starts to suck back, get your leg on him and ask him to do something that requires pushing his poll out.
    Ya know, I was thinking that I should have said bunny/crow hopping in the original post. I have heard it call both, depending on where I am in the country and I myself call it bunny and crow hopping. But yes it is exactly what you described Aggie4Bar.

    I have to make sure that it's clear to everyone that this is indeed bratty behavior and not an indicator of a medical or saddle issue. I am an equine vet tech and believe me, I know the difference between pain indicating responses and out and out brattiness and this is DEFINITELY brattiness. As I said, I had him vetted recently and there is nothing on him that's out of whack, except his brain maybe. This is a behavior that he has learned to use to act out. Some horses rear, some shy, he is just one of those that crowhops.

    If he was only doing this at the canter, and frequently, then I would be more concerned that this was a physical problem. His canter is fine on both leads and all legs are moving in 3 beats as they should. I, and the vet who saw him, have no issues with him physically other than that he is out of shape.

    Having stood for as long as he has without any consistent work, I am treating him as I would any horse that is put back to work after a lay up: I am easing him back into work and slowly increasing his workout times to increase his fitness level. I am not in any way expecting a horse that stood idle for so long to get out and gallop for 20 minutes. That's foolish and absolutely detest people who think that it's ok to take an idle horse and expect them to jump, gallop what have you at the drop of a dime.

    I check him all of the time for heat and pain to make sure that as he gets back in shape that I am not making him over do it. I have only just started to let him canter on the lunge line and have only cantered him under saddle twice- once during the purchase ride and once just very recently and that was only for only on the short side of our arena.

    Mostly, he crowhops out of playfulness, like at the beginning of our workouts or when he is turned out. Basically, when he is "fresh".

    The few times he was ridden at my barn prior to me purchasing him, he was ridden a handful of times hard and fast by some younger riders who allowed him to crowhop because they thought it was fun. Prior to that he stood at another farm at stud with no one working him.

    Every time he does it, I do push him forward. If I feel that he is about to explode like he did at the show a few weeks ago, then we do serpentines or circles, something to redirect the energy. I try not to allow him to have time to think about it.

    I will say that 2 of the 5 times he did it with me in the saddle were because he was in pain and even then, I made him do something before I got off so he wouldn't think that was an acceptable way of telling me "Hey Mom, get off. I don't feel good." It killed me to make him walk forward and do a couple of circles but I knew if I hopped off right then, it would just reinforce the habit I was trying to break even though I understood why he did it. (Once he got his penis stuck in a weird way in his sheath while trying to pull it in during an erection shortly after he was gelded and the other time was just recently when I rode him after PowerPakking him- his tummy was hurting and when I tapped him with my spurs, he lost it.) So each time I made him walk forward and circle before I dismounted. I felt bad because I knew he was not feeling well but again, I couldn't reinforce the crowhopping behavior. The other times he did it was because he didn't want to work: he kept trying to stop by the gate and by the bleachers and when I made him move forward he crowhopped out of defiance.

    I do want to say that he does not crowhop every time we work out and he when he does do it, it can be at a walk or a trot or a canter whenever he is feeling particularly full of himself, on the lunge or off of it, tacked up with a rider or without one. It's not like he does it only under saddle at the canter. This is just brattiness in retaliation to asking him to actually work when he wants to play.

    I can't get a video of him doing it because usually it happens once maybe twice and that's it and it happens only every once in awhile I never know when it will happen.

    I've always hated crow/bunny hopping and would almost prefer a real buck than this any day, most of the time. i just don't know if there is any way to actually break the habit for good. I know with horses that rear, breaking an egg over their head really helps because it makes them think they have injured themselves but bucking and crow/bunny hopping I don't know of any ways to cure the habit other than to ride forward and redirect the energy.



  11. #11
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    Ah, crow hopping it is. Well, then your only option is FORWARD. The instant the thought of stopping to hop comes into his head, you go forward quite enthusiastically, even turn him into a tight circle first if he won't stop hopping. Then blast him forward until he's tired. He'll get the message soon enough.



  12. #12
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    Based on your post in the other thread, about your hands hurting from trying to pull his head down, and trying to work on collection, I'd say he is either sore from being overworked after not working, or pissed off and uncomfortable. If he is out of shape, just work on going forward, and not worry about his head or trying to collect. Use large circles, and light half halts to rebalance if he gets strung out.

    It sounds like he is crow hopping not because he is feeling too fresh, but really annoyed and uncomfortable. Your other thread kind of worries me.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by saje View Post
    Is the horse in the OP this horse?

    http://chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=263332

    If so, it sounds like he's got some discomfort of some sort going on, whether it's physical or mental is hard to tell just by description.

    If he really didn't do much for 12 years, and was a stallion to boot, you have a long road of rewiring his brain and body ahead of you. It will take time, and patience.

    This though:

    makes me think that it may be truly a physical problem, not a resistance to training. Whether it is purely a strength issue or something more permanent is, again, hard to tell from a bulletin board post.
    Yep that was us during a very frustrating time when BO/trainer was making us do more than I felt we should be doing at the time. Posted that thread after a "discussion" about rehabbing an idle horse. Felt she was pushing me to make him do more and since then, she has backed off and we are quietly looking for another trainer/barn to board at- looooooooooooong soap opera in that story.

    At the time of that post, he had dropped a lot of weight and other horses around the farm were as well so I had the vet out because I didn't believe it was 'just the heat and the life changes" he was going through. Did a fecal egg count on him and found he had a high Strongyl load. Powerpaked him and he is since is sooooooo much better. Now that I own him he is better mentally and physically in a lot of ways.

    Believe me, I knew what I was getting into with this guy and I know that he well never be the horse I want him to be, but if we can get him together enough to be fun to ride the occasional test and do really lower level CT events, I'm happy with that. I didn't buy this horse to do BNT events with- I'll be shopping for that horse soon enough.

    The crowhopping itself is just occasionally and even then, I'd be really hard pressed to give you a time when it was consistently happening. It's really only when he is fresh and being that I myself am not young as as pliable as I once was, when he does it, I feel it for days after.

    For now, he is my project because he deserved better than what he was getting and he won't be going anywhere unless he's with me. Ideally, if I can get him to the point where my daughters can hack him without the crowhopping then I'll be satisfied.

    But that's long as of today as they are just learning to ride and he is just learning to be ridden again. He's with me til the end and even though he is 12, I still hope to have many years with him even if he is just around as a companion horse that occasionally gets hacked.



  14. #14
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    well, horses who buck to "get out of work", are, IMHO, often in pain. Pain from the saddle, muscle-sore, minor injuries, unbalanced rider yanking on their mouth or banging them in the mouth.

    Sometimes you'll see horses do a little "happy crow-hop" because they are enjoying their work tremendously- example, a horse happy to get out and gallop cross-country or something. If the horse tends to crow-hop in play when at liberty are you sure he's not just doing it to express his joy during work? You can usually easily tell the difference between that and pain-protest-bucks by the rest of the horse's body language.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by wendy View Post
    well, horses who buck to "get out of work", are, IMHO, often in pain. Pain from the saddle, muscle-sore, minor injuries, unbalanced rider yanking on their mouth or banging them in the mouth.

    Sometimes you'll see horses do a little "happy crow-hop" because they are enjoying their work tremendously- example, a horse happy to get out and gallop cross-country or something. If the horse tends to crow-hop in play when at liberty are you sure he's not just doing it to express his joy during work? You can usually easily tell the difference between that and pain-protest-bucks by the rest of the horse's body language.
    Yes I have seen and felt the difference in what is pain and what isn't with him when he bucks. I could agree that he is enjoying himself at times when he is doing it but then there are the times that he is doing it to be stubborn too, like when he doesn't want to trot at first. Then when I push him forward,he may crowhop and then I continue to push him and he's like "Ok Mom. Fine." then gets to work. I want him to enjoy our workouts and I think he does, but the crowhopping I hate. It rattles me physically and if there is a way that I can get him to stop it all together, I would love to accomplish that.

    This horse has been through a lot and was allowed to get away with things that I don't tolerate, and a lot of it we have gotten through already. He's very smart, very willing for me and I adore him for it.

    In a few months we are going to be moving and while I am grounded, I would like to continue to work with him on this so he doesn't think the crowhopping is okay. I have a lot to work with and a lot to work on with him and in the end, do I think he is worth it? I do. If nothing else, the crowhopping may rattle me but it has built up my confidence in myself, something I struggle with daily, especially where we are now. I just don't like it but when it has happened I sit deep and well, keep my leg on him, and usually it only happens once. There was only ever one time he crowhopped repeatedly and really bucked and that was the time I had my spurs on after I Powerpaked him.



  16. #16
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    Well, if you are sure there is not a pain issue I would probably treat it like any other bucking-esque misbehavior -- push him forward, spank him with a crop and make him work hard when he bucks. He will soon learn that crowhopping means he has to work very hard and is therefore unpleasant. When he is good, do short, easy rides so he learns that when he behaves he doesn't have to work hard. I've trained several horses not to buck using this method, which I learned from numerous horse training books written by the best.

    Adding -- if you are scared of him or otherwise lack the physical ability to make him really work after a crowhop, you need to send him to someone who can do it for you or the problem will only get worse.



  17. #17
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    No I'm not scared- I just can't take the jarring of it at the moment. (I just had an onset of Bell's Palsy so I am grounded at the moment but when I am able to ride again, I will still need to be careful for a few more weeks as to not upset the nerves in my head again.) I don't always have the confidence in myself but that is an issue beyond him. I try not to let him feel my insecurities. If I have a lot going on mentally, we work on the ground. If i don't feel so confident because of other things going on in my life, we may take the day off from the ring and go for a handwalk or lunge in the field we plan to start working after hay season is over if we are still there.

    Now my question about the crop is where do you spank with it? On his butt or his shoulder? In another "discussion" with someone at my current barn, when I reprimanded him with my dressage whip on his croup, I was told a.) I hit him too softly because I didn't lift my elbow to use it and b.) was told by another bystander that hitting his butt only encourages more bucking which then initiated a really fun debate about shoulder vs. croup reprimands. (My barn is a lot of "discussions" and "debates" which I now try to avoid because everyone there is the expert. It's really fun there....)
    I'm only asking you about where because I'm curious. A crop may be more effective because it is more noise than a dressage whip which can be extremely harsh if you lift your elbow using it instead of using it from the wrist. I don't even own a crop



  18. #18
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    Now my question about the crop is where do you spank with it? On his butt or his shoulder?
    Neither. Behind the leg.
    Janet

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).



  19. #19
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    When I did ranch work we had one that actually bunny hopped all over the damn place. He did it on the ground and when you were in the saddle. Was the most hilarious thing in the world to see a 16hh WB hop over everything including fences. Somewhere someone had convinced this poor thing it was not possible for him to go forward with human interaction. Off lead, out in the pasture he walked, trotted, cantered like a normal horse. Beautifully too head and shoulders over the QH and mustang types out there. This was in the days before chiropractors and Vets with portable x-ray machines. I put him in the round pen and went back to basics. I treated him like he knew nothing and when we finally got back to riding if he did the hop I would smack him on the butt with my reins. (Split reins.) That worked and after a couple of test hops he knocked it off. As far as I know that was his coping mechanism for not understanding what the rider was asking.
    Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
    Originally Posted by alicen:
    What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.



  20. #20
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    In my neck of the woods it's called an over and under.

    I'm better with long split reins (western background) and if one wants to hoppy hop with me rather than go forward...I've found that the end of an 8' heavy weight split rein applied immediately behind one of my legs and then the other, absolutely striping that barrel once on both sides, tends to send said horse forward. Grab mane or the front of the pommel and do NOT jack them in the mouth when they unfold and shoot forward - ride on and go on and go with. Settle him into a nice canter and ask him down and pat. Repeat.

    if he wanted to buck you off he would have. Hell he still might. Keep one of those reins shorter or be ready to knock him off balance if he does go for the gusto



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