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Not sure how to proceed with my horse...

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  • Not sure how to proceed with my horse...

    I have a lovely 7-year old thoroughbred who I have owned for about a year. He trained for the track but never raced and spent the majority of his early years in a field. The previous owner bought him when he was 5 and did his basic under saddle and jump training. When I purchased him, he had never shown but was comfortable trail riding, jumping a small course of fences and his w/t/c foundation was really solid. He had - and still does have - lovely gaits and fantastic jumping technique. I purchased him with the hopes he would be my next event horse.

    Over the past year, I have been able to make very little progress on his confidence and desire to jump cross country. I've schooled cross country more times than I can count, always over small and inviting fences, but our schools are always plagued with refusals. If following another horse, he's great. If a group of horses are near him, he seems comfortable enough - though slightly backed off. When he must gallop away from whatever he perceives as home toward a fence, he shuts down. And whenever he must go it alone and jump a series of fences in a course, the whole way is a fight to convince him to continue.

    This particular horse jumps his heart out in the ring - he seems to really enjoy show jumping and attacks his fences in that setting. He's competed successfully in a number of BN and N combined tests. But the 2 elementary horse trials I've entered have ended extremely poorly. The last - just this past weekend at Fair Hill - ended in a refusal at the eighth fence and me falling. In the past most of our refusals were going away from home (which I expect with this horse) but this time we were headed towards home, and he had plenty of time to observe and read the jump. He just didn't want anything to do with it and spun me out of the saddle. I found it to be a dirty stop. He didn't wanted anything to do with the first 7 fences either. He was actively looking to run out / stop at each.

    At this point, my trainer and I are just not sure what to do. I'm at a loss trying to understand why his ring jumping personality doesn't translate to cross country. I'm an adult amateur - so my skills are far from those of a professional. In the past I was convinced it was just me - I simply needed to be a better rider - and I appreciated the opportunity to become a better rider for him. But its gotten to the point that cross country just isn't fun - for him or me - and I don't know if I should continue to pursue this sport with him. It's a hard decision to make because he is such a talented jumper, has lovely gaits/movement, and has the best damn personality.

    Have you had a similar experience? What did you do?

  • #2
    There really are horses who don't like XC. Doesn't make them bad horses, but it does mean that they need to find a job that will keep them in the ring, be it hunters, jumpers, whatever they are suitable for.

    If he were my horse, I'd put a professional on him for a schooling and possibly a show to get a read on what's going on, but be open to the idea that this may just not be his thing (assuming, of course, that there's nothing physical going on - though it sounds unlikely if he's jumping fine in the ring. Could be sore feet, but overall, I would not make that my first guess). If he's just not cut out to be an XC horse, than I'd figure out whether I liked him enough to keep him around and not do horse trials, or whether I wanted to move him on to a home that better fit what he wanted to do.


    • #3
      No real advice for you, but two thoughts;
      1. If you are working with an experienced event trainer, and have made no progress on this, it may be that he doesn't want to be an event horse. It happens, and usually for this reason. Doesn't mean he can't be a great jumper or dressage horse. I own one who hated being a dressage horse (although he'll tolerate it as an eventer because it's not what we do every day). Loves eventing.

      2. If you are NOT working with an event trainer, send the horse, or both of you, to a good baby horse event trainer, just to make sure before you decide he's not an event horse.

      Edited to add that GotSpots posted while I was writing. She said it better!!!
      The big man -- my lost prince

      The little brother, now my main man


      • #4
        Exactly what they said I spent many years forcing a really nice talented TB around x-c who was always in the top ribbons in dressage and made a 4ft stadium course look like a hunter round. X-C required me riding every single fence and being perfect and I am very far from perfect. I could get him around sometimes but it wasn't fun. He was my heart horse so I did a bunch of stuff with him over the years and wasn't stuck on the fact that he had to event so we made it work.

        That being said after him I bought a young conn/tb who thought that x-c was where it was at and he was a total blast to ride. He did have a bit of a ditch issue but I could deal with a 1 fence type of thing vs every fence being something I had to ride the hell out of. He made me realize the importance of having a horse that wants to do the job and that I could actually enjoy x-c and not have to ride so defensively.

        A nice horse is a nice horse so maybe he is such a nice jumper in the ring he could be sold as a jumper and finance your next horse


        • #5
          To the point as I'm short on time: either your horse will never be a XC horse, or your trainer is not doing his/her job.

          Your horse is both barn sour and buddy sour - and you are buying into it - as you are probably riding differently when the jump is "away from home" versus "towards home". He has now learned that he doesn't have to go away from the group and that stopping is an OK answer to jumping questions.

          He will need some reform work. An experienced, confident rider will be needed, and it will have to be consistent (i.e. you will have to take a break from jumping him and get someone to school him multiple times, even for a month away).

          He will have to learn (re-learn) that stopping is not an option.

          Frankly, it sounds like your trainer has not been on board with the above - the job just isn't getting done. A year later, it sounds like your horse stops more than he goes.

          Where are you from? This board could probably give you some suggestions for a trainer that could help you.

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


          • #6
            You could take him foxhunting for cross country experience. He'd be running and jumping in company, though, so that might not help with your problem.

            I firmly believe that foxhunting is good for both horse and rider as a training tool. Some horses aren't foxhunters, either, though. But you'd learn that very quickly.
            "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
            Thread killer Extraordinaire


            • #7
              My talented, quiet and lovely young TB is currently for sale as a hunter/jumper horse (5 year old OTTB that I got a year ago) for exactly this reason. I rode him (and I've done several horses from dead green through training level and above, though I am an adult ammy) and my trainer (who has ridden through the 4* level and started and reschooled more horses than I can count) rode him and he just wasn't getting more comfortable out there. When a horse will jump around a 3' stadium course on the buckle with me in two point the entire time, with flowers, tarps whatever, learn perfect flying changes in 3 rides, but will not jump an 18" log out cross country without having a meltdown, I think they are telling you something. I don't want to do hunters and he doesn't want to do xc, so I have a new young horse and he is in search of a new rider. You can read some of it on the blog here: http://seema-thefloridachronicles.blogspot.com
              OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for all the insights, everyone. It's always helpful to get the perspectives of others.

                I do work with a very good trainer. She is capable of riding my horse xc much more successfully than myself, though she has not ridden him in a competition situation. Jleegriffith said it great when she mentioned that her previous horse required a perfect cross country ride. My guy is very similar.

                I didn't mean to make it sound like he's refusing every fence; he's not. But he is reluctant the majority of the time and he requires a very assertive ride - you ride expecting the worst case scenario at every fence. It just seems like his heart is not in it.


                • #9
                  I have a horse that has amazing talent in dressage and lovely movement buttttt when it comes to jumping its just not for him. I have put him in c/ts over the past 2 years with stadium and some xcountry. Very small jumps and he does okay. It took him time to get comfortable with jumps and if a jump changes at an event (meaning if its a new jump) then I have to really ride not to get a refusal. He does this in stadium and xcountry though. He will jump all day at home 3' and at shows if its the same shows he's been to 50 times with the same jumps he is great but as soon as something new comes in he get reluctant and backs off and is sometimes scared and does the nice spin like you got. I have decided that he is now a dressage only horse and we will jump for fun at times. Sounds like this maybe what you need to do with this boy. I'd have your trainer ride him out once and let her feel him and get her opinion first. If she gets the same read from him then it sounds like its just not his thing and maybe gear him toward dressage or jumpers. If he has the movement maybe even hunters. Some horses just don't have the desire to run xcountry and for yours and his safety it sounds like it maybe that he needs a career change before someone gets really hurt. Good luck.
                  Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


                  • #10
                    My first horse was like that -- jumped anything in a ring but had heart failure XC. I stopped eventing him and showed him low jumpers and he was happy as a clam. I got tired of having stops XC.

                    Some horses don't want to do it; some take advantage of your weakness to make you think they don't .

                    My current OTTB has loved to jump from day 1 and I've always just hopped him over xc fences because I can't resist them when I'm out hacking. He will get a bit looky over new stuff and I often trot fences, but he obviously enjoys it.

                    If I were in your shoes I would try three things:
                    • Have your trainer school him and then compete him at least once so he can have a confidence building ride.
                    • Take him to a few hunter paces where you have the time to school over the fences and switch off whether you follow or lead. That's what I've done with my OTTB and he gained a lot of confidence that way. In some regards, it's preferable from doing a xc school with a group because then you have a bunch of horses that are standing around.
                    • Foxhunt him. However, if YOU have never foxhunted, that might be a last choice. Unless you are confident galloping him in a group, galloping and jumping in a group can be a bit overwhelming the first few times out.
                    Good luck! I do think you can increase a horse's confidence with training but they need to enjoy it, too.
                    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                    • #11
                      Been there, done that .

                      I only started eventing a few years ago; my horse at that time was a beautiful mover and a knees up to the eyeballs jumper. He scored great in dressage and usually had a brilliant stadium round; then *BAM* XC where we would enter melt down mode. I had to ride the !@#$ out of every jump, and I never knew when he would shut down and decide that he wasn't jumping- he could pop a shoulder and ignore the aids and get himself so twisted up like a pretzel that it became impossible to jump. It wasn't in the least bit fun and I was really questioning why I was doing this at all.

                      Finally, after having a complete off the charts melt down during a Novice XC at an unrecognized, I handed the reins over to my trainer because I was convinced the problem was with me. When he started pulling the same garbage with her, I began to realize that this horse just simply hated XC. After a lot of soul searching (and advice from others here on the COTH bbs), I sold him. He is now loving life as a foxhunter- throw in lots of buddies and some hounds and XC instantly becomes fun .

                      I took the money and bought a horse that loves XC and, all of a sudden, I knew what everyone was talking about when they say eventing is a rush. I now have two horses that are doing well at Training and we are having a blast, which is something I never imagined when I was stuffing my former horse over 18" logs.

                      My advice: sell him and find something that loves XC; it's just not worth the time trying to fit a square peg in a round hole .


                      • #12
                        Sounds to me like you already know the answer!

                        If you want to event, sell him and get another horse. If you want to keep the horse, don't event him.

                        I've been in a similar situation with a horse that will never move up to where I want to go, and have had to make the heart-wrenching choice to sell him To me, not eventing isn't an option... it's the reason I bust my butt to ride.


                        • #13
                          I agree with GotSpots.

                          Can you take him schooling just you, your trainer and him? Maybe he needs to not do it in a group a few times with your trainer in the saddle.

                          However, if he really hates it, move on. Neither of you will be having a good time otherwise!
                          "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant


                          • #14
                            If you said that your trainer had NO PROBLEM with him xc, it would be different. But you said she was just 'more successful'. I'm guessing that means he is also a jerk with her? If you can't do it and your pro can't do it, the writing is on the wall, I think..... of course you could always move up the food chain and see if a BETTER pro can do it (assuming there is one, for all I know you ride with Lucinda Green), but that gets awfully expensive without any guarantee of results......

                            Life is too short and you are just asking to make it shorter if you continue to screw around with a xc horse that doesn't like his job. Tossing you at elementary after a year of training and xc schooling?? Seriously? Especially when he clearly likes ANOTHER job quite well.... sell him as a showjumper or hunter, whichever his jumping style and movement are suited for, and buy yourself a horse that has his head in the game. He'll be happier, and you'll be happier and SAFER!

                            Third Charm Event Team


                            • #15
                              I do agree that not all horses are cut out to be event horses.....but I will also say that not all event horses will give you the ride you are talking about.

                              My really good xc horse required a strong confident ride for his first couple of seasons of eventing. He didn't stop...but he would chip in and was a bit stuck off the ground. I had the best instruction...and gave him the best rides that I could and we did event and move up the levels...actually quite quickly up the levels. But one day the light went one and he became a xc machine (was maybe his 6th Prelim). Now he was never one that grabbed the bit and dragged you to the fence....and I don't want to sit on that anyway...but he would lock on and confidently go to the fences and be looking for the next one.

                              But this took time to develop. A LOT of green horses take time...and require very confident rides...that sort of the price of riding green horses! Some get the game right away...others take a year or two. Some can be taught the game with a less than steller rider on their back (making mistakes)...and others will be less forgiving of those mistakes.

                              So I guess what I'm saying is perhaps this horse doesn't want to be an event horse....or perhape he needs more time....it does sound like perhaps the two of you may not be the best partners at this point in his training...at least his training away from home. It is a really hard call to tell when they are just being green....or if they really don't want to play the game.
                              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **