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Retraining horse who lost his confidence

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  • Retraining horse who lost his confidence

    Several years ago, I enjoyed buying young OTTB's, retraining them, and selling to good homes. One gelding in particular was a favorite, as not only was he a willing, easy going guy to train over fences but he was a versatile young man: trails, camping, crossed water, jumped anything he saw without thinking twice, easy for the husband to handle, you name it!

    We sold him to a teen in training as a children's hunter and he was almost show ready at that time. Quiet as a mouse, changes, etc.


    Flash forward a year or two, something happened (possibly just green rider, trainer never got on herself) and horse stopped jumping. No injury per se but lost confidence. He was then sold as a w-t-c horse to a very inexperienced rider and he lost total faith in riders period, became crabby and barn sour.

    I just took him back, hadn't seen him in 4 years. He literally remembers everything he ever knew with me and is a pleasure to ride but the first 10 min I do feel that he's not confident, then he relaxes realizing who I am, and is a dream. He's back on trails, his flat is great, we're building muscle. Only had him back a few weeks. He looks good, has a happy expression, and is back to himself.

    However he has no confidence about jumps at all. I am starting back at square one, poles, and the world's smallest x's working on being straight, quiet, and neither stopping nor rushing. Don't mind putting in the time.

    My question is about retraining, as I usually train then sell...haven't had one come back that somebody messed with before. How realistic is it that he will rebuild confidence over fences? I am in no hurry but I don't know if a horse's confidence is wrecked at 4 or 5, does that stay with them? I can put in the time and effort and go at his pace, but just wondering what folks think. Do they come back? Does it depend on the horse? He has other fine qualities and doesn't have to jump but I don't want to assume he won't. Just trying to give him the greatest skillset possible so we can hopefully next time find a long term home for this great guy

  • #2
    I believe it will come back. But he may never be as willing to "take a joke" as he once was.

    If you can do some jumps in a field or cross country course, I think you may find it easier to get him back to enjoying jumping.

    Comment


    • #3
      Time.... And a lot of it. I've been working with one for over a year and a half. Last weekend he finally jumped around a baby course totally relaxed.
      I would suggest working with him for awhile and then giving him a break to let the good memories sink in. Then start again. I have just started having other riders ride him, and the lack of confidence starts to come back initially, but the riders I have chosen for him are very soft, and that helps him regain his confidence.
      he is going to have to have multiple riders ride him like you do before his confidence will be cemented again. Good luck!
      Elizabeth
      The Greatest Sense of Freedom is on a Horse!

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
        I believe it will come back. But he may never be as willing to "take a joke" as he once was.

        If you can do some jumps in a field or cross country course, I think you may find it easier to get him back to enjoying jumping.
        THIS. Bad hands and riding will ruin one a lot faster than you can recover one!!! I got a 17 hand TB gelding 18 months ago. He was at "that" point due to aweful riding, severe bits and spurs...he would come to a jump and stop...climb over it regardless of height. This was a horse capable of 5 foot jumps - he became so afraid of "bit" punishment that his canter departures were at a 45 degree projectile as he waited for the jab in his sides and mouth. I didn't jump him for 6 months...winter weather the biggest factor, but that time off did him some good as he seemed to forget about his past. (I kept waiting for that flashback moment...that never came again!!) I started walking then trotting over logs and ground poles with a VERY slack rein contact and he quickly came back to his former ability. Horses are soooo forgiving!! Good luck.
        www.crosscreeksporthorses.com
        Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks everyone! From what I can figure out, a combination of not confident enough junior rider, trainer never getting on herself, too much, too high too fast, and then they just gave up on his jumping resulted in what we have today. Following that, about 2 years ago, they had someone riding him who has no confidence even on the flat and she ultimately just quit riding him but luckily she NEVER attempted the jumping .At least not to the best of my knowledge.

          In my 3 weeks schooling him he has improved. At first I was keeping the reins really slack which seemed to make sense but it made things worse. He rushed like crazy after the initial hesitation, got his head high and all inverted. So I have now adjusted to keeping him very straight, very slow, hands very low and giving a minimal auto release which seems to be keeping him mind thinking "slow" too. That little burst of speed he was putting on actually got his adrenaline up.

          I am keeping things really low...ground poles...piles of poles...12" cross rails pretty much...trying to make it as "boring" and hum drum as possible. Nice to hear that they do come back, however I agree with everyone who says to be very careful who rides him.

          I had been considering a lease to help with expenses in the interim but have decided against it. I think consistency is what he needs

          Comment


          • #6
            First, let me thank you for taking this horse back and not letting him "go down the road". You are a good person for doing this for him!

            Does he lunge well?

            I took a horse that had been abused in the mouth, who would literally change leads every stride before a jump, to jumping hunter rounds quietly. It took a year of re-schooling to get his confidence back, but he turned out really nice.

            I spent time setting exercises for him to do on the lunge, so that he could build his confidence without my interference. I would start with a step rail, seven feet to a cross rail, nine feet to another step rail. I would have him trot that exercise. I would make the cross rail a vertical, then make it an oxer. When I moved him up to jumping the oxer, I would roll the step rail out to 8 feet. If I wanted him to canter in, then I would make both of the step rails at 9 feet.

            When he is confident with that exercise, then add a nine foot distance to another vertical (bounce jump).

            All of this should translate to your over fences work.

            I would use a neck strap or grab mane, just to make certain that I did not hit him in the mouth. If he realizes that he is not going to be punished in his mouth or back, then he will begin to trust again. Be patient. It may take awhile to build his trust.
            When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!

            Comment


            • #7
              Poor guy. It's so good of you, OP to take him back. I've seen some horses that regain their confidence and others that can't.
              Just try to ride him like the nice horse he was. Try to vary the lessons, ring work, hack out, hop little rails, walk on a loose rein around the property etc. Once he's a bit more confident, find a very good rider to get on him under your supervision so he can start to handle rider who are not exactly "you" but who are still riding him right.
              F O.B
              Resident racing historian ~~~ Re-riders Clique
              Founder of the Mighty Thoroughbred Clique

              Comment


              • #8
                I have found that they regain confidence, but can then fall apart quickly if not handled and ridden properly from then on.

                So as a resale project, I would be very cautious as to who you allowed to even try him.
                Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                  I have found that they regain confidence, but can then fall apart quickly if not handled and ridden properly from then on.

                  So as a resale project, I would be very cautious as to who you allowed to even try him.
                  I agree with this.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Thanks He's a really nice horse, very good minded and generous, and deserves a wonderful life. He's one of the best minded horses I've ever had the pleasure of owning or training and I feel pretty much obligated to repair the outcome for him. Even my husband loves him and he's not that "horsey!"

                    I've taken him out on long trail rides twice, with my other horse. I had 2 different, very kind handed and experienced friends ride him. Interestingly he's been pretty willing to jump logs in the woods, must feel different than his arena experiences with the other owners.

                    I board in the city so make an effort to put my horses in the trailer and get out of town.

                    Funny someone mentioning mane/neck strap. I totally agree! A few times he approached a tiny jump (we're talking 18" here!) and stopped. Because the only option is forward, I allowed him to jump from a walk and boy did I grab the martingale and a big chunk of mane. Don't need to nail him for being "good!!!"

                    I also agree with being super careful about where he goes. Previously I sold him as a junior rider horse because he was so calm, safe and trustworthy. But I won't do that again, even though many people "can" ride him I'd really like him to go to a long term home. And I don't need to sell immediately so I can wait on that.

                    If he doesn't return to a love for jumping I would be willing to have him go as a wonderful flat and trail horse...just want the best outcome for him but sure going to give this a go for awhile first.

                    Thanks everyone for your kind, compassionate thoughts!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Have you tried free jumping him?
                      ==================
                      Somehow my inner ten year old seems to have stolen my chequebook!

                      http://reriderandpony.blogspot.com/

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        What's so cute, is my husband has been leading him over small jumps, jumping him in hand alongside him. And my horse is totally willing to do that He jumps them huge, knees up, but he's going over. And he's not hesitating whatsoever anymore. Freejumping wasn't the best because he had the option to stop/whirl so I tried it once and opted out. I have longed him over tiny tiny stuff and he's doing that fine. The under saddle is coming along but I am trying to take it VERY slow...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          We've had a lot of horses like this, a lot of top show horses actually, who were given to us. They were in the hands of top trainers, but had one to many amatuers/juniors get on them and crash them. One horse we just flatted and then did crossrails, and is now doing the Adults again. His old trainer when he found out was in shock he was even jumping a crossrail, let alone going around a 3ft course.

                          What helps a lot is taking them out of the ring, doing trail rides, and jumping some natural jumps. We had one resale horse, that wouldn't go into a ring with jumps, and after leasing him out as a foxhunter, will go around a 2'6'' with a kid.

                          Just do stuff to make him happy and not sour anymore.

                          I've always heard is takes twice as long to undo something that was done, so its probably going to be a while.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Tummy help

                            He sounds like he has been through alot during his time away from you. I would do some ulcer treatment along with everything else you are doing for him I had one that was ruined by a junior rider, she basically just overall scared him and he would bolt and buck with her as well. He was very stressed with her on his back and became a dirty stopper. To get him back to a "normal" state and to help him out in everyway we did a round of ulcer guard to eliminate the possibly of him being uncomfortable and to make sure he was happy to do his job.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by SoCalGal View Post
                              What's so cute, is my husband has been leading him over small jumps, jumping him in hand alongside him. And my horse is totally willing to do that He jumps them huge, knees up, but he's going over. And he's not hesitating whatsoever anymore. Freejumping wasn't the best because he had the option to stop/whirl so I tried it once and opted out. I have longed him over tiny tiny stuff and he's doing that fine. The under saddle is coming along but I am trying to take it VERY slow...
                              How is his eyesight?

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                My gelding is doing so much better! He had a LONG trail ride last weekend, trailering out, 2nd one in the 3 weeks I've had him. He had 2 days off riding and then got back on last night. He was wonderful as always.

                                But when I did trot poles he was much more confident the first time over them. And then I did set up a little ground pole about 6 feet out from the jump and that really helped him slow, soften, focus. I did it several times landing right, landing left. Then did several other slightly higher x's and he jumped them all beautifully. Set up 2 poles leading to a tiny little vertical and he looked at first pole, then trotted over 2nd and straight over the jump. We repeated these in isolation several times then progressed to a simply 6 stride line. Perfection! Did that a few times then built a small course. Did that 2 times, gorgeous! Threw in a lead change or 2 then quit. These are all 2 feet, no biggie but he softened, lowered his neck, stopped thrusting his body over, and in the line kept his stride totally even and he was straight straight straight. I felt like it was breakthrough and he built some positive memories. It was wonderful We will repeat the same kinds of little things almost daily in hopes that he will start going oh yeah this again no biggie. Then another trail ride this weekend

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