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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr. 15, 2013
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    47

    Default Open field freak out! Any help appreciated.

    I have a 3 yr old tb gelding. He is a really good and sane guy but really has a hard time mentally whenever we ride into an open field. He is much more relaxed when we ride in the woods. I have tried riding and hand walking him into several open fields. Every time we go he tenses every muscle, his eyes get as big as saucers and his head is sky high. When I try to get his attention by walking a circle or giving him half halts, he gets cranky (again he is 3). Any advice so that him and I can enjoy a nice trail ride on occasion? Oh, and he was never on the track but was briefly trained for it.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    May. 5, 2011
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    1,738

    Default

    He's 3? And a baby. They really don't have much of a brain at that stage of the game. What do you do about it? Take him on short (30min or so) light hacks until he's mentally and physically more mature. They don't usually grow a brain until closer to 5. Physically, he ought to be able to go on longer hacks his 4yo year and start to work with a little more purpose. In the mean time, hack him out with experienced and calm older horses who will show him the ropes.


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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul. 20, 2007
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    Rising Sun, MD
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    I agree with take him out with an older chill horse, especially if you have someone that could maybe pony you? You could also lunge him in a field setting to help him get use to the idea that a field is no different from the ring or the woods in that he still has to listen to you at all times.
    I also agree with candysgirl in keeping sessions for a 3 year old short and positive-
    “While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” Mark Twain


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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar. 10, 2007
    Location
    Montana
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    4,967

    Default

    spend time on the edges too, walk with the woods on one side and the field on the other, weave through the trees for steering practice and walk straight in the field for "down time" until he wants to get wound up then weave again. Gradually increase your time out in the field and decrease the tree time as you gain more and more control. Don't anticipate trouble-don't let the open field become an "oh crap" place to be for anyone, keep it manageable so it stays positive for both of you.

    There's something about an open field that just revs them up-even our old horses will do that at the end of a long long ride!


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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 15, 2013
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    47

    Default

    Thanks for all advice. I have been meaning to join a forum like this and am really glad I did now. We definitely keep our sessions short. No more than 30 minutes. Twenty seems to be our max. He does well in the 20 min range and I like to end on a good note. I really like the woods/field idea. He does great when his mind is busy. And I will talk to the barn owner about using a field to lunge in. He tends to like to jump on other horse (he is on the playful side) so I a not sure how ponying would go or if anyone would even lend me a horse to pony him with. But with the others suggestions I think we will get it. Great stuff! Thanks again everyone.


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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun. 13, 2001
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    usa
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    6,108

    Default

    And so what if he has saucer eyes and lifts his neck? He isnt taking flight. Stay calm and carry on with NO tensioned reaction on your part. (It's part of his learning.) Just stand and wait.
    I.D.E.A. yoda


    5 members found this post helpful.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan. 31, 2004
    Location
    Pacific Northwest
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    394

    Default

    Having a sensible companion is the easiest way to help a young horse take in new things. But sometimes that just isn't possible. Here is one more idea.

    Will he graze when you take him out in a field?

    I came from the Pony Club school of "don't let your horse eat while in the bridle" -- but riding with endurance folks, who WANT their horse to eat on the trail, it was evident how calming it was for a nervous horse. A big "aha" moment for me that has come in handy many times since.

    If a horse is really on the verge of panicking, they won't eat, but if they are just worried and uncertain, it seems to switch their mind over to a less flighty place.

    FYI, the horse is invited to graze - there can be a verbal cue to let them know it is okay - so you don't end up with a greedy grabber. You can break it down into as many parts as you need, starting with using the cue on the ground when they are about to graze anyway.

    With young horses, I don't call it a trail ride, I call it a botanical sampling expedition!


    8 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct. 25, 2008
    Posts
    2,133

    Default

    My OTTB used to have meltdowns whenever we would enter a field, or go between two fields. The cowboy I used to ride with (read: no-nonsense, non-touchy-feely, git-er-done type) had me immediately ask for trot circles. Not tiny little punitive circles, but 10-15 meter "working circles," with the mindset that Horse doesn't have time to think about being silly if he's thinking about moving his feet. Very important to NOT make it a punishment, or get mad/growl/kick, just a simple, "ok then, let's get to work."

    Ride into field. If Horse snorts/scoots, immediately (and calmly) commence trot circles, do 4 or 5, ride back out of field. Enter again, repeat if Horse snorts/scoots. Keep repeating until he can enter field sanely, walk around quietly, and exit sanely.

    This pretty quickly ended my then-5-year old's open-field issues.

    Actually, the trot circles are ALWAYS my go-to gear for equine stupidity... for my horse, the WORST thing I can do if he gets fired up is to make him stand, or walk-- that just gives him time to plot and scheme. Trotting keeps him tuned in just enough to forget about rearing/bucking/spooking.
    *friend of bar.ka

    "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov. 10, 2005
    Location
    Va
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    I found when I first started trail riding my TB mare she did the same thing. Some how I came upon the idea of riding along the edge of the woods and it seemed to settle her. Since then I have done the same thing when introducing horses to trail riding.(my mare is now the steady eddie trail horse). I have them ride along the edge of the woods and I ride next to them on the field side. For some reason it seems to settle them.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    May. 25, 2003
    Location
    Orlean, Virginia
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    2,937

    Thumbs up jmho!

    Good advice so far I think....I'd add:
    Go to the SAME open fied for awhile. Ride the SAME edge at a walk; back & forth so it gets familiar. If he settles some; a slow trot then walk then trot.etc. Up/down the same hedgerow....in the shade or with back to the sun.....on the downwind side too. Minimize distractions and gain familiarity & confidence. Once he's comfy with that line; then go to it next time & settle him then go to the one nearby. Break the area down into smaller areas. I also suggest outa the wind when you can. Talk to him, rub his neck. Try to loosen reins; walk on buckle. Send him lotsa calm messages! No clutching!
    I subscribe to the "let the greenies graze" philosophy too. Keeps them from distractions and gives them a good association for that field.
    No rush, no fuss, this trailriding thing is fun! I even get off and walk with a baby; let them graze & relax to see that this is not a scary place!



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul. 21, 2005
    Posts
    479

    Default

    I find the natural horsemanship trainer type exercises work really well for calming a horse in a location where they are upset--e.g. lunging on a short line with a purpose--many changes of direction and gait so they have to pay attention to you, rather than what's going on in their busy head. If they don't have anything else to focus on when they get nervous like you are describing, their anxiety tends to get bigger and bigger, rather than less and less. So often horses create monsters from things that started out as small fears because they have too much time on their brain to blow things out of proportion.

    So instead of leading or trying to calmly ride through the field that is not likely to keep the horse's focus, do some ground work exercises to keep the brain busy and get the focus on you. If you can't and don't want to do that, then I think your best bet is to only ride the horse with a super solid calm horse that can be a calming role model until he gets more time and age.
    Horse'in around in Upstate NY



  12. #12
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    Dec. 21, 2008
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    Longing to be where I once was.....
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    2,190

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wateryglen View Post
    Good advice so far I think....I'd add:
    Go to the SAME open fied for awhile. Ride the SAME edge at a walk; back & forth so it gets familiar. If he settles some; a slow trot then walk then trot.etc. Up/down the same hedgerow....in the shade or with back to the sun.....on the downwind side too. Minimize distractions and gain familiarity & confidence. Once he's comfy with that line; then go to it next time & settle him then go to the one nearby. Break the area down into smaller areas. I also suggest outa the wind when you can. Talk to him, rub his neck. Try to loosen reins; walk on buckle. Send him lotsa calm messages! No clutching!
    I have trained most of my horses without an arena and this is what I do. They get so used to it that you just gradually go a little farther, or a little faster and add new things all in the same, old, boring field. It really does work.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep. 13, 2000
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    Greenville, MI,
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    Just pat him and carry on. Relax and he will feel more confident.
    Give him a small task to do, A few walk, Trot, Walk transitions, then call it a day. Short sessions ending on a positive note!
    "you can only ride the drama llama so hard before it decides to spit in your face." ?Caffeinated.



  14. #14
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    Feb. 1, 2012
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    Vermont
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by candysgirl View Post
    He's 3? And a baby. They really don't have much of a brain at that stage of the game. What do you do about it? Take him on short (30min or so) light hacks until he's mentally and physically more mature. They don't usually grow a brain until closer to 5. ...
    Well, mine is 7 and he still does as the OP's horse, only my guy DOES try to take flight!

    I will be subscribing to this thread to keep up with the suggestions as well!

    My OTTB used to have meltdowns whenever we would enter a field, or go between two fields. The cowboy I used to ride with (read: no-nonsense, non-touchy-feely, git-er-done type) had me immediately ask for trot circles. Not tiny little punitive circles, but 10-15 meter "working circles," with the mindset that Horse doesn't have time to think about being silly if he's thinking about moving his feet. Very important to NOT make it a punishment, or get mad/growl/kick, just a simple, "ok then, let's get to work."

    Ride into field. If Horse snorts/scoots, immediately (and calmly) commence trot circles, do 4 or 5, ride back out of field. Enter again, repeat if Horse snorts/scoots. Keep repeating until he can enter field sanely, walk around quietly, and exit sanely.

    This pretty quickly ended my then-5-year old's open-field issues.

    Actually, the trot circles are ALWAYS my go-to gear for equine stupidity... for my horse, the WORST thing I can do if he gets fired up is to make him stand, or walk-- that just gives him time to plot and scheme. Trotting keeps him tuned in just enough to forget about rearing/bucking/spooking.
    The above is great advice, and I've tried this with my gelding, but we would be there ALL. DAY. LONG. doing trot circles... And the last part about standing still giving them time to scheme...yes...my gelding's go-to move before doing something stupid or psycho is to stop and stand FROZEN...then all hell breaks loose...
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2010
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    2,208

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    My guess is that he reacted that way once or twice and now you're anticipating it...egging him on. What kind of rein do you ride on? I've found my gelding is much more likely to "not care" if I ride on the buckle.

    The best thing you can do is sit up and take deep breaths. Park your horse behind an old trail pro and continue on your merry way.

    If YOU are also getting nervous in the field, anticipating the flight response, then I would recommend not trotting and working in the field. I've found that nervous riders tend to get more nervous once trotting or cantering and will tense up more...which is a big no-no.

    I can't tell you how many riders I see that get tense/worried in open spaces. 99% it is a mental rider thing, not a horse thing.

    If you want to busy yourself/horse, do halt walk transitions with some back steps and turn on forehand type stuff. Trotting circles won't necessarily get a horse's mind off "OMG BIG SPACE" but if you are asking a horse to be aware of where he puts his feet you will get a better response.

    Walking along the edge of the field, using the same field, and riding with a buddy are all great ways to "desensitize" a young horse to open spaces. (they're also a good way to calm a nervous rider down!)



  16. #16
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    Feb. 6, 2003
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    Deep South
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    Does he not get turned out in a field ?
    ... _. ._ .._. .._


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  17. #17
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    Mar. 27, 2011
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    Use the open field to your advantage, if you can ride in the field itself. Lots of circles, serpentines, squiggly lines and transitions, even if it is just walk/trot, walk/halt/back/change direction. Keep his feet moving and his mind thinking- "What is she going to ask me next"?



  18. #18
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    Nov. 13, 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Equibrit View Post
    Does he not get turned out in a field ?
    LOL, this is what I always tell myself when my horse acts dingy about wide open spaces. "Dude, you get turned out in a field!"

    Although I do think there is a difference between a fenced field (like the paddocks most horses get turned out in) and a wide expansive field where you can see a far off horizon. I know a lot of horses that kind of lose it when faced with so much open space that they can see really far into the horizon. There is a horse show we used to go to that has this situation and it undoes a lot of the young ones at first.



  19. #19
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    Deep South
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    It may be that he gets turned out with others and this is not a large space problem, but a "HEEEEEEEEEEEEELP I'M ALL ALONE" problem.
    ... _. ._ .._. .._



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Sep. 29, 2009
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    Yes agree with Monicabee absolutely.

    Yes, eating is a sure fire way of getting them to calm down.

    You have a baby, so be good to your baby.



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