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Getting her off of the crutch that is my reins

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  • Getting her off of the crutch that is my reins

    So I have a 16 year old STB mare, she has had a really rough go of things in life and as a result she is a super anxious and turbo charged horse. Under saddle she has become a beautiful ride, a complete kitten, and her anxiety is directly related to how much direction you give her, specifically in the reins. I am thrilled that she reaches for and craves contact in the bit when there was a time that riding her was literally an arm wrestling match, but she is using it as a crutch and without constant contact and direction from my seat and legs, she comes a little unglued. Not all the time however, western riding has done wonders for teaching her to govern herself and take responsibility for herself when we ride, and she will loose rein and self govern beautifully in our home arena and in places she is familiar with, but when outside stressors come in or we trailer out she requires a lot of her rider to stay relatively calm and focused. She is a very willing companion, and she is insanely smart. So this is what I'm up against. She is a giant, intelligent, insecure, sensitive, turbo charged, willing super mare.

    So my question is, how do I get her to have the same confidence on the ground and on a loose rein that she has in my hands? I don't mind the way she rides but I am planning to hit some local fairs next summer and a few of our fun shows might require her to stand by herself and that's just not a thing she does in stressful situations right now. She even has the same sort of confidence with a lead rope as her direction, but take the lead rope away and trade it for a bridle and she is like a giant puppy that either wants to run off or be on top of you/hide behind you the whole way. Its like she to has to be attached to my hands in some form or another when shes anxious and my hands are her leader. I know she is capable of doing these things, she is a free lunging rock star, I have a great relationship with her, and her manners are 100% sharp at liberty in our home arena, outdoor and indoor. I work with her a lot outside in different areas of the property on the same things, and so far she is comfortable and receives all of my training wonderfully in the indoor, outdoor, and on the trails behind the barn. Anywhere else is an exceptionally well mannered bull in a china shop sort of situation.

    I will also be trailering to work with an English trainer in the spring, which I am supper thrilled about, but I am also a little worried that because we will be riding english my trainer may not see or work in the areas outside of contact in the bridle that my sweet mare has trouble with.

    Right now I handle this problem the same as when I initially taught her to ride independently. I get on her, give her no aids, and correct her as gently as I ca
    I am open to any and all advice, I encourage any criticism I may be subject to, and I will talk your ear off all day about my mare and I with any extra info that may help better define my situation. I am pretty educated and self sufficient in training with my mare, and I do keep sharp with lessons when I travel every few weeks, and I try to get out and ride damn near every day if I can. (If I didn't my horse would hold a grudge and tell me about it. Lol)

    Thank you in advance,
    Liena.
    Read at least some of the posts... The only one I care to repeat myself to is the 1200 lb one.
  • Original Poster

    #2
    Welp it chopped some of that off. Oh well.
    Read at least some of the posts... The only one I care to repeat myself to is the 1200 lb one.

    Comment


    • #3
      It sounds like you're doing a great job with your sensitive mare. There's no magic road forward. Continue to be patient and deliberate, taking those small steps that have encouraged her to trust you so far. Instead of planning to show, plan to spend a season (or however much of it is necessary) exposing her to new places and situations in simple ways - just hanging out and hand grazing or watching, riding in the schooling ring when it's not a madhouse, etc. There will be pressure enough in learning to stay focused without adding the strain of competition. And realize she may always need more support away than she does at home. Be proud that she looks to you for that.
      Patience pays.

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree that you should work on these more basic things while at a show or similar environment before you add actual competition to the mix. Get these things rock solid at home (it sounds like you are happy with how things go in familiar places) and then think baby steps when you go somewhere different. Start out doing something on the ground with the lead rope on, that she is familiar with. This should help ease her anxiety. When that's going well-and it may be the same day or twenty or more times later-go to the next baby step. Do some work she knows well, with the bridle on. I am thinking basic groundwork things, to get her thinking instead of focusing on everything that is causing her uncertainty. She needs to learn that she will be okay if she's not on top of you.

        You can do the same under saddle. Don't have any expectations. One of Warwick Sciller's sayings is "work with the horse you have that day". If she's anxious, give her more support, go back to basic things she's comfortable doing (that should help her get her brain back), think smaller and easier. On days she's doing better you can work on the next step, give her a bit more rein, work on something that might cause more uncertainty. End in a good place, even if it means backing up to a basic thing.

        What do you mean by "she's going to have to stand by herself"? Tied to a trailer, stalled? You could teach her to ground tie. The point of this would be to teach her to relax/gain confidence as you give her increasing space. Do it at home, then away. You can do the same thing with her tied. Get her comfortable with you being five feet away, then ten, etc. If she's fine at home you'll have to work on it in other places.

        Have a discussion with the trainer. They may or may not be willing/able to help you on that specific issue. But I think just going somewhere unfamiliar will be a good experience. I think your mare just needs time.

        I recommend watching some Buck Brannaman and Warwick Schiller videos. They also have FB pages and discussion groups. I think you could get some good ideas of what specifically to do. I also recently read two books by Tania Kindersley which I highly recommend. They aren't so much training books, but get you thinking about the horse's point of view. The Happy Horse and Climbing Mount Impossible.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          The only reason I opt for show, is because she is most comfortable when I give her a job that she knows how to do and that occupies her brain. When I engage her body and let her use all that crazy hotblood energy it does her good. But I will definitely be taking it one sure footed step at a time and going from basics up, making sure we can walk from trailer to stall confidently, then staying in a stall confidently, tacking without a huge deal, short rides without a whole lot of pressure, and lots of brain work, lots of things to keep her focused and paying attention. Shes certainly a special mare who I am blessed to have as my companion. She ground ties at home, and yes, things at home are 110% gold, its just those anxious times that we gotta reel in that brain. Thank you for the input, and the perspective break down, its helping to get my approach in the right place.
          Read at least some of the posts... The only one I care to repeat myself to is the 1200 lb one.

          Comment


          • #6
            If participating in a show is something she would do just fine at, then definitely do that. That will help relieve some of the worry she feels, as long as you don't have show nerves that would set her off. It might make doing the other things a bit easier for her. You'll find out, and as long as you don't have any expectations it's just another good experience for her, hopefully. Just remember, when she relaxes at all, leave her be. You might have to really keep that brain busy, frequently, by doing groundwork and more complicated riding. When you feel you are at a point where she's in a good place mentally, you can work on the things that cause her anxiety-standing still, being led around, etc.

            Comment


            • #7
              If you've got a good foundation then one approach is to "wet the blanket." Dedicate a day to riding. Start by riding for 40-45 min. and then dismount and walk for five min., then rest for 10. Then remount and do it again. Dismount and walk and rest. Repeat. During rest periods allow grazing if available. Maybe feed a half pound of oats every other rest. After two riding periods take break for lunch. Then siesta. Then do it again for a couple of rounds.

              Spend 60% of your time at the walk, 35% at the trot, and 5% at the canter. If you've got a good, well maintained trail do that. If not use the biggest field you can and ride the perimeter, then the diagonal, then do figures, then circles, etc. But keep moving.

              If your horse is out of shape then reduce the trot time and cut the canter. Ensure your tack fits. Check for any soreness whenever you dismount. Watch for signs of equine fatigue. This program requires a smart rider who understands their horse. It's OK to ride a horse into fatigue and then allow recovery; that builds wind and fitness. Don't ride into exhaustion; that builds vet bills.

              There's nothing wrong with riding in contact. Some horses will always do better in contact than on a loose rein. That's just the way that they are. Some will go on a loose rein until they become stressed and then want the assurance of the rider's hand through the reins.

              You have to ride the horse under you, not the horse under me or anyone else.

              Good luck as you go forward.

              G.
              Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

              Comment


              • #8
                Sounds like you need some time with a good groundwork horsemanship person. There will be someone local which is more useful than videos for getting feel.

                Most riding coaches especially English coaches have little or no education in groundwork.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by GrandLiena View Post
                  The only reason I opt for show, is because she is most comfortable when I give her a job that she knows how to do and that occupies her brain. When I engage her body and let her use all that crazy hotblood energy it does her good. But I will definitely be taking it one sure footed step at a time and going from basics up, making sure we can walk from trailer to stall confidently, then staying in a stall confidently, tacking without a huge deal, short rides without a whole lot of pressure, and lots of brain work, lots of things to keep her focused and paying attention. Shes certainly a special mare who I am blessed to have as my companion. She ground ties at home, and yes, things at home are 110% gold, its just those anxious times that we gotta reel in that brain. Thank you for the input, and the perspective break down, its helping to get my approach in the right place.
                  You have to totally desensitize her to stuff on the ground, and teach her how to calm herself down when you push her out of her comfort zone. You need to do this repeatedly at home, both on the ground and under saddle, until she stays calm. You DO need to pressure her because for sure she will be pressured at a show. You need that wrong response to pressure so she can learn the correct response. It's when they make mistakes that they learn.

                  Anyone who has a horse that is 110% good at home but not off the farm is not challenging the horse enough at home.
                  "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederatcy against him."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    She is a very willing companion, and she is insanely smart. So this is what I'm up against. She is a giant, intelligent, insecure, sensitive, turbo charged, willing super mare.
                    I have an old off the track Standie who fits this description. He is very forward and leaned hard into the many versions of snaffles I tried on him in the first six months I had him. I now ride him in a Dr. Cooks bitless and it is the only thing that has helped him to relax under saddle. He can tolerate a Myler curb -- forget the specifics -- but he sucks back and gets jiggy.

                    New Vocations, a nonprofit that retrains and rehomes OTSTB's and OTTBS in Ohio does offer step-down-from-the-track retraining for their horses and for others, too. Or try to find Roby Cuffey's book on retraining off the track Standies -- here's her website: http://www.photofinishfarm.com/robyn_cuffey.php

                    The general horsemanship advice you're getting is good, but, my guess is there's some specific un-learning your girl needs to do. They're lovely horses -- you sound like you're on a great path with her.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Guilherme - I have encountered the idea of a horse needing wet saddle blankets, but the context has always given the meaning of a horse needing more practice/experience over time. What is the one day of gentle exercise (long slow distance) you describe intended to accomplish, and how is it supposed to work?

                      #alwayscuriousabouttrainingmethods

                      Comment

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