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Building Confidence in an Unconfident Horse

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  • Building Confidence in an Unconfident Horse

    Hey guys! I was just wondering if anyone could offer some confidence building jumping exercises?

    A couple weeks ago I started riding a very sweet 7 year old OTTB. He's super willing and rides well except for on the approach to a fence. About five strides away he starts sucking back then in the last two strides he realizes its no big deal and rushes through it. A firm half halt usually fixes the rushing, but I don't know what to about keeping him in front of my leg. He doesn't refuse, just sucks back. Mind you, these fences are low Xs and verticals. (Maybe 18"? If that.) He gets much better after jumping the fence a few times, but I'd still love some suggestions on how to increase his confidence and pace over fences.

    Thank you!
    New Username: tres grey

  • #2
    Patience and time. I don't know how long this horse has been jumping but it sounds like a typical green horse who simply needs consistent miles where the rider makes big deal of anything. Let the horse figure it out and don't try to make him be confident. If you are quiet and confident and consistent he will pick up on that and grow into a confident horse.

    Reed

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      He's been jumping for a couple of years on and off but nothing consistent. (I'll ask his owner if she wouldn't mind posting some more background information on him.) He seems to enjoy it, but doesn't know quite what to do upon approaching. (He's always very proud of himself after a fence, haha.) As a rider, I've just been keeping it quiet with my leg on and shoulders back and kinda just letting him figure out where to place his feet.
      New Username: tres grey

      Comment


      • #4
        Gridwork

        I like to use an exercise that I begin with a pole, trot in, forward trot, canter over the pole. Then add a cross rail about 10' away. Then add a vertical 10-11' beyond that. Go thru the bounces a few times, and add a another vertical jump 1 stride after the bounces. Finally put an oxer another 1 stride beyond the last one. So it rides, canter at the first pole, bounce, bounce, 1 stride, 1 stride.

        I make sure to have a really forward, trot coming in, with them almost begging to canter. They tend to get a bit strong coming in, but that is exactly where I want them. I want the feeling of them taking me to the jump.

        As you work thru this kind of grid, I find that they quit asking, "what the heck is THAT?", and start trying to figure out "how". It really seems to build trust that no matter how crazy something appears, it is a puzzle they can solve.

        These grids are a LOT of fun for both horse and rider. They really seem to love them.

        Comment


        • #5
          Just some background (I'm Logan's owner and thrilled to have such a capable rider for him!). He came off the track as a 5 yr old just fried mentally. I did nothing but hacking out for the first few months so he'd understand his life had changed and he did not need to fret about everything. Although he is willing to do anything you ask, he is just a generally "up" horse. New things frighten him and he gets so worried about not doing what he is supposed to do. As far as jumping, I'm more of a hunter rider and worked with him over logs and natural obstacles out of the ring. He has always rushed his fences. I did get him to where he'd actually canter up to and after without too much hoopla, but then I got another job and was not able to keep him in work so he had about 6 mos off. Ohhthatgirl started with him a few weeks ago and they are a perfect match (thanks to the riderless horses thread!). Now I can watch him go and see the worry on his face about three strides out. Once he is over it, he is great, but he worries at EVERY fence. He's never been overfaced as far as too many fences or too complicated courses. He is just a worrier.
          So, thank you in advance for helpful ideas!
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          • #6
            Sometimes trying to do *less* with the busy minded ones backfires. Have you tried keeping him very actively on the aids? It might be that his style of thinking doesn't mesh w/your style of riding or the job you would like him to do but that he might be really good at something else that requires him to think! a lot! and be told! what to do! I love horses like that.
            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
            ---
            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by EqTrainer View Post
              Sometimes trying to do *less* with the busy minded ones backfires. Have you tried keeping him very actively on the aids? It might be that his style of thinking doesn't mesh w/your style of riding or the job you would like him to do but that he might be really good at something else that requires him to think! a lot! and be told! what to do! I love horses like that.
              While that may work in the arena, but on XC, a horse has plenty to think about and if the rider is telling the horse what to do every moment, it is makes it more dangerous.

              I find that most "green" horses on XC are going to back up and then "bolt" at the fence. A steady ride will allow the horse to settle, THINK things through and become more confident on XC. When I said steady I mean a solid but not clamping leg, light contact to open the front door for the horse to go forward, thus riding the horse between your leg and the fence.

              The fact the horse gets over his concern means that he is thinking and learning. He sounds like he just needs miles and practice.

              Reed

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with patience and gridwork. Freejumping is also a great way to help the horse figure out what to do.
                1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

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                • #9
                  Time and repetition. Getting out and hacking in the "world". (not the ring) Foxhunting! A rider who is expert enough to make as sure as is possible that the horse will never have a bad fence or a bad experience.
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                  • #10
                    If he were my horse, I would never canter him to a fence for months.

                    I would give him three strides to the fence with a strong leg.

                    CSSJR

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                    • #11
                      A few hunter pace classes (here you ride as a pair of 2 riders/horses) will really help - following another horse over a couple dozen small fences is a great confidence builder!
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                      • #12
                        I have an OTTB that can get anxious jumping. I have been very careful not to over face him.

                        Here's what works for me:

                        Grids -- they help him figure out striding and allow me to leave him alone.

                        Trotting xc fences. He's much steadier to the fence and he's more than capable of jumping anything we come across from a trot.

                        Repetition - if something gets him concerned or anxious, we do it several times until he decides it's not a big deal.

                        Hunter paces -- they are great for going out and trying fences at your own speed, on your own terms, and with a lead from a partner if necessary.

                        Good luck!
                        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by EqTrainer View Post
                          Sometimes trying to do *less* with the busy minded ones backfires. Have you tried keeping him very actively on the aids? It might be that his style of thinking doesn't mesh w/your style of riding or the job you would like him to do but that he might be really good at something else that requires him to think! a lot! and be told! what to do! I love horses like that.
                          I have to agreee with that!! My busy minded horses are SO much better if you keep them busy and focused. Even just leading them in and out in places that they have been a thousand times. If you just casually walk them, they are always looking for something that worries them. If you tell them to march forward!, they don't look at a thing, and swing confidently forward past anything. They seem to need a leader, someone they can trust, not be left in the position to decide if something is safe or not.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Trotting fences can be very good. I had a very good jumper that was just a bit of a thinker/worrier and we were still trotting the occasional fence at training level. It just gave him time to think/process something new. I had another (not so much a worrier, but definitely a "if I just go faster all will be good") with whom I found that setting up fences in the ring or out xc where I could do them in a "pattern" with circles and figure 8s and things like that helped (this was one of those horses that EqTrainer described). I don't think EqTrainer necessarily meant a horse that needed to be told what to do every minute (which is undesirable xc), but a horse that did better with enough to keep its mind on that there wasn't a lot of down time to get worried.
                            OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by ohhthatgirl View Post
                              Mind you, these fences are low Xs and verticals. (Maybe 18"? If that.) He gets much better after jumping the fence a few times, but I'd still love some suggestions on how to increase his confidence and pace over fences.

                              Thank you!

                              At this level....trot the fences (I see I'm not the only one to think this way!). When he is trotting well, then you can add in some canter fences. I find putting them on a circle easiest when first teaching them to canter a fence. But if he starts his sucking back thing...go back to the trot. And keep working on his dressage I have one that get's behind my leg.....you don't fix that jumping, you fix it doing your dressage work.
                              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                My pony was like your horse: Very Worried. He was a little different in that he'd had some bad experiences jumping in a previous life, but to be honest I think he's also just the type that likes to understand everything.

                                I kept my pony literally to poles and tiny itty bitty things until he felt really secure. At that point we were able to ramp him up in height pretty steadily - in 6 months we went from poles to BN, with a good solid 2+ months of that on the poles and itty bitty.

                                Lots of great ideas here. One thing that sticks in my head as a turning point in the case of the suspicious pony: we were out with maybe 3 other horses on a trail ride/xc school at a place that had a lot of small things to jump (small = 2' or less). Over the first couple of things, he was really rushing and worried, inverting and scooting out from under me style. So I found a "stone wall" (less than 6" pile of rocks) and just walked him back and forth, back and forth back and forth on a long rein till he thought it was no big deal, no longer tried to make a big effort in front, zoom off afterwards, etc.

                                For whatever reason, getting bored made something click in his head. From then on he seemed to believe that things weren't going to be so hard and he grew confident quickly.

                                He still throws the occasional deer hop at me over a fence, but I attribute it to Pony. You should be safe
                                Talk to the Hoof

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                                  While that may work in the arena, but on XC, a horse has plenty to think about and if the rider is telling the horse what to do every moment, it is makes it more dangerous.

                                  I find that most "green" horses on XC are going to back up and then "bolt" at the fence. A steady ride will allow the horse to settle, THINK things through and become more confident on XC. When I said steady I mean a solid but not clamping leg, light contact to open the front door for the horse to go forward, thus riding the horse between your leg and the fence.

                                  The fact the horse gets over his concern means that he is thinking and learning. He sounds like he just needs miles and practice.

                                  Reed
                                  I agree w/this, and it makes my point exactly - not all horses are going to make great event horses. A horse who needs to be kept very busy to be mentally stable is not going to be the horse you trust xcountry IMO.

                                  Just like people, every horse is an individual. It's really important to look at who they are and what they would be good at, not just at what we would like them to do.

                                  I'm not saying throw in the towel on this horse as an eventer.. I'm saying keep it in your mind that this might not be the *perfect* job for him and this thing that seems like a negative in *this* job might be an absolute positive in another. I can tell you for sure that you cannot bore them all to death in hopes that they will change, and what you may get from a horse who feels like he needs to keep making his own decisions when he is not capable of making good ones might not be so pretty... and is hard to fix...
                                  "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                  ---
                                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Trot, trot, trot, trot, trot, trot... and more trotting until he is bored and confident. The "speeding up" at the fence does not mean that he has decided that it is OK, but more likely that he is scared and running through the scary part, then is relieved when he gets to the other side. Trot, walk, trot, walk, step over, etc, until he understands the process and doesn't worry or fret. Keep them small, even going back to poles on the ground until he will maintain a steady pace of the poles.
                                    If you always do what you've always done- you'll always get what you've always gotten.
                                    Madison Ridge Farm

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I think he needs to be "taught" to jump first. There are all different schools of thought on this, the method I've used for several beasties with great success (I like packers, so I make packers) is following. Sorry it is long and kind of dull.

                                      Start with single pole on ground, first at walk and then trot.

                                      Series of four trot poles, followed nine feet later (your stride will vary) by a ground pole in between standards. Once he goes smoothly through the exercise two or three times, quit for the day.

                                      Next session, do same thing with previous setup of four poles to standards w/ground rail. If goes through calmly, set it to a crossrail with the center close to knee height, so he will have to put some effort in and actually jump.

                                      Remaining calm as the day is long, thinking about going from here to there and disregarding the fence, trot through. Ask horse to halt 5-10 strides after fence, or ask for him to use himself in a curve then ask for halt.

                                      Try to do no more than three to five efforts the first crossrail session, stopping as soon as you get a decent effort. Make each session interesting, but don't ask a lot of him, and praise often.

                                      If you need lateral "support" to keep horse from drifting before or after fence, place ground poles parallel with line of travel, wider than the standards, and three or more feet away from the standards. These help guide, but don't make horse feel "trapped".

                                      Introduce different types of fences with the trot poles, once he stays quiet and through to fences; you could add a second fence as a related distance, or preferably start trotting other fences without the trot poles for setup. If he gets sucked back more often, go back a step to where he's comfortable.

                                      Horse will let you know he's feeling confident when he canters on other side, or offers canter before a trotting fence (if he is rushing, however, go back a step). It's still nice to bring him back to halt or walk without too much cantering after the jumping effort. It will keep him quieter and more balanced in the long run.

                                      After he often offers to canter into a fence and seems balanced, you can ask for two fences in a row (not related distance), trotting into the first and steering in canter to the second. If he rushes, he's not ready yet. if you keep your shoulders up and balanced, and he's confident, he should maintain his pace. He might take a while to get reliable on his distances, but quiet and confident is what you are trying to build. Pace can always be added later, but impulsion and thought are best installed first.

                                      Keeping sessions short and number of efforts low, you can jump three times a week, and progress faster than you realize. The first guy I trained this way was cantering a quiet hunter round, able to move up or be shortened, within less than 6 weeks. He knew I was telling him to go from A to B, and a fence or two or three in between was no cause for alarm.

                                      My former eventer could trot a big verical, slow lope a triple bar, or run steeplechase fences with ease. He went the speed requested and got you over the fence as it was in our direction of travel. We once trotted a prelim ramp at KHP so we could school the ditch, and he wasn't ready to gallop into the series.


                                      I also prefer to use heavy wood poles, or planks, for teaching jumping. A horse needs to know hitting fences hurts and isn't desirable. PVC sucks for introducing your horse to jump.

                                      Hope this helps someone reading this thread, or gives food for thought.
                                      I'm not really at the top of my game today. I'm not even exactly sure what game I'm supposed to be playing, in fact... or where it's being held...

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                                      • #20
                                        Maybe he just needs to get to know and trust his rider. Sounds like she is a match for him and can give him the confidence he needs and work with his TB temperament. I picked up a worrier who with hunting, work and getting to know me and trust me went on to be sold as an Intermediate eventer and went on to Advanced with a new Young Rider. The best tryer I ever had probably.
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