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My horse is afraid of flat classes...Advice needed!

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  • My horse is afraid of flat classes...Advice needed!

    So I have this beautiful dutch warmblood gelding who I'll admit is a bit sensitive. However, he stays fairly calm at horse shows. Dead quiet in the schooling ring and when he's in the show ring jumping, gets right down to business. Even when we're flatting in the morning in the show ring with everyone else shouting and schooling that even makes me a little nervous, he's totally fine. But take him in a flat class with everyone doing the same thing at the same time and he loses it! It literally takes all of my strength to keep him together. He starts pulling down on the bit really hard and rushing into everything. It gets frustrating when you have a perfectly good round and then the flat phase knocks you down because your horse becomes totally different. Any suggestions? Thanks!
    "To accomplish great things we must not only act, but dream; not only plan, but also believe."

  • #2
    First off, are you sure you are tensing up and he's feeding off your nerves? Has anyone else ridden him in flat classes?

    My horse gets a little nervous is flat classes sometimes so this coming weekend I'm planning on doing a bunch of flat classes to let him realize it's not big deal. My trainer did that with another horse and the horse now hacks very well.

    Your guy may just need to go to a local show where you can just get him in the ring with others doing the same thing.


    • #3
      Some horses aren't used to being in groups. And some pick up on their rider's nerves.

      You can solve both problems by practicing with friends - get in the ring together, or in an empty paddock, and practice all three gaits in all directions, passing each other etc. The main thing is to practice being CALM and "no big deal" about it. Be organized about your practice - start out with everyone keeping a certain distance and only passing at the walk. Then decide on another game, such as having two people walk calmly around while the third person trots in circles as if warming up. Then have the trotting person pass you (not too close at first) while you pay attention to just walking calmly, etc. Gradually get Yourself and the horse used to all kinds of activity.

      Your horse will be much more settled if YOU are, and you will be much more settled if you can practice at home, in a controlled situation. You might be a lot more nervous about the flat classes, which your horse senses.

      Maybe your trainer can do a group game day like that with you, to make it more like a show? When I took group lessons our trainer used to do "musical ride" days where we had to do patterns as a group - sort of like the Lipizanners at the Spanish Riding School. She would call out where we had to go and in what gait. It was fun, and helped everyone get used to riding together in the ring.


      • Original Poster

        Thanks everyone! It's possible that I could be getting tense, but I feel like I'm riding the same as always. The practicing with friends sounds like a good idea though. Thanks again!
        "To accomplish great things we must not only act, but dream; not only plan, but also believe."


        • #5
          Go to some local one day schooling shows and put him in every flat class he qualifies for. You might have to do this at a couple of shows, but pretty soon flat classes will be no big deal.


          • #6
            As others have said, it's my guess that the flat classes are either really really FUN for him, or really really scary. Maybe he thinks he's being "chased"!?!
            When you have a horse off the track, flat classes are VERY interesting for a long time! LOL!
            Not so typical for a WB, but not unheard of.
            Totally agree with competing in as many flat classes as you can afford and can stand!
            And when you're not in there to get a ribbon, feel free to circle and really TRAIN on him so he learns to focus on you. Sometimes when you're really trying to present your horse to the judge, to get that ribbon for division points, you may hesitate to make proper, stronger adjustments that your horse really needs to re-focus his little brain.
            Since he's pretty good about the rest of the show gig, you probably just need to bore him to death in the flats so he sees everything is OK.


            • #7
              My daughter's horse was very nervous in flat classes and riding in traffic altogether. The only thing that helped was time. We took her to a lot of schooling shows, did not make a big deal when she "acted out" and she gradually let go of her fears. Now she can hack with 25 plus horses in a class and remain quite relaxed.

              It is important for the rider to remain quiet, not ride defensivley or anticipate problems as this can just as easily create them.


              • Original Poster

                As I said, he is definitely the nervous type, and is VERY aware of EVERYTHING going on round him. I talked to my trainer and our next show we're going to put him in three or four flat classes now that I'm finished with qualifying for everything. It will most likely be good for both of us to just relax and get into the ring with lots of other horses and realize it's no big deal. Thanks everyone! You've had great suggestions!
                "To accomplish great things we must not only act, but dream; not only plan, but also believe."


                • #9
                  Try to stuff his ears as that may help reduce his anxiety about horses coming up behind him.


                  • #10
                    Ear puffs, and either keep him away from other horses, or keep him close to other horses. You will have to find out what works best. My goofball pony thinks the flat class is a new place to run, buck and play with ten of his new best horsie friends. Getting him tired before the class may help too. Good luck.
                    It's 2017. Do you know where your old horse is?

                    www.streamhorsetv.com -- website with horse show livestream listings and links.