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the best problem to have

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  • the best problem to have

    My horse is a good-as-gold saint at horse shows. And possessed by the devil when I ride at home.

    I feel like an idiot to complain about a horse that's perfect in public but demonic at home, but obviously I ride at home more than at shows!

    He just cannot deal with being ridden alone, particularly when the other horses are turned-out. It's actually not as bad when he knows they're all in the barn? I have tried lunging first. I have been mean. I have been nice. When I can no longer take it, I cheat and throw a babysitter old horse loose in the ring with me to eat grass around the edge of the fence. I assume this is why he's great at shows - he's surrounded by lots of horses! He lived at the track from 2-5 so until I got him, he was never ridden alone, but that's been over a year now.

    I am at the point where I feel like I should consider selling this horse because he, for the most part, does not work for me. But I realize I could end up with the opposite problem: the perfect-at-home/devil-at-shows horse! When I take him to shows, people positively drool over him. It is so frustrating.

    Has anyone else had a horse like this? How have you dealt with it?

  • #2
    Been there. We didn't ride him at home. If we did, it was as minimal as possible—think 10 minute hacks.

    I'm not sure what kind of shows you're going to, but this horse was going to multi-day A shows, so he'd have at least two or three days of jumping around there before showing with me on the weekends. He got all of his training at the horse show and that was just how it had to be for everyone's sanity.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      So far, we've just done one day local shows because he was quite green - and the process for "show day" hasn't been really any different than riding at home other than instead of tacking up and out to the ring, he's wrapped up and put on the trailer.

      All summer my program was similar to Tha Ridge - just hacking VERY quietly out in the field - in the midst of the turned-out horses quite often With all this rain, hacking out is not an option. I think multi-day/away shows would probably work really well for him, but I'm not sure they are ever going to be in my budget again.

      But I think we (maybe it's just ME!) need more practice at home - two weeks ago I did a clinic with an Olympian. He tells us the next course that is just roll-back after roll-back and my eyes about rolled back in my head because at home all we do lately is an 18 inch wall with a leaping rodeo on the other side. Naturally, he was perfect and I felt like an idiot for my initial anxiety.

      Horses: always finding new ways to make liars out of us

      Comment


      • #4
        Can someone else ride him to see if they can deal with it?

        Comment


        • #5
          Also, when you say "cannot deal", what do you mean exactly? Does he call out to the other horses? Buck? Rear? Do you even think it really has to do with the other horses or could he just be bored to death at home?

          Comment


          • #6
            I had one similar to this.

            I wanted to ride; she wanted to be near the pasture horses. So, I took her into the pasture and had her work right beside and around them. I didn't give her a break until we moved away from them. This horse didn't really like to work, but she was smart. It didn't take much of this until she was ready to stay away from the place (near other horses) where she knew she was going to have to work.

            So let her go where she wants, then make her work when she gets there.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Tha Ridge View Post
              Also, when you say "cannot deal", what do you mean exactly? Does he call out to the other horses? Buck? Rear? Do you even think it really has to do with the other horses or could he just be bored to death at home?
              He's generally just a hyper mess - does not relax, spooks, tries to bolt repeatedly. If another horse whinnies (or even worse, sees them out in the field running/playing/etc), he pretty much explodes - leaps into the air, tries to take off towards the gate.

              It could be boredom, but his attitude changes so completely when there is another horse in the ring, it's hard for me to pinpoint it. He is also generally quite good when I ride alone at night at this time of year, under lights, all his "buddies" are in the barn - which seems somewhat counterintuitive to me. I keep him at "home" so there isn't really anyone else to ride him. Plus, he can be so terrible, that I'd hate to risk having someone else ride him that's not a pro!

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by rtph View Post
                I had one similar to this.

                I wanted to ride; she wanted to be near the pasture horses. So, I took her into the pasture and had her work right beside and around them. I didn't give her a break until we moved away from them. This horse didn't really like to work, but she was smart. It didn't take much of this until she was ready to stay away from the place (near other horses) where she knew she was going to have to work.

                So let her go where she wants, then make her work when she gets there.
                This is basically what I did all summer/into the fall and it worked out well. But now riding out in the fields is not possible - we have had too much rain! It was great while it lasted - he had been in terrible condition when I got him, so hacking out really helped him fill out. If I could, I would!

                Comment


                • #9
                  I used to have half your problem, the demonic at home part not the good-as-gold at shows part, unfortunately. My horse is also an OTTB, and a mare. Hmpf. I would try to plan my at-home rides around whatever I thought might make her happy, ie. post-grain, other horses in out of the fields for the night, preferably someone else in ring, no wind, etc. None of that ever really worked, but then I sent her to my trainer for 2 weeks and she learned a real "work ethic". Ridden every.single.morning at a regular time whether other horses were in or out or grained or not, etc. I don't know how exactly it happened, but I assume it had a lot to do with a stronger rider not giving in to her antics, and now I can even ride outside, alone, in the dark and no more issues! Shows are still a different story.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by I'dRatherBRiding View Post
                    None of that ever really worked, but then I sent her to my trainer for 2 weeks and she learned a real "work ethic". Ridden every.single.morning at a regular time whether other horses were in or out or grained or not, etc. I don't know how exactly it happened, but I assume it had a lot to do with a stronger rider not giving in to her antics, and now I can even ride outside, alone, in the dark and no more issues!
                    Yep, this sounds very familiar: mine spent 2 months last spring with a professional. He came back with a pretty good attitude, but it fell apart when he was out of work for nearly a month due to lameness. When we started back, we started back at ground zero with his 'tude at home. I just don't have time (nor an indoor! nor interest!) to ride him every day. I do think that a regular "program" really benefits most TBs. Glad to hear I'm not the only neurotic who tries to make everything "just-so" for our rides

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      The suggestion about working, and working hard, near other horses/wherever he wants to be is a good one. I've used this successfully with a lot of horses. It takes a little time and a lot of consistency, but you should start to see some results relatively quickly.

                      I saw that you tried that when you could work outside and it helped. If you are having to stay in because of rain, there might be a way to improvise so that it can work in relatively little space. Where are you riding now? Perhaps you can do the work on the ground, if you don't have the space to ride near horses or wherever he wants to be. Keep him busy with ground work near horses, and let him relax as soon as you two move away from them. If he tries to go back, let him, but get busy again with circles, backing, bending, and anything that will be mentally challenging from the ground. And when you move away, relax again.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by mandimai View Post
                        The suggestion about working, and working hard, near other horses/wherever he wants to be is a good one. I've used this successfully with a lot of horses. It takes a little time and a lot of consistency, but you should start to see some results relatively quickly.

                        I saw that you tried that when you could work outside and it helped. If you are having to stay in because of rain, there might be a way to improvise so that it can work in relatively little space. Where are you riding now? Perhaps you can do the work on the ground, if you don't have the space to ride near horses or wherever he wants to be. Keep him busy with ground work near horses, and let him relax as soon as you two move away from them. If he tries to go back, let him, but get busy again with circles, backing, bending, and anything that will be mentally challenging from the ground. And when you move away, relax again.
                        Now I ride in my ring for every ride - need the all-weather footing this time of year Two sides of the ring are surrounded by a pasture. The horses that typically are out in that pasture are not his turn-out buddies, so he seems like he could not care less about them - unless, of course, they get into antics, in which case, blow-up in the ring! So usually I make sure they have a new pile of hay, or if it's later in the day, just bring them in early. It really seems to be his particular turn-out buddies that have this effect on him. I have tried separating him in turn-out thinking that I can't expect him to be ridden alone if he can't deal with being turned-out alone. He walks the fence all day - it took me a LONG time to get him in good weight and I can't bear the thought of him walking it all off again now. I feel like I have to get to the root of him being herd-bound to fix this. Either that or give up riding on weekend days

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          He's herd bound and that's not uncommon. OP states he was at the track from 2 to 5, that's 3 years in a very regular program working in a group on a set/schedualed daily routine. Expecting him to change careers and learn a much less regular routine including working alone in just a year? That's part of the problem. Time. It takes more then many think to unlearn and relearn and it sounds like this one has made alot of progress if herdbound is his worst issue.

                          Honestly, I'd plan my rides when his buddies are in the barn since OP says he is not bad when they are not out in the field. Pick the small battles you know you can win. I don't see a thing wrong with the babysitter in the field next to the ring and his buddies IN the barn.

                          You always want to set them up to succeed and avoid anything you know will result in failure so if he is an idiot when his buddies are out? DO NOT ride then.

                          I absolutely would not sell him, you can work this out and he will improve (somewhat anyway) as he gets more time in him. Probably better in summer when it's hot too, right? You can work with that, he is worth it since he is a gem at the shows.

                          If he gets to gawking anyway? Time for some serious leg yielding, bending, extension and collection to keep that little pea brain busy...and get somebody to put those other turn out buddies in and the old babysitter out so you can get some work done.
                          When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                          The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Tried any of the calming supplements or ear bunnies?

                            I always thought ear bunnies, or rolled cotton, in the ears was cowardly bad training blah blah blah until I saw it solve so many freak out problems. That one is easy to try if you haven't. What about calming supplements? Search for the magnesium thread that was recently discussed. It too could be an easy fix. Then there are the real drugs, Ace, etc, you could discuss with vet.

                            I would try a lot before I got rid of one that likes outings. Maybe find a hunt or a trail club group to actually get him tired?

                            Good luck and keep us posted.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Tried stuffing his ears - nada. Temps don't really change his behavior either -- so I guess the upside of that is that he's the same if it's cold and windy as if it's 90 degrees

                              That no one is saying "it will never get better/might as well sell now" is actually encouraging. To me, over a year seems like a fair amount of time to get used to being ridden alone - it's starting to feel like an eternity to me actually. Just miss being able to get on and ride without having to move these horses here, bring those in, etc.

                              OH! I forgot to add that it had been suggested to try Depo on him -that DID seem to help at least initially, but lately it seems like that's not even working. So I will keep moving horses, getting a babysitter and trying not to lose my patience

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Assuming his behavior isn't dangerous, come up with a way to work his MIND. Doing this in conjunction with working him harder close to the other horses can help even more.

                                Choose a very simple exercise to start, one that can't get too ugly if he resists. Try giving to the bit, moving the haunches over, a little bit of leg yield, or whatever he finds really easy to do, even if he's distracted. Stay away from halt-walk or something else that can turn into a yanking, rearing mess.

                                Work on this exercise until he does it promptly and calmly. You may spend an hour or more doing this. Simply repeat your request fairly but firmly until he complies. At the beginning, he may do what you're asking in a very stiff, inattentive way, but that's okay. Count to 5 and ask again. Eventually he's going to realize you're not giving up and will start to pay attention.

                                You may work like this for two or three weeks. Try to be as consistent as possible. Control each step. If he wants to go left, go right. 10 steps of walk, 10 steps of trot, turn left, 5 steps back, turn right, etc etc. At first you may need to use more pressure than you want to get the response, but focus on getting the correct response when you ask and it will get easier and lighter. This type of work is for the mind. It's not physically tiring, it's not stressful on the body, but it is mentally challenging and can make him tired, so take breaks. But when you do, make it a purposeful marching walk or a quiet halt - away from the other horses.

                                Try not to get ahead of yourself and go back to regular work before he is ready. I'd suggest doing this for at least 15-20 rides and seeing what the response is before trying something else. And yes, occassionally it does get a bit worse before it gets better, push though as long as it's not dangerous. Avoid asking for exercises that are going to cause a fight. Don't take more than 20 steps without asking for something new.

                                When you do go back to regular riding and he starts to return to herd bound behavior, stop whatever you're doing and go back to these exercises until he calms down. You may have to do this for a few months but it's worth it.

                                I have an Arab who was super herd bound and a nightmare to ride. This was the only thing that helped. I can now ride him wherever, alone or in a group. Though he does still insist on leading a group trail ride.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Looks like we're going to have to get brave and try to go it alone again - the babysitter I'd let loose in the ring while I rode was put down today

                                  I'd decided to take the advice of several of the posters and not fight a battle I can't win (at least for the winter, so I told myself), so had given up on even trying to ride alone. In the meantime, my horse was diagnosed with a loose stifle, so perhaps all the cavelletti work I'm starting now to strengthen it will keep him more focused... I hope!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Bummer, sorry about the old babysitter..

                                    But don't worry about what you can't do right now, concentrate on what you can get done. Every time you have a successful ride, even if it's not what you thought you should be doing by now, you win in the long run. It adds up in that little pea brain over time.

                                    You'll get there...just not next week. Warmer weather is your friend as well.
                                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Separation anxiety is pretty common, especially with OTTBs as they are never alone when they are on the track.

                                      My OTTB can get quite bonded to his buddies and will occasionally throw a tantrum if asked to work when they are turned out next to him. Here's what works for me:

                                      - keep his feet moving. I prefer trotting as the gate to work through the sillies. Walking gives him too much time to think; cantering makes it to easy for him to get really silly. I make him trot, trot and trot some more.

                                      - engage his brain. While his feet are moving we do a lot circles, broken lines, changes of direction, lateral work. Whatever I can do to make him focus on me and not on his friends.

                                      - patience not punishment. I don't try to punish him for his separation issues. That just gets him more worked up and less responsive. If necessary, I will scale back what we're doing so that we achieve some success. When he's really being nutty, I will put him into a "time out" using a one rein stop. I know it's not keeping his feet moving, but sometimes he just needs to remember that I'm driving.

                                      - rewards. I often carry carrots in my pockets and if he does something well, he gets a piece.

                                      Good luck -- I think you can ride through this issue. You just need to be persistent.
                                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Lots of good suggestions here. Another option is to turn him out alone - no buddies to bond with and worry about when he is on his own being ridden. My TB was much better being turned out alone than when she was in a group where she would get herd bound. Turn her out alone and she wasn't worrying about her buddies since she didn't have any. Some horses just can't mentally handle having friends and I think TBs and OTTBs particularly have a hard time with "normal" horse relationships since they spend so much time being alone when turned out and only go out in groups to the track.

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