A client of mine picked up a BEAUTIFUL, quiet quiet quiet (ok...LAZY) 5 year old belgian warmblood gelding for her 13 year old. The girl is a good rider but has ridden hotter horses (thoroughbreds) before getting this guy.
The issue we're having is that he props after some fences if he feels he had to work to get over it (be it a little bigger fence, gappy distance, too slow in, etc), pretty much a proud baby thing... It's really not dramatic & he's not trying to be dirty but he gets his new kid off around 1 in every 6 or 7 props. He generally only does it once or twice & usually towards the end of the lesson. Usually he gets her off because she's kicking so much to keep him going that she's not secure in her leg. But if she has spurs and catches him in the air that's a sure-fire play on the backside so we don't jump with spurs (she does carry a crop).
When I school him he tries it once, I send him forward and he drops it. His kid isn't quite strong enough to get after him (as she's usually doing what she can just to ride it out). She's got a good sense of humor about it but I'm hoping for exercises to help her out with this little issue.
Baby is going to be very fancy & he's very forgiving & the kid loves him. He doesn't hold a grudge on a fence or anything and if he does get her off he stands quietly and looks at her like "what happened?" but needless to say I'm not comfortable with the number of falls she's taking.
Suggestions? We started trot sets on the horse to see if we get him really fit if that fixes the problem all together. I also have the girl on a fitness regime in which we're working up to a full flat lesson without stirrups once a week on one of my school horses.
You say the horse is quiet quiet quite lazy so I would work on really getting the horse FORWARD and light from the leg on the flat. Once that is established it needs to be backed up over poles, then over small jumps. Always landing and sending the horse forward.
In a very short period of time that situation is going to become a disaster. Young horses learn from repetition. A kid repeatedly falling off the horse is just reinforcing the behavior. Get the kid off the horse before the behavior gets worse. She's not ready. The horse isn't ready. You're going to end up with a defensive riding kid and a horse that tests everyone. Train them separately until one grows up.
give him a job after the jumps...lots of poles after jumps, landing rails, and also a set number of strides to keep his attention forward after the jump. Maybe back down on height until rider can place him more consistently at the jump?
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Agree with CBoylen too. Along with having kid improve on school horses, I'd still have the kid ride her own horse on the flat. Work on getting the horse in front of her leg, and once that is established work on ground poles. She should learn how to make the horse more responsive to the leg, as in squeeze and if no reaction then crop/dressage whip behind the saddle. Kick, kick, kick will just make him duller.
It sometimes takes a little longer for message delivery on these types, so squeeze, whip, wait, trot. If you dont get the trot, then repeat.
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Its late and I'm tired so maybe I'm missing something obvious...but what do you mean by "props"?
Short answer is it means bucks but not the high behind kicking buck- they jam the front legs in the ground, lose momentum and drop their heads. Hard to stay with.
usually a result of a defensive rider afraid to go to, over and away from the jump. May be complicated by a loose leg with heels/ spurs hard in them, picking withtheir face too much as well as stiffing them when sitting down too early.
Need to stop letting this happen before he learns how effective it is in removing riders. It's wicked hard to get rid of. I disagree he need more to do landing, he just needs to keep going forward and not try to deal with a timid, insecure rider. A rider who is going to get afraid pretty quick coming off every 7 or 8 jumps too- that's also hard to fix.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
I believe the term is also used by racing people to describe a horse who quits running in the middle of a race.
Sort of--it's pretty much the same thing. They straight-arm their forelegs and bounce hard into the ground while humping their backs. I wish I could find the clip of Tiznow or Fusaichi Pegasus, who were both pretty infamous for doing in the mornings.
Another one who agrees with CBoylen. If she's catching him with her spur, taking them off isn't going to help--she's still catching him with her leg, which means she is crawling up the neck and her leg is swinging back. Sounds like she is not strong enough in her leg to really get him in front of it, and she's not anchored in the air. I'd put her on something else to perfect her technique, take her stirrups away on the flat until she gets stronger in her base, do lots of half-seat work when she does have her stirrups, and only let her flat her own horse while you put the jump schools on him.
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How long has it been going on and what have you tried to fix it (with the kid in the irons)?
Sure, you can pull the kid. And sure, it could turn into utter failure if you don't. But if it's a recent problem and you're only taking the first steps to fix it, I would at least give her a chance to fight the battle and hopefully learn from it.
I'd tune up his sides to respond to a leg with a quarter of the strength of my own. Ask. Tell. Demand. He needs a good stick behind the leg with you in the tack. He needs to practically jump into the canter from the walk (and on that note, if he's not yet capable of walk-canter transitions then he's probably not at all ready to handle missed distances caused by a kid). If he doesn't like a stick behind the leg then he needs to learn to deal, because stick-behind-the-leg is about to become this kid's best friend. And it automatically puts her in the best position to deal with a prop.
Until you get his go button sorted out I think there are plenty of exercises to help both of them understand what rhythm is. Agree with ground poles over consecutive strides. Propping is a form of sucking back, poles will keep him reaching forward. 3 strides of poles on landing will keep his brain occupied and teach him to land going forward. Poles on take off will establish rhythm and essentially do the work the kid's leg physically can't (yet). I would do easy lines of crossbars, encouraging more of an elongated canter stride than a jumping effort. Trot poles in, if it's a short 3-5 stride line I'd do poles every step inside and 2-3 going away. If you have space for long lines, like 7-8 strides, take some poles out of the middle and "move her up" to carrying the rhythm on her own for 2-3 strides before hitting 1-2 takeoff rails on the out. I'd jump absolutely nothing without landing rails, including when I rode. (I'd also first school him in the task before asking the kid to get it right).
Disclaimer: I am assuming she can carry some type of forward momentum to at least one fence (the in of the line, and the trot poles will help). If she cannot get any impulsion out of him then no, it's not fair to make him jump with her.
When she's secure enough (and you've taught him how to deal with a crop) she probably just needs to stick him behind the leg off the ground a few times. You've got a lazy one, this issue will come out in many ways throughout his career, and this rider is going to have to learn how to correct an engine that sputters and stalls. I wouldn't focus on the propping, that's just the first of many work evasions you & she will see. Get your rider thinking about how, over time, her job will be to make this horse more responsive to the aids, and then keep him there.
I too agree with CBoylen. No jumping for this kid until the horse is educated to leg and forward. The rider doesn't have to be kicking away on top of the horse as this does deaden the horse and unbalances the rider. I would also teach leg cluck stick. Use leg, cluck and whip at the same time for a couple of times. Then leg cluck and if no immediate forward then use whip. Horse will quickly learn the cluck means serious business as it is followed by a touch of the whip if it does not go forward. The trick is not to over use cluck as then one will have to reteach the connection. I think this situation is going to ruin the horse and sour the rider if it is not addressed pronto. What is a small prop now will lead to a spolit horse and perhaps bigger bucks. Lazy can be good but lazy needs to be disciplined so you have a responsive horse with a quiet mind. All jmo of course.
As far as trot sets, unless the horse is really huffing and puffing, I think improved fitness may result in worse behavior. For the lazy ones, being fresh doesn't mean running away - it means this kind of sticky nonsense.
I am very much in agreement with everyone who says this horse and kid shouldn't be jumping together until the problem goes away (or is at least much, much, much more rare - like happens less than once every few weeks). I had a dirty stopper that I was kept on for four years starting when I was 13, and while at the time all of the falls didn't bother me, its like I have PTSD for stops now. A stop really shuts me down and gets me all sorts of freaked out, even after a really brave horse took me through the A/O jumpers. If you watched me at the time I was on the stopper, you would never know what it would do to my confidence later. This could be the same thing for this kid and playing on the backside.
Also... all of those falls will eventually lead to a more serious injury. I got a few concussions and a fractured vertabrae out of the horse I was overmounted on.
5 is a tough age for a horse with a novice(ish) rider. My 5yo Holsteiner (he'll be 6 in July) is just now coming out of a particularly jerky phase where he tried every trick in his book to get out of work. So from the horse's perspective, it could be a great time to have more pro rides than usual. More on that in a minute.
As far as the issue goes, I'm in complete agreement with dags <insert dags whole post here>
I'll add to it by saying that spurs have no place in asking a horse to go forward. Not on a young horse, not on an old horse, not ever. All of my upper level horses are the "dead type," and some more persistent about it than others. My approach is that the spurs are for lateral work and the whip is for getting the horse to move forward, period. I would pull the spurs off of the kid and replace them with a whip (I personally prefer a dressage whip...easier to get the point across without disrupting hands). The routine, as dags mentioned, is "ask, tell, demand." I would not jump again until the horse is responsive to her in a correct manner on the flat. This may mean teaching her how to hit a horse with a whip (I've had a lot of different people ride my mare over the years and have been flabbergasted by the fact that almost no one can hit effectively with a whip), and that may mean some rides on a school horse type ride.
Back to my comment about the horse's age. If he is in a "sticky" phase, using a whip (or spurs) may result in a pissy response and some more propping or full out bucks. I would keep that behavior under a trainer as much as possible, unless the kid is good enough to ride it out and keep driving the horse forward until they quit.
And FTR, I got my first "dead" type horse at 13. I was not a particularly gifted rider and my trainer taught me how to ride through all of it. That horse went on to do the big GPs with me and was truly the horse of a lifetime. I always felt that I learned more from that sticky, pissy horse (not calling yours the same....sounds like he's kinder than my old one and my youngster!) than I did from any of the hot horses I rode for my trainer at the same time. So I certainly don't think that green sticky horse automatically = pull the kid. I think the balance of kid rides versus pro rides comes down to your judgement as the trainer.
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This problem has just cropped up with bigger fences (2'3" and under we don't get it). Again, he doesn't do it with me so it's hard for me to correct. It's not terribly hard to ride out (he's not at all committed) and I totally agree she needs more strength to learn to stick with him.
He has a BEAUTIFUL walk to canter transition (when he's tuned in) but its something we work on EVERY single lesson because she struggles with being consistently nice. Again, I think it's just been an adjustment from a forward TB to a less than forward WB. He works very nicely laterally and only offers this every 6 or 7 lesson (not jumps) but if the jumps get bigger it becomes more frequent. She does carry a whip and will use it if she needs to get him in front of her leg but isn't "demanding" which is something we'll continue working on.
I'll definitely spend some more time with her over poles to work & I guess just keep working on getting her stronger & more demanding & keep the jumps little when she jumps.
Thanks everyone for the details, atleast we're headed in the right direction.