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Spooky Dressage Horse- what to do

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  • Spooky Dressage Horse- what to do

    I have an OTTB who I usually show in hunter, but we've been showing Training 1 and 2 this year. We've had some decent scores (63%, 65%), but he is very looky. When I get to the show in the morning I walk him around and show him the judges stand. However, I usually just warm up at the top of the ring before my test, and then go in instead of going around. He's the type of horse that the more you show him something, the more he is spooky about it. In the test he is usually fairly good, but it is hard to get him into the corner by the judges stand, and occasionally I'll get some bucking/playing in my transitions. Any suggestions? I have one more dressage show in october (training 1 and 2) that I'd like to do.
  • Original Poster

    #2
    He does get repriminded when he does the wrong thing. At the show when he was playing around I lifted up his head and pushed him on. My problem is that no matter how I conteract he is still very looky. I do a lot of changing bend ( regular bend, a bit of a overbend, and counterbend). I am always in my warm up keeping his attention, helping him to be supple and relax. My problem is that many times in the test despite all these efforts, he still plays around. He is low-man with his friends, and is generally nervous. I do a great deal of ground work with him, and I am always introducing new things into our schooling to help make him more brave. we have a great relationship, and he is a very hard worker. However, when something catches his attention, he shuts down a bit and blocks me out.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have one of these. Reprimanding isn't effective. For mine it's an evasion, a way of getting out of the work. Even though the spook actually takes more effort, for her a reprimand is a win because she gets out of the TYPE of work she wants to evade. The best thing with my mare is to make her work harder specifically more leg, more forward, and for her more into the bridle.

      Comment


      • #4
        As you start showing up the levels the work gets harder, changes of bend and movements come more often and that takes care of the LOOKY horse. So keep doing what you're doing and work on improving at home faster so you can move up the levels faster.

        There is one tool you could try - when he wants to look at flowers in front of judges box Rider looks away but keeps him as near as possible to the scarey object using the outside leg and moving forward. The weight of your head turned away from the horse eating flower box shows him you're unconcerned while the outside leg minimizes the evasion, as does the forward.
        Now in Kentucky

        Comment


        • #5
          What Ember and Valentina said.

          The more the horse is really over its back and on the aids, the less of problem this will be. Don't reprimand the horse, just keep those forward aids and half halts coming through and continue working.
          See those flying monkeys? They work for me.

          Comment


          • #6
            Shoulder in is your friend.

            Sounds trite but it is true. If you can bend the horse, he can't spook ...or at least it is very difficult for him to spook if he can't drop the shoulder to the inside.

            if you aren't schooling shoulder in yet, you can use shoulder fore.

            Shoulder fore is great because you can ride your whole test in shoulder fore and it will be fine. Your corners will be better,too.

            If your horse is bent around the inside leg, even if a bit exaggerated, he won't be able to get looky. Forget about showing him the scary stuff and get him bending around your inside leg and solid on your outside aids.

            Comment


            • #7
              Lots of good suggestions for dealing with the spook. What about getting the horse out on some trails and seeing lots of different things? I have had spooky horses and I make sure I get them in the trailer and haul them somewhere different every weekend (friends farms, trails, fairgrounds, etc.) so that when they get out of the trailer at the horse show they are actually glad it is just a dressage show and not somewhere that they will have to cross rushing streams, jump little logs in the woods or walk past llamas! When my horses step out of the trailer at a show I can see them quickly scan the area and then take a deep breath as if they are saying "thank god it's only a show!"
              ******
              "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."
              -H.M.E.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                Shoulder in is your friend.

                Sounds trite but it is true. If you can bend the horse, he can't spook ...or at least it is very difficult for him to spook if he can't drop the shoulder to the inside.

                if you aren't schooling shoulder in yet, you can use shoulder fore.

                Shoulder fore is great because you can ride your whole test in shoulder fore and it will be fine. Your corners will be better,too.

                If your horse is bent around the inside leg, even if a bit exaggerated, he won't be able to get looky. Forget about showing him the scary stuff and get him bending around your inside leg and solid on your outside aids.
                This has been quite useful for my "looky" mare. When I can get shoulder-fore, she listens much better.

                That said, I have personal reasons for *hating* the "oh that horse has your number and you need to reprimand him" routine. It led to some serious setbacks with my mare last year. But of course I am just a hobbyist so it probably doesn't mean much to the "experts."
                You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Horseymama View Post
                  Lots of good suggestions for dealing with the spook. What about getting the horse out on some trails and seeing lots of different things? I have had spooky horses and I make sure I get them in the trailer and haul them somewhere different every weekend (friends farms, trails, fairgrounds, etc.) so that when they get out of the trailer at the horse show they are actually glad it is just a dressage show and not somewhere that they will have to cross rushing streams, jump little logs in the woods or walk past llamas! When my horses step out of the trailer at a show I can see them quickly scan the area and then take a deep breath as if they are saying "thank god it's only a show!"
                  Agreed. I am easing up on dressage training and moving my mare for the winter to a place where trails, woods, fields etc. are all right there, as well as access to jumps, to help deal with spooks and lookiness. The risk of course is that I'll decide I just like all that better than dressage but it is a risk that is as much opportunity as risk.
                  You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                  1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    This has been quite useful for my "looky" mare. When I can get shoulder-fore, she listens much better.

                    That said, I have personal reasons for *hating* the "oh that horse has your number and you need to reprimand him" routine
                    Sounds like you were linking those two ideas so wanted to clarify that I wasn't suggesting the reprimand approach at all. I think getting the horse working on the aids and focussed on the rider is more effective. Forward and bending.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      There was an article a while ago by C. Haddad about riding the spooky, fearful horse. She's taken a few of these into the FEI levels. The biggest thing seems to be, gain the confidence of your horse - sounds esoteric, but that was what it really boiled down to. Get them out and about as much as possible, ride through the spooks, keep their minds busy and focused on you, and realize the first few years won't be as fun.

                      Having said all that - also check the horse for physical issues - I had a lovely little horse, VERY talented, but also spooky - turns out he had cataracts developing in one eye, and he saw everything out of that eye in sparkles and flashes - he is a young, retired horse now
                      www.MysticOakRanch.com Friesian/Warmblood Crosses, the Ultimate Sporthorse
                      Director, WTF Registry

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                        Shoulder in is your friend.

                        Sounds trite but it is true. If you can bend the horse, he can't spook ...or at least it is very difficult for him to spook if he can't drop the shoulder to the inside.

                        if you aren't schooling shoulder in yet, you can use shoulder fore.

                        Shoulder fore is great because you can ride your whole test in shoulder fore and it will be fine. Your corners will be better,too.

                        If your horse is bent around the inside leg, even if a bit exaggerated, he won't be able to get looky. Forget about showing him the scary stuff and get him bending around your inside leg and solid on your outside aids.
                        This has been immensly helpful to me and the Furrari! ..and our scores are improving
                        Fair and kind, but with authority... - Jennie Loriston-Clarke

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions. I am getting him out on the trails more, and trying to take him to clinic at various places so he gets used to a variety of different places and events going on. I'm working with a dressage trainer, and we use shoulder fore often with him. I truly love this horse and love riding him. We have had success in the hunters and jumpers, but I love doing dressage to make him more supple and a better ride. I'm going to print this thread and save it so I can look back whenever I get a bit frusterated. Thanks again everyone!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I have a horse that was just like this. Scoped him for ulcers and found he had mild ones. Did a 7 day test of Ulcergard/Gastrogard to see if he responded - yes he did! Did the month of full treatment and he's been a happy camper ever since!

                            So ulcers were my first thought on your horse. Why not try the 7 day test of a full tube of Ulcergard to eliminate that possibility?

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Thanks for that suggestion. It was on my list of things to talk to my vet when she comes out this week. I'll see what she thinks.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                                Sounds like you were linking those two ideas so wanted to clarify that I wasn't suggesting the reprimand approach at all. I think getting the horse working on the aids and focussed on the rider is more effective. Forward and bending.
                                You are right. "Got your number" has specific connotations to me, of "friends" who are too much in the "you must be the BOSS" category. (e.g. whipping a horse for spooking is just DUMB but I had to learn more and stand up for my horse before I could do otherwise. I am not talking about a tap with the whip to get a "stuck" looky horse to go forward, but a "whip the horse every time you approach spooky place because horse has "got your number".)
                                You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Ditto the shoulder-in suggestions. Great exercise, easy to do, and darn effective.

                                  And in the occasions when the spook happens unexpected, say, he shys from someting on the right, and jump to left unexpectedly before you get to your shoulder-in, well, here is what I do. I pretend that was exactly what I want him to do, and use the extra energy he freely provides for something really cool. For example, I may ask him to do some collected canter the moment he jumps, or ask him to go into 10m canter circle, or whatever challenging for my horse. You will be very surprised how cool and capable your horse really is. And then praise the hell out of him for doing all the impressive work. I don't know why it works but it does. They quit the spook and we get to practice something we normally can't. Everybody win

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    A response that doesn't correct the horse for going into your aids (on the 'to' side) and ignoring them, will never resolve the problem. By 'resolve', I mean the problem will continue. The goal is to have the problem stop. The way to do that is forward, supple, and CALMLY re-apply the aids whjen the horse goes through your aids - the solution is to take the emotion and 'the horse is spooking, the horse is afraid' and FORGET that, and just ride the horse, putting it in your brain that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of, and it is just riding, and that's all it is. When YOU believe there is nothing in the environment and it is all just about riding and responding to your aids, you will succeed. The more you focus on 'spooky' and 'afraid' the LESS you will succeed.

                                    The most important thing is to NEVER look at what the horse is spooking at. As far as you're concerned, it doesn't exist. As a herd leader, it's your RESPONSIBILITY to act like it doesn't exist. When you act like it DOES exist, you have just lost your position as herd leader.

                                    The other is when the horse feels tight and spooky, go more forward. Be cheerful, not punitive, and act like, 'oh let's do this' and give the horse something to think about. Keep in mind that a horse needs to slow down to spook. If you develop your feel you will feel a horse slows down before he spooks, even if just a tiny bit. Send him forward, not with a tight, stiff neck, bend, loosen him, go forward.

                                    I had one very, very chronically tight, spooky horse to ride that freaked out at everything. What was really fun was to right when the object of the behavior was coming up, to just give the reins a tiny, tiny bit, not surrender contact but just a tiny softening, and go FASTER. From my experience, the horses seem to regard that as you trying to HELP them. 'Oh, this guy knows what to do, let's keep moving, good thing!'

                                    Keep in mind that some horses spook simply because they are fresh. It's kind of a playful joke to them and they aren't really being bad. The thing is to ride them more often and get them more exercise - a run in a big pasture or paddock, or if they can be safe, a little frisking on the longe line.

                                    At one barn there was one horse that was a little too frisky as a school horse, and was trained to go out and buck on the longe line. Yup. It was a regular routine. Pull the stirrups down, put her on the longe line, and say, 'come on', she'd require about 2 minutes in each direction, do her little bucking, out on a nice safe big circle, and she was as good as gold for the little kiddies to get on her.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by rodawn
                                      This horse has your number. You need to learn how to ride through a spook quietly, but very firmly, and with authority, but not making it a big deal at the same time. Simply put, you must insist that he does what you want, when you want, and how you want it done. Period.

                                      Those horses where "the more you show them, the more spooky they get" are horses who are willing to turn a mole hill into a mountain and play right into the rider's little feelings of embarassment, or insecurities. At these shows where you ride by these little things he wants to pay attention to them instead of paying attention to YOU, and then bucks when you might attempt to get after him, he's telling you to "piss off". For that, he deserves to be smartly disciplined. He's calling your bluff, so you had better decide whether you are really bluffing or not and follow through. Do you allow him to buck at home? Then WHY wouldn't he get smartly disciplined for bucking at a show? Your first few shows in dressage, you should be in training mode, even while at a show. Just like you're in the training ring, but instead it's at the show in front of the judge. If he gets so naughty you get elminated, ask the judge to let you continue on so that he doesn't think he can get away with being an idiot. The things you wouldn't allow to happen at home, should NEVER be allowed to happen at the show. If you need to get after him for bucking in the middle of the show ring, then get after him. Tantrums are not acceptable in dressage and he needs to learn that sooner rather than later.

                                      Get the upper hand and get his respect, both on the ground and insist on the same respect under saddle. He doesn't respect you enough to pay attention to you, so demand a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

                                      When he wants to make like he's going to spook at something, you make him pay attention TO YOU AND YOU ONLY and you RIDE him through it. PERIOD. Simply put, your attitude is: He WILL ride into those corners when you want, he will turn when you want, he will go straight when you want, he will make transitions when you want and he will do exactly what you want, when you want it. This is utter nonsense, this silliness he plays around with you here, and he's willing to see how far you'd take it. Well, take it to the moon if you have to, but make sure you win this every time.

                                      Your horse gets 23 hours a day to do whatever he wants. He can jolly well suck it up and do what you want for 1 hour out of that day.
                                      I soooo needed to hear this...well put and thank you.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by egontoast View Post
                                        Shoulder in is your friend.

                                        Sounds trite but it is true. If you can bend the horse, he can't spook ...or at least it is very difficult for him to spook if he can't drop the shoulder to the inside.

                                        if you aren't schooling shoulder in yet, you can use shoulder fore.

                                        Shoulder fore is great because you can ride your whole test in shoulder fore and it will be fine. Your corners will be better,too.

                                        If your horse is bent around the inside leg, even if a bit exaggerated, he won't be able to get looky. Forget about showing him the scary stuff and get him bending around your inside leg and solid on your outside aids.
                                        I needed this one, too. Thanks

                                        Comment

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