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Need Advice on Energizer Bunny

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  • Need Advice on Energizer Bunny

    My friend has a 15 year old TB mare an unknown history. She purchased her about 14 months ago. At the time the horse would constantly hollow out, flip her head, evade the bit, and race around.

    They've made a lot of progress over the last year. The mare's had her teeth done twice, she's had regular vet evals, she's been treated for ulcers and wormed thoughtfully. She is now getting chiro and acupressure as well. She has a good farrier, and a well fitting saddle. She is smart, not a tiny bit spooky, mellow on the ground, and sweet. She is not nervous or panicky.

    However, she always has to be moving, she has this intrinsic restlessness that is just unbelievable. She does not understand or respect a half halt. Her "whoa" sucks. She is exhausting to ride because she is constantly anticipating and wanting to trot or canter. She will ask the question "Please can I go?" every 3 steps. And you will say "No, wait" every time and yet she will ask again and again and again.

    We've tried letting her blow out some steam at the canter/hand gallop. You cannot tire her out. If she gets keyed up, like at a show or something, blocking that need to go forward means she will threaten to go up.

    She's had all kinds different turnout, feed, etc. combos and it makes no difference.

    My feeling is that she needs to go back to the beginning. Someone on the ground to teach her to WHOA. Stud chain, treats if necessary, clicker training maybe? I'm talking do it till it is boring. Then get on her and do it all over again at the walk. Then the trot. Then the canter. Over and over and over. Someone very quiet and sympathetic in the sense that they will not pull or fight with her.

    Any other ideas? Truly a nice little mare otherwise. Cute mover, excellent work ethic, good mind. But owner is burned out because she is completely EXHAUSTING to ride.

    I don't really have the time or desire to ride her myself, though it has crossed my mind, as I find training conundrums like this intriguing and I think she is a good horse really.

    She is an OTTB (long off the track obviously) and we suspect she was perhaps a gaming or barrel horse at some point in her history.

    Any suggestions appreciated.
    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

  • #2
    Endurance?!
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    ---
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Seriously. I broke it to my friend today that This Is Her. Take it or leave it. LOL.

      But I'm trying to make sure we've exhausted all options before my friend decides to sell her on. She'd be a good pony club/eventing mount!!
      We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

      Comment


      • #4
        Actually I would NOT suggest endurance...even for a joke!

        You DON'T want to build her resistance and make her more able to evade your plans.

        What I would do is :

        Get on. Start working at the canter with lots of trotting transitions and circles, serpentines, spirales, leg yields and short diagonales for at least 15-20 minutes. Then dismount and work in-hand walk. stop. walk. stop. Circles, diagonales, leg yields, whatever pattern for another 15-20 minutes. Reward with treats! And let the horse loose if possible!

        Teach the shoulder-in and haunches-in. It can both be done under saddle and in-hand. It slows down the horses! Try it at the canter too!

        Shoulder-in and haunches-in on the circle is a great tool!

        Also, just for now, if the horse wants to do a downward transition, let it do. Encourage and reward like if you had asked for it. And start back!

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks AlterBy!

          I had the owner doing a lot of this over the winter, particularly the spirals, serpentines, shoulder-in and haunches-in. They made good progress. Of course show season hit and it all got lost in the excitement of OMG I Must Show. Horse is now (predictably) racing around on course and things have fallen apart on the flat.

          I haven't had them try ground work mid-session, that is a good idea.

          The hard part is, owner is relatively green herself. She has a lot of natural feel but little formal instruction. She also keeps looking for a Magic Bullet. There is none.
          We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

          Comment


          • #6
            This sounds so much like my horse just 18-24 months ago that it is border-line unnerving. With a TB mind you cannot "wear them out" as you are learning. Even when they get tired due to lack of fitness they just become more and more flat/downhill and racy.

            If this is a smart, strong willed, TB mare, with a strong desire to please then you have to show her how to succeed instead of forcing her to obey. With my mare it meant going back to walking on a soft rein, half halt with my seat, and then letting her run into the bit when she ignored my seat. I didn't do this 30x a ride but I did it 3-8 times each direction initially. I bet this mare will learn really quickly that it is easier to respond to the half halts than wait for the bit. Once you have this repeat at the trot and canter (only if the canter does not get her more jazzed up, in which case leave it alone for a while) her rider can start to get that rebalance or momentary pause off of the seat.

            Once she starts developing this then things start falling into place. Figuring this out was so critical for my mare because it allowed my reins to become a place she wanted to seek instead of something that "held" her head in a set place and I would be willing to bet that this rider will discover that same joy.

            Another thing that was instrumental to our development as a pair was doing yielding work. A couple steps on turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, leg yield, shoulder fore, etc are great for reinforcing the idea of accepting the leg without jetting forward. Focusing on quality of quantity helps prevent the mental frying that can occur when a smart horse gets stuck doing the same exercise over and over. Often times riders use too little leg on a hot horse in an attempt to be "soft' or "quiet" but it has the opposite effect. Going from 0 pressure to 4 is much more disconcerting than going from a 2 to a 4.

            Remind your friend that there is no single exercise, tool, etc that will fix this over night but it is very very possible to overcome this issue.


            Although the pictures below were taken ~ 2-3 years apart she was with a different rider for over 18 months so in reality this pictures are more like 6 months to 1 year apart.


            Before. Riding off my hands trying to slow down the trot:
            http://i1222.photobucket.com/albums/...8/IMG_3614.jpg


            After. Rebalancing off my seat and creating an inviting environment for her to seek contact:
            http://i1222.photobucket.com/albums/...ersaddle/5.jpg


            If my mare and I can figure it out, anyone can figure it out . Good luck!

            Comment


            • #7
              Ah! Sounds like my main boy! OTTB, VERY high energy, and with some very bad (resultant of that high energy being mishandled) behaviours when I first purchased him. Honestly, it probably took me a good year to get him 'okay' u/s, and it took a good two years (we're going on three years this winter) to get him actually solid. Just now, he's starting to go beautifully. Habits take a long time to change.

              Originally posted by FlashGordon View Post
              However, she always has to be moving, she has this intrinsic restlessness that is just unbelievable.
              So for now, do not put her in situations where that restlessness can manifest negatively - keep her busy and focused. This includes tons of circles, serpentines, lateral work, poles, etc (all you had her do over the winter - it worked, so get her to keep it up!). Teach her to start balancing correctly, with correct bend. My boy is still the same energizer bunny however now when he is uptight, I can push him onto the aids (thus asking him to focus and giving him something specific to do) - on the aids, he starts to melt and relax. On the aids, they are not hollowed with a tense neck and back, and thus with the ability to go up.

              She does not understand or respect a half halt. Her "whoa" sucks.
              This is a disconnect between the rider communicating to the horse, and the horse understanding her. Don't expect her to stand still at a halt until she is properly prepared for it (ie, more relaxed and 'developed' - emotionally collected - u/s) - it will gradually come as a result of the other u/s work where she feels relaxed and okay to just keep her feet still. To teach the whoa and half halts itself, use exercises! Predictable transitions on a 20m circle are a start. Set up 4 cones spaced evenly on the circle, and stop, then progress to simply slowing, at specific points on the circle (start with longer lines first, say halting every second cone to start, then shorten the lines, say halting every cone or such). I also use a 'point-to-point' exercise - effective both for creating impulsion and motivation, and also in slowing the too-forward horse. I set the horse up on Point A (of my choosing), and rest (as long as the horse can - I ask the horse to move out before it is his idea to do so). I choose a Point B in the arena and ride toward it at a specific gait. Provided the horse remains in that gait (I don't care how fast or slow) and on the path I have set, I leave the horse alone - NO NAGGING (with either leg OR hand). I only correct the horse when he moves outside my parameters - ie, when he moves off my 'path' (priority #2) or if he changes gait (priority #1). When we arrive at Point B, we halt and rest (again, for as long or short as the horse is capable - for the really restless horse, this might mean just a pause or hesitation at Point B and slowly building and progressing that). Point B should be a point along a wall. That way I can maintain my same parameters and expectations (ie, path - keeping the horse between my legs and hands and only correcting with the aforementioned when he moves off the path I've set), then ask the horse to slow as we approach the wall. I relax into my seat, audibly let a breath out, and sink into my seat. Correct path as necessary (because at first the horse will probably try to change path as the wall looms because he wants to keep moving his feet). When I finally reach Point B and the horse still has not halted to seat, I correct with rein. Stop EXACTLY on Point B! Using phases of ask allows the horse to know what is coming and thus respond to a lower phase of ask (be as light as possible but as effective as necessary!) - in this case, the seat. When the horse does not respond to seat, you correct with rein. Make sure the horse does not run out to the side when you approach Point B - correct for path and allow the wall to help your horse get the idea there is no way forward, that he must halt (PS. You can use rein to correct before the horse were to actually run into the wall - I am not advocating using the wall to run the horse's head into, just using it as a visual obstacle for the horse... correct with rein). Use SHORT lines so the horse cannot gather speed between Point A and Point B. You use long lines/distances from Point A to B on a horse needing impulsion, and short lines/distances between Point A and B on the horse needing to slow down.

              She is exhausting to ride because she is constantly anticipating and wanting to trot or canter. She will ask the question "Please can I go?" every 3 steps. And you will say "No, wait" every time and yet she will ask again and again and again.
              Patience and persistence. This is where putting the mare on the aids and on a specific pattern (ie, figure-8, circles, serpentines, other complicated circular patterns, lateral work) will help - giving her a job to focus on so she's not focused on anticipating. This WILL disappear with TIME if your friend is consistent. She wants to anticipate? Work with her until she is relaxed, THEN ask for the trot or canter. This might mean walking or trotting most or all of your session that day! You HAVE to be consistent, and persistent (which is where the patience comes in to play!). Focus on RELAXATION because that is the foundation of the training scale. Start with relaxation (ie, by not asking for the trot or canter until she is IMPROVED relaxed), then finish with relaxation (ie, by asking for the downward transition when she is making a 'try' toward being relaxed). Start and finish with it and it will start to permeate the rest of the work.

              We've tried letting her blow out some steam at the canter/hand gallop. You cannot tire her out. If she gets keyed up, like at a show or something, blocking that need to go forward means she will threaten to go up.
              Sometimes I let my guy blow a little steam - at times it helps. You're not doing it to tire them out (doing so will only create a fitter horse!), you're doing it to take that edge off so they can better concentrate. However more forward also builds MORE FORWARD, so there is a fine balance. There are some days where I let my guy blow out some steam first, and there are other days where doing such will only key him up further, so instead we focus on relaxation. We walk or trot until he is relaxed (eventually he HAS to release that tension and relax), then we reward that relaxation. This is where keeping your lines/distances short (ie, maybe don't ride down the long side of the arena just yet! I didn't with my guy for the longest time) and keeping the horse on circular patterns (which increase engagement and thus effectively start to slow and relax the horse) and encouraging relaxation wherever possible (as opposed to allowing her to just move out forward) is crucial. You can't STOP her forward movement or yes she WILL go up - she HAS to, she feels desperate about that need to move her feet. Cater to her in that respect, just not so much that you create or encourage MORE forward. But you have to only ask her what she is capable of, so don't put her in a position where she feels her only option is to rear. Ask her to DO something with that energy. Don't underestimate the walk - start with it, and include it throughout the session. Just allow her to walk out on a loose rein and only correct when she makes a move outside your parameters (gait or path, your two priorities) - give her that chance to relax into a walk.

              My feeling is that she needs to go back to the beginning
              Yes... starting with teaching her to woah and thus progressing that to using half-halts. Start with exercises such as the above, that you would use even for green horses u/s. Then start teaching her to move off leg, if she doesn't already know how to. Ask her to move off (phases of) pressure on the ground. Then apply this u/s. You can start with a predictable pattern such as a cloverleaf pattern: set up 4 cones in a triangle (one cone each long side, halfway, and one cone halfway/midpoint along the short ends of the arena also) and at each cone, turn left. This effectively creates a pattern with 'four leaves'. Rest in the middle to start, then start resting the horse in the center and elsewhere, anytime she moves off the leg especially well. Then do it in the other direction. Ask for the changes in direction in phases - look, allow your shoulder and hips to follow through the anticipated turn (which effectively applies outside leg!), then apply increasing leg (correct gait - your first priority - with rein if the horse changes gait throughout this, then instantly release the rein when the horse responds, all the while still maintaining your phases of ask re: direction) and heel. Then hold the leg and heel, and if the horse still hasn't responded to seat and leg, use the rein. Have a loose rein and just pick up the rein - correct, then release ALL aids (seat, leg, hand) instantly as the horse responds (it's the release that teaches). Doing it in phases you allow the hand to correct to be effective as necessary, but you also allow the horse to be soft and light by responding to seat or leg. Doing this exercise on a predictable pattern allows the horse to anticipate the direction of travel and thus to better respond to leg. Teach, THEN start testing off the pattern. I usually set the rider up on the pattern first, then start introducing how I want them to ask the horse for the change in direction, in phases. Breaking it down makes it a little easier to digest and learn. Once the horse knows to move off leg, start introducing lateral work (more engagement = trend toward relaxation and engagement) and also introducing shape and bend along circles. Persistently ask in the proper position (ie, soft hands, pushing the horse inside leg to outside hand) and it (ie, bend along the circle) will start to occur with increasing frequency.


              The last thing to remind your friend - the training scale, which starts with relaxation (of the mind, which reflects then in the body). If what you guys were doing over the winter worked - DO IT AGAIN. More of it. Training horses means starting at the bottom and taking what the horse has or can give, and building on it. There is no magic bullet and until your friend understands this, she can't have success. I am guessing she is feeling so burned out not solely because this horse is such a challenge, but because she has neglected that winter work and is focused on showing before her horse is ready. She's neglecting the basics and foundation her horse needs and as such is not experiencing much progress with her mare - and that is the real reason she is feeling burned out. Patience!
              ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
              ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

              Comment


              • #8
                What she said!

                Originally posted by GraceLikeRain View Post
                With my mare it meant going back to walking on a soft rein, half halt with my seat, and then letting her run into the bit when she ignored my seat. I didn't do this 30x a ride but I did it 3-8 times each direction initially. I bet this mare will learn really quickly that it is easier to respond to the half halts than wait for the bit. Once you have this repeat at the trot and canter (only if the canter does not get her more jazzed up, in which case leave it alone for a while) her rider can start to get that rebalance or momentary pause off of the seat.

                Once she starts developing this then things start falling into place. Figuring this out was so critical for my mare because it allowed my reins to become a place she wanted to seek instead of something that "held" her head in a set place and I would be willing to bet that this rider will discover that same joy.

                Another thing that was instrumental to our development as a pair was doing yielding work. A couple steps on turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, leg yield, shoulder fore, etc are great for reinforcing the idea of accepting the leg without jetting forward. Focusing on quality of quantity helps prevent the mental frying that can occur when a smart horse gets stuck doing the same exercise over and over. Often times riders use too little leg on a hot horse in an attempt to be "soft' or "quiet" but it has the opposite effect. Going from 0 pressure to 4 is much more disconcerting than going from a 2 to a 4.

                Remind your friend that there is no single exercise, tool, etc that will fix this over night but it is very very possible to overcome this issue.

                After. Rebalancing off my seat and creating an inviting environment for her to seek contact:
                Bolded the focal points!

                It's about creating that inviting environment and setting the horse up via persistence, patience, and consistency in your patterns/exercises and riding in general. You set the horse up correctly and he falls into place harmoniously.
                ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Some well thought out answers, and green on green takes longer, the owner must be made to understand this. Reschooling barrel horses takes time and patience and timing in the part of the rider.

                  If the horse doesn't understand how to whoa, or is not to the point/balance that she understand a hh yet, that is the job of the rider to change, to become a trainer, and for the teacher to explain.

                  Rather than waiting for the horse to ask 'can I go?" the rider must be asking slower/bending/etc BEFORE hand, then the horse learns to wait/listen. Change WILL come if the guidance is clear.

                  Ground work should be used every day, walking at the speed of the handler, work in hand, then ridden. And the student CAN learn HOW to REtrain a horse....IF she is interested. IF she only wants to show, then likely she has little interest in learning from the horse.

                  Certainly magnesium/calcium can help as well.
                  I.D.E.A. yoda

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I just want to say good luck, one of the horses I own
                    Is an energizer bunny she's a welsh-arab. She is full of spunk and go I learned to channel her energy into positive work better collection, better throughness,better everything. I can't take her hot blooded nature from her I can just work with it. I love her anyway.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      That was a super post by Natural Equus--I've got a green morgan, so I'm working on the same things NE suggested.

                      1. MY path of travel is critical to correct work. And it's HARD WORK to RUSH a volte/ 10 m circle(when I keep her in correct balance/bend). They should naturally slow her (but only if she's correctly staying on your path of travel). When she stops rushing, spiral out so she's rewarded with a straighter line.
                      2. Relaxation is a must (esp at beginning and end of a ride). To focus her in the beginning, I work on all lateral work AT THE WALK. Tunes her in and teaches her she can learn without RUNNING.
                      3. Teach the 1/2 halt...if she blows it off, downward transition. And again... Keep transitions repetitive (in the same location) in the beginning like NE says...like, 4 corners on a 20 m circle. When she starts anticipating the slow down, you can change the downward transition to a half halt by ensuring a reaction (slow down) and then allowing her with your seat to continue on without changing her gait. Don't allow her to blow through corners or turns/your half halts (half halt before every corner)...when she does, downward transition!

                      Blowing off steam (galloping or longeing) didn't work with my girl--just amps her up. We do, however, "cross train" by hacking out (alone and in groups), school dressage out of the ring, and jump.

                      4. On days she comes out and is focused and not rushy, I keep it REALLY SHORT--reward good behavior by getting off!! It's the biggest reward.

                      GOOD LUCK! There are lots of us out there. Here's her photo from the Mid-A show a few weeks ago. http://theheartofahorseblog.blogspot.com/
                      Last edited by HollysHobbies; Jul. 8, 2011, 08:49 PM.

                      Comment

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