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Instructors, How Would You Have Handled This?

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  • Instructors, How Would You Have Handled This?

    I had a short lesson this weekend (squeezed in at the last minute). My instructor suggested I warm up first so we could make the most of the half hour. I made the mistake of taking my horse out of the ring and dismounting to get a drink of water after I'd warmed up. My horse took this to mean we were done, and she was *not* happy to then have to start an actual lesson. (The warmup had not been excessive - walk/trot and some a couple of very short canters, maybe 20 minutes total.) So at the first halt she threw her haunches out, and when we did some turns on the haunches she began seriously ignoring my right leg. As my instructor had me correct her and try again, she actually reared a few inches. Reprimanding with the whip made no real difference. She would keep swinging the haunches out or back up 10 steps for every one I asked. None of this was in a dangerous way and she didn't threaten to rear again. I wasn't afraid or feeling like she would bolt or anything, but I wasn't making any impression on her. After about 6 or 7 tries and at least 10 minutes of this, my trainer got on the horse with my permission. She spent the rest of the lesson obtaining submission, but as she commented at the end, we never got past the first halt.

    I'm an experienced rider but have been too passive and amatuerish for a long time. I'm timid, but much more confident than I used to be, thanks to this trainer and this horse, whom I trust. I want to become a more effective rider, and watching my instructor with my horse, she didn't do anything I couldn't do *right now*. All I would need would be guidance on when to do what.

    So for those of you who are instructors, how would you teach me to deal with disobedience like this? I don't want to be so dependent in these situations.
    Yes, I am crazy. Is that an issue?

  • #2
    Well, for one thing, I always try to keep in mind that horses have moods, good days and bad days, just like humans, and sometimes the plan I had in mind for that horse and rider, isn't going to work with the mood that horse (and sometimes rider, LOL) is in when I start a lesson.

    I also prefer to coach riders through difficulties on their own horses, unless things are reallly going downhill (and in that case, often I'll just have them walk on a loose rein beside me, while we discuss what might be going on, and some ways we could fix it, while both horse and rider take deep breaths, and then try to coach them through the fix).

    Anyway, not having been there watching you, can't say exactly what I'd have done, but it strikes me that your horse seemed "stuck" (mentally and being acted out physically) so the biggest thing would have been, forget everything else but going FORWARD again - big trots, big canters, maybe even a few energetic hand gallops in a nearby field if possible. Got off that horses back and let it get the frustration out with a good old fashioned gallop. Then wrap up asking for only 10-15 minutes of concentrated discipline to end on a soft obedient note.

    Sometimes its best to just throw out the plan when the horse gets in a snit, and ride the horse you have *that day*, not the one you thought you'd have.

    Good luck


    • #3
      Well, you may think that you could do everything the instrctor did after she got on but you simply cannot let this kind of behavior continue repeatedly and you were not getting the job done. Instructor was correct to take over the situation...remember once they get away with this crap, they learn it works and gives them a new weapon to avoid work. It has to be stopped when it first occurs.

      Mares are great for this kind of BS because they are smarter as a rule, only the dumb ones buck, the crafty mare learns what is easier for her and more frustrating for the rider. So she can control you and control what she has to do for how long.

      You also have to be prepared for the fact that you can plan all you want for what you want to do in a lesson but, if the horse misbeahves? That becomes the primary goal, fix that. Sometimes that's all the lesson ends up consisting of. And, when you have to correct them like this and it turns into a battle? When you win it, you are done for the day. Basic fact of training horses, sometimes small steps are all you get done...but when they get done, you are done too.

      Will say there is something really obvious here and you can work on that, she is "punching the timeclock" and your time was up when you got off. You need to tell her to keep working and file a grievance. Break up your riding time more, get off and then remount when you are flatting. Leave the ring and go for a ride after schooling-or take a ride and THEN school. Avoid doing the same thing in the same order...you know, we all go left w-t-c then go right w-t-c then get off, so don't do that all the time.

      One last thing, I got a mare that pulls this stunt and can get nasty about it. I put a pro on her and feel nothing at all as I don't even want to deal with that at my age and with my limited saddle time. That's what Pros are for, so don't take this as a defeat.

      And get a little tougher with her majesty.
      Last edited by findeight; Aug. 3, 2009, 06:25 PM.
      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


      • #4
        I have to agree with findeight.

        There's a funny thing about "watching" - sometimes, it's not the things that you can see that make the difference between an amateur and a pro ride.

        I can't really explain it but there have been times in a lesson where I cannot figure out why a student's horse is protesting as it appears that the student is doing everything I am telling them to do and they "look" right. I've decided that it probably has something to do with what one is projecting as the rider - we all know horses can sense fear or insecurity or anger/frustration etc. I suspect they can also sense when we're just not quite sure.

        I have gotten on a horse that is consistently being a pill and the rider doesn't appear to be adding to the issue and all of a sudden, one try and the horse is being perfectly obedient and I couldn't say from the ground you would have seen any real difference between the way I was riding and the way the student was riding.

        I'll confess though, b/c I mostly do training of horses not people, I am almost always thinking of the horse and I hate to see a horse confused or not ridden correctly repeatedly. I try to give the riders as many chances as possible before I think it might be too uncomfortable for the horse or worse, creating a bad habit.
        \"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River


        • #5
          OMG, were we the same person yesterday? LOL The mare I was riding in my lesson was doing the exact same thing to me. So no advice since I'm also a fairly timid rider and at times, really unsure of how I should react. Thus, those crafty mares will take advantage! I think this is why I sometimes prefer the dumb geldings...


          • #6
            I absolutely agree with Findeight. I hadn't realized what a rut my pony & I had gotten ourselves into until she had a series of shutdowns at eventing camp. I'm glad I got the chance to school them with the help of some great instructors & will continue trying to mix things up for HRH.

            It's never a bad thing, in my opinion, to have a pro school your horse. It can make things incredibly clear to both horse & rider. (Did you realize that it was within your abilities to ride it out before you saw your coach do so?)

            To me, it's no fun to have a Perfect Pony in a lesson if she can still be a raving b***h at other times.


            • #7
              I agree with the others but the one thing I would like to add is that sometimes, just being firm about knowing that you know what you want and that you will get it if you keep asking correctly will get you what you need. I see so many people ask for something and when it doesn't come right away they stop and go ask someone what the trouble is instead of trying to work it out themselves, it comes from insecurity as much as anything and from being used to relying on someone else to solve the problem. That said, I am one of those people that sees a rider letting a horse do something naughty and thinks "why on earth is she letting that happen" as opposed to "OK, now think tall and ask fluffy to point his ears across the arena instead..."
              Shop online at


              • #8
                Yep, little miss maresy pants had a plan for that ride..... And it didn't involve doing things YOUR way. This happens.
                It's actually a good thing you were with your trainer at the time.
                SO many people give up when what they are doing doesn't seem to be working, and that is the smart mares' favorite game. You just CAN'T let them have their way!
                Oh, there are plenty of compromises to be made, no doubt, but it is essential with horses like that to be sure things end in YOUR favor.
                Like I said, good thing your trainer was there to be sure the mare understood that whatever happened, it was going to be in terms that the rider dictated. (Not that you're not capable, but sometimes you start to doubt yourself if you don't have a wide repetoire in your back pocket...)

                Maybe it WAS the fact that you took a little break between ride segments. Good practice for a spoiled attitude if you ask me, because how many shows do you go to where there is a break between over fence rounds? O/F and flat?? They gotta be willing to go back in that ring and do what you ask.
                DO let us know about the next ride!! Bet it's better!!


                • #9
                  I agree w/F8. One thing I would add tho' is that one of the things that is not obvious about watching someone correct bad behaviour is how important timing is. If you see someone get on a horse and fix something with no apparent effort it is often simply because they are much quicker than you. It's not always about what you do, but when you do it. So a better rider than you responds when your horse is considering thinking about maybe balking, not after she processes the thought and certainly not after she slams on brakes.

                  You will have to not second guess yourself to fix this, and you will also have to allow yourself to make mistakes in the other direction too. No horse should be so precious that you cannot make mistakes while learning to ride it.. that is why we take such good care of them, it's a fair deal
                  "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                  • Original Poster

                    Well, thanks everybody, actually my trainer could have written almost every one of those posts! I'm understanding better now that the *timing* and *absolute accuracy* of the reactions to Her Highness' snit were what I wasn't providing. To whoever asked if I realized beforehand that I could do everything the trainer did - no, frankly, I didn't. So that was a learning experience, and a confidence builder in a way.

                    I rode her again last night and she gave me a chance to apply what I saw the trainer do (read: still not thrilled about the TOH). I noticed two things: I wasn't always sure if what she'd just done deserved correction or not, and I wasn't always sure what the best correction was. Having said that, no, giving up never crossed my mind. After I noticed that her jaw was completely locked on the right and took the time to unlock it, things progressed much better.

                    I totally agree about her punching the time clock, and that's something I'll work on next weekend. I hardly show at all and it hasn't been an issue when I did, but still it's not acceptable.
                    Yes, I am crazy. Is that an issue?