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The Dirty Stopper

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  • The Dirty Stopper

    Edited because apparently I left a very crucial part out!!!!!
    I need advice! I leased my hunter out 2 seasons ago to a pre-adult. He packed her around all season, even with ribbons. By lease end, he'd had enough and started stopping occasionally with her. My trainer kept him in tune until lease was up and then he had a few months off of R&R as a reward for being such a good boy. He went back to work as usual and was fine, getting back into shape and jumping around as usual with a young girl- a decent rider, albeit a little soft in the leg. She showed him a bit in the 3' medals, maybe about 1x a month. He was good for the most part except he was still stopping!!! Almost never at home. Mostly at shows. And usually only to one random jump. Never a particular fence, never a particular type of stop. Sometimes a duck to the right. Sometimes a duck to the left. Sometimes a dead stop. I didn't start showing him until late spring due to my schedule. But, when I did, He was stopping with me too! At almost every show. Apparently, once at home too. But I don't remember that. We would warm up fine but everytime I went into the show ring- sometimes it was a practice trip, sometimes it was a cold turkey first trip. He would slam on the brakes at one jump. I would circle and he would jump it. And on we'd go. He gets routine chiro/accupuncture, moves soundly, vet finds no major issues. I should also add that I've had this horse 6yrs and he HAS stopped on occasion. Usually because I ask for a really bad distance. But it was rare and few b/w. Maybe once a year? Trainer is stumped, I'm stumped. Due to my schedule, he has been out of the show ring since September. I'm getting him back in shape, and as spring approaches, I'm anxious about getting into the show ring again. If this stopping continues, its not worth spending the $$ to do this- I mean show. I don't know what to do. He shows no signs of lameness, except the stiffness of being 12yrs old, which we maintain. He has a super wonderful personality. Is a saint around the barn and around the show grounds. Great in the warmup ring. Get into that show ring and BAM. He shuts off for a split second. As far as his home life goes- all day grass turnout, very simple diet, trail rides, exercise in and out of the ring. What more could a horse ask for?
    Last edited by ksetrider; Feb. 12, 2009, 08:15 PM.

  • #2
    Sounds like he just learned he can stop. I've owned two dirty stoppers in my career and have learned there isn't anything you can do with a truly dirty stopper except sell them to a non jumping home.

    My dirty stoppers were much more extreme however. One of them would gallop up to any oxer over 3'9" and actually leave the ground with his front legs before sitting down hard and flipping himself over. He's now a dressage horse and a very good one at that but it was still ashame b/c he had scope to burn. He just didn't want to play anymore after years of taking people from the 3'6" to the 4'9".

    How about giving your horse alot of time off from jumping completely? Just trail ride, flat, maybe take some dressage lessons for like 6 months and see if that resets his brain in the show ring once you bring him back to jumping again.


    • #3
      Does he do this at home or only at shows? Is it the height? Can you drop him down a divison and see if that makes a difference? Or does it not matter how high the jumps are; does he stop at any height?
      Eight Fences Farm. Mansfield, MA


      • #4
        My horse did this also at a show in December. He would school great, warm-up great and then stop at the first fence. Circle and then do the rest. He did that in all his classes at 3' and then again in 2'6".

        He has it all, the chiro, supplements, not acting lame or taking a lame step!

        Turned out..................he WAS in pain!

        We have done alot of work on him, xrays, legend, adequan, different shoeing and a break from showing. He's 9 and is acting like a 4 yo spunky guy. In fact I just received a call that he jumped out of his turn-out. He's NEVER done that before.

        I don't plan to show him again until April, and then maybe all the way down to 2' one or two classes, pat him and he's done for the day. I have to give his brain a rest.

        Maybe when you had your horse leased, he was in pain. I hope it works out for you.


        • #5
          In my opinion its one of two things--either the horse is sore and needs time off or he has learned he can stop and needs his a** beat. But thats just my opinion. Since you have done everything and he has gotten a lot of time off then I'm leaning more towards that he has learned to stop.

          I would start jumping smaller jumps--if he doesn't stop at home try going to other farms--it won't be a show but it will be a foreign place. Jump small jumps and if he doesn't stop then maybe he just needs to do the smaller jumps. If he does stop then I would use a crop and make him walk or trot over it from right where he is then go on. The jumps will be small enough that he can just walk/trot over them. Keep doing things like this until he realizes that he has no choice but to go over.


          • #6
            If you have had him throughly check out physically, then it may be he's just learned to stop is acceptable. What happens when he dirty stops? Is there any type of punishment? Have you tried having your trainer show him? Does he stop only the first time around or even after he's been around a few times he throws out a random stop? Does he stop at just the less than perfect distances or even the good ones too?
            "I'm not crazy...my mother had me tested"


            • #7
              What does the vet say? Have you had a real lamness work up? Had the hocks x rayed? Ultra sounds? Checked your saddle fit?

              And what about that other rider that he started this with, did her saddle fit? Did she get him in the mouth? Sit up to early and grind on landing? Make him dread jumping?

              Don't think I would exactly label this a dirty stopper if you are staying on or not breaking your neck into an oxer head first and he is not setting you up for it, just suddenly putting on the brakes for fear of pain is really not dirty.

              But it will get that way and every time he stops, it is going to get harder to school out.

              Get a complete work up and stop jumping him until this gets solved.

              When one that never did this starts doing it? That is pain...but it can turn into a schooling problem if you keep trying to make them jump through that pain-they will never come back.
              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


              • #8
                I second the emotion that he's learned he can do it. I would give him some time off and just see. Sometimes they just need a break to remember that they enjoyed it once. Maybe the leasee just overfaced him or just jumped him too much.

                We have a dirty stopping pony in our barn and she does it to the kids she knows she can. If she thinks that the kid can get her over, she'll canter around like the multiple award winning pony she is. If she thinks she can get one over on you, she'll lay in wait until she finds the perfect fence and then give you the best dirty stop you've ever seen!


                • #9
                  I agree with findeight.

                  Is he only doing this at shows or does he do it at home too? If you have ruled everything out and he is only stopping at shows he may be telling you it is time for him to have a new job. Or he needs a good crack on the rump to see if his attitude can be adjusted. If it can't he may be burned out and just not willing anymore.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks for everyone's input. I worry that it is pain and since he's not just my competition horse- he's my only child- I will retire him if I have to. But, vet and trainer both think I'm being too soft since we haven't found a legit unsoundness issue.

                    I call his stop dirty because it comes out of nowhere. You never know what jump it will be. Last show, I remember it so clearly. 1st jump was quarter line coming home. Low hunters set at 2'9. Pretty but not scary white jump. I picked up a great canter and was ready to move up to a great distance. But instead of picking up his front feet- he planted them hard. I smashed my face on his neck and nearly landed in the jump. After the tradionally two smacks on the belly, we went about our course and the last few trips were fine. He hasn't jumped since October since I don't have an indoor.

                    I'd also have to agree that he might've "learned" he can do it. It definetly started out as "I'm done carting this lame a** rider around" with the pre-adult. She wasn't the best rider. And he certainly did his best to carry her around.

                    As we get back into shape, which he looks so sound and happy, I will let everyone knows how it goes. Our first show probably won't be until April and I probably won't start jumping again until end of march. He had Dec and January off, so he needs time to get back in shape.



                    • #11
                      turn him out for 6 mos. Had one it was a high suspensory who after 4 yrs wouldn't jump. Turned him out and he was fine.
                      Or maybe he's OVER it and it's time for trailriding home.


                      • #12
                        Was he stopping a lot at home or was it mostly at shows? I think it makes a difference. If it is all the time then it is most likely pain and/or sourness. If it is just at shows he may have figured out that the correction isn't as big as it can be at home so he can get away with stopping. But, by stopping, he may also be telling you that he is tired of being a show horse and wants a new job.


                        • #13
                          While I agree it may just be that he's learned how to do this... if you REALLY REALLY want to be sure, I'd take a very very close look at his hocks.

                          He's 12, and he's been a hunter/show horse for a while. It would not be uncommon for a 12 year old to start having some ouchiness in his hocks, and even horses who are not "lame" per se, can start stopping or jumping funny when this happens. If he gets to a jump with not the "perfect" spot, or in a little deep, or at a jump where he really has to rock back and push... there is too much pain, so he stops.

                          Plus, it seems "dirty" because unlike a horse who is afraid of a jump and will start backing off on his way down the line... a horse with hock problems often willingly canters down to the fence, and only at the last second, he thinks, "oh god, this is going to hurt"... so he stops.

                          Just something to consider.


                          • #14
                            Could be ulcers

                            We had one...would warm-up fine - jump anything from anywhere. Then the horse would sit for a few minutes at the ingate and go on to have a stop at the first fence. We tried everything. Finally, on a whim we dosed the horse with ulcer gard the day of the show and voila...horse happy as a clam and no stops. Yes, you will get posters who say you need a full scope by the vet before you go medicating them...but our vet actually hinted that using ulcer gard was not going to harm a horse if indeed they did not have ulcers so we did it and dont feel guilty about it at all.'


                            • #15
                              My trainer gets a few stoppers in by customers that have tried everything to correct the problem. He's almost impossible to dump off, so that helps. He carries a stick and when the horse stops, he whacks them pretty good on the neck, shoulder and butt while screaming bloody murder at them. He does this for about 10-15 seconds, then continues (very softly) onto the rest of the jumps. He claims that you need to put the fear of God in them, just like their mother did when they were naughty as a foal. I've never seen this method fail, but you have to be a brave, stick-like-glue type of rider. You also need to be able to ride to the jumps with no apprehension - like this horse has never stopped in its life.

                              I believe that punishing horses like their mother did is effective - be real nasty for a very short amount of time, then go about your business like nothing happened. Makes them sit up and pay attention.


                              • Original Poster

                                Thanks again. I think I will have his hocks xrayed. We've blocked him without issues arising, but I have noticed lately since he has had time off that he has slight fluid build up around the hock capsules. I haven't jumped him in awhile, though.

                                He only stops at horse shows, and only once. So scarring the sh** out of him wouldn't be an option because I would scare the crap out of everyone in site. LOL.

                                Tried the ulcer route- didn't make a difference

                                I'd hate to think this horse is burned out, as he's had a very easy career. But, if he is- I guess I'll be taking up dressage?


                                • #17
                                  ...OR, after 6 months (or however long the lease was) of being lied to, dropped in front of the fence, or given generally sucky rides, he has decided he doesnt trust his rider anymore. He needs 6 months of consistent, trustworthy rides. Just my thoughts.....
                                  Save a life...be an organ donor! Visit www.Transplantbuddies.org


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Silk View Post
                                    ...OR, after 6 months (or however long the lease was) of being lied to, dropped in front of the fence, or given generally sucky rides, he has decided he doesnt trust his rider anymore. He needs 6 months of consistent, trustworthy rides. Just my thoughts.....
                                    If you're pretty confident that pain is not the issue, I tend to agree with Silk. I had a similar situation and a warning spank before the first fence (if that is always the one he stops at) the first time out, combined with gaining back his confidence and trust, did the trick for me.

                                    Also, I know this is expensive, but you might want to think about a bone scan if this continues. I had a friend who's horse only misbehaved at shows and the only way we found out he was in pain was by getting one done. It ended up showing a fractured pelvis, so it was worth it for him!


                                    • #19
                                      Invite him to make the mistake so you can fix it.

                                      I think looking into hock pain is a great idea. Why? Because it comes with his job and his age, and because injections to the upper joints of the hock are a really effective treatment. But he will stay sounder and stronger behind if he is kept fit and ridden correctly-- from back to front. All this will help him be willing to leave the ground.

                                      From the description you gave of your own ride, I think there is another option. Try giving him a supportive ride to modest distance to the first fence. Once he is on course and thinking, even if it does hurt to jump, he'll be too busy doing his job to feel sorry for himself. You can ask for a bigger distance then without him minding so much.

                                      Finally, I think the "scaring him silly when he is dirty" is the right thing to do. But you don't have to do this at a show. Give him a "stupid ride" at home, inviting him to stop, and then punish him for being ungenerous. He is allowed to say "This hurts! Please help me out." He is also allowed to say "I'd rather not spend eight more jumps packing around a rider who is getting left, picking impossible distances, etc." He does not get to say "Even though things are ok so far, they might go south so I'll assume the worst and screw her before she can screw me."

                                      It sounds as if your 12-year-old is here to teach you about how to manage a middle-age athlete. Perhaps it's an opportunity, not the end of your horse's career. I admire your commitment to your horse and his well-being. So as long as he's yours and you'd like to show, you may just have to accept that you have a new training project we don't often like to talk about-- teaching your horse to manage pain.

                                      The truth is that most performance horses compete with some level of pain; some do it better than others. Seasoned campaigners perhaps don't think like 4-year-old race horses who are willing to sacrifice their body to a rider's goal. We have to _teach_ our quiet, broke, nice amateur horses to get some of that willingness. That takes lots of careful thought and good judgement from you or your trainer, but it's better than giving up on him. If he enjoys being ridden, your affection and interest in him, then he might find it an acceptable bargain.

                                      Hope this helps,

                                      The armchair saddler
                                      Politically Pro-Cat


                                      • #20
                                        Knowing your horse and having boarded with him....you forgot to mention that between the pre adult not great rider and yourself you did also lease him to a kid who wound up doing the 3' Eq on him. She loved him and he only sometimes stopped with her after the pre adult. She felt is was both learned and possiblly some pain issue so they maintained him by paying for a chiropractor the barn had out.
                                        When you started riding him again I was still there and witnessed the dirty stoppping a few times at home. You said he was like riding a different horse since the trainer trained a different way than you were used to. So add you trying to learn another way to ride him plus him stopping in the past and suddenly having the little girl not riding him....And a possible pain issue....makes a horse a little confused.
                                        The trainer he was with always said he had a hind end issue also. so get the radiographs.
                                        Happily retired but used to be: