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Horse a little nervous in blinkers

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  • Horse a little nervous in blinkers

    I've been working with a fantastic 15.3hh coming 4yo horse. It's been about two months and so far I've taken him from halterbroke to nearly ready for a cart.

    So far he pulls a tire over every different surface you can think of and doesn't flench at a thing. He's very relaxed, licking chewing and bobbing his head. He's also learning to stand for for longer and longer periods.

    For a while we were ground driving up and down the road and through the woods and everything with his driving bridle on and everything was fine until I added training shafts. I started with only one of them and he was fine but was walking a little as though he were doing a leg yield, moving away from the pressure. This stopped and after a while I changed it to the other side and the same thing. He never quite licked them but tolerated them.

    At one point he did knick a fence and spook himself, ran a short distance and stopped. He was hesitant for a little bit. It took about two or three days to get him back to his confident self. I did put him in an open bridle for this though and have worked him since with it. I thought being able to see the poles would help him out. Now he is completely okay with the poles bouncing on his sides and will turn quite sharp and get poked.

    Today we started with pulling a tire and everything was perfect. We went about 2km. Then we put the poles back on and did the same walk and, again, everything was great. Both of these were in his open bridle. He was going so well that I thought today would have been his first time in the cart. I would never drive in an open bridle, so knowing better I put his driving bridle on and then he changed.

    There's a visible difference in him with the blinkers and without. He goes from overly calm does anything, accepts anything, goes anywhere and seems very happy - to - carrying his head a little higher, a little hotter and tries to trot without being asked. He kept trying to trot and I calmly just asked him to walk. He repeated this a few times. He doesn't spin to see me with them on like some horses. I've even changed the bit to make sure it's the same on both bridles. I've using a very thick eggbutt snaffle. He seems to hate the bit that came with the harness. It had been a halfcheek straight bit of some sort.

    I've looked for posts about this and haven't found anything quite like what I'm looking for help with. It's not the shafts themselves, I don't think, as they don't bother him when he can see them.

    From working with many trainers in the past, they've used shadow noseband things around the cheekpieces or the standardbred stretch head slinky things with the half cups on them and slowly built up and block out their vision. Others just keep working them in the driving bridle and hope for the best.

    Now that I am at home and thinking about it, they seem to be quite close to his eyes, I shall see if I can bend them out more. Also his feeler lashes are quite long. I've always removed them off of our horses as they were showing and were always trimmed. Should I cut them?

    I know that I can do this. I've gotten this far completely by myself and he IS doing very well. I just need a little guidance here.

  • #2
    Some just don't like blind bridles. Try cheek rolls or Kant-See-Backs, don't mess with a hood. I don't see a need for a shadow roll though. FWIW, we start race colts in a blind bridle and go from there: pull stuff off, or add on as needed. Some we almost cover completely with a Peek-A-Boo, and some get stripped down to open bridle and some even need one eye completely covered with a Murphy blind.
    Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

    Member: Incredible Invisbles


    • Original Poster

      can't-see-baks, that's what i meant. i couldn't remember the name. Strange considering it's so easy.


      • #4
        If he goes well in an open bridle go ahead and drive in it. Blinkers are NOT required for competition and for a sensible horse they are not necessary. Personally, I feel safer driving a horse that will go in an open bridle, I don't like to worry about what will happen if they suddenly see the carriage behind them in a stressfull situation having always worn the blinkers before.

        I had a OTTB mare that I wish I had shown (yes, driving) in an open bridle. She accepted the blinkers, be she was much more relaxed when she could see what was going on around her.

        The only time I can really see a need for blinkers is if you have a horse that will react to whip movement or when driving a mulitple hitch where you may not want 1 horse seeing you use the whip on another horse in the hitch.



        • #5
          I would keep mixing the bridles up in his works, with maybe 1/3 time open, 2/3 time in blinkers. I would trim his feelers to be even with his lashes length. He still has them, but not touching the blinkers themselves.

          For us, we think horse needs to get used to the blinkers to prevent problems later on. Horse is VERY visual in his reading surroundings, which is what a prey and herd animal must do to survive. Horse reads your body language, wants to HELP you, avoid waiting for signals or commands, anticipates. This is what WE want to avoid happening with OUR DRIVING horses. Horse being so HELPFUL can cause a wreck!!

          So all of ours MUST learn to adapt to the blinkers, modify their behaviour to WAIT for signals because they can't SEE us to read us before being asked to do things.

          If he is more reactive with blinkers on, then ours would get more work with the fake shaft rubbing his sides, tire dragging, whatever is asked that he ALREADY knows about, wearing the blinkers. Horse needs to be less "touchy or up" with blinkers on.

          Has he dragged both shafts at once yet? I would show him new things in the open bridle, then as he is calm, move on to the blinker bridle with the exercise. Blinders never meant that horse can NOT HEAR things going on around him. Blinkers are for preventing horse reading (probably wrongly) your body language, reacting to something ELSE going on in his viewing area, horses playing in the field or road things. He has already SEEN the stuff around and behind him during open work, not scary.

          Every horse is different. 60 days training is JUST a number!! Some folks might get a horse worked 5 days a week, others only 2-3 times a week, during those 60 days. With some animals they seem born "broke", and you can hitch and go in that time. Others need to more FULLY UNDERSTAND each part of what they are learning, so that 60 days is just getting them well started, NOT READY for hitching yet!! Doesn't mean horse or you are slow, or "not getting it" everyone learns differently. Going slower with the animal may mean he just needs to work thru to a better understanding of his basics, will be VERY reliable when finished.

          We don't even call our horses "green" until after 100 hitchings. We want them rock solid, totally trusting us and understanding their work as we start them out. Once we hit the green stage, then we can start tuning and polishing how they go.

          I would agree that fit of blinkers might be an issue. One of ours wants a BIG view, so his blinker strap is in the last hole between his ears for full width open. Blinker stays were stiffened to keep them wide open all the time. Another kept getting surprised when things "appeared" in his view, would jump sideways a bit, kept startling, so we went to another shape blinker that gives him less coverage. They still prevent him reading the Driver, but he gets more seeing done with any head movement. He seems happy with them, startle reflex is about gone as he gets more experience down the road. We had tried the wide open model with him, but it still covered too much area to suit him. Both are quite level-headed horses, but we tweaked what they wore for driving, both are happier working now.

          I know folks talk about driving their horses in open bridles, but the open bridle experiences I have had, heard from other folks, always ended up badly. These were experienced driving horses and Drivers, who ended up wrecked. They wanted to be "nice" to the horse with blinkers off, and he WAS BROKE, wasn't normally excitable, driven. One day Horse saw something and over-reacted, to wreck. Those horses didn't drive again WELL, undependable even with blinkers. Wrecks took away the Driver's confidence, they didn't really go driving much again either.

          We have some firm open bridle people, with their own experiences on COTH. Glad it worked for them and that ONE horse. My experiences with casual driving, using your horse and carriage in many settings, would never allow me to do driving with an open bridle and not expect a bad ending to the day. This is any breed, horse or pony, even quite experienced at driving. I did that once, was a nasty wreck! Those folks got away with going open for a little while, on a number of drives, before things got away from them. So I never recommend that a person plan to finish their Driving horse in an open bridle.

          Things are not "What they used to be" in places you go driving, except the ring. Horse wears blinkers to help him focus ahead, pay attention to directions and signals from Driver, not to view the area around him. In the end, the blinker wearing, GOOD Driving Horse MUST trust their Driver to ALWAYS take good care of him. This is part of being a good driving animal!! One of the reasons that Driving horses are not as numerous as ridden horses. Many can be tried for driving, but don't make the cut, for various reasons. Horse will build trust during his driving training, you never hurt him. If he doesn't trust you, BELIEVE ME when I say you DO NOT want to be driving him around. He needs to be a riding horse instead.
          Last edited by goodhors; Apr. 15, 2012, 01:18 PM.


          • #6
            I don't think he is ready for the cart. I would be longlining in a blind bridle and get someone to make unusual noises behind him in an arena so he can get used to that. Leaves crinkling, rocks getting tossed. someone mowing, Banging on a tree, whipping the ground, a horse passing him, a bicycle and what ever else comes to mind. and I would be practicing half halts to work on keeping his head down and talking to him to reassure him that everything is ok.


            • #7
              I had to back track in my training with my coming 4yr old pony. She goes nicely in a closed bridle, and did fine with dragging things and working with PVC poles and letting them drop out of the tugs, stop, let me fix them, etc... My husband was helping me one day, mare has never trusted him for whatever reason, we were standing by the trailer getting ready to take her harness off, he was standing by her hip out of her view, a strap touched her left hind, and she bolted off. Took 3 laps of the property before she came back to me to help her. We went right back to work to get her stupids out and not be jumpy about the harness before i quit again. Note-she's never been silly about straps touching her or anything else, but now she swears my husband must have bit her leg and wants nothing to do with him... Sigh...

              My next day with her, she was going fine and we decided to do a mock hitch with her, just pull the cart up, she was a BASKET CASE with the shafts bumping her. All i can figure is it made her think of the prior incident.

              I went back to an open bridle and working with broomsticks rigged to stay level like shafts and working her in those. It's been a couple weeks of this now, she's going quietly in an open bridle. A closed bridle brings on some jumpiness. So i'm just alternating every other day and following the same routine. I know eventually she'll realize it's exactly the same in the driving bridle... I just dont know how long that's going to take. So we'll keep plugging along. She is noticeably more tense in the driving bridle after her incident, so everything i've done in that is just going back to the easy basics of when we started.

              While she didnt wreck, and nothing seriously traumatic happened to her, she sure thinks something did. Perhaps your horse just decided to have a baby horse moment and it's sticking too. Cant See Backs might be the answer, but i would just keep alternating bridles until it's so boring your horse can do the routine in his sleep. Then you are ready for the cart in a driving bridle.

              I'm not a fan of driving in an open bridle, or even doing a mock hitch in one. I want the horse focused on me and my commands, not anything else. It's just too dangerous for them to take their focus elsewhere, especially on the green horse.
              Your Horse's Home On The Road!


              • Original Poster


                Thanks for all the input everyone. I have worked this horse a few more times and had a friend there with me, who's a HJ coach, and together we noticed a something interesting.

                Here's how the last session went.

                I fetched him from the paddock and put his bridle on straight away so he couldn't even see us putting his harness on. I then took a plastic milk jug with some stones it in and shook it and made tonnes of noise behind him and he was mostly fine with this and didn't fuss at all. We then took a pool noodle and banged it all round him. He over exadurated a bit at first and then realized it wasn't hurting at all and stopped reacting quite a bit. I then ground drove him to the arena, about a kilometer away. My assistant continued to surprise him the whole way with the noodle and a leadrope that she would lay over his back and pull off. She ran around him in circles, jumped, skipped over the lead rope, and continued thumping him the whole way with the pool noodle. By the time we got there he was pretty used to it. We usually do things like this with him, but never for this whole length of time. He handled it well.

                Once we got to the area we work him, I put one pole on him and worked him with it, and he was fine. It was the left pole. I don't have them draggin on the ground though. I have them long though to go from his shoulder to about a or two behind him but not angled to the ground. I've seen horses balk, go backwards and get them stuck in the ground and snap them before so I am leary about that method. We did many circles in both directions with various diameters. Even benind into the pole he was fine and went nicely, still a little antsy, but much less than before.

                We then switched the pole to the other side and noticed a difference. We started by going in a long straight line and then bending AWAY from the single shaft, which I thought would be the easy side. Strangely, he wouldn't bend AWAY from the shaft, he just dropped his shoulder. What's strange is this is the way that he was bending perfectly into just moments ago. He bends into the shaft fine on this side though. My helper helped my by pushing on his shoulder and phsyically turning his head to show him there wasn't anything there to hurt him. It helped a little, but there seems to be a mental block somewhere.

                We worked him thoroughly in both directions and had bother shafts on by the end. He's definatily coming along, but does anyone have anything they can add to help me out? Why would he not want to bend AWAY from a single shaft?


                • #9
                  What I have noticed with young animals not trained, is that they always seem to MOVE INTO any kind of pressure, until taught differently. Always a very odd thing to me, but it happens with all kinds of training the young or unhandled horse.

                  Big example is just having horse on the halter and lead, trying to push him sideways the first time. He is much more likely to just push BACK INTO you and your hand that is pressing on him, than move away! Same with trying to bend a just-started horse with your leg, under saddle. You give leg pressure, and most animals will just push back into your leg.

                  I see this all the time with our tie stalls, young horse having to LEARN to move away from person coming in beside them. Most young horses seem to want to squash you at least once, when you push them to move over away from you.

                  I have come to believe that "giving way" when pressed physically, in the horse herd, will make the animal loose status. Pushing back on the pusher is part of herd life, may allow an animal to raise their status. This is if they can also take any punishment from the original pusher, like evil face intimidation or actual bites to enforce that "move over" shove.

                  With a driving horse, he will have to both bend around and push into hard shafts for turning vehicles.

                  This moving INTO pressure for driving work, is often a hard lesson for horse to learn. This is because all his other training before now says MOVE BACK when touched, he gets punished if he presses into a pressure on his body from a person.

                  Your horse in training sounds a bit one-sided, just needs more work on his poor side to get him more skilled at what you want. I would suggest you have your helper with a lead on horse, when you reach the shaft dragging stage. Lead will prevent horse being able to back up and get shafts stuck. You are correct about NEVER backing or allowing horse to backup with dragging poles or shafts. I do think horse NEEDS to do some pole/shaft dragging, because it won't feel like any of his other work. That different feel is quite helpful to him with shaft leaning into him, pushing him and him resisting the push on the long lines. He might get some leg brushing with the pole, accept it and not kick. Pole/shaft is not going to feel like a trace or ropes do on his legs.

                  You CAN make the string holding pole/shaft VERY BREAKABLE, so almost any resistance or pulling on the string will break it. While replacing the poles on horse is tiresome with constantly breaking strings, you do get some BONUS training from the process! Horse is stopped while you get pole and put it back on. He practices standing and WHOA a LOT! Noise of pole hitting ground beside him and release of pole from saddle (changes of feel and pull), quickly gets to be ho-hum and certainly not scary!

                  Think about the many benefits of the pole/shaft dragging, and figure ways to CONTROL the situation so he CAN NOT backup with the dragging pieces to get into trouble. We only ever practiced our driving horses at backing when they were not attached to ANYTHING out on the long lines. They were not that wild about backing without being asked anyway. They all DO BACK WELL when asked, but as DRIVING horses, they have to WAIT to be asked before doing things. We want that lesson firm before going on to the tire dragging, shaft dragging, so they DON'T try to HELP with anticipation and get hurt. Backing here, has it's own vocal command, completely unlike other vocal commands. No WAY they can get it confused with other commands! I want them backing on the vocal, so they can't get a rein signal confused for backing accidently. AND handler has a WHIP for the disobedient horse trying to avoid FORWARD and work, with suddenly backing up. USE THE WHIP (always in your hand!!) if he is not obediently FORWARD as asked, to prevent an accident at this stage.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by goodhors View Post
                    AND handler has a WHIP for the disobedient horse trying to avoid FORWARD and work, with suddenly backing up. USE THE WHIP (always in your hand!!) if he is not obediently FORWARD as asked, to prevent an accident at this stage.
                    I could not agree MORE!!! This is so true! I have seen too many people get stuck because they are not ready for a horse who suddenly backs up or aviods going forward, becasue they either don't have the whip ready or refuse to use it!

                    The best way out of trouble with a driving horse is forward and straight!


                    • Original Poster

                      Today's session reminded me of ButlerFamilyZoo's post about a strap hitting their pony and spooking it. Not a human fault, but still a setback.

                      This poor horse... In some ways we seem so close to driving in the cart and then in other's we've still only just began. Two steps forward....and...you know the rest.

                      Today we had beautiful weather here so I headed to the farm to work this guy again. I started tapping him with the pool noodle until he stopped flinching again, stopping for a few nippits of grain as we went. Then off on our 1km ground drive up the driveway. I dragged the 2" dowels that I've been using for shafts up the driveway and after the first 2 minutes, he was totally okay with this sound. I then put the left shaft on (this is his good side) and we walked all around the area and then to the main house and back (about 10 minutes there and back). He was perfect. Then I switched to the other side and did the same routine. Again, he handled it just fine. With both poles on we got halfway to the house before taking one half sideways step, a snort and he stopped. I just asking him to walk and we were off again. We went up and back to the house three times and everything was perfect. We did many stops and turns on the way. I was really impressed with his voice-only whoa-ing. His head was nice and low, bobbing as we went and he was licking and chewing. A great improvement from when I first listed this.. until...

                      I thought since we had done a little walking he wasn't really all that tired so we would go back up to the house one last time without the poles and this time pulling a tire (he's old hand at this). I had the poles off of him and he was just wearing his harness, collar and bridle. I brought him to the tire and as I bent over to fix the chains on the single, he took a step sideways and bumped into... something (I don't know what) and he lost his marbles. Even the traces touching him became an issue and he (as listed in my OP) just wanted to trot around with his head in the air at a quite forward pace. His heart was beating quite fast. I just kept ground driving him for as long as it took for him to calm down but he was still quite uppity when we ended.

                      I feel guilty for this happening, but I also know it was nothing that I had done. I know that he likes and trusts me and I think he likes the work as well. He still comes running to me in his paddock to get him and seems really happy while we're working. I'm hoping we are not too set back by this event. It only took 2-3 sessions to get over his hiccup from knicking his shaft of the fence and thinking he was getting attacked. Today was his first 'great' day since then. Just as we got over that... something else happens....