How do you deal with a horse who just really doesn't give a hoot about ground poles- the type who nails them with their feet, sends them flying, and continues on his merry way...
I free longed this horse with some ground poles this winter when we were on a regemine of "no riding, just food and gentle exercise"
He's in full time work now, a combination of riding, longeing, and long lining to get him hopefully fit and working correctly enough to show in ASB hunter pleasure. Right now our focus is on building up his topline and core strength because he got in some MAJORLY bad habits with dropping his back (anxiety while working--->saddle fit issue + turnout taken away----> skinny, weak, atrophied topline. )
Have him to the point where I feel he's ready to do a little more than just putz around over a couple random groundpoles (which he did easily...) to further get him developing his core, rounding up, and paying attention to what he is doing with himself... .
Today I set up three poles on Rail Razers on a large circle- one on each wall, and one in the end of the arena to longe over. And he has absolutely NO problem with just blasting right through them and sending them flying and then taking off at warp speed, tail over back, snorting.
What would you do with this? I try to avoid getting heavy handed with this horse- he gets really wound up when "picked on" but my first incination is to do just that- spank his little red butt and tell him to get his act together.
If he is taking a off at warp speed then maybe he is evading your request.
What I would do is put out one pole on the ground and work over that till he is ok with it. I would start by walking over it until he does it perfect, then add another at the walk until that is perfect.
Then go back to,one at the walk. Then start the trot over one pole. Go back to the walk over two poles, then back to one at the walk, you get the idea.
You can set up one pole at one end of the ring and two at another spot, so you can go back and forth, even set up another set of one pole and another set of two poles and go back and forth at the walk then trot, keep mixingit up until he does it perfect. If he isn't perfect go down a gait and down a number of poles.
Remember to stay calm and praise him, also don't rush, walk around the ring, stop somewhere and " tea party", is what we call it. If another horse comes into the ring, walk around with him for a while, have no agenda.
Let us know how it goes, going slow is the fastest way to get what you want and will stick with him when other things get crazy.
I find that on a circle is harder then in a straight line. I also agree with other posters. Make it fun....if you punish him he really won't want to do it.
Also, if trying to get him fit do you have any rolling hills?...walking them and building up to trotting them will really strengthen his hind end....ask me how I know.
Could it be that lifing his legs/back in that way is just new to him and he doesn't get it? I may have ran off because it upset him. I don't think getting after him will help him "get' it.
Poles come off of the Rail Razors far to easy for a horse that my need to really get that he needs to go over not through...perhaps you need to come up with a better way to raise the poles? A "V" cut out of a log/block for example?
I would do it in hand first; first at walk, then trot. Help him learn to slow down and think.
Hah - sounds just like my warmblood - minus the bolt at the end. Honestly, I got my guy when he was 4. We started over ground poles and eventually moved into the little 2' hunter classes. He would literally step ON THE JUMPS - putting holes in the flower boxes - really embarrassing at A shows. In all honesty, it took time for him to mature enough to find his footwork and also once we raised the jumps he learned to respect them. Sometimes it just takes a while! Within 3 years he was my 4' hunter, but it took patience.
I agree with the other posters that he shouldn't be punished. What if you made the poles a bit "scarier" so he really didn't want to hit them? ex. heavier poles, brighter paint, seaters looped over them (if they're a bit off the ground), etc.
[I]Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans- John Lennon
Some ideas for making the poles harder to kick out of the way:
- I've used a wooden plank (from a jump- its about 8"?) and propped it on the wooden ground pole so it's slightly angled up for a single ground pole.
- for multiple poles, attach your wooden poles to wooden X's on either end. You can then turn the X to adjust the pole to the height you want, anything from slightly off the ground to a foot high little jump typically. These can be made at home. Have also seen them attached to wood blocks. Basically that pole is then only used for caveletti. If they are raised at all they will be harder for him, so start with a smaller number and build up as he improves, dont expect him to nicely go through 4 or 5 in a row on day one.
- use logs, a nice 8 ft wide and 6 to 8" high log can give you a transition to get him to understand that he needs to pick his feet up. Again, use one at a time, not multiples in a row unless you have at least a full stride in between- like you would with jumps.
I agree with the posters above, and will add- part of your problem may be fitness and correct use of himself, as you said you are trying to improve it. As he improves in his ground work, the poles will/should naturally improve too. Going from one ground pole, to three raised poles is a big step, and you probably need to back up a little to improve his confidence.
Something to try- Work the poles into your normal work, start with wooden poles on the ground not on raisers. Focus on keeping him round through his topline and supple on your circle and add in poles on the circle you are riding. Keep the focus on round & supple, not the pole. (if he hits it, no big deal as long as he stays steady, round, supple). If you are able to do leg yields, do them over the pole- start before you get to the pole and just keep riding the leg yield as if the pole isnt there. When he is good at that, add a second, etc. until he goes nicely over all of them and doesnt make a big deal of the pole. His having to lift his feet over the pole while staying round and supple is going to be difficult for him at first. Keep it fun, reward when he does it well.
If you dont have wooden poles, go to a local garden supply store and buy the 8ft long garden edge poles. They have rounded edges and are pretty cheap. The horse doesnt care if they are 8ft instead of 10ft.
Rule 1- Keep the horse between you and the ground.