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I give up, or what to do with a horse who doesn't want to play?

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  • I give up, or what to do with a horse who doesn't want to play?

    Short story: Anyone want a free horse?

    Long story: Today we went to our 10th show this year, all unrecognized CTs or HTs. Of those shows, we finished one, an HT at BN in September. At six of them, I've fallen off in one of the jumping phases.

    I've had him for a while, but started riding consistently after a while off (all we'd done prior was dabbling at local shows) last year. I took a few jumping lessons last fall, which all went really well and I felt confident starting out at BN/N this year. That was a pretty misleading instinct apparently, as the catastrophe began right away.

    Horse is dishonest, inconsistent, and overall weird. It's possible that I'm also completely incompetent, of course. He's timid most of the time, but I really can't manage when he seems to be going well and then at the base of a jump he spins right quick as you please.

    I'm mostly trying to get around at BN - one show at Maiden (2'3) did not go very well either, and I really don't believe that height is the problem. He'll run out over a course of crossrails sometimes. We had a good, clear stadium round at BN in October and then it went to hell a month later at the same venue.

    XC is variable. We had a super double clear round at the one show we finished, but for the most part, well, I tend to hit the ground. I'm 23. I bounce. But it does get old. We have schooled quite a bit at different venues, and he's inconsistent there, too. Sometimes he's super and we school Novice ditch/bank/water/half-coffin questions capably. Sometimes he won't step down a 6" drop without a meltdown. My trainer summed it up accurately I think: His negative reaction is to shut down completely and say "I can't possibly do this." Last time, towards the end of the school, I couldn't even get him to trot without attempts to cowkick and buck. It's just bizarre all around.

    And I've tried treating him for ulcers, chiro, injections, he's on the lowest-octane grain-free feed I can find.

    I do think he would do better with a better rider (obviously) or I might do better with him if I could lesson more often or even jump more consistently, which isn't possible where I am and a move is not in the cards.

    My trainer hasn't been on him, as she doesn't jump that much herself and she's said that, from what she can see, it's really not me and there's no reason at all for his behavior. I think about what I've said here and think that, well, if I could be a perfect rider, I probably wouldn't have issues. But who's perfect? I don't know whether or not I'm causing the problem, and I can't really afford to put him in training to find out.

    I'm throwing money I don't really have into entry/lesson/schooling fees, and though the trend of progress is sort of waveringly upward, the fact that I fell off in stadium today because my 13-year-old horse spooked at a jump flag of all things just makes me wonder why I do this at all.

    I've considered doing straight dressage with him, but I don't really want to do that. And what do I do with a middle-aged horse who doesn't seem to learn? I'm a little apprehensive that he'll go on and do well with someone else, which I know is completely irrational, but it would prove that I'm really no good at all at this thing I (used to) love doing.

    I'm really not sure what to do, because at this point I don't care if I ever sit on this horse again. And I don't see the point in having him around if I'm not riding. Then I start to think of the money I'd save if horseless and it starts to look like a pretty attractive situation.

    Am I the only person who has to have scores of lousy experiences before accepting that my horse and I are not a good fit?
    "Why would anybody come here if they had a pony? Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country? It doesn't make sense!"

  • #2
    I have that horse. I kicked him around his first successful Novice and then he started having minor soundness issues. I did what I could to get him sound and when the easy things didn't work, I opted to retire him, and honestly, him going lame was the best thing that could have happened to me- it made the decision easy. I was about your age. There are too many good horses. If he's quiet on the flat, it's a godsend, give him away to a nice lesson barn or college program or trail riding home. Mine has a mean spook and spin so he's a lawn ornament. Maybe he'd hunt?

    LIFE IS TOO SHORT!! Find a horse you can have fun on.
    Big Idea Eventing

    Comment


    • #3
      My first thought was his saddle might not being fitting well, or he has some pain that is bothering him. A little mare I had would just run through the bit, and be a general pain in the rear end, a cow hop when I wanted to trot, spazzing out here and there when I asked for her to walk or halt. In her case it was the bit I had for her was way too big. I went bitless with her and never again had a problem.

      A friend had a pony and you couldn't do his feet to save your life. He couldn't hold them up for more then 3 seconds tops. His back was out. Once he was adjusted he was a prince for farrier work.

      So my second thought was pain of some sort. Just my two cents for what they are worth. Sometimes you just don't click and it's a nightmare and the best thing to do is find someone who clicks.
      Chambermaid to....
      Lilly
      Reggie

      Comment


      • #4
        What do you do? Sell him. Give him away. Whatever.

        This horse doesn't want to play the game. Find him a game he does want to play and a person he who wants to play it with him. Plain and simple.
        Amanda

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree with yellowbritches...find him a home where he "fits". It is becoming quite clear that he doesn't want to do what you want to do. Life is too short for you and him to struggle with a horse that might not be physically or mentally able or willing to "play". Once you have found him a great match and a great match for yourself, you will be so much happier. I don't think of this as "giving up" on a horse, but rather finding them a more suitable situation. Best wishes to you and your equine friend
          Certified Spiritual Medium/ Animal Communicator
          www.heatherevebristol.com
          www.meliorastables.net

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          • #6
            Neither my current Novice guy or my older guy who went Prelim are what you call bold, or even really brave (they can barely bring themselves to walk by logs sometimes)-- but they like to jump and they love xc. I think if you've had him out that much, and he STILL doesn't love it, you're probably not going to change that. You're not getting paid to do this, and you're not having fun-- so stop.

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            • #7
              Doing cross country with a horse who ducks out is just not wise. He could dump your face into a log. Sell him or give him away. If you want to event, you need an honest jumper who wants to get to the other side of the fence every time, in spite of a less than perfect rider, footing or tack. They are out there. Get one.

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              • #8
                To Quote the great George Morris " Riders used to learn to ride at home and perfect their horsemanship before going to a competition to test what they have mastered, now it seems riders try to learn at the competitions only to scare and sour the horse"
                Do you think this??

                Comment


                • #9
                  time to callin/on the a/c!
                  breeder of Mercury!

                  remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Thanks for the input, and to yellowbritches for being blunt. I need to hear these things because I know that to continue soldiering on this way would be irrational.

                    I have heard of horses who actually take care of their riders, and as much as I'd love one I probably can't afford him/her! It's likely, if I do move this horse on, that I wouldn't be replacing him for quite a while.

                    Part of my reluctance to do anything is that he's so nice, a stylish jumper with good gaits. I could never afford something with his raw ability. Talent clearly means nothing when we're not on the same page. But it's why I'm entertaining the idea of trying to just do dressage with him.

                    nextyear - Are you asking if I think that happens? I don't know and I suspect I'm not half as judgmental as Mr. Morris seems to be. I don't believe that's what I'm doing at any rate - as I've said, we've had some very productive schooling sessions (though we've had some wretched ones as well) and lessons, only to fall apart at shows. IME, you can school a thousand xc obstacles, but it's difficult to replicate the experience of riding an xc course without actually ... doing it.
                    "Why would anybody come here if they had a pony? Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country? It doesn't make sense!"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Scaramouch View Post

                      I have heard of horses who actually take care of their riders, and as much as I'd love one I probably can't afford him/her! It's likely, if I do move this horse on, that I wouldn't be replacing him for quite a while.

                      They don't have to be expensive! I bought one out of a cow pasture for $600 and she was the best thing that ever happened to me. She was born willing- I just had to teach her what to do.
                      Big Idea Eventing

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I had an OTTB who did this exactly, even with a pro riding. Long story short, finally figured out he had major kissing spine. It could be physical with your guy, or mental. Whatever it is, this is just not working. He doesn't sound like the right horse for you.

                        The good news is that things can get better. After I retired/gave away the horse with kidding spine I found the worlds best packer who I love so much! Stop banging your head into the wall and find a horse that will work for you.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Scaramouch View Post

                          nextyear - Are you asking if I think that happens? I don't know and I suspect I'm not half as judgmental as Mr. Morris seems to be. I don't believe that's what I'm doing at any rate - as I've said, we've had some very productive schooling sessions (though we've had some wretched ones as well) and lessons, only to fall apart at shows. IME, you can school a thousand xc obstacles, but it's difficult to replicate the experience of riding an xc course without actually ... doing it.
                          Well that may be your answer, if the schooling sessions are not 99.99999% going well at home why are you trying to compete?
                          And yes, you can school 1000 x/c jumps but what type of questions are you asking when you are out there? To the horse a x/c school is no different than a competition, it is when the rider lets the "show nerves" happen and shut down and stop riding-thinking that then it become "different".
                          If you ever were able to go watch Phillip or Bruce school at home you would realize that you can make it perfect there than go onto a show, they are asking questions at home that are 1 to 2 (depending on the personalty of the horse) levels above (questions not always means size of fence) what the horse is going to compete at so when they get to the show to the horse everything they see at that level is very easy! But if you think those guys are having a so-so% sucess at home with the horse and are going to enter it anywhere you are dead wrong.
                          Last edited by nextyear; Dec. 10, 2012, 08:31 AM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It is time for you to have a new horse. I had many horses, almost all of whom jumped anything they were pointed at regardless of the distance, my balance, etc. I then bought two in a row that didn't want to play. One is for sale as a h/j (very oddly super quiet, brave, on the buckle trail ride and easy, easy over 3'+ jumps in the arena, but has a total meltdown everytime we try to get him to go cross-country - and in this case I know it isn't just me as my 4* trainer finds the same), the other has a new home as a dressage horse. My current guy, I got as a very recent OTTB and he has been a star from day 1 and 15 months into our partnership, totally packs me around. They are out there (I've had more than not) and life is too short to spend with a horse that really wants a different job.
                            OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              As much as I tend to agree with the other posters, there is one other option (providing all possible sources of pain are eliminated).

                              He doesn't want to play your game, because he's found a new game: intermittently dumping you. And gosh, is it fun!

                              One thing I like to ensure early on in babies is that stopping is NOT AN OPTION. None of the "well, he stopped because it's a spooky jump, let's have him sniff it and look at it, then we'll try again..." Their job is to go from point A to point B in the manner I request. I feed them and care for them like they are kings; they need to jump.

                              Stopping is very much an option for this horse. Any time he pleases, in fact. He if he wants to jump, he will. If he's done for the day, he expresses that. And gets away with it.

                              Not being able to trot without a cowkick indicates exactly what he thinks of your demands on his time. If he wants to trot, great. If he doesn't feel like it, he has your number and knows how to get out of anything. It's been proven to him numerous times. He's spoiled and bratty.

                              Provided it's not a pain issue, I would stop showing and send him to a reputable trainer for a month or two. Either it will improve the behavior, or it won't, and you can decide what to do with him at that point.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Scaramouch View Post
                                Thanks for the input, and to yellowbritches for being blunt. I need to hear these things because I know that to continue soldiering on this way would be irrational.

                                I have heard of horses who actually take care of their riders, and as much as I'd love one I probably can't afford him/her! It's likely, if I do move this horse on, that I wouldn't be replacing him for quite a while.

                                Part of my reluctance to do anything is that he's so nice, a stylish jumper with good gaits. I could never afford something with his raw ability. Talent clearly means nothing when we're not on the same page. But it's why I'm entertaining the idea of trying to just do dressage with him.

                                nextyear - Are you asking if I think that happens? I don't know and I suspect I'm not half as judgmental as Mr. Morris seems to be. I don't believe that's what I'm doing at any rate - as I've said, we've had some very productive schooling sessions (though we've had some wretched ones as well) and lessons, only to fall apart at shows. IME, you can school a thousand xc obstacles, but it's difficult to replicate the experience of riding an xc course without actually ... doing it.
                                Yes. Raw talent means zip if you don't have the brain and/or heart to access it. I have had two horses who, on paper, should have been world beaters. Great movers, scopey, athletic jumpers. But, for their own reasons, they just did not want to be event horses. And, especially with one of them, I wish I had cut to the chase much sooner with them. It just isn't fun, and it is a royal waste of time and money, not to mention frustrating and sometimes dangerous. It just isn't worth it, and I will always be quick to tell people to just let go. I've watched too many people die a little inside with every outing or jump school or, in the case of my beloved Vernon, every dressage school or test. It just isn't worth it, and, if you love the horse, the best thing you can do for him is find him a job he'll enjoy.

                                If you think you can do dressage with him, than, by all means, do it! But, if your heart lies with eventing and you don't think you'll be happy playing in the little sandbox, find someone else for him to do dressage with.

                                And, no, you do not have to pay a fortune for a horse who will want to do the job and will take care of you. You may have to get creative in where you look or start from scratch with a young horse with a good and willing brain, but they aren't all expensive, fancy packers...just good citizens.
                                Amanda

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  OP--What part of NC are you in? Maybe a a pair of (free!) fresh eyes would be a help. Or maybe take a lesson or two with a different trainer or on a different horse. Do you have any video from past (failure-esque) HTs?
                                  Flip a coin. It's not what side lands that matters, but what side you were hoping for when the coin was still in the air.

                                  You call it boxed wine. I call it carboardeaux.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I think he's not for you. It is probably worth putting some time into him, to work on ground manners, safety when ridden etc. because this is what the "casual rider" is looking for.

                                    Good luck!

                                    (as for nextyear's/GM's comment, well, it sounds like you've mostly been doing schooling shows, and schooling shows are where you get your experience! Please note my signature; it was a response to someone on the dressage forum who thought it was absolutely terrible that I'd take my mare to a schooling show given that she'd been known to kick out at other horses. We needed the experience, and got it, and while she isn't an angel at shows, she will not kick out unless the other horse runs right up her butt...)
                                    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

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

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      does this horse have any formal training from a pro trainer? if not i would try to get him in training for at least a couple months.... because to me it sounds like he just doesn't have his basics down yet.....

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        This will sound like the standard disclaimer, but your orig post really does sound like a situation where there just isn't enough information yet to tell. Despite that you have obviously explored several medical avenues (injections, chiro, etc.) it does still sound like it could be a medical issue like kissing spine. But it also seems like maybe it could be a training issue like nextyear said. Because it really can take a lot more perfect/good practice than we realize at home before a skill is ready to take to the stress of a show environment. Also, plenty of exposure to the show environment and many different flags, flowers, colors, jump materials, etc. all at home first.

                                        And like we all know, classic sign of a green horse under saddle is that one ride is great, horsie is forward, responsive to the aids, you'd swear he's completely trained/gets it/knows the aids -- but next ride he's a deadhead and acts like he doesn't know what leg means. Translating that to a jump situation and sometimes he's forward and fine and sometimes he's spooky and unsure.

                                        But then again, maybe his responses are truly outside the norm and he shouldn't be so unsure and spin out when he's been steady and jumped a bazillion times just fine. But it really should be a bazillion good jumps in a row (that's the scientifically proven number ) at home, at a higher/harder level than you will show at, before you take it to competition.

                                        But to me is really significant that you've noted that you DON'T have a situation where you can even jump consistently where your horse is now. It really sounds like it could be a situation of just not enough schooling before he was taken to stressful environments and maybe (???) even overfaced while there, or just exposed to too much stuff all at once and now you have to get him over that. I.e., maybe he did get scared and soured at the shows/comps and now you are working from a minus point, not just a zero point. I don't know that, of course, but I do think it is a possibility that warrants your consideration.

                                        And one other thing, you did say your trainer doesn't ride him, so I'm guessing maybe you don't have another opinion from someone you know is skilled who has ridden him. Even the best trainers will have better data and a more complete picture if they've tried the horse themselves. I'm not saying that's necessary and many times eyes on the ground are best, but it doesn't seem like you have information from another rider to add to the picture.

                                        So I like RS's suggestion and others -- do be sure it's not medical -- but then send him to another trainer to see what information that gives you to help make a decision. Or be willing to go back and really treat him as green, green, green and build him up slowly with a very high success rate all the way. If you've already done that, then look for a physical problem, or look for a different job for him.

                                        Yikes, but I have to add still one more thing, I am not at all saying that your horse sounds easy or that given the exact same amount of schooling and training, another horse might not be fine -- brave, bold, and already in the ribbons. And so you may well decide that you want a much bolder ride regardless. But as I started my monster post by saying, I don't think you have enough to tell yet with this horse.
                                        If thou hast a sorrow, tell it not to the arrow, tell it to thy saddlebow, and ride on, singing. -- King Alfred the Great

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