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The Wonky Spot freaks him out

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  • The Wonky Spot freaks him out

    So, for those that remember we had a big discussion about my horses' canter not too long ago. now our canter stays nice and round, we canter in round, canter out round.... I can drop him to the buckle and he carries himself well over smaller fences. I'm working on letting go of his face, staying letting go after the fence and he's cool.

    But mostly I was jumping singles. This weekend we were jumping lines with 3 strides, and another line with like 2 1/2, so he had to condense himself. So now what I've found is that if he gets a bad distance he starts getting nervous and carrying it around with him. He shoots his head up, gets super tight through his shoulders and takes choppy canter steps.

    Last night we worked the same line and he totally remembered it was a short distance. i rode him forward to a pole 9' in front of each but still was NERVOUS NERVOUS NERVOUS. Reins were long, he was allowed to carry himself.

    Thoughts on how to calm the nerves when he worries so much about it being 'wrong'? I have created this monster by always making him try to be perfect, so we're trying to let him make mistakes and now he's freaked about making the mistake. Jumps were low, like 2' or lower.

  • #2
    I'm impressed that you were able to improve the canter so much in just a couple weeks. YAY!

    I've been working on improving my 12 y.o. jumper's canter for nearly a year and am just now really getting a good consistent canter that isn't on the forehand and isn't dragging me around between fences.

    What made the difference for you so quickly?
    Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN


    • Original Poster

      I didnt' say it was GREAT, but its getting better!!! And you have to remember, we're only jumping like what? 2'? Everything is a work in progress.


      • #4
        Do you do grids at all? That seems to be the best place to change the distances - slowly, in this horse's case - to teach him how to deal with the longer and shorter strides.

        Have you done canter poles? That's a good place to start so you can work on adjusting his stride without the effort, even mental, of an actual jump. Set them for his normal stride - let's say 5 strides. Work at 5 strides until he's comfy. then work on his easier stride change first - if he's more comfortable lengthening, then work through it at 4 strides. Then back to 5 so he's "condensing" but only back to his norm. THEN work through at some 6 strides so he has to shorten even more.

        Remember to come into the "line" at the stride length you want so you don't have to work on compressing after the first pole. That will make things much easier. After he's ok with compressing before, during, and after the poles, you could work on coming in at his normal stride pace, then compress after the first pole - it will be more effort on his and your part, but that will start to mimic what you and he will have to do if he ends up jumping deep into a line and you have to compress stride length in the middle.
        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


        • #5
          I wasn't trying to be smart. It sounds like you're making good progress on his canter work.

          Maybe you've let your reins get too long an effort to let him carry himself?
          Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN


          • Original Poster

            We do lots of canter poles, and he's usually good at them in the beginning but then gets BORED and starts to ignore them. Or maybe it's me?

            Same thing jumping, he starts out nice but after a few times through the line he's obviously bored. The best luck I've had curing the "boredom" factor is to start him out small, jump it a few times, change exercise, increase height a little and then jump it again. I'm trying to keep the fences low so we can work on "easy" stuff like canter staying the same but then its like he loses respect for the jumping part of it.

            He will respect caveletti if its raised though. We do mostly grid work or single fences, but not lines as much. Maybe rotate a few days of grids, then a line, then back to poles?


            • Original Poster

              Originally posted by tidy rabbit View Post
              I wasn't trying to be smart. It sounds like you're making good progress on his canter work.

              Maybe you've let your reins get too long an effort to let him carry himself?
              Sigh. Rein length.... Sometimes I feel they are too short, sometimes I feel they are too long..... This is where INSTRUCTION would be nice. Our instructor is actually there now on Saturdays (yeah!) so I can get some assistance.

              I'm trying to vary that if that makes any sense? The hotter he gets the more I try to float them and let him figure it out? He likes the more elevated canter where he's stepping up into something you know?


              • #8
                Originally posted by zahena View Post
                This weekend we were jumping lines with 3 strides, and another line with like 2 1/2...

                Last night we worked the same line and he totally remembered it was a short distance. i rode him forward to a pole 9' in front of each but still was NERVOUS NERVOUS NERVOUS. Reins were long, he was allowed to carry himself.

                Thoughts on how to calm the nerves when he worries so much about it being 'wrong'?
                Errr...zahena...move the line out?

                Why ever would you set on the 1/2 stride with a young or Green horse? Or, really, ANY horse?

                If you don't want to move the jumps around, set them all at 12' and ADD a stride. The add fits well there off a short canter. Actually you can add 2 strides in with tiny 2' jumps. And should. Until he is confident.

                Heck, if I was even a seasoned horse, jumps on a half stride would make me nervous too.

                You scared him. He is not the one that's "wrong" with a line on the half stride.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  Maybe you're misinterpreting boredom for being on his forehand and not having a truly engaged and through canter? Maybe when you feel him "bored" that's the time to halt, back a stride or two and resume your canter?

                  OH, and what findeight said!
                  Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN


                  • #10
                    I read your other thread with great interest. I thought you got some very good suggestions and recommendations. Two running themes in that thread seem to me to be the following:

                    1) You need to take some lessons. You need eyes on the ground to help you. While it is great to get suggestions here on this forum, there is no substitute for someone actually being there and watching you and your horse.

                    2) Flat work, flat work and more flat work. No jumping until it is fixed at the flat. One poster said that jumping was just flat work with obstactles. Why are you jumping when this has not been worked out?

                    I applaude your effort to get better, but seriously, you need help with this-please take some lessons and forget the jumping-and concentrate on flat work. Good luck.


                    • #11
                      Ditto Findeight.

                      If you are trying to teach him to compress and go to the base, you HELP HIM OUT, and sit up and shorten his stride to do an add. You don't want to go for a forward distance to the first jump in a line, and have the line set at 2 1/2. That is teaching him not to trust you.

                      Three stride lines are hard to do adds on a green horse as it really doesn't give you time to adjust. Set at least a 5 stride line. Trot in and do 6 strides (normal, then do 7 strides (add), then do 6, etc. Canter in for 5, then add and do 6.
                      That will teach adjustability without scaring him.


                      • Original Poster

                        He actually will compress and the line was set to where if he just shortened a little he could make it. But he does it when the line is fine too, so like if i ask him back he'll usually come back but now he's gotten inot some weird mode where's he like uh.... I'll just jump it anywhere. I've added ground lines and he's usually cool with it but now not as much.

                        Agreed on the flatting and the eyes on the ground. I've got a plan where someone else is riding him every other week, then we'll lesson the same week, spend the following week working on what we worked on then repeat.


                        • #13
                          If you have hit a point where your horse seems uncomfortable, back up a step to where he was comfortable to re-establish his confidence. It sounds like he may be at a point where gymnastics are good because he can figure things out and you don't need to worry about rein length, you're just there to steer, support through the excercise, and stay out of the way. I'd start with trotting through a set of cavalletti, over a cross rail, then a landing rail about 9' out on the other side. Once he is comfortable with that, add one comfortable stride to a vertical, and build from there. To teach him to rock back, shorten up the elements a little bit. Not to the extreme, just a little.

                          Once he is getting the concept to some degree on his own, move onto practicing on lines. I find poles on the ground are a great way to practice adding 1 to 2 strides and then going back to the correct number. When there is a mistake, there is nothing scary about it, the most likely outcome would be stepping on one of the poles or him splitting his legs over it, rather than getting a real distance. Once he is doing it there, then move onto doing the same with jumps. Make it easy, and like someone said, it is easier to practice this kind of thing over a line that is 5+ strides because you can adjust in a more gradual manner.

                          One thing I've realized recently with my young horse is that sometimes when I float the rein, she inverts and gets a tense, short, quick strided feeling. I float the reing because I think I am being "nice," but I think she feels like I've abandoned her and doesn't know what she should do, so gets anxious and rushes. I have found that she responds better if I think instead of just following more with my hand and softening the contact a little so I am still there, but I am doing less.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by zahena View Post
                            But he does it when the line is fine too, so like if i ask him back he'll usually come back but now he's gotten inot some weird mode where's he like uh.... I'll just jump it anywhere. I've added ground lines and he's usually cool with it but now not as much.

                            Alrighty then, you got a little mess going because he did get scared and he is confused. It also seems the basics are lacking if he comes apart down the line or jumps in without waiting for you from wherever. You have to direct him and you have to hang in and stand your ground about where he jumps from.

                            That means you have to stop jumping and go back to flatwork and ground poles.

                            And, please understand that setting on the half stride is not only awkward and flat out unfair with any horse, it's dangerous. And if you think they cannot flip or otherwise tangle with the jump off an impossible distance, think again. And it will fry their brain because they learn to be scared and think they will never be at the right spot-because there is no right spot on a half stride. If anything, trot in and canter out or trot that whole line if you cannot or will not move it out.

                            Good advice about not schooling 3 stride lines there too. Never, or almost never, see these in a show anyway and there is no room to do anything once you jump in-except eat the out or get a rocket launch. Both of which, done enough, will ruin that horse for jumping.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                            • #15
                              Ditto about not setting a line on the 1/2 stride. That really is sort of an advanced concept for a younger horse, and you have to ride the half distance well also. Why not just practice doing the regular distance, and then really working on getting the add. Shortening and lengthening is the BLACK and WHITE to your horse and to you. Heck, even just a single pole or small jump, decide to go over them collected, or lengthened. I do this stuff every day with just random poles on the ground with the horses that I ride (greenies, and others of various abilities, jumpers, eq horses and hunters).


                              • #16
                                It sounds like this horse needs a lot more miles over grids and lines set at comfortable distances for him to get his confidence up. THEN you can work on shortening and lengthening distances to fences. Right now, it sounds like he is green and nervous, so the wonky distances are making him even more nervous.

                                It's only been a few weeks of you straightening out the canter issues and working on single fences. You need to introduce lines slowly as well. You said you just started doing lines this weekend and you went straight to working on funky distances. Give him time -- several weeks, more likely a few months -- before you start playing around with distances. Let him get comfortable just going over the lines before you start working on switching back and forth between correct distances and adds / double adds. I would make sure the fences are set at a distance that is comfortable for the horse to do confidently right now. And I agree that when you are ready to start playing around with distances, setting the fences on the half stride is not the way to go about that, certainly not until the horse is much more advanced and comfortable adjusting his stride and jumping.

                                Good luck -- and just be patient.


                                • #17
                                  We teach our young horses to canter fences by setting trot-in grids at distances that are very easy and comfortable for them. That way the distance is always there and the horse learns where to take off from, so that when the rider makes a mistake, the horse can fix it. They don't canter single fences until they are jumping trot-in grids and lines comfortably.

                                  Last night we worked the same line and he totally remembered it was a short distance. i rode him forward to a pole 9' in front of each but still was NERVOUS NERVOUS NERVOUS.
                                  Of course he was nervous. You don't ride forward into a line that rides short. Thats asking for disaster. You ride to the line with the step you need to make the line work (for example, if the line is set at a 10' stride, you collect your canter to approximately that), go deep into your corner and WAIT IT OUT. If you move up/ride forward to the "in" distance, you need to sit up and WHOA as soon as you land. And if you are riding forward to a half-stride distance on your particular horse, you had better be moving. Like really, really moving. I almost never set on a half-stride, I set on a 12' step and just collect if I want to add.

                                  Go get yourself 101 jumping exercises by Linda Allen. Start with the easy trot-in exercises. Your job is to keep your horse straight through the line and keep out of his way other than that. Your horse's job is to jump the fences.