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Spooky riding arena and the 3 year old

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  • Spooky riding arena and the 3 year old

    My riding arena at my farm is surrounded by buildings made of tarp...and the tarp gets loose and flaps in the wind constantly. There are also lots of little tarp buildings around the arena. I have a recently broke 3 year old who is absolutely terrified of the stuff near my arena...and she can try not to be too spooked out for 20 mins or so at a time...but she is just SO stressed being ridden in there.

    I know it's good to push them a little bit, but her turnout pen is quite large and certainly large enough to ride in there. I'm wondering if I should ride her sometimes in her pen, sometimes in the scary arena (lots on the trails)? Any thoughts? I don't want to baby her...but I don't want to her hate being ridden and associate it with stress.
  • Original Poster

    Actually it just occurred to me...if we do all the hard work outside of the arena, and the arena is where we cool down and relax...she may start looking forward to the arena at the end of her ride


    • #3
      Originally posted by luvmydutch View Post
      Actually it just occurred to me...if we do all the hard work outside of the arena, and the arena is where we cool down and relax...she may start looking forward to the arena at the end of her ride

      I couldn't agree more with luvmydutch! I've been working with a trainer named Allen Clarke (Lan'e Clarke's dad) with my young horse. And he uses the same theory. Make them work where they are comfortable and rest where they are uncomfortable so that the resting area becomes comfortable.

      He's also big on obedience from the first step. My filly had 0 attention and was quite defiant. If they are obedient and looking to you for direction, then all the other distractions melt away. In the first week he taught her to always watch the handler/rider. In the span of a month, I've gone from not wanting to get on this horse to actually riding her and getting good work out of her. (She was in full training with a dressage trainer for over a year but was still disobedient, distracted and even defiant at times.)

      This all sounds simple enough, but it isn't always so easy to apply. On the other hand, if you start right, you have the building blocks for everything else.

      If you are anywhere near Temecula, CA, you might look up Allen Clarke. He may be expensive, but he's well worth it.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks hoslaw! I actually had her started with a Natural Horsemanship trainer and he did a great job...i think she just needs to mature and gain experience before she's completely trustworthy.

        When i have her in the spooky arena, we do lots of leg yielding out on circles, lots of transitions, and some one rein stopping practice if she's REALLY freaked out...and working on that stuff i can get her to focus just on me for about 20 minutes before she lets her fears start getting the best of her. I really can't expect much more I think at this point either...she's still such a baby. My biggest fear is by pushing her so much to be more mature than she is, that she will become resentful of riding and not enjoy it at all.

        I think if we don't start to see some improvement in the next few weeks, i'll have my nat. horsemanship guy out to help.


        • Original Poster

          Any other ideas on exercises to calm her and get her focused on me and not on all the ghosties would be much appreciated too!


          • Original Poster

            You can see all the arena ghosts in this little video my boyfriend took the other day. She's not as forward as she should be...we were working on just going slow and staying calm and focused. She was quite a good girl this day...until my friend trailered her 17 hand black horse over and my 3year old was convinced he was going to eat her haha



            • #7
              Sometimes....it just takes time....as in growing up. Exposure certainly helps, but when I tried riding my then 4 to 5 year old in our "scary" arena, we were fine at one end, but it was NFR time at the other end (which abuts another barn property with a screened grooming area- so our horses can only semi-see but always hear what's happening, a dog kennel, equipment - i.e., they put all the stuff that scares THEIR horses next to OUR arena!). I persevered, but for a looong time, it was a major scoot, spin or semi-bolt going through that end of the arena. Then he had an injury and long layup. Then winter came. Now, with the weather finally permitting, I ventured out into the "scary" arena, and lo and behold, while he does give that end of the arena the fish eye, he pretty much works at that end with little or no spooky behavior. He's a 16.2. h.h. half-Arabian, so take from that what you will (the other half is Appy - I expected more calmness! Wrong!!) I will say one thing - the spooks were bad enough that for a while I took to wearing my eventer's vest when riding in the "scary" arena (and I still do wear it on the trail).


              • #8
                I can't see your youtube video as its set to private. What about turning out your young horse in the arena for a few hours a day. They are often more brave when they are not being restricted by us and tack. You could feed a few flakes of hay in there and your horse would eventually become used to their surroundings. Its often really windy where I live and the horses here don't bat an eye at blowing stuff as its all around their turn out fields. Once your horse is comfortable just hanging out in the arena you should be able to progress to relaxed ridden work.


                • #9
                  Marengo has the same idea I would suggest. Maybe turn out some older horses with her in the scary place and she will take some leadership from them. You could also work with her and some tarps to desensitize her. Keep in mind, at many shows there will be flapping judges' tents or tarps, etc. We can't wrap them in cotton wool and protect them from life's scary moments. I do tarp training with all my babies. Put it on the floor of the hallway in the barn so they have to see it going to their stalls and then move it around so they walk on it. I hang it from their doorways so they have to go under and through it, low enough to touch them and even brush their backs. Put it out in the field with her, hang them from trees or fence posts/gates so it becomes familiar. You could "sack her out" with saddle pads and move on to plastic bags, etc. as she gets more accepting. I don't think protecting her is the right path. Force is not the answer either. Just work with her and build on good experiences. Maybe lead her around those buildings where the tarps are flapping and treat and praise her as she learns they won't get her. The more relaxed you are and ignore her fear or help her she will respond in kind. Good luck!


                  • #10
                    Is there anyway you can turn her out in the arena with the tarps flapping for a little time each day? If it is something that is just apart of life then she wont be scared of it. I have a tarp covering the opening to my hay stall until I can finish it with wood. The wind blows and it flaps like crazy and it is directly next to my cross ties (like the tarp is one of the "walls" on the side of the cross ties). Since my horses have this around them all the time, it is a non issue. It is best to desensitize her to these things as the real world has scary tarps and plastic bags and kids on bikes, etc.

                    I do think that having the arena be the nice relaxing part of the ride at the end is a good idea too but I think just keeping her exposed to it and apart of her daily routine would be best.

                    See the above mentioned tarp here: http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r...x/IMG_1602.jpg

                    Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!


                    • Original Poster

                      Wow great ideas guys! She has had some tarp desensitization...I'll post a video of that too haha. I unprivated my video...no riding critiques plz

                      I'm going to ask my barn owner if he's willing to turn her out in that arena the next time I see him. I hope he will and i hope it works!


                      • Original Poster