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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul. 30, 2007
    Posts
    409

    Default XC phase & spectators. How to acclimate horsey?

    I haven't evented in a looong time and hope to debut later this season on my current horse. Eventing has grown in popularity in my region, which is good. However I have never jumped XC with spectators walking/watching alongside in the field. My previous horse was known to stare/spook at the random jump judge, but we didn't have folks cheering, walking, hanging out on chairs, etc. like the last event where I groomed. A few horses really freaked - most were OK.

    My horse isn't a greenbean, but he only started jumping stadium fences last fall and things are going pretty well. I'll introduce logs, etc. this spring in the pasture - small things. But I'm envisioning him ogling at the spectators on XC. Is this an unfounded fear? Do I just have to "cowboy up" and hope for the best? I'll be lucky if I make it to 3 events this season. Is there a way to desensitize horses to crowds when you can't really simulate it?



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct. 24, 2001
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    2,742

    Default

    At lower level events, which I'm assuming you're aiming for, if the horse hasn't been jumping long, you're unlikely to have "crowds" to worry about.

    Really, I've been doing lower level stuff for 5 years or so, and I think the biggest "crowd" I've encountered was half a dozen people near the water jump. You could easily simulate that with a few barnmates at a schooling day somewhere, or a few non-horsey friends/family members you can bribe to tag along.

    Even when I've gone to watch friends/trainers ride at Fair Hill, there haven't really been "crowds" on XC, just handfuls of people here and there.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun. 9, 2005
    Location
    Unionville, PA
    Posts
    3,790

    Default

    Agree. At the starter trials there won't be anyone around but jump judges, and often one covers multiple jumps.
    Delaware Park Canter Volunteer
    http://www.canterusa.org/



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul. 19, 2003
    Location
    Middleburg, VA
    Posts
    13,583

    Default

    Yeah. This isn't a huge worry. You'll encounter a few random spectators and course walkers, but there isn't much you can do than keep
    your heels down and keep kicking. I've ridden a few horses that were terrible spooks between fences, and you just dealt with it at the time. Not much else you can do. They get better with mileage, and I got better at spotting trouble spots on course walks and would plan a strategy for them just as would fences.

    There are a few events that even for lower level horses will have a lot to look at because they are bigger to-dos. Millbrook comes to mind, as well Groton House back in the day when anyone who was everyone went. The waters at both places could be daunting. Also the water at Surefire can be a lot for a young horse to take in.

    But, really, even in those situations, you just ride harder. If your horse has been out and about enough, even if it's spooky, it should be fine.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec. 27, 2001
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    6,886

    Default

    They do get better pretty quickly. Some of it is miles but some of it is also learning their job. My young horse was positively transfixed the first time he saw jump judges close to a fence (three of them - mom and kids). Like, literally could not take his eyes off them and sidled past them sideways. Luckily the "fence" was a baby fake ditch he could walk (or sidle ) through.

    Couple of outings later, he was looking for his fences, totally focussed. He had figured it out big time.
    The big man -- no longer an only child

    His new little brother


    1 members found this post helpful.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul. 30, 2007
    Posts
    409

    Default

    Thanks everyone. Last year I went to 2 lower level shows to watch or help a friend. The highest level was Training. At the spring show there were over 200 entries! Lots of their friends/family around to root them on. Plus they held the stadium phase out in a huge rolling field up near the barns/dressage arenas, so a big crowd congregated.

    At a fall show I watched 2 friends go BN & N. I was near the water complex and I counted about 50 people:adults/kids/judges/dogs around me. That's what got me thinking about this. I guess I just need to focus on my aids and hopefully my horse will too. Yes, I am going to do tiny fences. I'll just have to concentrate on getting over them...whether it's at the W/T or C "Just Jump It"!



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec. 2, 2004
    Posts
    3,503

    Default

    One thing that greatly impressed me once when I was fence judging (and time in those chairs does teach you something!) was a pro type rider that came thru in the starter division on a young horse and did the whole thing at a big strong road trot. She had more control of the horse that way and the horse was learning to just string those fences together. The strong trot really established the forward and the horse can't as easily duck out. Sure that horse and rider were both capable of being in a higher division but that rider was doing something far more valuable.

    We did the same thing here starting a young horse, set low cross rail fences in the field spaced out and just trotted him around from fence to fence. It also taught him not to rush.

    Maybe set folding chairs out next to your practice fences, even place (tie down!) an open umbrella on a few seats. Fence decorations also unglue a few lookee type horses. Buy yourself a few cheap flower garlands and wrap some poles. I just bought some cheap d├ęcor wagon wheels at Rural King b/c a T wagon fence w/ wheels unglued our horse at one event. They went back and schooled the entire Prelim course after the event, none of those fences were any issue, just the wheels. GOOD dressage lessons will also really help teach you how to keep your horse tuned into you!
    About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you're fighting temptation.
    -- Tom Wilson, actor & comedian


    4 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec. 4, 2006
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    1,356

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    Also worthwhile to have someone sit in a chair wearing bright clothing, perhaps with an umbrella.

    My horse reacts least to people who are clearly visible, and most to those who are actively trying to be INvisible. (If they're hiding, they must be Up To Something!)


    2 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul. 30, 2007
    Posts
    409

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    We jumped today and our barn definitely decorates the fences, so that doesn't seem to be a problem. I have been a dressage-only rider for the last 15 years, so returning to jumping makes me feel green again - and my horse is new to jumping. Though I trust him to death on the flat and we ride trails/fields whenever weather allows, watching those other riders jumping with wandering spectators got my mind working overtime.

    My horse is schooled very well to the aids, but as you know dressage shows are SO unattended I can hear crickets chirping Events are a whole 'nuther animal around here!

    Our barn is busy enough that we have road traffic, dogs, people watching, mowers or tractors alongside the ring. But folks who ride/work around the farm behave confidently, and my horses don't spook at them. Spectators who might flip open a chair, walk out of the shadows, small kids/yippy non-farm dogs...or people TRYING to be invisible...that's the stuff I think I'm worried about.

    Think I'll do what Pony Grandma saw: take things at a gait I can control and keep forward. I introduce new lines or newly decorated fences in a strong trot and do pretty well. My horse has jumped 3'3" from a walk (not intentionally), so I don't have to canter to fences if I don't feel safe. Thanks for relaying your jump judge perspective on that!!



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2013
    Posts
    851

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    I can't speak for other people's horses, but mine was very concerned about the jump judges his first time around an XC course. He didn't spook per sey, but he did get kind of sticky on approach and bulge away from the side the person was sitting. I had to do a lot of extra leg and talk to him all the way around.

    The advice on trotting is very good. Confidence building is paramount. You want your horse to finish feeling like he's superman. Go as slowly as you need to in order to keep him straight to the fences and try to stay ahead of him if he starts to get sticky. Most horse settle in well after the first few fences. Hopefully he'll come home jacked up and ready to go again!


    1 members found this post helpful.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb. 1, 2008
    Location
    Nowhere, Maryland
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    Mine have never been phased by jump judges but my little guy is very worried by idiots walking the course and failing to move out of his way quickly enough-- I've gotten a lot more proactive about yelling at them.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec. 4, 2006
    Location
    New York
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    1,356

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    Quote Originally Posted by Highflyer View Post
    Mine have never been phased by jump judges but my little guy is very worried by idiots walking the course and failing to move out of his way quickly enough-- I've gotten a lot more proactive about yelling at them.
    Horsie has an issue with moving cars/golf carts while on course. Walking down the road getting passed by cars, trucks, haying equipment? No problem. Pick-up truck or golf cart going conscientiously slow while out on course? IT'S A MONSTAH!!!

    Last year at Millbrook several people probably thought I was insane. I was one of the last BN riders to go and someone in a golf cart was traversing the course, picking up signage. Me, standing in stirrups, one arm waving, yelling "STOP!!!"

    The jump judges, I think, thought I was talking to my horse.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan. 18, 2008
    Location
    Eugene, OR
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    559

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    We went out with coach one day and sat on the ground watching (horse is fine with standing crowds and people in chairs or on jumps, but people on the ground wigs him out) as she schooled. We cheered and such.

    Are there schooling shows you could go to? Maybe with other folks from the barn who take a few minutes to cheer for you at a jump?



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul. 30, 2007
    Posts
    409

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    Thames: This season will be my first showing with current horsie, so we'll only be doing schooling shows. Events my barn attends are big & well attended so I think my nerves are already getting the best of me. I still get butterflies jump schooling! I haven't shown since 2003 and I've just done clinics with my current horse. I REALLY want to enjoy the show experience this time. I have nothing to prove and want to have fun. I am a capable rider and just want to be safe and successful. I consider successful as finishing in the saddle

    My horse is used to people watching us and cheering when we jump at home because people can't believe we've started jumping as middle-agers! I think it's the non-horsey crowds, loudspeakers and random show stuff that's making my imagination run wild.

    I used to get show nerves so bad I would feel sick, and be relieved when it was over, whether I placed first or last! I don't want to go down that road again now that I'm older and wiser...well - at least older!



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan. 18, 2008
    Location
    Eugene, OR
    Posts
    559

    Default

    Aww . . . . you'll be great! I know the nerves feeling. My show record will demonstrate that--just look at my dressage scores! My coach always just thought my old horse was a spaz in dressage--it never occurred to her that the horse was the saint and the spaz was me until she saw the same result on my current (and much more talented) horse. Just remember that everyone cheering is FOR you and on your side.

    Have fun, learn lots, and kick on! Enjoy the ride!


    1 members found this post helpful.

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