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The jumps are IN the ring, my dear ...

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  • The jumps are IN the ring, my dear ...

    Lovely warmblood chestnut jumper mare (LJM) is 8 now, and schools 4'3" comfortably at home. At shows, well maybe I'll get lucky and maybe I won't. Today, LJM was horror-ified by the very scary people on the the hill.

    In the past it has been the people in the lawn chairs, or the kid hanging on the rail. She's not an easy ride to begin with, but when she does not find some life threatening distraction to be concerned about, she jumps whatever is in front of her. She doesn't stop or spook at the fences, but is sometimes so obsessed with scary somethings outside the ring I can barely get her to agree to go.

    Is there hope for LJM ? OR should I just shoot her (not likely, but tempting nonetheless.) FYI she does not like dressage, and does not find hunter rings to be any more attractive than jumpers. If anything, speed, etc. makes her pat attention better in the jumpers. She will not kill you on a foxhunt, but you will feel like it is a definite possibility.

    Her behavior seemed silly young horse nonsense, Once Upon A Time.... But now, well you can only jump a combination from a standstill up to a certain height, and then some sort of forward movement is required. Not to mention, you can't pin or win if you come to a COMPLETE HALT (once or twice) on course.

    Advice, suggestions?

  • #2
    Hang on, she's not 9 or 10 That seems to be a nice age for them to actually grow up
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #3
      How's her flat work? We have a couple of guys here who if allowed to let their minds wander outside of the ring and the job that is there, will spook, spin, bolt, stop, you name it. By spending the time at home to get their flatwork really, really good and be borderline obsessive that they BEND to the inside and stay focused, they are much better at shows. But you have to do the work on the flat to show a difference anywhere else.

      Also, consider possible physical issues that might make her SO spooky. Have you had her eyes looked at? Have you had her scoped and/or treated for ulcers? Is her body in good, working order? Pain sometimes manifests itself in strange ways.

      She may also just need her butt kicked. Possibly because she has been doing this for so long (like you said, it seemed like silly young horse nonsense) that she thinks it is acceptable. You might have to take her in the ring and put the fear of God in her when she reacts poorly (some horses do definitely spook for the sake of spooking). Can you take her in some lower level classes where you can focus on the bad behavior between the jumps and not have big fences to deal with, too?


      • #4
        Originally posted by yellowbritches View Post
        be borderline obsessive that they BEND to the inside and stay focused, they are much better at shows. But you have to do the work on the flat to show a difference anywhere else.
        YB may be on to something. When I took my old-enough-to-know-better mare to our first rated show, there was something on one end of the arena that was definitely a horse-ivour. She would NOT go down there, no way, no how. My trainer had me keep her bent way further than normal to the inside and she was fine. The one time I didn't bend her, well, lets just say that was a quick way to spend THAT entry $$.
        A proud friend of bar.ka.


        • #5
          The key is to continue work so she uses the thinking side of her brain First over her reactive side of her brain.

          You don't say how you react when she pulls this.

          I just got done reschooling a coming 8 year old WB who was pulling this stuff with his owner. Sure he would try a few stupid things with me undersaddle but my demeanor never changes. "we are going forward and this is what we are doing.... His owner on the other hand would get flustered, tense etc. She's a good rider too but her tenseness would convey to him and they would just feed off each other.

          My own 8 year old WB gelding will pull a bolt some times and he's immediately told to cut the crap and move foward. End of story. Consistency and exposure go a long way to getting her brain to think and listen to you and not fixate on other things.


          • #6
            you should try putting fuzzies (like the halter fuzzies) on his cheek pieces so he has to focus more. I did this with my guy for a summer of showing and schooling and then he was fine! its just enough to make them focus more!
            "If you are nervous you arent focused-if you are focused, there is no room for nerves!"


            • #7
              It sounds like while she jumps big she isn't FORWARD off your leg or obedient. Especially since she decides to stop and stare. You might try having someone else school and show her and see if their timing is better.


              • #8
                Differential equations are your friend

                A horse working on complex math problems doesn't have enough brain-power left over to worry about what's going on outside the ring. Your mare is a redhead, a mare, a young warmblood and a game athlete, so she needs really, really tough problems to keep her occupied.

                But there's more. In general, yellowbritches nailed it. But to be even smarter, think about this logic: When she is doing what you want, she gets a tactful, mentally uncomplicated ride. When her mind wanders, you hurl a problem at her. She must change direction, gait, do something unexpected at your request. When she says "yes ma'am," go back to "leave her alone" ride.

                A top Western Pleasure guy explained this technique to me as a way to make sure those horses cruise along with a minimal ride in all situations. Your jumper needs to be just as broke. You can't spend your time preventing the spook or micromanaging her on course since your job of just getting around the course is (or will be) hard enough. She should find it much easier to listen to you than to do anything else.

                She sounds great! She's smart enough and athletic enough to "multitask"--doing her job while looking out for other things as well. You just need to get even smarter and you'll have a really nice partnership.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat


                • #9
                  That's frustrating behaviour! I had one like that who grew out of it as he got older. At age 8 he was spooky about everything around him (but NEVER the jumps in front of him, thankfully). At age 10 he was basically a schoolmaster at the shows. Lots of mental development in that time.

                  Have you tried stuffing her ears? How about trying a shadow roll? I've seen various combinations of fluffy halter stuff on bridles for that very reason, and had clinicians suggest it for my spookier horses every now and again.
                  Flying F Sport Horses
                  Horses in the NW


                  • #10
                    While we're on the subject of spooking, what is it with horses and freshly bloomed azalea bushes and wisteria? All three of mine about flipped out this weekend when they went up to my ring and first saw the newly bloomed azaleas in the tree line along the ring. They do this every year. Apparently, blooming azaleas and wisteria are fire-snorting, horse eating monsters.


                    • #11
                      While it looks stupid, my daughter cured my jumper by putting her in full cup blinkers (like at the race track). Only allowed the horse to focus on the fence and rider input.

                      She doesn't use them anymore and the horse goes around without any spooking or "lookies".


                      • #12
                        After the usual "check for ulcers, maybe some magnesium and B vitamin supplements" stuff, I'd say two things:

                        As a WB she IS still young. Ride her like a greenie -- dictating ride, always bending, asking for subtle transitions, etc.

                        Make it more challenging. Since she's in the jumpers, you don't have to worry about the beauty-pageant strides. So ask her to change things up a bit sometimes if it's a safe option. If she has to listen to you or have a bad time, she'll eventually maybe listen to you. Of course, ask nicely, but nice can still be quite firm <grin>.

                        Good luck...


                        • Original Poster


                          Shoot me in the head -- I just wrote a long post and my computer ate it !! Arghh...

                          I will summarize, as enjoytheride mentioned, she is not FORWARD and OFF MY LEG. This has been a problem for a long time. She went to a cowboy after she was started, when it became apparent the Rider was an inconsequential figure in her life. Cowboy said "Good Luck. She's tough" when she came home. He did a good job getting her accepting of the trailer, and for that I am extremely grateful.

                          The whole concept of "Submission" is not in her paradigm. And if she ever finds the Human Idiot who put it into the FEI rules she will gladly straighten them out. She does not like bits, but is back in one now as the hackamore is just oh-so-not-useful when/if she gets seriously spooked/distracted. She has a fat tongue, a low-ish palate, and not quite straight jaw.

                          She also has that lovely warmblood 'not quite string-halty' thing with the back legs. Has never been shod behind without drugs. In fact, she is just so sensitive to pulling, twisting etc. that I don't think it is even possible. Must be careful putting on back boots, which she needs as she does interfere behind. She is aggressive in her stall (not with me, I will kill her and she knows it) and unhappy with confinement, constraint, or restraint of any kind. Overall, she can de described as defensive.

                          Because she does not cotton to being dictated to, it has made the "Differential Equations are Your Friend" methodology shaky, at best. She doesn't like being told what to do, so overwhelming her with directives can lead to her getting angry and frustrated. I try to push her into her 'stretch' zone without getting her into a 'panic' zone where she will not be able to learn. But that keeps us in on a dangerously narrow strip called "Who's in Charge Here Land?" So I have to be very careful with that.

                          Higher level riders than I have had less success dealing with her spooking, they were unable to get her around the course at all. 1,2,3 fences, then no deal. In fact, she wouldn't pick up the canter in the warm up sometimes until after she'd jumped something. So I don't think a higher level rider is going to solve the problem. They seemed to have no better solutions for "forward, off the leg" than I.

                          Right now, I am thinking of trying some blinkers, shadow rolls etc.

                          Gotta run.


                          • #14
                            Try depo. She sounds a bit mare-ish.


                            • #15
                              What is her breeding? I'm sure I owned her brother!


                              • #16
                                I think I own her mother...


                                • #17
                                  Question: How much time does she get for turnout? If she doesn't like stalls or restaint of any kind, is it possible that her life attitude may change with pasture turnout 24/7? She may get a little beat up if she is out with other alpha mares. But better her than you. I've seen many horses become much better citizens after spending extensive time out in the pasture.


                                  • #18
                                    No advice here

                                    [QUOTE= She will not kill you on a foxhunt, but you will feel like it is a definite possibility. [/QUOTE]



                                    • #19
                                      Definitely try shadow rolls on the side. And, she DOES sound like she might be a candidate for "hormone therapy."

                                      Good Luck.
                                      Aca-Believe it!!


                                      • #20
                                        Whether or not she LIKES math is inconsequential

                                        Judging from your posts and your cowboy's opinion, she does sound tough.

                                        So try anything and everything. But could it be that you have given in before she has? It sounds like she has a list of rules for your relationship that is as long as your arm. But you are capable of changing those. After all, you did cross out the rule that says she gets to threaten you in the stall.

                                        It may help to decide that you don't care how strenuously she objects to something you know she can do. She doesn't have to LIKE anything you ask of her, but she does have to give it the old college try. It sounds like she has some legitimate physical reasons that make her think she's best off with the "Say no first and ask questions later" strategy. Still, she has to try.

                                        I'm not saying you ought to pick a fight where someone gets hurt. But it may help to create a scenario in which she comes to understand that things will get worse and worse for her until she tries to do as you ask. Maybe you guys are in a stand-off of sorts. This doesn't take violence, per se. You'd be amazed at how many horses change their ways when you make it clear that you have all damned day to get something done.

                                        Did your cowboy get a chance to fix the behind the leg issue? If not, that may be the under saddle place to start. It's hard to get anything done when they won't go forward.

                                        In any case, I don't mean to question your skill or judgement. I'm just a English-riding fan of the way that western people define "broke" and how the best of them really get inside a horse's head to get that done.
                                        The armchair saddler
                                        Politically Pro-Cat