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In gate anticipation/anxiety

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  • endlessclimb
    started a topic In gate anticipation/anxiety

    In gate anticipation/anxiety

    You know, as soon as I run my mouth about this exact topic, here it comes up in my own life...

    Mare is an anxious animal. It's how she's wired, and we can manage to keep a lid on it 99% of the time.

    We are eventers, but she doesn't seem to have much of an issue with the XC start box... just comes unglued waiting for the bell in stadium - running sideways, flicking her head, very excited (first few canter strides are like bunny hops), won't stand or walk quietly.

    I recognize one of the triggers is me shortening the reins, so I spend most of my warm up going between a long rein, shortening to jumping length, waiting for her to chill out, then back to a long rein. It doesn't take her long to figure out to stay chill. But as soon as we go in the actual ring, she's in crazy-pants mode. The second we are done, I can put her back on a loose rein and she's fine, and in the warm up area I can shorten my reins and she doesn't care. ....smart mare.

    FWIW, it's not flatwork related - while we aren't world-beaters in dressage, we are nearly always in the 30-33s. She has no anxiety there, and is quite pleasant.

    I would like for her to be able to walk in a ring and keep a lid on it until it's game time. Right now her idea of when game time starts and mine are about 30 seconds apart from each other's. The show this past weekend, I didn't feel comfortable with the nice volunteer ladies putting ribbons on her, that's how uptight she was about being in the ring with the jumps.

    I was thinking of taking her to a jumper show and entering in all the pee-wee stuff to have lots of in gate practice, and then walk-trot the whole course so she doesn't get that adrenaline kick, or just go on past the 45 second limit if needed - you must relax before we can move out. I will fully admit that she is borderline dangerous in how she behaves when that fired up - I can feel how light her front end is, and she already isn't playing with a full deck sometimes I think. She is not typically a rearer, so that part of it isn't something I can easily recreate.

    While I have no problem taking her to a show with my humble suit on, I was wondering if anyone has suggestions on how to do some work on this at home, or a specific way they've handled this in the past. I know she'll never be a lamb, and I appreciate that she's pumped to do her job, but she needs to keep it "in the box" so we aren't a nuisance. Especially at bigger jumper shows, when they send you in a good while before the previous horse finished, she needs to know how to handle this a bit better than currently.

    TL;DR - how to deal with in-gate anticipation? Exercises to work on at home? A new way to shut it down, and encourage relaxation? Do I just start trotting the second I get in the ring so she never gets that sucked back feeling of "going to explode"? (is that rude to the judge to just give a basic nod, and not a salute because I'm sitting on a keg of dynamite?)

  • endlessclimb
    replied
    Originally posted by Mac123 View Post
    Is it possible you could simulate this either at home or at a neighboring barn? That way you skip the show fees and also have more flexibility with how you deal with it?

    Have you experimented with a groundpersob leading you guys in? This can make some more wound up but can really calm down others so it may be worth a try.

    I do think it’s strange she doesn’t do this with cross country or dressage...there must be something about show jumping that she feels anxious about?
    I have trailered out before. She can get wound at a new location, but because I can take the time between fences to do some flatwork, and it isn't wham bam done, I can keep the lid on it. I can try again though!

    I think at this point, she may know the "name of the game" so to speak. Dressage is first, she's chill. Cross country is second, she's chill, but get excited (she is a monster xc, loves galloping out across terrain and will jump anything). By the time stadium rolls around, she knows what's up. She's a really hot horse that requires a tactful ride, but I cross train just about everything with her (mounted orienteering, camping, some gymkhana stuff, trail classes), so we've gotten to know each other quite well.

    I can get her in, at the moment. She doesn't hesitate at the gate. It's once we're in, she's immediately playing hop scotch with about a pound a piece on her front legs. I think knowing the rules better, that I don't in fact have to wait for the judge to acknowledge me back before being able to get her moving, will help me a lot. Movement is her jam - if in doubt, she moves.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mac123
    replied
    Is it possible you could simulate this either at home or at a neighboring barn? That way you skip the show fees and also have more flexibility with how you deal with it?

    Have you experimented with a groundpersob leading you guys in? This can make some more wound up but can really calm down others so it may be worth a try.

    I do think it’s strange she doesn’t do this with cross country or dressage...there must be something about show jumping that she feels anxious about?

    Leave a comment:


  • endlessclimb
    replied
    Originally posted by Janet View Post
    Just FYI, there is nothing in the USEF Eventing rules requiring the rider to salute the Show Jumping judge. And you certainly do not need to halt for it. If an unrecognized Event tells you you need to salute, just nod your head while you are moving (walk, trot or canter) until the judge blows the whistle. (I am a licensed TD and Show Jumping judge.)
    Oh this is great to know. Thank you! I will be in much better shape if I can avoid having to try to see if the judge saw my acknowledgement. Even if I can one hand it while riding out at a better clip, I believe I'll be in 100% better shape.

    Thank you!

    Leave a comment:


  • endlessclimb
    replied
    Originally posted by MegBackInSaddle View Post

    I totally sing to my lovely, athletic, but somewhat tense mare (OTTB; jumping is relaxing and fun, but walking is stressful and for chumps). She even has a theme song. Not sure if it helps her directly, or helps me settle, and therefore helps her, but it helps.
    "Oh, she's sweet but a psycho
    A little bit psycho
    At night she's screamin'
    "I'm-ma-ma-ma out my mind"
    Oh, she's hot but a psycho
    So left but she's right though
    At night she's screamin'
    "I'm-ma-ma-ma out my mind"

    Leave a comment:


  • Janet
    replied
    Just FYI, there is nothing in the USEF Eventing rules requiring the rider to salute the Show Jumping judge. And you certainly do not need to halt for it. If an unrecognized Event tells you you need to salute, just nod your head while you are moving (walk, trot or canter) until the judge blows the whistle. (I am a licensed TD and Show Jumping judge.)

    Leave a comment:


  • MegBackInSaddle
    replied
    Originally posted by Cocorona View Post
    You're going to laugh but on top of all of the other excellent suggestions, I would suggest that you sing to her on your way in. I'm not kidding- it can be just enough to distract them and get them to focus a bit more on you- it splits their attention from the other single minded thing their focused on or the many, many things they're focused on. Plus its non-forceful and will help YOU regulate your breathing by slowing down your diaphragm and will make you relax.

    I do this with my jumper when she gets anxious and her ears flicking back at me is just enough attention that she can refocus on our team and not everything else. pick something that matches the rhythm you want on course. You can stop once you cross the start line but it really does work!
    I totally sing to my lovely, athletic, but somewhat tense mare (OTTB; jumping is relaxing and fun, but walking is stressful and for chumps). She even has a theme song. Not sure if it helps her directly, or helps me settle, and therefore helps her, but it helps.

    Leave a comment:


  • MissMilly
    replied
    Does she know to listen for the bell? If so, I'd try ear plugs and a bonnet so she can't hear it anymore. Might take away one of the cues that makes her tense. Will probably take few outings to make her realize she isn't going to hear the bell anymore and to stop anticipating it. Won't solve the whole issue, but might be a piece of the puzzle. FWIW I have no idea about evenings rules, and if ear plugs are allowed or not.

    Leave a comment:


  • endlessclimb
    replied
    Originally posted by PoochPaddock View Post
    Do you think it would make a difference if you get on IN the ring? I'm not a jumper person at all but I think i've seen this done before.
    If she gets so bad that I need to do this, I will revisit my priorities and work on something else. I honestly think that the horses that get so wound up that they can't even function in any semblance of control are missing some other part of their training in a huge way.

    I like the singing idea, Cocorona ! My mare: "Oh god, please stop, I'll do anything, not that stupid Creedence song again!!!"

    Leave a comment:


  • PoochPaddock
    replied
    Do you think it would make a difference if you get on IN the ring? I'm not a jumper person at all but I think i've seen this done before.

    Leave a comment:


  • Cocorona
    replied
    You're going to laugh but on top of all of the other excellent suggestions, I would suggest that you sing to her on your way in. I'm not kidding- it can be just enough to distract them and get them to focus a bit more on you- it splits their attention from the other single minded thing their focused on or the many, many things they're focused on. Plus its non-forceful and will help YOU regulate your breathing by slowing down your diaphragm and will make you relax.

    I do this with my jumper when she gets anxious and her ears flicking back at me is just enough attention that she can refocus on our team and not everything else. pick something that matches the rhythm you want on course. You can stop once you cross the start line but it really does work!

    Leave a comment:


  • Rnichols
    replied
    Originally posted by Redlei44 View Post

    Just make sure to ask permission from and coordinate this with the gate person first. The angriest I’ve ever seen a gate person was when someone didn’t ask/give heads up on this - I can no longer recall if there were official show rules backing him up but he definitely threatened to have them scratched from the rest of the show if they ever pulled that again. Keep your gate people happy!
    Good point - I thought it was obvious that you would ask to trot in the ring, but apparently not LOL. Each time I've seen it done the person has asked ahead of time and the gate person opens the gate and clears the way.

    Not sure about hunter jumper rules, but I've seen it done specifically at events (which is what the OP referenced she does).

    Leave a comment:


  • endlessclimb
    replied
    Originally posted by Rnichols View Post
    Honestly, my first thought was just have her trot in through the in gate. I've seen people do it at shows. I mean, maybe it will make your problem worse, but maybe not? When you know you're about 2 out in warm up or something, just casually pick up your reins, maybe do another jump, get her supple at the trot, do transitions, do whatever to get her brain engaged and then when it's your turn just trot right on into the arena. Sometimes "forcing" them to relax has the exact opposite effect. Is she an OTTB?I find this with my mare, if I think "relax, DAMNIT!" then that's a surefire way to make her have a stick of dynamite up her butt. In our dressage warm up (our biggest struggle), I have to let her do lots of stretch trot work and strech a bunch at the canter before we can actually go to more collected work - if I try to make her walk too soon she just gets pissed.

    It's interesting she doesn't have that same reaction in the start box though, so there must be something related to the stadium ring and going in there. At one event that I go to a lot, the stadium warm up is in a dark, indoor crowded chaotic arena and then the show jump ring is beautiful and open and bright and all the horses always go "woahhh WHAT" at first LOL. So I wonder if it's just anxiety over the difference between warm up ring and the actually stadium ring?

    My first couple of shows I didn't even know you were supposed to formally acknowledge the stadium judge (oops LOL). After I learned, I always just nod to them - it's never been an issue.
    She's a wicked smart mare, honestly. Anxiety is her vice, movement is the cure, and any attempt at throttling that is liable to get a reaction. We have gotten 100% better, but have 100% more to go before I'd say she's ok. That said, I know she is who she is, and while I could skin her some days, I love her all the same.

    I don't think I force her to relax, though the idea is on my mind so I bet I'm doing stuff subconsc iously. I did install a "head down" cue to assist, but in situations like my OP, too much fiddling around and she's going to let you know where to shove it. It's best to be still, quiet, and direct, while letting her have a little leeway in how she expresses it. This past weekend was a little further than I wanted as far as her expression, so I want to politely and tactfully contain it or direct it, without putting myself in the hospital.

    Leave a comment:


  • endlessclimb
    replied
    These are all some really great suggestions. I'll remember just the nod, and will not wait for the judge to acknowledge me back past the bell/buzzer. That alone will be a huge help in being able to just focus on the task at hand, which for 20 seconds is "don't die" and after that we jump like freaks.

    She was actually REALLY good after her little melt down. One of our more rideable, quiet rounds, with a really good flow - only one fence did she play the "liverpool" game on me (she takes landing poles as personal challenges, she prefers a close spot and landing further out), but there was a rollback right after which got her back without a fight. Just a little kink to work out at the beginning of the round.

    Thank you everyone, I am excited to try the suggestions. There is a jumper show this weekend with three peewee classes, but I'm not down to show two weekends in a row (yeah, I'm a wimp). I believe there is one next month a little further out - I'll look into it and play a little "trial and error" game with her. She's a sensitive gal but jumps her heart out. Annoying as it is, I know she's just excited so I can't be pissed. Just trying to make it safer for us both.

    Plus, that whole dance-dance crap won't be so funny if she has studs in and steps on herself.

    Thanks again everyone!

    Leave a comment:


  • RugBug
    replied
    Originally posted by endlessclimb View Post

    It does not help, it makes things exponentially worse, and she has already done XC that day so she knows what she's doing. I've tried it both ways, and no warm up jump before stadium is 10x better for her/us. This is beginner novice, 2'6", not the 1.20m or anything.
    My former mare did best with a flat warm-up and then doing her first jumps in the competition ring. She was a former hunt horse and when she came to live with me, she went from being in very large groups, to doing just about everything by herself. When she got to shows...she was so excited to be in company that a warm up ring could spin her out. It was best to be early in the morning for the ticketed warm-up and then do as little as needed in the warm-up ring.

    I've also used the minimal warm-up when their is bad footing in the schooling ring. Do as little as possible in that ring and build your classes so you can get some warm-up in the competition ring. 'Course this is all contingent on a show schedule that allows that to happen.

    So, that is to say, I support you doing what you need for your mare.

    All of our local shows have some sort of ticketed warm up or schooling options. Hopefully you have something around you that allows the same.

    Leave a comment:


  • hairystockings
    replied
    We have a couple that are total fireballs, not eventers, just jumpers (surprise, they're all chestnuts!). Once they get past the in gate they can't walk or stand. Usually their rider will pick up a gallop, weave around the arena, stop them, back them, then go. Somewhere in that process the buzzer is rung. If you have a type you can't stop and back we have found weaving around some fences so they have to think about what they're doing helps engage their brains and prevents you from having a fight about just walking, which they will. not. do. Some of them just need to be mentally engaged the second you walk in the ring in order to contain their adrenaline.

    Leave a comment:


  • MHM
    replied
    Originally posted by Redlei44 View Post

    Just make sure to ask permission from and coordinate this with the gate person first. The angriest I’ve ever seen a gate person was when someone didn’t ask/give heads up on this - I can no longer recall if there were official show rules backing him up but he definitely threatened to have them scratched from the rest of the show if they ever pulled that again. Keep your gate people happy!
    Just as a general FYI. It is specifically against the USEF rules in all hunter and equitation classes to enter or leave the ring at anything other than a walk. It is cause for elimination from the class on the spot.

    It is not against the rules in jumper classes, but as noted above, it is a very good idea to communicate and coordinate with the starter ahead of time, just for the sake of safety.

    Leave a comment:


  • Redlei44
    replied
    Originally posted by Rnichols View Post
    Honestly, my first thought was just have her trot in through the in gate. I've seen people do it at shows. I mean, maybe it will make your problem worse, but maybe not?
    Just make sure to ask permission from and coordinate this with the gate person first. The angriest I’ve ever seen a gate person was when someone didn’t ask/give heads up on this - I can no longer recall if there were official show rules backing him up but he definitely threatened to have them scratched from the rest of the show if they ever pulled that again. Keep your gate people happy!

    Leave a comment:


  • Rnichols
    replied
    Honestly, my first thought was just have her trot in through the in gate. I've seen people do it at shows. I mean, maybe it will make your problem worse, but maybe not? When you know you're about 2 out in warm up or something, just casually pick up your reins, maybe do another jump, get her supple at the trot, do transitions, do whatever to get her brain engaged and then when it's your turn just trot right on into the arena. Sometimes "forcing" them to relax has the exact opposite effect. Is she an OTTB?I find this with my mare, if I think "relax, DAMNIT!" then that's a surefire way to make her have a stick of dynamite up her butt. In our dressage warm up (our biggest struggle), I have to let her do lots of stretch trot work and strech a bunch at the canter before we can actually go to more collected work - if I try to make her walk too soon she just gets pissed.

    It's interesting she doesn't have that same reaction in the start box though, so there must be something related to the stadium ring and going in there. At one event that I go to a lot, the stadium warm up is in a dark, indoor crowded chaotic arena and then the show jump ring is beautiful and open and bright and all the horses always go "woahhh WHAT" at first LOL. So I wonder if it's just anxiety over the difference between warm up ring and the actually stadium ring?

    My first couple of shows I didn't even know you were supposed to formally acknowledge the stadium judge (oops LOL). After I learned, I always just nod to them - it's never been an issue.

    Leave a comment:


  • ohmyheck
    replied
    By cold turkey I mean 'what is next?'. Horses certainly wonder that. A couple of warm up jumps are one more piece of that puzzle for them.

    But if it makes her worse then maybe you can talk with a coach who is already onsite to help you guys work through the whole stadium process.

    We've done that before when we've had the need. It helped mightily!

    Leave a comment:

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