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Glance Off vs. Stop - What's Going On In Horse's Mind

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  • Glance Off vs. Stop - What's Going On In Horse's Mind

    I'm curious to know if there is a mental or emotional component involved in glancing off vs. stopping at a jump. My guy is a very solid and experienced training/prelim campaigner but, like many, he has to be ridden to every jump. I'm a true amateur (I ride only on week-ends) but he gets ridden by an upper level dressage rider (another amateur) 4 days a week. He was ridden by a pro before I got him (he's 12 yrs. old). My question is that he never stops at a jump no matter how awkward the approach but he will fly by/glance off (always to the left) if he finds himself in trouble or unsure. It's not a huge problem but when it happens it always happens at the last stride and it can be a bit disconcerting.

    I suspect he doesn't feel that I am committed to the jump or he is not focused on his job and then looks up and says "oh, there's a jump in front of me" and bails to the left (my fault for not getting him focused).

    Anyway, I guess my question is is he telegraphing anything by always glancing off to the left rather than stopping when he gets unsure, surprised, etc. at a jump? I mean why one instead of the other? I'd rather have a runout than a stop but I'm just trying to understand what goes on in a horse's mind when they decide to do one rather than the other.

  • #2
    I can't answer the why but I can comment on one part of your thought process. At that last stride he is NOT looking up and suddenly seeing the fence and saying to himself "oh, there's a jump in front of me" and decides to bail out. At that point, the jump is in his blind spot. Ie he can't see it any more. By 3 strides from a fence, a hors is jumping blind. That is the reason for not "picking" at a horse in those last 3 strides. He has already made his mental image of what he is doing, etc.

    But like you, how do they then stop or run out right at the very last instant? It must that mental image? I have a mare who is not quite that honest and she will stop. I swear she will stop and then duck out even after she has taken off!

    But to speak for their formed mental image coming to the fence, she is missing her right eye. Yet she almost always runs out right. She has created enough of a mental image coming to the fence that she knows what is on the right. And for whatever reason, that is her perferred side to duck out to. So I also can't help with why a horse chooses to run out one way over another as a personal preference. Let's hope someone else can.


    • #3
      Do you mean he glanced off to the left but still jumps the jump? My pony does the exact same thing...if he is going to stop, it is to the left...and if he is worried about a jump, but jumps it, he will land to the left. I have no idea why he does it to the left, but I have , only recently..lol, deciding that I have to ride every fence with the over or threw it attitude, and he has seemed to gotten more confident and I keep the right rein ready to steer him straight.


      • #4
        Isn't a stop preferable to a run out? Most UL instructors, with whom I have ridden, have taught us this.


        Are you right handed? Are your supporting aides on the left strong enough? Do you unconsciously try using your right rein to hold your horse straight, while allowing his left shoulder to pop and escape?

        Be aware of having your left rein and leg stronger on your turns and appoaches, to keep his left shoulder straighter. Try carrying your whip in your left hand and sort of show it to him on the approach or even give him a slight tap on the shoulder, to remind him to stay straight.

        You can always try doing this over ground poles which are set at a canter distance, then progress to low fences. It is easier to fix straightness problems over ground poles and low fences.
        When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


        • #5
          I think most run outs are going to go back to the rider. By not focusing/steering/committing/whathaveyou, you give the horse and opportunity to find an out. So, if your horse is glancing off of things or running out, I would evaluate what YOU are doing on the approach. I think the only thing he is probably "telegraphing" to you is that you need to stay focused on your end of the bargain.

          (All that being said, I've had my fair share of cheeky run outs...but I can still usually find myself responsible to some degree, since I've also stopped quite a few cheeky run outs from happening).

          As for stopping vs running out....well, I do think a STOP is often due to lack of confidence...whether in the rider (like the horse I rode who would stop if I jumped ahead or didn't place him perfectly), the question (like the horse with a ditchy issue), whatever. I very rarely feel a horse that is brimming with confidence will STOP, although they may fly by something due to lack of steering or focus, while a horse that is unsure I don't feel will often run by (a lot of truly un-confident horses may stop strides out...or try to).

          I do also think that some smart horses with some mileage behind them have learned that trying to stop their momentum can be scary and not always successful (think of all the videos of horses trying to stop that end up halfway over or in a jump), while they can make their point (you're not paying attention, you haven't done your job, I don't like this jump) safely by running out.

          Obviously, this all very much just theory and conjecture. But, go watch videos of horses jumping, especially over big scary courses. Watch the horses' body language when they stop vs when they run out (I have a clear mental image of the horses that run out at things like the Vicarge V at Badminton...they often are charging along with great confidence, they just don't get focused on the VERY narrow question, while the horses that don't want to play stop cold). You will probably see a lot of what I am talking about. Not saying this is a hard and fast rule (horses stop because their scared, and run out because they're poorly ridden), but it is food for thought.


          • #6
            Another general comment here: He only runs out or flies by because he CAN. If a horse is being ridden to a fence aggressively, defensively, and/or in a connected fashion with even contact and consistent leg pressure, they do not, in most cases, have the opportunity to run out because the riders hand and leg is there to stop them and thus they will stop instead of run out if they are really committed to NOT jumping.
            "Gallop as if you were to die tomorrow, jump as if you were to live forever."


            • Original Poster

              Lots of good comments, thanks. I do take complete responsibility for the run outs by not riding positively enough, focused enough, straight enough, etc. (sometimes all at the same time). I am right handed, he does pop his left shoulder, and I tend to pick to the base of the jump. Lots of things to work on over the winter. Like I said above, this is not a huge problem but something I've noticed and would like to address. Thanks again for all the considered responses.

              P.S. to Auburn: I'm curious about why UL riders prefer a stop over a runout.


              • #8
                The more accuracy questions you have, the less you want the to think they can run out. I don't like them to run out...I got pretty cranked when someone I let ride Vernon as a youngster let him run out. He'd never run by something with me, and it killed me to watch him run out...he didn't know it was an option before that moment (thankfully, he was a good, honest soul who loved his job, so it was never really an issue after that!).

                I prefer they do neither, really


                • #9
                  A runout is a straightness issue, a stop is a forward issue. Neither is ideal, of course, but they have different roots and thus different fixes. I mind a straightness issue less than a forward issue as it is much easier to correct, in my view. Lots of green horses have a little wiggle every now and then but I like a horse whose natural instincts are "forward." I think they make a much more promising prospect for an amateur rider like myself.

                  I don't think a stop is really preferable to a runout -- I think a trainer would tend to say so situationally because a runout is a steering/rider failure -- if your horse tends to runout and you get the stop instead, you at least successfully blocked the runout which was your initial problem, so that's a better result than continuing to run out/make the same mistake.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tlw View Post
                    P.S. to Auburn: I'm curious about why UL riders prefer a stop over a runout.
                    A stop implies that the rider did everything within their riding ability to keep the horse going over the fence, and the horse simply chose not to play. A run-out generally implies there was something the rider could have done to keep the horse's head and shoulders moving towards the fence, and therefore OVER the fence.

                    A rule of thumb UL riders (and not just UL riders) use is a stop is the horse's fault and a run-out is the rider's fault. Obviously there are definite exceptions, and a stop can still be the rider's fault, but I generally feel that the rule that a run-out is the rider's fault is pretty accurate. So I wouldn't say that UL riders 'prefer' a stop, but more that if a run-out occurs, they will always put that on their own riding. They want to know that they did everything possible to make the horse jump the jump, hence 'preferring' a stop.


                    • #11
                      One thing too that wasn't mentioned (unless I missed it) is does this seem to happen more often at a certain type of fence?

                      Ie- it is always off a right turn when he maybe drifting thru his left shoulder more, or is it at drop type fences or skinnys, etc?

                      Sometimes know what he maybe trying to avoid or knowing when he needs more correction on his left side (turns etc) can help you plan your rides better.


                      • #12
                        I think it depends on how the stop happens too - particularly with greener horses or less experienced riders, the stop is a result of the rider taking their leg off. In those instances, true that the stop is a loss of "forward", but it's not always fair to say it's on the horse. Certainly seen a lot of those pitter-out-in-front-of-the-fence stops where the horse is taking a look 5 strides out and the rider never reacts or puts his/her leg on. Or think of the horse that stops that far out and refuses to go anywhere near a jump - that's much more likely a larger hole in the horse's education. But that's different from the horse that slams on the brakes at the last minute to a fence despite getting a great ride. That, in my mind, is one saying either "I can't" or "I don't want" to do what you're asking.


                        • #13
                          I did forget to mention that I use lots of left leg and carry my whip on the left side. I do think in my particular case, on scary fences, my horse likes to see it more with his right out and overall, his evasions in dressage are not using right hind, and popping out the left shoulder. Probably all of that comes into play at certain fences. Like I said, since I myself have gotten more confident, he has too...

                          I was told my trainer, that a run out was not desirable, especially if the horse got to the other side of the fence in the runout, then the horse has found a way to get to the other side without actually jumping it.


                          • #14
                            As a lower lower level rider here are my opinions.

                            I think that there are five different kinds of evasions to a fence.

                            1. I'm not scared but I'm not jumping that and wasting energy if you aren't commited
                            2. I don't care what you want, I'm not doing it
                            3. What fence?
                            4. I'm not so sure about this and you aren't there for me.
                            5. I can't jump that without breaking my neck idiot!

                            I think that with the glance off you have two different versions

                            1. The horse wasn't set up for the fence and didn't know where he was going
                            2. The horse isn't overly confident toward the fence and a hole in the rider's aids allow him to go around.

                            My hot, slightly controllable alpha mare would jump anything in the general vicinity with little or no input from me. I could drop her 3 strides away and pray and she'd take me over the fence, and then far far away!

                            This riding style doesn't work with my current mare who needs an extra boost of bravery from me when faced with a scary fence or an extra boost of focus from me when she's looking everywhere else but at the fence. I need to ride her to the base of the fence and maintain my wall of aids, I also need to keep my shoulders back and drive forward just in case. This is apparently a work in progress!


                            • #15
                              I think when people say that they prefer a horse to stop than run out is that it is teaching the horse to at least go straight to the fence as they are aimed. When accuracy questions like skinnies and corners come into play it is extremely important for them to understand that they don't get to go sideways since those fences are so easy to have a runout. At least at that point if they are trying to evade they have the understanding that they can't just pop out when things get hard.
                              As they gain more confidence in knowing that they need to go where they are pointed, I would think that the stops would become fewer as well. One other thought is that if they are not supposed to glance off right or left it is easier to take your hand off the reins to give a little 'encouragement' with a stick to keep them in front of the leg if you aren't as worried about them taking advantage to run out, and with that extra encouragement hopefully they wouldn't stop either.