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5yo gets anxious and strong o/f, training/bitting suggestions please!

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  • 5yo gets anxious and strong o/f, training/bitting suggestions please!

    I have a young 5yo TB gelding that I restarted in March. He was broke to run at 2 but was too slow to ever be in real race training and sat in the field until he was rehomed. He is coming along great u/s and goes in a slow twist. We are w/t/c working on the bit, leg yielding, starting lateral work haunches in/out etc. Starting to really get adjusting the stride at the trot compressing/lengthening the step at sitting/extended trot, just started to work on it this week at the canter. Lovely, laid back, easy to ride mellow guy.

    Here is my issue: He has been started o/f and is doing well but gets nervous. We were doing small fences and that was going nicely but he wasn't really jumping them, just flopping his front end over them so we bumped the height up to 2'3"ish. He's scopey when he sees something that impresses him but otherwise lazy over the little stuff. We've done a few schooling shows in the "Baby Green" division (2'3"-2'6") that went well, did the hack & o/f schooling in the first show, did both in the second. Pinned 6th o/f in a large class. Third schooling show the horse jumped around like a rockstar in the school but the top rail of the fences were down. When we went in to jump and the rails were up he became very upset. He got strong, leapt the jumps like a deer, and just stiffened and pulled, we even left some strides out! Who this horse was, I didn't know him

    Granted, this schooling show was at a larger local venue and was the weekend before Devon. The show was local to Devon and catering to horses getting ready to go to Devon and the jumps were built *very* solidly at 2'6".

    I have gone back to some basics and have done canter poles on either side of single jumps. This helps a lot as he has to think about his pace and body to the fences. I am trying to work on cantering lines with ground poles to work on lengthening/shortening the stride by alternating cantering the regular stride then doing the add. His normal canter pace is very soft but when he gets nervous o/f he can become stiff through the neck and mouth and strong.

    I have a schooling show this weekend and plan on giving the Baby Green division another shot. Part of the issue I think might help will be to turn him out at night before the show. I was also considering a stronger bit for the horse show so I get a little more respect o/f. I can always bring a stronger bit and his slow twist to the show in the event that he's tired from turnout and I don't have a lot of horse. Does this sound like a good plan?

    Does anyone have additional suggestions for how to develop this horse o/f? He is not a stopper, when he gets insecure he stops jumping across the fences and deer jumps/over jumps them as well as getting strong. How would you work on this?

    Thank you in advance for your help and I apologize for the novel!
    Last edited by tua37516; Jun. 11, 2013, 12:12 PM. Reason: edited title

  • #2
    I sort of have the same problem with my ottb depending on his mood (he has 2 very distinct personalities). I've been working on pulling up before the fence some but even that is tough. I tried a Mullen mouth eggbutt Sunday just to try something and it was amazing! He went happily and I got double adds, single adds, and even the step with no temper tantrum. It was so nice to be sble to adjust! He also didn't lean on me or try to take over at all. He's normally great on the flat and sometimes great to jump, but this made him almost seem easy. Maybe worth a try?

    Comment


    • #3
      If he is truly anxious, I don't know that bitting him up will really help your cause, especially since you are already in a slow twist. Since it is a schooling show/you're going for good miles, I would opt to circle him and get his mind back if he starts feeling panicky and racing down the lines.

      One of my favorite exercises at home for this sort of thing is to make big circles right next to a fence. Once you've got a nice canter, make the circle a little wider and jump the jump. Continue on the circle and next time stay to the inside of the fence. If his canter has stayed or returned to calm, jump the jump the next time around. If not, stay on the inside track until you have a good canter again and then go back to the jump. It keeps them guessing and lets you make sure you have a good canter.

      If you really feel inclined to change the bit for the show, I would go to something with more joints than anything since it sounds like he is leaning. Maybe try a relatively narrow French link, a short Dr. Bristol or a Waterford? Let us know how it goes!

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by tua37516 View Post
        I have a young 5yo TB gelding that I restarted in March. He was broke to run at 2 but was too slow to ever be in real race training and sat in the field until he was rehomed.
        Do I have the timeline right? He was racetrack broke, sat in a field for 3 years and you restarted him in March? That's what...3+ months?

        If so, perhaps back off a bit. He may not be ready to be doing schooling shows at this point or jumping 2'6" in such a short amount of time. If you want to get him out, take him to the shows and let him hang out.

        I think a slow twist is a bit much for such a green horse.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          From what I know he has had maybe off and on training intermittently, but nothing I can vouch for. When I got him he didn't seem to know his leads so I don't think he had a "real" restart.

          If he doesn't seem to respond/seem happy/go well in a plain snaffle or jointed snaffle does that mean I should still put him in those bits? I don't believe in bitting a young horse a whole lot either.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Go Fish View Post
            Do I have the timeline right? He was racetrack broke, sat in a field for 3 years and you restarted him in March? That's what...3+ months?

            If so, perhaps back off a bit. He may not be ready to be doing schooling shows at this point or jumping 2'6" in such a short amount of time. If you want to get him out, take him to the shows and let him hang out.

            I think a slow twist is a bit much for such a green horse.
            I agree with this. Slow down. This is not a bitting problem. He needs time to experience horse shows without pressure. My 6yo has been to 5 horse shows with no showing just ticketed warm up here and there. It is critical you don't pressure him now if you want a long-term calm show horse in my opinion.
            You don't scare me. I ride a MARE!

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi,

              I'll take a kick at this with the understanding that I have no idea how much experience you or the horse have. It takes a good quality canter to go quietly around a course and I would place bets he is not there yet. As the canter improves I expect you will get more control. "Flopping" over lower jumps suggests an issue with the canter or not enough experience to move up to higher fence where he appears to give you a better jump. In addition, if he is new to jumping (and sounds like he is) then I would suggest he might be over-bitted. Not sure how long you have been at this but...it might only take one accidental jab in the mouth over fences for the horse to tense up and run. Good luck, he sounds like he has lots of pentential

              Comment


              • #8
                Horses that get strong and sort of fling themselves over the fences are usually doing it out of self preservation. That tells me he doesn't understand what his job is yet and how to properly put together the components of the coursework. Use horseshows as a way to get him out with no pressure. If you go and he's awesome doing the ticketed warm ups, sneak one class in. If he is anxious, stick to just flatting in all the different rings and letting him get a chance to process everything. Sounds like he just needs a lot of time at home going over the basics on the flat and form over fences. I wouldn't recommend a stronger bit, because again, this isn't a respect issue, it's a lack of understanding issue. Also, instead of putting all that money into showing, I would consider using some of that budget to do field trips to neighboring farms or horse trails so he gets used to traveling and working in different areas where the rides are relaxed, fun, and tailored to his comfort level.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by BostonHJ View Post
                  If he is truly anxious, I don't know that bitting him up will really help your cause, especially since you are already in a slow twist. Since it is a schooling show/you're going for good miles, I would opt to circle him and get his mind back if he starts feeling panicky and racing down the lines.

                  One of my favorite exercises at home for this sort of thing is to make big circles right next to a fence. Once you've got a nice canter, make the circle a little wider and jump the jump. Continue on the circle and next time stay to the inside of the fence. If his canter has stayed or returned to calm, jump the jump the next time around. If not, stay on the inside track until you have a good canter again and then go back to the jump. It keeps them guessing and lets you make sure you have a good canter.
                  I completely agree with this. I had some similar issues - the horse was anxious to please but an internal worrier. He would get tense and the quality of canter would be lost - then of course the jumping would fall apart. Some days all we would do was the first fence of a course - circle and re-establish a nice canter, come around again. If he sped up or leaned, quietly halt, rein-back (quietly!) then re-establish the canter and come around again. Usually the following day he would be more settled and we could work on lines and courses.

                  Originally posted by Scratch N Dent View Post
                  Hi,

                  I'll take a kick at this with the understanding that I have no idea how much experience you or the horse have. It takes a good quality canter to go quietly around a course and I would place bets he is not there yet. As the canter improves I expect you will get more control. "Flopping" over lower jumps suggests an issue with the canter or not enough experience to move up to higher fence where he appears to give you a better jump. In addition, if he is new to jumping (and sounds like he is) then I would suggest he might be over-bitted. Not sure how long you have been at this but...it might only take one accidental jab in the mouth over fences for the horse to tense up and run. Good luck, he sounds like he has lots of pentential
                  I agree that a slow twist for flatwork is generally too much. Understandable for jumping, but he should be able to have a normal contact and do flatwork in a smooth-mouthed snaffle (whatever his preference, loose ring/single or double joint/lozenge or whatever).

                  Also in the canter you could do some more work on stretching and suppling - both long-and-low and side-to-side (counterbend/overbend to the inside). If you can stretch and supple him you can probably reduce the anxious canter.
                  Blugal

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

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tua37516 View Post
                    If he doesn't seem to respond/seem happy/go well in a plain snaffle or jointed snaffle does that mean I should still put him in those bits? I don't believe in bitting a young horse a whole lot either.
                    I would first find a bit that he responds to well on the flat. Something with a twist in it isn't likely to make him want to reach for contact. Even the hottest jumpers I've ridden still flat in a relatively plain snaffle. Play around to see what he likes - some horses like thinner mouthpieces; some like wider, some horses like the play of a loose ring; some like the stability of a full cheek or another fixed ring. For a young horse especially, I do prefer something with a middle joint. You might even want to try something with copper rollers to encourage him to reach for contact.

                    Once you have your flat bit picked, I would really try to stick with that over fences at home, and then you can bit up at a show if necessary. As Scratch and Dent said, it doesn't take too many accidental jabs over fences to make them nervous about jumping, especially when they are so new to the job.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Thank you everyone for the input. I will try to fill in some gaps.

                      I am an experienced amateur but by means a pro I am 26 and did my fair share of competing on the local and rated circuits 3'+ h/j with a horse that I brought along myself as a junior. He was sold when I went to college, I then competed in IHSA. I was a working student in the summers between college, as well as having gallopped at the track. Between college grad years until my recent horse purchase I have been a working student of sorts for some local pros basically exchanging riding for riding and some lessons/show coaching.

                      I am now at a private barn and bringing along my guy myself. I am doing my best to get a trainer out for lessons (pinning someone down to come out to the farm isn't the easiest, pros are understandably busy with show season/their own clients).

                      What is tricky for me is that we were going to some small local shows for the mileage, (just to hang around and do the schooling), and things went great! He has been tackling everything in a relaxed and capable way up until this last show. He's jumped around at height a number of times so it didn't seem that I was over facing him or pushing things up until this last show where the fences were quite solid. I feel like I've taken two steps back from where I was, if that makes any sense.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by BostonHJ View Post
                        I would first find a bit that he responds to well on the flat. Something with a twist in it isn't likely to make him want to reach for contact. Even the hottest jumpers I've ridden still flat in a relatively plain snaffle. Play around to see what he likes - some horses like thinner mouthpieces; some like wider, some horses like the play of a loose ring; some like the stability of a full cheek or another fixed ring. For a young horse especially, I do prefer something with a middle joint. You might even want to try something with copper rollers to encourage him to reach for contact.

                        Once you have your flat bit picked, I would really try to stick with that over fences at home, and then you can bit up at a show if necessary. As Scratch and Dent said, it doesn't take too many accidental jabs over fences to make them nervous about jumping, especially when they are so new to the job.
                        Thanks for the good advice today BostonHJ. I definitely think I should give it a go at trying more bits. I had a copper roller snaffle that I tried and was "ok," he's been in a plain snaffle, a french link D ring snaffle, and a rubber snaffle as well. It's tough when you don't have a trainer with a bit collection that you can just try out! Perhaps I can try the copper roller again, or try a Waterford?

                        I think Blugal's comment of the horse being anxious to please but an internal worrier a good description of my horse.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          OP, I found with this horse that he got "greener" at his first few shows - even being suspicious/anxious about the warm-up cross-rail. What I did was to do the cross-rail and then land and do an immediate (but not quick/pulling) turn, alternating directions - just to focus him. Again, it was about suppling so he wasn't all tensed up.

                          He also would over-jump the first couple of jumps in our first course in the ring - taking a good look at all the filler (even though we school at home with lots of different fillers & spooky things) - again I think just a sign of greenness. It caught me by surprise since he is normally pretty quiet & mellow - but it is that internal worry coming out and I think just a result of being green.
                          Blugal

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

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Blugal View Post
                            OP, I found with this horse that he got "greener" at his first few shows - even being suspicious/anxious about the warm-up cross-rail. What I did was to do the cross-rail and then land and do an immediate (but not quick/pulling) turn, alternating directions - just to focus him. Again, it was about suppling so he wasn't all tensed up.

                            He also would over-jump the first couple of jumps in our first course in the ring - taking a good look at all the filler (even though we school at home with lots of different fillers & spooky things) - again I think just a sign of greenness. It caught me by surprise since he is normally pretty quiet & mellow - but it is that internal worry coming out and I think just a result of being green.
                            This exactly!!! This is my horse. I found on the flat this is the best way to relax him. We do a lot of zig zags, serpentines, circles, ground poles, etc and that really works for him. When his brain has something else to think about he settles right down.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Agree with most above. You need to take a step back. Set the jumps low and let him walk up to and jump over them. If he starts to make a bid, the advantage of walking is that you can turn him away with him being none the wiser that that isn't what you meant the whole time.

                              When he walks over a 12 or 18 inch cross rail like its a pole on the ground, start trotting indivudual jumps at the same height. If you are about to approach and feel him get storn, just circle until his trot is soft, then approach again or bring him back to a walk and have him walk up to it or walk and let him trot the last three steps.

                              Once he trots a 12 in quietly, raise it to 18, then 2 ft, etc. He he starts to rush, bring him to a walk and have him walk over it. If he still is overexcited, lower the jump and go back a step until he is quiet again. Don't canter anything until he can trot the jumps quietly and comes back easily afterwards. It is ok for him to canter after, so long as he respects your aid to trot/walk/halt, etc. Most horses can jump a 2'6 vertical or higher from a trot easily, so this exercise should carry you for several sessions as you work up the height. Obviously, you can't really have him walk up to that height though.

                              In the meantime, work on developing an even and ratable canter. THis will probably take a lot longer than getting him trotting quietly over small jumps. Some good exercises in the meantime, would be gymnastics that force him to stay stead in between, as opposed to long lines where he can try to steam roll you to the next jump.

                              Try a softer bit. If a plain snaffle simply isn't doing the trick, and you have really quiet hands and a good release, you could try something that is soft in his mouth, but gives you a bit of leverage so you can get his attention when you need it. A 3-ring with a snaffle rein and a curb rein might be a good way to go. You can't use it in the hunter ring, but could school with it for trainng purposes and then once he "gets it" transition back a step to a regular snaffle, or, if needed a pelham.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                It is so easy to pick a bit that is already in your box!! I don't know that I would go with a Waterford for every day use this early in the game since I don't think it really encourages them to reach for the bit. Try the copper roller or maybe a copper link? Maybe narrow down what you try based on one joint vs. two, and fat mouthpiece vs. narrow.

                                I have had good luck on eBay for basic used bits. Also hit up your horsey friends for loaners - they probably have some things kicking around t, and if someone has something you like, then you can go out and buy it (or buy it off of them).

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  My OTTB likes a bit with two joints. With a regular "nut cracker" type bit he clamps his mouth/jaw. I alternate between a loose ring with a "ball" in the middle and this D-ring (see link).
                                  http://www.smartpakequine.com/jp-kor...ink-5125p.aspx
                                  **Stacey**

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Great suggestions above....

                                    One thing I would try is trotting the first fence in the line and letting horse canter quiety down the line...thereafter bring him back & trot around the corner and do the same thing with rest of the lines....if need be halt give horse a "good" boy and proceed quietly to the next fence....if horse is too strong bring him back and circle til "quiet" and proceed.

                                    I don't think changing the bit is the answer..... one step at a time and quiet is key


                                    best of luck

                                    n

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Sounds like he is anxious. He wants to please so bad but is a bit taken back by the height.

                                      I had the same issue though, I started my mare when she was coming 3y/o, did 60 days on her and she went out until spring, (other than ground work and lunging). While she was on 'ground work', I did a trot poles on the ground, cavaletti's, walking over, lunging over. Figuring out the 'feet'.

                                      At 4y/o I started her over x's and small fences. She was so unenthused by them, she would trip over them and rap the rails, or make them another trot pole.
                                      So my thought.... bump it up some right? No, not for her.
                                      I went up to little jumps say 2', 2'3... she start tensing the jaw and rushing to them and after the fence.

                                      I knew right away I had to drop it back and deal with my 'trips' over crossrails courses. I started the show season in the cross rail division. It got her out and seeing things. She actually jumped some of them because they were stuffed with bushes and things. Then she got bored again....
                                      I stuck with cross rails and itsy bitsy verticals for about 4-6 months overall and now at 5y/o she would happily pack a 3 ft course, not beautifully yet but it is coming.


                                      Personally, I don't think it is about the fence height per say but I think it has more to do with figuring out where the feet go when the fences are a bit bigger. Since they have to begin 'jumping' at 2'6 and up. The little stuff, is nothing more than a speed bump. The smart ones will know they don't have to put effort into the piddly ones IMO.


                                      Good luck. It will come together soon!


                                      P.s - I stuck to flat work for a full year. It might be something to consider adding more of. Retraining an OTTB can be tough for them to figure out.
                                      Last edited by pryme_thyme; Jun. 11, 2013, 05:43 PM. Reason: Extra bit
                                      http://dotstreamming.blogspot.com/

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        He sounds like a nice horse

                                        You're going too fast. Slow down.

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