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  1. #21
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    This was my thought exactly. If this was your first trail ride EVER on him, you threw a lot at him all at once (even if this horse has been ridden out before, I would treat him as if he were green and build up his confidence in you). The horse sounded like he was doing fine at first and then became overwhelmed. If the other horses with you also spooked, it's quite probably that they heard or smelled something, but by the time that happened, your horse was probably already mentally exhausted by all the new things that you had asked him to do.

    When I start taking horse out to trail ride, I ask a rider with a steady Eddy type of horse to lead and we walk. We walk on a loose rein if possible and horsie gets lots of praise for being brave. If this is oh-so-boring then we trot. If horsie is good, we come home and he gets lots of praise. I stick to wooded trails (no open fields) and we try to end on a high note. I want the trail ride to seem like fun. Gradually I introduce more challenging obstacles -- crossing water, trotting or cantering in open fields, riding in a group, etc. I try to make sure that we add only one new thing each time and break it down into something not so scary. Some horses need me to hand walk them on the trails or past scary objects.

    It sounds like you treated your horse as if he was a confirmed trail horse. Trotting, cantering and jumping (even an 18" log) is a lot to ask of a horse and it is likely that those activities got him worked up. Being in a situation where you ask horsie to do something different from the other horses (not jump) also can trigger anxiety. I generally ask the person I go out with on my initial rides if they mind being a babysitter and scaling the ride to the needs of my horse.

    It sounds like what happened to you was truly scary! It does not mean that your horse cannot event but it does probably mean you need to go back to basics and teach your horse that you are the alpha and that he needs to listen and trust that you will keep him safe. Next time you go out, I suggest going with one horse, keeping it short (15 minutes) and making sure that he has a good experience even if that means only walking.

    I have had 4 OTTBs (and have a new one right now) that had never been on trails before. Each of them turned out to be fine on trails although a couple of them were quite nervous/overwhelmed at first. Sometimes they seemed fine initially but lost it halfway through a ride. That usually means I asked too much of them. The one I had now went on his very first trail ride yesterday and was a star. Sure, he ground his teeth and jigged a bit but for the most part he followed his friend even remembered to breathe occasionally. The slow and steady approach generally takes the least time in the end and is the least scary for all!

    Good luck!

    Quote Originally Posted by War Admiral View Post
    This. A million times this. You took him out for 40 minutes on his FIRST trail ride????? Nonononono. All horses, but OTTBs in particular, have to LEARN to trail ride, especially if you are going through woods. All they've ever known is race tracks and farms with wide open spaces where they can see other horses. It's NOT that they are barn-sour; it's that they are SCARED. There could be all kinds of predators lurking in those trees and if they had to make a run for it to get back home to the herd, they don't know how to find their way. Even "losing" the other horses by as little as four steps is plenty enough to set one off, especially if he was worried to begin with.

    Cut back to much shorter trail rides (or even hand-walks; that was how I solved it with, quite honestly, the most herd-bound OTTB I ever owned). Practice going through the woods for just a *few feet*; then a few more the next time, and so on.

    A trick that worked with another one I had was indeed, as someone else suggested, to pony them off another horse. They know how to pony from the track.

    It can definitely be done but it needs patience and time; up to you to decide whether you have those prerequisites or not.
    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
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  2. #22
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    I'm chiming in with some of the above posts.

    I'm a big believer of slow and short trail rides to get started. You mentioned trot sets, cantering and popping over a log. And being out for 40 minutes. And several other horses.

    If this is the horse that you want to ride, before you give up, find a steady eddie and a rider that is willing to go out with you for a short walking trail ride. 20 minutes, tops. (make sure the other rider is on board with your program.) No matter how swell the ride is going, GO BACK when the time is up. No speed. If that goes well, gradually increase the distance and time, the number of horses with you and eventually the pace.

    When I'm starting a horse hunting, I will ask to be excused well before the close of the meet because I was taught bringing them in before they hit ~the wall~ will work to my advantage in the long run. And it has.

    Not every horse is wired to enjoy being out and about, but I would start over with this one to give him a fair shot of finding that out.

    Good luck.


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  3. #23
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    To further give some support....I have a young OTTB that I'm bringing along now. We hacked around the fields of the barn. Then short walk in the woods within sight of the barn. Then by himself in the same areas.....all at the walk. Then taught him about crossing water. Now he goes out on long hacks by himself crossing water. We STILL have not trotted out on a trail ride...I'm sure I can but for now, hacking out needs to be about relaxation.
    Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Dec. 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM.
    ** The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits. -- Albert Einstein **


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  4. #24
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    More information would be helpful but I think sometimes there is very much such a thing as mental overstimulation where the horses goes OMG no more. I have seen it happen many times on trail rides/hunts where green horses start out well and then just get brain fried. They go from perfectly fine to scary quite fast and there is rarely a reason rather than they can't take anymore.

    I always start all my ottb's on very short 10 min trail rides where we just walk and trot with a steady partner on the easiest trail and then slowly build them up from there. There are horses who don't like to trail ride and horses who don't do groups. I know people say you can fix them but I think they never enjoy it so why try so hard to make them do something they don't want to do.

    The other thing that BFEN mentioned that is 100% spot on is that many horses don't trail ride/hack out but they event perfectly fine. I have had several that can't stand groups and get all worked up in violent ways but out xc they are going by themselves and they do just fine.


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  5. #25
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    Jun. 23, 2006
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    I think it possible to have a less than perfect saddle fit that doesn't really bother the (non-princess-and-a-pea) horse until their back is tense. Then with a tense back, the saddle hurts.



  6. #26
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    Aug. 14, 2004
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    i agree with all the folks who mentioned starting out more slowly.... if you think about how you would feel if you were unfit/unused to say mountain biking and asked to go for a 40 minute out and 40 minute back ride - at some point you would snap - and i agree this is what your guy did.

    so folks also gave you lots of great ideas - but also - this guy doesn't really sound like the right horse for you - so you might take that into consideration too...... (no real training, a difficult past etc)

    good luck!



  7. #27
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    Was this his first trail ride ever? I totally missed that. No enough info.... although I do trail ride my babies a lot, over varied terrain, across creeks, up banks etc. They start out doing it as 2 year olds being ponied off another horse.

    In fact, I am now out the door to hack Mick out and pony a 3 year old off of him.

    Wonder what your guy's history is as far as trail riding....


    Quote Originally Posted by War Admiral View Post
    This. A million times this. You took him out for 40 minutes on his FIRST trail ride????? Nonononono. All horses, but OTTBs in particular, have to LEARN to trail ride, especially if you are going through woods. All they've ever known is race tracks and farms with wide open spaces where they can see other horses. It's NOT that they are barn-sour; it's that they are SCARED. There could be all kinds of predators lurking in those trees and if they had to make a run for it to get back home to the herd, they don't know how to find their way. Even "losing" the other horses by as little as four steps is plenty enough to set one off, especially if he was worried to begin with.

    Cut back to much shorter trail rides (or even hand-walks; that was how I solved it with, quite honestly, the most herd-bound OTTB I ever owned). Practice going through the woods for just a *few feet*; then a few more the next time, and so on.

    A trick that worked with another one I had was indeed, as someone else suggested, to pony them off another horse. They know how to pony from the track.

    It can definitely be done but it needs patience and time; up to you to decide whether you have those prerequisites or not.



  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowbritches View Post
    Bear?

    I have heard quite a few stories of fairly sensible horses coming completely undone when they caught sight or smell of bears. At my prior job, we knew there were a lot of bears in the woods, and possibly even mountain lions (great debate over that one). One of our pony riders was out hacking one day, swears she saw a bear print (she and I looked it up when she got back from her hair raising ride), and shortly after got ran away with all the way back to the barn by her usually very sensible pony.

    Maybe it was a bear that spooked all three, and maybe he was just more upset by it than the others.
    Something like that happened with me once, too. We never saw a bear, but we heard something large moving, snuffling, grunting and all the horses panicked and ran back for the barn.



  9. #29
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    thank you, everyone, for the replies! I sincerely appreciate the helpful comments and suggestions...For clarification, he is a TB, but not an OTTB. From what I was told, his previous leasers trail rode him regularly, with only minor incidents (I'll explain below). So no, not his first ever, and certainly not my first ever.

    Not his first trail ride ever, but his first trail ride since earlier this spring. I have been working with him to get him in better shape for the past two months, so I didn't think it was a fitness issue. He's chunky, but not completely out of shape (and I checked this with the barn owner, asked her about what she thought he could handle, all things considered, she thought he'd be fine). I took him out based on the conversations (more like Q & A's as I gather as much info as possible....it is my nature) I had with the barn owner who bred and trained him, with the lady who leased him for five years before I started leasing him, and with a lady in the barn who would frequently trail ride with the previous leasee. All three suggested "don't worry, he'll be "fine." I was told if something spooked him his tendency in the past was to either freeze, or drop a shoulder and spin, which apparently was the tendency that unseated the previous leasee on more than one occasion. In my conversations with her at the barn she told me she agreed he was too much horse for her and too much of a bully for her to know how to handle him. She is also a less experienced rider, with less of a secure seat, so I could see how she was thrown if he pulled this with her. The lady who use to ride with her told me one time he threw her off and he returned to the barn without her. She ended up with a concussion (yikes!).

    I have experience with trail riding (and with brush and desert riding, from my years living in West Africa!) I've ridden greenies as well as steady Eddies, and (apart from this incident), I feel as though I can read a horse fairly accurately. I've yet to own my own horse yet, but as a horseless rider who would barter for any kind of ride, or catch ride, I've ridden A LOT of horses in my time, and often I would get the problem horses, the ones no one else wants to lease or ride. (Spud is a bit like that, no one really likes him much). Of the other horses we rode with that day, one was a seasoned trail horse (and Spud's nephew, actually); the other was a new horse at the barn, new as in just started boarding there a couple of weeks ago. This one was a rock steady 8 -year old appaloosa, who impressed me with his calm and "ok, I'll just hang here while that guy explodes" demeanor.

    In hindsight, I think the replies above are correct in that it may have been too much too soon. Perhaps I was over-confident by how well he was going in the beginning of the ride (and I have to confess, I was THRILLED to be out of the ring). I had never been out on these trails before (the barn where I ride boarders Manassas Battlefield Park). We walked the first 15 minutes, and as footing allowed, we trotted for about 5, walked again for 5, trotted again for 5. There were two short canter sets (I'd say no more a a couple of minutes each) when we approached the open areas, the second interrupted by the buck/bolt scare that all three horses did simultaneously. Mine was the only one who never settled after that. I didn't think about a bear, but I do recall when he went nuts we were in an area where I heard dogs and people in the woods beyond. (Hunters?). Oddly, he started freaking when we stood still (I moved him off to the grass on the side of the trail with the appy to allow the other horse to go forward to pop the log that was on the trail). After that moment, he was stuck in that mode and there was no going back.

    I remember now just after the first buck/bolt during the second short canter set he was "tingling" after that, not really that coiled up "I'm ready to explode," but "tingly." I did ride him on soft contact. Not on the buckle, but not tight or restrictive. I guess I misread "tingling" for excitement of a good kind, not a "I'm scared" kind, which was my mistake. I thought if we simply kept walking, he would relax.

    The 18-inch log (if it was that at all, honestly it was simply a ground pole width fallen branch over the trail) was an unintentional pop/jump. I did not intentional face him with a jump. We were trotting along in a line on a wooded part of the trail, I could not see the trail beyond the rider in front of me (she was two or three strides ahead). It wasn't until she trotted over it that I realized it was there. I honestly thought he would simply trot over it as it was no higher than REALLY low x-rails I had done with him in the ring. (He usually trots over those, as if to express, "ugh, this is boring...").

    I agree with the others that I really think his behavior was fear-based aggression, not butt-headedness. As rude as he was on the ground, something just told me it was fear-based aggression. I can't explain it, I just think he really thought he was terrified for his life. I want to work with him, I've seen positive changes in his manners and demeanor in just the past three months I've been working with him. I can bring him in from the field (apparently he would never "allow" anyone to catch him in the past, he greets me with a nicker). He use to bolt back and break cross ties if you girthed him; now I can girth him without panic. We made such progress, which is why I was so heart-broken (and admittedly, frightened) by yesterday's episode. I was proud of myself for staying calm and handling him safely back to the barn, but I won't kid you, it was terrifying to have 1000lbs of horseflesh out-of-control in the middle of the woods, that far away from the barn!

    There is a lot of good advice here and I am going to take from all of it. By the time we were about 5 minutes from the barn he finally started breathing somewhat normally, head lowered, less obvious tension and anxiety (up until that point, between the freak outs and then, there was lots of snorting, kicking from behind, more backing up and spinning, interjected with moments of exhaling, etc. ). We reached the driveway of the barn and I was about to remount. A truck came down the driveway and the head up spinning recommenced. I immediately brought his attention back to me (I was still on the ground) with a crop, and then I made him back, step sideways, back again, halt, walk forward a few steps, then halt. He refocused to me, which I believe was good? It was at that point that I took him to the ring, as I described in my first post. When we returned to the barn, head down, relaxed, when I turned him out to the field, I got my nicker and "good bye" at the gate.

    I will check his tack again, but as I said, he showed no soreness. (The saddle that came with him was too narrow, I discovered...the other lady who use to lease him told me he occasionally had chiro, but no one could specify exactly why or what for...I also suspect his girthyness may also be ulcers? His owner is nearly impossible to reach via email or phone - another long story I'll not go into here.) So next it will be ground work, confidence building, no more long trails rides until he can handle short calm walking spurts. I'm glad I was able to remain calm throughout the incident. I didn't scream, I didn't panic, and everyone made it home safely, which is the most important thing when such an episode occurs. I know what to expect now, I've learned from it, and I hope to avoid such a meltdown again. Thanks again, everyone!
    Last edited by barnworkbeatshousework; Dec. 16, 2012 at 11:49 PM. Reason: misspelling/correction
    “Always saddle your own horse. Always know what you’re doing. And go in the direction you are heading.” Connie Reeves
    Jump Start Solutions LLC


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  10. #30
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    I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. Just you know now he has this meltdown in him. It has nothing to be with an OTTB, TB or any bred. It is just him as a horse. Some horses are wired this way. He lost it and then didn't feel secure again until home....not all that unusual no matter what is the cause. It is something you have learned about him so now you need to watch to avoid letting it get to that stage. The more trust he develops in you and respect for you, perhaps the more you can do to bring him back from the melt down or avoid the meltdown...but ultimately, he is a horse that you need to be a bit careful. I personally wouldn't give up on him though but you do have decide what is best for YOU.
    ** The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits. -- Albert Einstein **


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  11. #31
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    It sounds To me like this horse was unintentionally over faced. Giving him the benefit of the doubt: he is an older horse but really a green chunk of Swiss cheese (to borrow the OP's analogy). He became overstimulated and was overwhelmed by his emotions to the point that his true level of training was exposed. There have been many useful suggestions offered about how to proceed. I believe he needs to be treated like a baby...remembering that going forward with him will actually be more difficult and a longer process than with a true baby who has not had confusing training in the past. I would get some DETAILED information about his trail experience and proceed with a plan based on facts about his past.

    It sounds like his trust in human leadership in general not been developed enough to withstand a challenging situation. Every horse has a threshold of "every man for himself". Without a solid foundation, that threshold can be reached in seconds in a situation which the rider feels doesnt warrant the horse's dramatic reaction. The fact that he was as panicked as he was, and did not intentionally dump his rider and get the hell out of there speaks at least a little to his not being a real "bad guy".


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  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
    I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. Just you know now he has this meltdown in him. It has nothing to be with an OTTB, TB or any bred. It is just him as a horse. Some horses are wired this way. He lost it and then didn't feel secure again until home....not all that unusual no matter what is the cause. It is something you have learned about him so now you need to watch to avoid letting it get to that stage. The more trust he develops in you and respect for you, perhaps the more you can do to bring him back from the melt down or avoid the meltdown...but ultimately, he is a horse that you need to be a bit careful. I personally wouldn't give up on him though but you do have decide what is best for YOU.
    I second this.


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  13. #33
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    I don't know if you might find this helpful.

    I've got a really old (1925) British book on horse training called "Bridle Wise". The purpose of the book was to preserve horse training methods as the automobile was replacing horse transportation. One training tool that is recommended very highly--i.e essential--is ground driving outside the arena. I don't know if this horse ground drives, but that might be a way for you to work with him and desensitize him.

    Also bombproofing training might be a good thing for him.
    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
    Thread killer Extraordinaire


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  14. #34
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    I think the OP has a good handle on this horse and this was just an unfortunate incident that really could not have been predicted. Kudos to her for putting the time and energy into a horse that has had a history of issues, and for considering so many hypotheses and solutions. She sounds like a good horseperson


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  15. #35
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    Sounds like things just went wrong but overall he is a good guy. I would just build him up slowly again. Head out for 15 min short trail ride and take him back while he is good and then go from there. If you have a steady trail partner that can carry a lunge line that is a great tool to have just to let him know that even when he is worried he has to keep his feet moving forward and brain engaged.


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  16. #36
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    One more thing: for some horses, standing still is the worst thing you can do, full stop. It sounds like he might be the kind of horse you ALWAYS keep moving FORWARD, even if it means walking in circles for what feels like forever while everyone else stares at you like you're a crazy person. My old mare was like that-- the only time I ever halted with her was during her dressage tests. She walked at checks out hunting, she went into the start box at two seconds and went straight out again, she walked while we were at clinics and schools and other people were jumping.


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  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Highflyer View Post
    One more thing: for some horses, standing still is the worst thing you can do, full stop. It sounds like he might be the kind of horse you ALWAYS keep moving FORWARD, even if it means walking in circles for what feels like forever while everyone else stares at you like you're a crazy person. My old mare was like that-- the only time I ever halted with her was during her dressage tests. She walked at checks out hunting, she went into the start box at two seconds and went straight out again, she walked while we were at clinics and schools and other people were jumping.
    Whenever I feel like a horse will explode, I TROT! I feel safest at the trot, and feel very unsafe at the walk. I think in my mind, walk-->rear and Canter-->buck. My biggest concern is always rearing and you just can't do that if going forward!


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  18. #38
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    lots and lots of good and helpful comments, thank you COTHers for your supportive words and good advice! I will indeed write this down as a learning experience, and take the shared advice all of you were so kind to share. I will keep you up to date as things progress, as I really do not think he is a "bad" horse, I just don't get that from him in my sixth sense, if that makes any sense?
    “Always saddle your own horse. Always know what you’re doing. And go in the direction you are heading.” Connie Reeves
    Jump Start Solutions LLC



  19. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by Highflyer View Post
    One more thing: for some horses, standing still is the worst thing you can do, full stop. It sounds like he might be the kind of horse you ALWAYS keep moving FORWARD, even if it means walking in circles for what feels like forever while everyone else stares at you like you're a crazy person. My old mare was like that-- the only time I ever halted with her was during her dressage tests. She walked at checks out hunting, she went into the start box at two seconds and went straight out again, she walked while we were at clinics and schools and other people were jumping.
    I agree. I tried to keep him moving forward (or circle) rather than still, but by that point his only direction was "backwards." The trail was narrow and we were in the woods, so as he backed, he tripped over fallen logs, bumped into stumps and trees, it was certainly "unusual!" Even when we turned around and tried to head for home (with the other two horses near him) he did the same. It got to the point where it wasn't safe for the other horses or the other riders to be too close to us, he was that besides himself. Which again, I took as fear...
    “Always saddle your own horse. Always know what you’re doing. And go in the direction you are heading.” Connie Reeves
    Jump Start Solutions LLC



  20. #40
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    The problem was the person with whom you went on the ride. I think I warned you not to go out with her. She has no common sense about taking someone who needs a quiet confidence building ride. When she decided to jump the log in front of you Jumpie just wanted to follow, the problem is he likes to follow faster than you wanted to go. When you asked him to wait and go around he had a meltdown. You need to go out with someone who will think of you and your horse's level and needs and not just take off and jump things. I have ridden many horses and there are very few who will wait when a horse in front of them takes off and jumps a fence. Especially one who has not been out in a long time and is feeling insecure along with his rider.
    Shannon


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