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Help! My horse has a new way of "refusing" on xcountry

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  • Help! My horse has a new way of "refusing" on xcountry

    Took Kieran down to Waredaca for his first BN/ Overnight event. He seemed pretty fine , a little hyped up but that's understandable. He was pretty frazzled for dressage, broke into a canter as we entered the ring and wouldn't pick up his left lead for our first circle. Oh well, bad test. Show jumping he was actually very good for, only dropped 1 rail b/c i let him jump it too strung out. So i headed to xcountry pleased b/c he hadn't looked at any of the fillers or felt like he was hesitating to anything. I go to warm up of the xcountry jumps and 7 strides out he just grabs the bit and bolts over it. We go around to approach again. When i ask him to wait, he balks, flipping his head around, popping up and backing up. This is all at least 7 strides out from the jump. We finally get him to jump it somewhat nicely, and its my time to go. Out of the start box, he starts his fussing, but i get him over the first jump. Again, at least 7 strides out from the second fence, i tap him with the crop to get him to listen and know he is going to jump it. He balks, tossing his head, popping up, and backing up , but backing up towards the jump. I try to get him going again to re-approach but he won't budge, just continues to back up or refuse to move at all. No matter how many "pony club" kicks or whacks on the rump, he had just completely shut down, it was like i was sitting on a brick wall. I had to retire myself. At our last two events, i had no problems xcountry at all, he was willing to go over everything. And i've schooled him up to novice ,even at Fair Hill just two weeks before, and he was fantastic. What do you think could have been the problem? Do you think maybe the overnight deal rattled him enough that he just couldn't focus? Help!

  • #2
    Oh dear. Pony meltdowns are the worst...

    Is Kieran social? My guy seems to think that overnight stabling is a big slumber party, and I swear he stays up all night visiting, and then crashes the next day like an overtired first-grader strung out on fruity pebbles and mountain dew.


    • #3
      How old is he? If he's green/young and this is only his third event, he's probably just over-excited and now knows "what's coming next". He doesn't want to do it your way, he'd rather do it his way.

      It could stem from a combination of excitement, inexperience, etc. You noted that you gave him a "smarten up" tap... if he was already very forward going, and you were trying to ask him to wait to the fence (which sounds like the case based on his SJ round) and THEN tapped him, it may have sounded like you were saying whoa and go at the same time, which could have just put him over the top and he said WTF do you want me to do here??!! (Ha ha, is he TB by any chance?)

      Anyways, best thing is to work with your coach on solutions for when he starts to rush the fences (maybe they will have another solution to tapping him if you're trying to get his attention on course). A few dressage shows or H/J flat classes wouldn't hurt either, where you can work on him getting to focus on you [in a busy show environment] without him anticipating or getting revved up about the jumping stuff.
      A quick tutorial on interval training: Conditioning your horse for eventing


      • #4
        I'd vote some smaller schooling shows, and more xc schooling, with and without friends, and maybe go noncompeting at a bigger show (if you can afford it / want to spend that money). Just let him chill and figure stuff out.
        Pisgah: 2000 AHHA (Holsteiner x TB) Mare (lower level eventing, with a focus on dressage)

        Darcy: 7? year old Border Collie x Rottweiler? Drama Queen extraordinaire, rescued from the pound in Jan 2010


        • #5
          Sounds like he needs more mileage/schooling. Three phases can be a lot for a young/green horse to handle. If he's NOT handling it, (and shutting down on course would be a pretty strong indication) then it's time to back down and invest in more mileage.

          Clobbering and thumping a stubborn, wilful, or sour horse around a course is one thing. It isn't going to work with a greenie whose brain is fried.
          Click here before you buy.


          • #6
            Sounds like a nappy horse.

            I would try and do a bit more schooling off property at smaller shows, schooling shows, where there is less pressure and they will let you take your time and school if needed.
            Boss Mare Eventing Blog


            • Original Poster

              He is 11 and a Hungarian Half-bred (lots of arab and TB in there). He has quite the bossy attitude and likes to bully in order to get his way. The reason i was tapping him was b/c he has a history of sometimes chickening out at jumps, so reminding him a few steps out that he is going no matter what, is what i was aiming for....but it backfired :P I'm thinking the overnight factor is what did it, he wasn't quite sure of what was going on. I spent a lot of time in the morning before my times just hand walking him all around, getting him used to the hustle and bustle. Of course, he couldn't care less about the horses all over, the generators running the food stand, nothing. He didn't start acting up until i got on him. And i was being really good about staying calm and deep breathing. I wonder if a calming paste would be a good idea for overnight shows?


              • #8
                How old is your horse, since you did say first overnight?

                We quickly learned that our young boy 'needed his sleep' or he would lose focus, but he was young and growing too. It took quite a few trips for him to learn to rest and sleep at a show. The first time he turned and went back to stand in a corner was hurray!

                Agree he sounds like he was fried. Time for some of the 'set yourself up for success' schooling techniques to rebuild both of your confidences. And probably some 'smaller' schooling venues vs a big busy vibed up place like a recognized HT. Find places to go the day before for him to learn to settle in.
                Don't let anyone tell you that your ideas or dreams are foolish. There is a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle.


                • Original Poster

                  I agree, alas, I don't know of many "smaller" overnight venues near me :/ I live in NJ so the most reasonable places would be NJ, PA, MD, or DE. Know of any in those areas? It was a schooling trial but we found out the day of that it was rally too, lots of pony clubbers haha :P I agree, i think he was just too unfocused, he needs to learn that going overnight is not a big deal.


                  • #10
                    What kind of bit did you have? Sometimes if you overbit them, I've seen them react like this. They feel trapped because they can't bolt.... It can be a tough problem...needing control but also not shutting them down.

                    Next time...trot out of the start box..even walk, then pick up the trot. I know it is a bit counter intuitive...but sometimes starting slow and keeping things slower keeps their brain from over loading. Take the pressure off a bit as that is what can also cause them to brain fry. I typically just ask them to trot out of the start...if they offer to canter, I let them...but the key is keeping it low key. Time shouldn't even be on your mind at this stage....and even if it is, you can often make still make it at these levels.

                    ETA: I like to take them to clinics for the first few overnight parties. There are some good ones at Waradaca on their web site. Maybe look into those.
                    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                    • Original Poster

                      We finally have him pretty happy in a strange sort of set up, a hackamore and a herm-sprenger duo loose ring (the plastic one). I used a hanger for the hackamore and bit converters so i can use one set of reins. He has old bone spurs in his jaw actually so we can't put a lot in his mouth but the hackamore alone isn't quite enough, especially for steering. Maybe i should just get a stronger hackamore? Right now i just use the herm sprenger hackamore. True, i would love to take him to a clinic, good idea, i'll bring that up with my trainer!


                      • #12
                        I don't know how sensitive your boy is, but maybe some of his tack wasn't quite right and he was trying to "tell" you that.

                        My personal experience with my girl is that she only acts ridiculous like that when something is physically wrong (or she spooks which is completely different).
                        "Life ain't always beautiful, but it's a beautiful ride."


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by katestephenson45 View Post
                          We finally have him pretty happy in a strange sort of set up, a hackamore and a herm-sprenger duo loose ring (the plastic one). I used a hanger for the hackamore and bit converters so i can use one set of reins. He has old bone spurs in his jaw actually so we can't put a lot in his mouth but the hackamore alone isn't quite enough, especially for steering. Maybe i should just get a stronger hackamore? Right now i just use the herm sprenger hackamore. True, i would love to take him to a clinic, good idea, i'll bring that up with my trainer!
                          Aside from gaining more mileage and experience in Away From Home situations, you might want to use two reins.

                          A hackamore can be pretty big brakes (for some horses) and sometimes can cause horses to feel trapped, as BFNE said. While you want consistent contact with a snaffle, you may want a bit looser contact on the hackamore. You can't really do this with one set of reins. Practice riding with two reins at home; it isn't as hard as you might think. Yes, it does suck gathering up two reins after landing down a huge drop and turning to a skinny-- but you won't have any of those at BN level.

                          Two reins should allow you to let off the brakes while maintaining the steering and connection. Also, make sure you LET GO and don't lock your elbows-- a common rider instinct when the horse grabs the bit and runs at something. When you lock, they lock, and then they shut down. As hard as it is, keep your elbows moving; you can pull as hard as you need, but you must GIVE in between half-halts.
                          “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                          ? Albert Einstein



                          • #14
                            I'm going to vote for a combination of overwhelmed and disobedient - he wanted to charge at the jumps and you tried to rate him. To which his response was "then I won't do anything". I had this last year - she had sort of figured out the events, and knew XC was coming but was having issues with my input. My options for a few minute were "CHARGE" and "NO".

                            Does he ever react this way to other things- you described him as bossy - which tells me he likes to do things his way. Amplify that with a big 2-day show, and some fatigue where he might feel he has to go faster rather than sit and wait and be stronger and you get the my way or the highway response.

                            Keep working as you would regularly - and watch how he responds to you at other times when you want him to do something differently - is it similar? Then that's the crux of your issue.

                            Hopefully he won't carry this through in general to jumping and it was a one-time green horse thing.


                            • Original Poster

                              Oh yes, you hit the nail on the head haha. If anything is "too hard" he gets bossy and throws a hissy fit. He pulled something like this when we asked him to pop over a low skinny ramp at home. Same things, he decided his options were bolt over it or not go at all and throw a hissy fit. My trainer got on the next day and schooled him, rode him a lot around it, and finally got him to somewhat obediently jump it. *Sigh* Horses sometimes... haha :P


                              • #16
                                Check out the Delaware Valley Adult Amateur Eventers Facebook page for a good list of starter horse trials. Good luck!


                                • #17
                                  Ah ha! So given your response to my suggestion, I think you can (and probably should) work on this issue of obedience to your input in general and it will carry over to the jumping.

                                  Groundwork is an excellent place to instill that YOU are the Alpha-b*tch, and he does what he's told. He will have plenty of opportunities to think for himself, but he doesn't get to run the show. It can take time for that to translate under saddle, but most of them do get it.

                                  Another think you can work on is to pick little fights, and without resorting to beating and hysteria, you wait him out, always giving him an option to do as you ask. If not? you've got all. day. long. and you will keep asking. This drives home to him that you aren't going to be intimidated by his tantrums and that he never gets to win an argument.

                                  Keep working with your trainer - it sounds like s/he understands that he sometimes gets your number and can remind him of his job.


                                  • #18
                                    If you are getting this reaction at home, then this horse is not ready to be competing at events yet. It would be better to take him to simple schooling shows, like a dressage show, maybe a hunter show, and a jumper show. Sounds like he is very brain fried and unless you take a step back, it will only continue on or get worse.

                                    Some horses are slow learners and need lots of time to build their confidence and become good show horses. I also agree that you need to be riding in that set up with two reins.
                                    Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                                      Next time...trot out of the start box..even walk, then pick up the trot. I know it is a bit counter intuitive...but sometimes starting slow and keeping things slower keeps their brain from over loading. Take the pressure off a bit as that is what can also cause them to brain fry. I typically just ask them to trot out of the start.
                                      ^^ Fence judging at a schooling show I saw a pro type rider come thru XC (starter division) on a young horse at a very strong road trot - trotted the whole course stringing those fences together. Point well made!! The horse stayed straight and focused and got the idea.
                                      Don't let anyone tell you that your ideas or dreams are foolish. There is a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Yes, we did trot out of the start, he just decided he wasn't going to listen. This "bolting or balking/hissy fit" is a new thing and we are trying to pinpoint what could have caused him to start doing it. Trying a new saddle this week to see if that is a possibility and next event we are dropping down a level again to build his confidence. I'm thinking maybe being more aggressive about his bossiness may just not be the right option, it might just make him more bossy. I'm sure we'll figure it out, maybe he was just having an off weekend, who knows