I just joined the forum, I bought my first horse in October, her name is Phlora and she is Westphlien bred but registered Canadian Warmblood (I'm still not quite sure how that whole thing works if someone knows and doesn't mind explaining). She is 9 years old, and is showing a lot of potential right now. Except she gets really, really nervous when I'm riding to the point that she tenses and almost freezes up. I don't ride her with spurs or a stick, and ride in a snaffle. I notice that she relaxes more when she is in harder work, such as when we are cantering or leg yielding. When she tenses up I also push her forward a little and that helps. But when we are at the beginning of the ride or around the middle she sometimes does half steps and has an uneven walking rhythm (rhythm is another thing we are also working on). This was more an issue in the past when I first got her. I've already had some promising progress, I'm just hoping to improve her confidence. She also is afraid of one corner of the arena with the mirror (I think she thinks its another horse set to run into her!) and get very tense around there.
To my question; Anyone have any ideas how to further help her relax when we are walking/trotting so she doesn't do these half steps/ get jittery by the mirror? Anything would be helpful, exercises under saddle or maybe something whilst lungeing her (which is rarely)...
There is a current thread a few down from yours called "Does it get any better" that would address some of your questions...
Some horses just don't warm up well at a walk. Particularly the hotter types. And sometimes forcing them to walk just starts the whole ride off on a bad note. So if she really wants to go, just start off the ride with five to ten minutes of a good, working trot on a looser rein, encouraging stretching and a consistent rhythm. THEN come back down to a walk and ask for some relaxation in that gait.
I have a HIGH energy horse that I walk for a little then start cantering. Works for us. He is turned out a lot so walking is not quite so critical for warming muscles and joints as one in a stall constantly
Stay off the rail and do not go large in the arena with a horse like this until she is warmed up and ready for harder work. You can do a 20 meter circle wherever in the ring that she is least reactive (sometimes you have to use the center of the arena) and keep changing direction. Don't go near the mirror in the beginning. When she is warmed up and focused on you--then you can go large.
I used to think that that was just avoiding the problem but it isn't. It is keeping the focus on you and not allowing the horse's mind to wander and be distracted.
"Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller
It can have a great deal to do with the attitude of the rider.
Many riders ride a nervous horse with an attitude of, "It's ok, little girl. Don't worry. You'll be alright," which is all well and good but basically lets the horse decide when to settle down and get to work.
Often if the rider says, "We are going to be on the aids and ride around this short side with purpose and like we are on a mission!", the horse is just fine.
My gelding will suck behind the vertical, start gnawing on his bit, and tighten his poll...If I try to drive/push him on through it- nothing changes. For him, I need to 'flap' the rein, on the side he's chewing on, and if I'm schooling I'll make a growlly disapproving sound, just a short tone. At first these were 'bigger' motions and noisier growls..now we're down to a quick flip and maybe a quick 'ahnt!' sound, and he's done, back to work, ohrightsorry....and he's back on the bit and going. if we're showing it's just a super quick flip literally a quick twist of my hand like I'm turning a door knob and a deep 'hum' of disapproval (anywhere but C ) and he'll go on. In time I think it'll go away almost entirely.
I call it texting, Chip's stopped working, he's texting his buddies...so I have to tell him to stop texting and start working. for him, it works.
Usually-- put them to work, keep the tempo constant and maybe a little slower than what they offer at first, and don't react to spooks. Keep posting (if you're trotting) at the same rate and wait for them to come back to you. Constant changes in figures may help as well-- big swooping serpentines, changing across the diagonal, spiral in and out on a circle, etc., as long as you keep the tempo where YOU want it.
It's a recipe that works remarkably well with my tense pony.
Maybe there's some static in the line and she get's nervous because she's getting conflicting aids... as for the mirror I wouldn't make a big deal out of it, just keep riding as if it's not there. If you anticipate and get tense she's going to think something is wrong.
Boyle Heights Kid 1998 OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason "Once you go off track, you never go back!"