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So we fell in a ditch yesterday :(

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  • So we fell in a ditch yesterday :(

    Went out to a clinic yesterday, all excited. I was riding a horse who has little XC exposure; a few logs/tires at home, one good school on a technical course, then a short course last week. He has been brilliant so far, bold and keen, too keen sometimes, has had a few stops but not dirty ones, just baby gawking type stops. He's always jumped everything on the second or third present, assuming his rider didn't botch the second approach

    So we sign up for a clinic on Sunday, and I haven't taken a real XC lesson in a while, so I'm really looking forward to it. It was a charity type clinic with a lot of clinicians, so I was also hoping to use it for 'coach shopping' as I want to get back into a few regular XC lessons (I have a dressage/jumper coach, but she doesn't do XC). I've had a few bad coaches in the past, so I want to be sure I'm not just trying lessons with just anyone. So clinicians asks for background, I tell her the horse is green but keen, looking for confidence and a challenge or two, and btw I'm a totally ditchy rider, totally scared of them, so I really want to school them with the hopes of doing the itty-bitty coffin they have. Today I'm going to face my fear! I tell her we jumped a ditch XC a few weeks before, he was terrified, popped it, then came in too strong, stopped, popped it, etc. He's done them, but not smoothly yet.

    So we do some warm up, mini course, etc, working on gallop to canter transitions, light to full seat, etc. Emphasis on forward to jumps.

    We start working the ditch...'trot in strong' she says....we do, I know I wasn't looking down because I certainly didn't see it coming...we come in at a sharp trot, he drops nose to look, and I *think* he had too much momentum to stop, slid, tried to crawl over maybe? Clinician said I threw my shoulders. Usually I'm really good at not doing that, but either way he ended up in the 2ft+ deep ditch and I took a good roll off his shoulder. Thank god he scrambled out unharmed and without climbing on me. Remounted, took him for a look, and he won't go near it. Won't take a lead, won't walk up with someone holding him, won't go near it. Clinician says too bad, gunna move on, so I figure I'll come back after or find another ditch.

    End of day, I've felt him hesitate over things he is usually bold over, like drops, he tried to run out of a bank up which was odd and he didn't care for the bank down, so I think his confidence certainly took a hit but he jumped a few things bravely and cantered the water, which was new. Went back down to a different ditch, which was actually the narrower, shallower of the ditches on the farm and he won't go near it. Treats don't help, a lead doesn't help, tried getting off to lead him, won't budge. I ended by circling around it on both sides, trying to get him to move along the side of it without actually asking him to go over it. This at least got us nearer the edge, but only going past it. Turn to face it and he won't go up to the edge still. We were both burnt out so we climbed up a bank just to do something, then called it a day.

    Now I have a sore knee and a horse that is terrified of ditches. Oh and did I mention, he is as stubborn as a mule once he gets something in his head? Just plants his feet and refuses to move. No rear, no buck, no aggitation, he just does his rock imitation. 99% of the time he is the keenest, most generous horse, but once he decides he's not moving, thats it.

    So I read a thread from last year, have been watching Lucinda Green on youtube schooling greenies on ditches, have googled a few articles, and have some good ideas to move forwards. We have a baby ditch at home, not 2ft wide and maybe 4in deep, so we'll do it until the cows come home, and I'm going to jump him over a tarp in the ring, then put the tarp in the baby ditch, then in an open field with logs on the sides, then just jump logs, then take the tarp with us when we go ship out to a real ditch and do it next to the ditch, then maybe he'll do the tarp in the ditch but I can forsee him turning 'rock' once I point him at the real thing. What do you do with a rock that won't go over a ditch? He's just to large to throw over, despite the days I would like to!

    Anyone else been here? What worked for you? Clinician suggested lunging, but if I can't lead him there (had someone behind him with a dressage whip, he wouldn't budge) then I'm doubtful of lunging him over. Really doubtful. I'll take a lunge line and whip when we go to school the 'real deal' but I need a back up plan! Last time I never got frustrated, more dejected actually, but I worry he's going to simply lock up and refuse to move and I am going to get really frustrated. I want to be sure I have some resources and am as prepared as possible. So please, share some wisdom and stories with me!

  • #2
    Take it all the way back down to the basics. And, do it from the ground a time or two. I find horses with real issues gain a lot of confidence with their rider on the ground with them. Start with the liverpool/tarp, and move to the baby ditch. I always suggest to people who haven't done a whole lot of in hand stuff to first do it over poles and itty bitty jumps so everyone knows the drill.

    The other thing I have found to work is to go hang out by the ditch until it gets boring. Let them pick at grass, take a nap, whatever. The only thing they are not allowed to do is turn away. Let them just hang out and analyze and think. Most times they will skitter over it after a few minutes, with very little persuasion. Lots and lots and LOTS of praise. And don't press your luck. Do it once, maybe twice, and call it a day.

    Rinse and repeat both exercises as often as you can (even a couple of times a day if you can). Keep the drama out of it. Make it all about being relaxed, low key, and no pressure. When you are on board and aiming at a ditch stay tall, relaxed, eyes up and ahead (look where you want to go). Give just enough rein so they can put their head down and peek, but not so much that they can spin away. WALK the ditch...they can do it with zero speed.

    Good luck!
    Amanda

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      What about when you can stand in front of it, pick at grass, get bored, have a snooze, with NO forward inclination?! I put leg on, he ignores, I start kicking/spur or spank and he'll tail swish, or turn away if I really drive him enough. But he isn't dramatic about it. He just WON'T go up to the edge or even consider going over it! Forward is completely gone. At one point I went and galloped him off just to get him thinking forward, get his blood going, and trotted back down the hill and tried to slow trot/walk up...nope, stop, stand, plant, and grow roots

      Comment


      • #4
        Give it a few days and then try again. He isn't going to say no forever. No horse ever has.

        And, I'm GLAD you're ok!!
        ******************************
        www.trying2event.blogspot.com
        www.facebook.com/UltimateStormLARigsby

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Corky View Post
          What about when you can stand in front of it, pick at grass, get bored, have a snooze, with NO forward inclination?! I put leg on, he ignores, I start kicking/spur or spank and he'll tail swish, or turn away if I really drive him enough. But he isn't dramatic about it. He just WON'T go up to the edge or even consider going over it! Forward is completely gone. At one point I went and galloped him off just to get him thinking forward, get his blood going, and trotted back down the hill and tried to slow trot/walk up...nope, stop, stand, plant, and grow roots
          Work on the ground and get someone to help "convince" him to go forward after he shows no fear anymore. Practice walking up to a mini ditch step across it and expect him to follow etc.
          "I would not beleive her if her tongue came notorized"

          Comment


          • #6
            Your problem started with the trotting presentation. In my experience, that was a no-no. You now have scared him and he does not trust you. Whatever stuff you do, and it doesn't matter what familiarization method you use, you must gain back his trust. When he is confident, he will move his feet when you ask, rather than stand still like a rock. His rock is his way of saying I am not sure what to do, do I won't do anything. Keep asking him and you'll get him back. Just takes a little time. I don't blame you, but Ithink the instruction you were given was not appropriate....jmo...
            (
            Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
            Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

            Comment


            • #7
              When I got my current horse we had a trailer incident on the way home, which was also his first time on the trailer. In the subsequent attempts to load I learned that my horse had a leading problem and he only lead because he wanted to, not that I could "make" him do anything including leading him where he didn't want to go.

              I am not into natural horsemanship, but I did some research and they seemed the best with leading/loading/dominance work and that is what I needed. I had a trainer come out to work with my horse and in one session he was able to get him to self load and I learned what to do and we've had success ever since. Part of the problem was that I didn't have good lunging skills and I wasn't able to make the horse move his feet in the direction I wanted without him trying to jump on top of me in a panic to avoid the trailer or rearing because he was done with the whole thing. The rearing was cleared up quickly and a much better forward button was installed. Once he got "forward" the self loading came along pretty quickly.
              My homework was to send my horse on the trailer, over XC obstacles, and through anything else I thought he may not want to do and he had to do it calmly.

              I know it isn't exactly the same situation, but it sounds like a similar challenge- the horse is scared of an obstacle for a good reason and you can't "send" him over it.

              This may not be super helpful because sort of like the Dog Whisperer if you have watched the show, the person has to get trained too in order to make it work. Before the trainer I was doing things that were almost right, but I just wasn't getting it done.

              Here is a rundown of what I learned. First start with being able to move the horse's feet forward, back, and sideways which establishes "forward", your personal space, and who is in charge. Add in some lunging with frequent changes of direction. The horse should be looking at you and not staring off at other things.

              Once the horse is lunging well and paying attention he has a chance to rest while he addresses the obstacle. As long as he's going towards it and looking at it he can stand there and chill. Once his attention wanders, back to work for a minute or two. Then he can again address the obstacle and he's expected to move a bit closer to it than the last time. Eventually he will realize that the obstacle is a great thing to be near because he can hang out and relax near it and the pressure is released.

              One pretty important point is that he can't try to jump on top of you as you are sending him towards the obstacle, you use the whip as a barrier to defend your space so you don't get squished.

              I don't know if this is even slightly helpful and I may be mangling it a little, so I guess what I'm saying is that it worked for my horse to get over scary objects, but I would suggest a trainer because it is worth the $$ to nip problems like these in the bud.

              Comment


              • #8
                Rather than go "up" to it, ride around and around the ditch, both directions, until he's completely "bored" with it, then WALK him up to it and over. As soon as he hesitates, send him around the ditch again. At no time is he allowed to let his feet stop moving (forward). Once you can walk him up to and over, let him trot the last couple of steps, then send him over in trot. Remember to approach in a slightly deeper, defensive seat, with lower leg a "titch" more ahead than is "normal". Repeat daily, ad naseum. Remember, ditches are places where horse-eating monsters live and you have to re-earn his trust. If you're afraid you'll catch his mouth if he leaps over it, there's no shame in using a neck strap. That's been my method for the last 25 years and umpteen babies, and it hasn't let me down yet!
                Oh, and if you feel that he may go into the ditch rather than over, put a pole diagonally across the ditch so he understands he's not to go in, but over.
                Good Luck, and update us in a few days/weeks with your progress

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by retreadeventer View Post
                  Your problem started with the trotting presentation. In my experience, that was a no-no. You now have scared him and he does not trust you. Whatever stuff you do, and it doesn't matter what familiarization method you use, you must gain back his trust. When he is confident, he will move his feet when you ask, rather than stand still like a rock. His rock is his way of saying I am not sure what to do, do I won't do anything. Keep asking him and you'll get him back. Just takes a little time. I don't blame you, but Ithink the instruction you were given was not appropriate....jmo...
                  (
                  Ya, I'm really mad at myself for trotting him in. I listened when I should have just gone with my gut and walked like I've done with him in the past. I was given a picture of us moments before he fell, and yes I did lean forward. But he had too much momentum to stop when he tried to and basically slid into the ditch. This is why I am so wary of new coaches, I have had too many tell me to do things that have not gone well, that I now question everything anyone tells me. It makes me hard to coach because I don't trust new coaches. But hind sight is perfect. I'm trying not to 'blame' the clinician, but when I specifically started off by telling her I was afraid of ditches, they are my 'thing' and she didn't address that AT ALL, I am really annoyed by that. I was watching videos of Lucinda Green introing ditches...she did exactly what I did the first time I showed him a ditch! Just walks up, gawks a bit, pops it, repeats. Lovely. Why the hell didn't I stick with that approach?! Especially for the first present?! hrmp

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I don't have much experience with ditches and neither do my horses but I've always walked them first. I think your fall plus the inability to get him over it right there plus your previous fear of ditches did him in.

                    I have found that if you're worried about something based on a past experience even if you think you're riding it right YOU ARE NOT.

                    I would skip trying to jump the ditch on your own because we simply can't stop ourselves from riding crappy when we are remembering a past issue like that. Find a regular instructor and work on the ditch issues with them, someone that knows you and has the time to deal with the problem.
                    http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Corky View Post
                      I was watching videos of Lucinda Green introing ditches...she did exactly what I did the first time I showed him a ditch! Just walks up, gawks a bit, pops it, repeats. Lovely. Why the hell didn't I stick with that approach?! Especially for the first present?! hrmp
                      I was just going to say...watch some Lucinda videos Well, don't beat yourself up, hind sight and all. I think if you go back to basics as Yellowbritches mentioned and work up to walking over baby ditches you'll get there. At a Lucinda clinic this spring I rode in we were walking over some pretty good ditches...even the seasoned horses were started out with walking over ditches.

                      I would say if you could get a good x-country school in with someone that you trust etc., that would go a long way to restoring your confidence and your horse's confidence. This will be helpful you when you go back to working on ditches.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I am surprised know one had said this yet, though it would seem good advice for the horse ....perhaps it may also be good for you to get some ditch training. By you're own statement you mention you are "a little ditchy". Perhaps that emotion/mental process worked/works down to you're horse. If you are afraid of the dark, how can you convince me to go into a dark room.

                        Get with a trainer and a good school horse; go out schooling and focus on ditches till you feel confident riding them. To take a green horse out and ask it to do something that scares you, honestly he was the smart one "Hey Ma, if you're that scared then I am not going there". It does not mean you don't do all the other things mentioned here (some I will try myself), but work on yourself as well.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Corky View Post
                          What about when you can stand in front of it, pick at grass, get bored, have a snooze, with NO forward inclination?! I put leg on, he ignores, I start kicking/spur or spank and he'll tail swish, or turn away if I really drive him enough. But he isn't dramatic about it. He just WON'T go up to the edge or even consider going over it! Forward is completely gone. At one point I went and galloped him off just to get him thinking forward, get his blood going, and trotted back down the hill and tried to slow trot/walk up...nope, stop, stand, plant, and grow roots
                          Then you are not being patient enough. Wait. Just wait. Don't ask him to go forward. Don't make it a big dramatic thing. Just wait.

                          You need to find a coach you can trust and really work this out. Xc is too dangerous to wing in on your own, and you admittedly have your own phobias that haven't been addressed, and now your horse has one, too. JP90 is right. Find someone you can work with (where are you? Maybe you can get some recs here), borrow a horse who is BTDT for you to get over your own issues, and have someone else help your horse out.
                          Amanda

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            someone already mentioned it - but I've seen the following technique work exceptionally well...

                            don't ride "at" the ditch. Go out for a school by the ditch. Start up a circle as small around the ditch as he will comfortably do (no hesitation, no "pushing out the airplane feel", no shying away). slowly, over days as necessary, make the circle smaller until he is walking or trotting along side of it (parallel). Let him give it the hairy eyeball. Let him understand it. Then you can approach the ditch.

                            As for trust, that is a big deal. I lost my young horse's confidence stupidly believing a BNT when the footing was a grease pit for my very careful young horse's first xcountry school. It has been a long time coming back. But, I try to present stuff to him that make him question, and then convince him it's ok and I DO know what I'm doing. And I am overly careful about over facing him. He's getting it. And, of course, I do reinforce the lesson that leg means forward NOW.

                            Good luck.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              If he doesn't come around like Neigh-Neigh said, I would find somebody who endurance rides and hit the trails.

                              He will have a buddy to look to, and trails have all kinds of terrain. Also the exercise and cross training is very good for an event horse. I have ridden with many event horses with my little arab gelding. And yes, it made th horse/rider better eventers. Maybe after several rides with the same endurance rider/horse then you go back to the dreaded ditch and both of you just go on business as usual and go across it.

                              I have had endurance horses who had "issues" about an obstacle, oh yeah. Having a buddy show the ropes is a good thing to do. And yes, I have also had a horse terrified of a white rail in an arena. And yes, I had a horse who was terrified to have a lesson in an indoor arena. But with a buddy and some practice things went very well. Works both ways.

                              I find trails give horses lots of confidence. Keeps their minds fresh looking to what is around the next corner. Which is what eventing is: what the next fence is, arena, cross country course, barn, lesson, situation, footing, etc.

                              I was amazed at what my event friend would jump - on the trail! Eventers rock!! They are tough as nails, and very brave - imo! They make GREAT trail partners. We always ride with safety and care of our horses in mind. I always do on the trail. Always. I find eventers, and endurance riders do this.

                              Good luck!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Yikes. I thought this thread was going to be about my big fat silly fear of falling in a ditch--as in, horse DOESN'T SEE BIG DITCH and we both go tumbling in at speed with dire consequences.

                                Has my horse ever not seen a ditch? No.
                                Ever refused a ditch? No.
                                Ever thought about being goofy at a ditch? No.

                                Clearly my horse is the brains of this operation.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  So sorry to hear you had a confidence crackdown, I've been there, several times. I'd forget about the ditch for a little while, until you fluff up his confidence and trust in you with his day to day work again. Do some super easy stuff that you know he will get right (and he knows it too) and then praise him like he's the most amazing creature alive. Start with ground work, practice making him lead properly, make him feel like a superstar when he walks over a ground pole, does transitions when asked, whatever you chose. Then do the same under saddle and step back up to where you were, but not all at once. Then start small like you mentioned with the poles and a little tarp showing, then gradually make it a teeny bit bigger and so on.

                                  This may seem silly to a lot of people, but I personally find it works well to build up the relationship on both ends when we've had a set back.

                                  I agree with others, that it would be beneficial to get on a school horse to get over your own ditchy-ness. We communicate to them in ways that we will never be able to control completely so making it fun in your head could really help him.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Lots of good ideas here, I agree with all of them. Especially the point about riding a school horse to build YOUR confidence, so you don't encourage the issue in a green horse.

                                    I love rmh's idea of going out on the trail. Trail riding and hacking in the great wide open is huge for building confidence in a young horse. All of my green horses have conquered natural ditches and creek crossings before their first xc school-- they already have confidence in me, and in themselves, before they are challenged with real ditches and water.

                                    That's not to say it all goes well-- on the trail, sometimes it will take me an hour to get a greenie over the first little rocky ditch, or get their feet wet the first time. But it's very important to GET IT DONE. Don't ever "give up and go home." That just reinforces the fear, lack of confidence, and encourages the horse to think "If I don't like it, I can throw a fit, quit, and go home." I don't attempt these questions with a young horse unless I have all day to devote to it, if needed (never have, but you need that mindset. Don't rush and be in a hurry!).

                                    I had one green OTTB mare who was slightly spooky, completely lacked confidence in herself, and was hot hot hot. I took her for a hack, alone, and went to cross a shallow rocky ditch. She would not go near it. I worked her in circles, closer and closer to the edge, riding her parallel to it (it was a dry creekbed, over a hundred yards long). She wanted to lose her mind, but I wouldn't let her. I praised her for getting close, kicked when she tried to turn away. I'd let her pause and look at it (on a long rein) but she was not allowed to turn for home, and she had to move her feet immediately when asked. It's important that ANY time the horse shows inclination to go over it (or near it, in the beginning), that you relax, soften, and quit "chasing." Yes, you want to be supportive with your leg, but you don't want to chase and scare them over it either.

                                    It took about an hour of sidepassing and paralleling the ditch, a couple threats to rear (growl, send forward on a circle), and a lot of lathered sweat, but the mare finally leapt over the tiny ditch. I praised her immensely and her confidence soared. She learned a few things: ditches aren't scary; GO FORWARD is not negotiable; and she believed me when I told her she was a big brave horse. Approaching another shallow natural ditch, she popped her eyes at it and hesitated, but when I said Go, she went. Their first experience is so important...you can turn a wannabe-ditchy horse into a brave one, if you avoid trouble.

                                    What to do once you have a ditchy horse? Do the 1st Time routine over and over and over again. Find every natural ditch you can and get over it. Go over tarps in the arena. Find any "scary" situation you can that might make your horse hesitate, and conquer it. (Don't overface, of course, but give them a reason to think "Maybe not?" and ride through it. Hack through a field of cows; walk across a bridge; anything unfamiliar that the horse has to trust you.)
                                    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                                    ? Albert Einstein

                                    ~AJ~

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      So you say you have a baby ditch at home? Maybe you could grain the horse at the ditch, in the ditch, stretch for grain on the other side of the ditch? Put side rails up so horse has to walk thru ditch?
                                      Story: I once had to get a horse from A to C through point B which had been a source of fear and temporary pain, but no injury. It wasn't happening. It wasn't happening all day. I could not get said horse from paddock back to barn through gate. Tempted horse with grain. No go. Light bulb moment! One thing a horse can't stand is seeing another horse being fed, while he's doing without. Brought out shallow grain -filled rubber bucket. Waived it under stuck horse's nose and plunked it in front of horse at point C. Instant presto, horse is where I want him. Walked horse back and forth through gate. No problem.

                                      Yeah, it was sneaky and manipulative, but I wanted to get home to supper.

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                                      • #20
                                        I don't have any other suggestions but I think you've gotten some really good advice here. Stick to your gut and try and find an XC coach you trust who you can work your way back up with to get over your "ditchiness". Good luck!
                                        Last edited by Tuesday's Child; Jul. 11, 2012, 11:16 PM. Reason: remove name of clinic

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