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Need encouragement to get thru naughty phase

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  • Need encouragement to get thru naughty phase

    My horse is normally rock solid, since resolving some issues with feeding alfalfa. He seldom needs lungeing, and isn't really bothered by the usual barn chaos.

    However, he does have a spook in him, but only when he sees a gray horse in the distance. This kind of thing I can usually cope with and it's about as naughty as he has ever been.

    However, now that he is learning to do flying changes, he has been really naughty.

    He was restarted after racing as a dressage horse, so we ride lots of circles. Now that he has been learning changes for a few weeks, we can hardly get through a circle without him wanting to change. He does a bunny hop with his hind end offering to change, but to me, it feels like a buck so it's a bit disconcerting.

    Today he was doing the bunny hop, but it was more of a buck. There was a big white horse in the ring with us, and this sort of set him off. I'm too much of a weenie to ride him through it so the trainer's assistant got on and cantered him around. He was reacting to the gray horse, and also kicking out. Then, unbidden, he did a perfect flying lead change!

    Because of that, I suspect this is what young horses go through when they learn changes. What can I, a 50-something weenie rider, do to cope?

    The last thing I want to do is to reward his antics by getting off every time.
    Last edited by TheHorseProblem; Mar. 3, 2012, 04:03 PM. Reason: no response
    2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

    A helmet saved my life.
  • Original Poster

    bumping--revised topic
    2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

    A helmet saved my life.


    • #3
      My horse does (or did) the same thing. He's a greenie, and has just started his changes. His changes are almost always hops/bucks, and sometimes he'll even throw a buck, then come to a dead halt. Other times, he'll do a PERFECT change, right when I ask. I thought it was just a greenie thing (I've only ever taught ponies lead changes, and in the past they've just powered up for the change and gotten change-happy at the most) but it got progressively worse, so I had my trainer look at him.. turns out my saddle no longer fits right (he's lost weight/gained muscle and his body has changed a lot in the past few months) and he was getting back sore, so we're having the chiropractor out and getting a new saddle. I'm hoping that after that he'll be a little easier to work with.

      Maybe you can get some training rides for him? Explain to your trainer you're just not comfortable with the bucking and would like him schooled on his changes. Once he realizes changes aren't something to get excited over, he might settle down. It might also help to have a rider on him for a few rides who's comfortable riding out the bucks.. one thing I completely believe is that if you're even the slightest bit nervous/uncomfortable, your horse will feed off of it.
      Good luck with him! Greenies are tough, but seeing them finished makes it all worth it.. I just finished a green pony who's now ready to pack kids around the hunter ring, and I've never been more proud.
      "It's hard to wait for something you know might not happen, but it's even harder to give up when you know it's everything you want."
      Blog | YouTube


      • Original Poster

        Thanks, Alyssa. We have two trainers and they are both injured right now. So I am getting help from a friend whose daughter is a fearless eq rider and can ride him through anything. Fortunately, he doesn't spin or bolt and has a mild buck, so I'm not worried about anyone eating dirt.

        I am also going to have the saddle fitter come out, which I have been meaning to do anyway. I have had the saddle since last May and it has never been adjusted (it's wool flocked.)

        One last thing, I may treat him for ulcers just to make sure.

        I want him to have changes, but I also want my "kid's horse" back ASAP.

        Anyone else deal with lead change antics?
        2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

        A helmet saved my life.


        • #5
          I would try using a ground pole.

          I use them all of the time to get things focused and back to basics.

          I would also make sure you are even contact so as not to block the horse from changing only enabling those little bunny hops

          Do simple changes until you are confident again is also fine
          ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


          • #6
            Not sure about the white horse thing but it sounds like you might be a) overschooling the change so now he's anticipating you asking for it all the time or b) inadvertently giving him cues you want a change.


            • Original Poster

              I had been having the trainer ride him 3X in a row every week to school the changes. I personally do not ever ask for a change. I do only simple changes or changes through trot so as not to screw him up. Actually, I try to avoid doing even that lately because he started giving four or five clean changes per ride, and I have been told that they may go through a period where they are a little nutty at the canter anticipating the change.

              Would 3 X a week be considered overschooling?

              I don't mind trotting only if that wold help manage him.

              About the white horse thing, on Friday I was having a great ride until we went down to the end of the ring which abuts the polo-playing neighbors. We were just trotting around nicely stretching down, when he spooked really big. I thought it was totally random, which would really worry me. I took him around again and yep, neighbors have a new white polo pony!

              Good idea on the ground pole, NOMI!
              Last edited by TheHorseProblem; Mar. 3, 2012, 09:04 PM. Reason: can't spell
              2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

              A helmet saved my life.


              • #8
                I think he sounds confused. It's probably not easy for him to be schooled at two different levels when he's not totally solid and confident in his job yet. Two completely different sets of rules are tough to understand.. I totally get the confidence issue on your part though, I've been there and it's not easy. The way I get an off track relationship back is by going way back to the beginning and rebuilding confidence in both. Ask him to do super simple things and tell him how awesome and smart he is for doing everything so well. By building his confidence you're also building his trust and you will feel more comfortable in his abilities and willingness to please you.


                • #9
                  It will be okay...

                  It is the weirdest thing, but I find that when I start teaching and practicing a new skill, my green horse will sometimes act stupid about things that he already knows how to do. To echo the other posters, confusion sets in a little bit and it seems like, for a short time, he begins to question everything he has ever done. (Part of it is a four-year old thing too)

                  So, the approach I take is this: He is allowed to be confused on the new thing and I am patient with him until he builds his confidence with the new skill. However, the buck (both literally and figuratively) stops there. He does NOT get cut ANY slack on generally bad behavior OR not performing a skill that he already knows how to do. I am absolutely unforgiving on that, even if I have to take the bull by the horns.

                  This approach has worked well for me, but the rider has to know when to step back from the new skill if it is overwhelming the green horse. He needs to learn how to roll with the punches and do new things, but you don't want him to have a meltdown either.

                  To build your confidence, you may have to go back to working on something easy and having success, like some of the others advised. But, don't let him take advantage of you.

                  Good Luck! It is frustrating, but you will survive
                  Last edited by LoveJubal; Mar. 4, 2012, 12:02 AM. Reason: added
                  "The Prince" aka Front Row
                  Cavalier Manor


                  • #10
                    Please keep in mind that any horse that has raced even a little bit has done literally thousands of flying changes. You are not teaching him a new skill. You are teaching him a new cue for a skill he has done so many times that he doesn't even have to think about it.
                    McDowell Racing Stables

                    Home Away From Home


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                      Please keep in mind that any horse that has raced even a little bit has done literally thousands of flying changes. You are not teaching him a new skill. You are teaching him a new cue for a skill he has done so many times that he doesn't even have to think about it.
                      True. Curious, on the track are they told when to change with a cue? If so, do you know what it is?

                      I think the main problem here is the confidence of the rider. The relationship, trust, and ultimately the bond are at risk of being lost. OP has said she's not comfortable getting after him herself and I don't blame her. It doesn't matter what your horse is able to do if you're not comfortable asking so I'd talk with the trainer about taking it down a few notches and following your lead on when to push for higher training in the future.


                      • Original Poster

                        I think it's a case of all of the above. Yes, I have a confidence problem that I need to get back to work on. For some reason, having him spook two days in a row, even if they were not random got-out-of-work spooks, rattled me. And then seeing resistance in him, which is really rare, just got me worried.

                        Even when I owned a horse that did flying changes, I was always working on my balance at the canter so I never asked for them. I know, duh.

                        My friend's eq rider daughter rode him today, and he was perfectly behaved, just running through her hands when she asked for a change, which I think is normal for a horse green to doing them.

                        Laurierace, you are so right, but getting him to learn the new cue is tough. He gets them R to L every time now, but L to R he is usually late behind.

                        I think you guys are right that I should take my own riding down a notch and go back to doing things he needs to practice and that I am good at, such as getting him to stretch down over his back at the trot. I will leave the changes to the pros until he gets them in his sleep.

                        I love this horse--he truly is my dream horse. I had a horse many years ago that was not a good match and my inexperience made him a truly bad horse. I don't want to ruin this one.

                        Growing pains. Sigh.
                        2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                        A helmet saved my life.


                        • Original Poster

                          Originally posted by Win1 View Post
                          True. Curious, on the track are they told when to change with a cue? If so, do you know what it is?
                          I was told that the rider just shifts his or her weight in the stirrups to get the change.
                          2012 goal: learn to ride like a Barn Rat

                          A helmet saved my life.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by TheHorseProblem View Post
                            I was told that the rider just shifts his or her weight in the stirrups to get the change.
                            This plus a rein cue towards the new lead. Can be as gentle as a small opening rein to practically knocking them off stride.
                            McDowell Racing Stables

                            Home Away From Home