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Dealing with a horse with SERIOUS ditch issues...

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  • #21
    Okay, some are going to disagree with this, since it has a distinctly NH flavor, but I had the same issue and it worked for me. I started on the ground, using approach and retreat. Send the horse forward toward the ditch until you reach the point where he says, "I don't wanna" but hasn't said, "NO", then ask him to back up until he's comfortable again. The important thing here is *backing* in a straight line, not turning away, and asking for the back-up before he gets so worked up that he's looking for a way to get away himself. The idea is that he learns that you will expect him to face the scary thing every time you present it, but that he will learn to trust that you won't shove him over just when he's the most scared. Once the mare I was working with would confidently go over on line, I did the same on her back. Start small, be prepared to get off if necessary, and ask him to retreat and then reapproach before he feels he has to refuse/run out/do cartwheels, etc. The most important thing, other than not magnifying the horse's fear, of course, is to go forward and back in straight lines, not allowing him to turn, or you risk teaching a run-out. Not everybody's cup of tea, I know, but it worked for me, and fairly quickly too. Good luck!

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    • #22
      in hand.

      I start every horse over ditches in hand.

      ditches that they can step in. Then I work my way up.

      I also have 2 ditches on the farm.
      Mileage. mileage and more mileage.

      and if beyond that it doesn't settle..then...sadly...you don't have an event horse. : (

      Kind of like a horse who just hates water. It will always be a crap shoot. In which case a new discipline may be more fun.
      http://kaboomeventing.com/
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      • #23
        I think there are just some horses who will always question in their minds whether they are going to jump over every ditch. You can give them the best possible opportunity to be brave about it, but some just ain't. This is one of the many reasons why all horses are not event horses and why the unquestioningly brave ones are worth their weight in gold.
        Click here before you buy.

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        • #24
          Originally posted by deltawave View Post
          I think there are just some horses who will always question in their minds whether they are going to jump over every ditch. You can give them the best possible opportunity to be brave about it, but some just ain't. This is one of the many reasons why all horses are not event horses and why the unquestioningly brave ones are worth their weight in gold.

          I have to agree with this. I'd also be concerned about putting in more time and money on a horse that really may not want this job. You have been tying for 3 years....that is pretty damn long.

          That said...I'd wonder about the training. Was the ditch presented in a progressive manner....were they jumping small easy ditches THAT day before trying the training ditch. Clearly where this horse is, you need to be progressive and in baby steps every time. This means probably NOT moving up a level in competition for a while. You may get him over this...mostly....but I've never known a horse that was THAT ditchy for this long who was successful at the higher levels.

          Most green horses look hard at ditches the first time, but it usually isn't that big of a deal and they get better in short order. This extreme of a reaction for so long....would have me concerned (this is without having seen how he was presented). If you ride a horse that is ditchy like you describe......don't be shocked if you start develop an issue with them too.

          If he was my horse, I'd be finding him a different job or a different trainer.
          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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          • #25
            Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
            That said...I'd wonder about the training. Was the ditch presented in a progressive manner....were they jumping small easy ditches THAT day before trying the training ditch. Clearly where this horse is, you need to be progressive and in baby steps every time.
            I know nothing about ditches, but this was my thought. If the trainer went straight to a training level ditch, no wonder it was an issue.
            Against My Better Judgement: A blog about my new FLF OTTB
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            • #26
              For a good visual on how to introduce ditches, and progress from there, check out Jimmy Wofford's video Cross Country with Jim Wofford.
              Blugal

              You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng

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              • Original Poster

                #27
                Originally posted by amastrike View Post
                I know nothing about ditches, but this was my thought. If the trainer went straight to a training level ditch, no wonder it was an issue.
                No, he'd been doing smaller ditches (one that he'd already seen many times before) prior to going to this one. This was definitely not the first ditch he'd seen that day.

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                • #28
                  How food motivated is he? Maybe you could try clicker training, like the Maddens did to fix Judgement from his water jump issues.

                  That said, there are lots of nice talented horses out there, this horse may have the physical ability to do Intermediate but based on this does not sound like he has the mental ability. Maybe he could make a really nice Ch/AA jumper. With the money from that you could probably buy a COUPLE of Intermediate horses. If you have a burning need for one.

                  Jennifer
                  Third Charm Event Team

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                  • #29
                    Originally posted by cnye View Post
                    No, he'd been doing smaller ditches (one that he'd already seen many times before) prior to going to this one. This was definitely not the first ditch he'd seen that day.

                    Then honestly...you need to decide what you want. As third charm said...this horse may have the athletic ability but not the mind/bravery for eventing much past novice.

                    Yes, there are ditchy horses who do get better...but not typically this ditchy. In other words, having the issue and needing to work on it isn't that unsual but having these issues for this long when it sounds like your trainer has done what you need to do really is problematic. If you want to keep working with him, more power to you. But Training level really just shouldn't be this hard....especially if your goals are Intermediate and up.

                    Good luck....but he may make a really nice jumper or even a fox hunter (whether with you or another person). And that isn't a failure...that is listening to your horse and adjusting to give him the job for which he is most suited. It is very frustrating when they have such potential to be great...but are just missing one little piece. Many of us have been there.
                    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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