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Refusal-Any reprimand for horse?

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  • Refusal-Any reprimand for horse?

    So I was reading an old discussion and it got me thinking about peoples opinions on this.

    You and your horse are jumping a course at a height you both are comfortable with. Meaning the horse has done the height many times as have you. You are heading to a jump and you put your horse into a "bad" distance. Not a horrible OMG distance, but one thats a little too tight, or a little too long, and the horse says "No way jose" and slams on the breaks.

    Does the horse deserve a smack? Do you just circle and re approach? What is your "protocol" for that scenario?
    Check out my Equine Genetics Blog! Updated April 25th with Splashed White!!!

  • #2
    As long as it's not a habit of the horse to stop, I'd just circle and re-approach. If you find a good spot and he tries to stop again, then use more driving aids.


    • #3
      It is important for all horses to believe that stopping is not an option, but if you bury a horse or try to send him paddling, and the horse bails out on you, that is nothing more than self-preservation, and self-preservation is a quality you want in a horse and one a rider/trainer should encourage, it will help you and the horse out in much more dire situations, so no you do not get after a horse for a problem the rider created, the horse will never understand what they are get reprimanded for.


      • #4
        If it is your fault, they should not get in trouble. There is nothing more upsetting than watching at a show when someone hands their horse a terrible distance and then goes nuts on them when they stop. It's disgusting, and I think that a good rider is one who has more control of his/her temper.

        Another time I believe in a gentle approach is with a baby in some scary circumstances. The best example I can think of is at the recent OTTB Celebration at the VA Horse Center---indoor ring, etc. Yeah, there were horses who stopped---but I didn't see anyone yell and beat on them. They just stopped calmly, let them look, and tried again. The horses were not being naughty; they were just scared. There's a big difference. Of course---I think, in that crowd of bigtime horse lovers, anyone who got in the face of one of those sweet TBs would have gotten the smackdown from everyone else, bigtime.

        Now, in the instance of a dirty stopper---perfect distance, starts to take off, plants feet---THAT is totally unacceptable and there will be a Come To Jesus between me and said dirty stopper. I hate that worse than anything---rode too many of them as a kid because I was the brave one.
        Katie Gardner ~ Otteridge Farm
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        • #5
          I would tend to agree with the GM philosophy. Unless it's a HORRIBLE distance that the horse simply cannot jump from - then a focused smack behind the leg is appropriate. Unfortunately - horses are not quite bright enough to "reason" through why one stop is less meaningful than another so a measured punishment reminds them that stopping is simply not behavior that works. Stopping should simply not be an option that horses get to fall back and and even when the rider makes a mistake the horse needs to try. That of course is not in the event of horrible, dangerous distances or crazy mistakes. Our job as a good solid rider is to try to avoid putting our horse in that position so they remain brave and enjoy their jobs and are not scared or backed off. Any good horse should be able to jump out of a little funky distance without shutting down. I am always perplexed when I see people at the shows have horses stop and then pat them. It's sending the absolute wrong message.


          • #6
            I think it depends both on the reason for the stop, the severity of the stop, and the temperament of the horse itself. Reason and severity have already been discussed (i.e. spooking at something from 3 strides away vs. practically lifting the front end before putting on the breaks etc.).

            But sometimes smacking a horse that is otherwise nervous or is one of those horses that KNOWS when it's been naughty and starts to wig out because it's EXPECTING to be punished -- in some of those cases a smack is just going to make the situation worse and it's best to just chill out and approach the fence again.
            Originally posted by tidy rabbit
            Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community.


            • #7
              Originally posted by ExJumper View Post
              I think it depends both on the reason for the stop, the severity of the stop, and the temperament of the horse itself. Reason and severity have already been discussed (i.e. spooking at something from 3 strides away vs. practically lifting the front end before putting on the breaks etc.).

              But sometimes smacking a horse that is otherwise nervous or is one of those horses that KNOWS when it's been naughty and starts to wig out because it's EXPECTING to be punished -- in some of those cases a smack is just going to make the situation worse and it's best to just chill out and approach the fence again.
              I completely agree.

              If you smacked my old project pony after a refusal it totally blew her mind. She became nervous and started dancing around. If it was my fault, we simply halted and paused to both regain our composure and then made another attempt. If she was legitimately naughty she could get a "fake smack" (raise hand but not actually make contact) or a very, very light one.

              Now, a big confident horse who is not nervous is a different matter and will probably earn a smack. I think the big key is to create an excellent, inviting approach the second attempt. Your leg better be ON, your reins short, and heels down. You need to be confident and not let your horse know if you're nervous. If the horse ran out left, please circle right when you approach again and put your crop on the left side by all means.


              • #8
                Depends. On the rider more then anything else.

                And pace has not been mentioned yet. An iffy distance is doomed by the typical novice snails pace. Basically the horse cannot physically get over from a crawl and the rider maybe pulling on their face just to make sure they don't go too fast.

                Likewise too much pace and a stride left out to a too long distance over an oxer-you bet that horse is going to stop...and good for him. More sense then the rider.

                Lets not forget a sloppy turn or cut corner putting them crooked to the base either. I have seen too many clobber the horse when they cut to close and gave them no room at the base.

                And, of course, you got the neck rider that overweights the front end to the point they cannot lift it off the ground then throws a shoulder at the base to make sure.

                Oh, and then you can have one really scared by the appearance of something revealing holes in their basics-like forward. Hitting does no good if you have not installed a good go button. They can learn to associate a scary fence with getting hit if you are not careful.

                I don't care what GM is quoted as saying, if the rider puts the horse in a situation where it feels it cannot or should not try to get over? Thats the riders problem-especially novices. Just because he says hit them anyway, IMO, I do not want a novice or somebody on a nervous green horse hitting them anyway when they stopped for a rider error.

                And remember, GM does not like to "tap" them. Either smack 'em or forget it.

                I give mine one stop and assume it was me. If I smack them, it is well BACK from the fence on a circle to get them forward or, maybe, a smack about 3 strides out on the second attempt if I feel them suck back. Sorry, I remain unconvinced that hitting them after they stop and a rider regains their balance teaches them what they did wrong and can just associate getting hit with the fence. IMO there is only about a 3 second window to react and have it associate with what they did wrong.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  I agree completely with ExJumper and SkipChange. Depends on the temperament of the horse and the reason for the stop.

                  My example - I have a horse who is a strong 'peeker' and can be nervous in a strange ring with strange jumps. The first time around, he will sometimes stop - not a dirty stop, but a back-suction a few strides out that no amount of leg or even crop will deter. My instinct was to drive at him when I felt this and even punish him some for it, and it seemed to backfire because, as was also the case in SkipChange's example, it blew his mind. My trainer adjusted my approach to the problem, and we are doing so much better with it. Now when he stops I force him to walk up to the jump, look, and then take an easy trot into the 2nd approach. This has been working great, and the more I have eased his mind this way, the lesser the problem seems to exist on the first go-round the next time, because his confidence is building.

                  I think my trainer makes a distinction between horses who are being belligerent and refusing to do something they are perfectly capable of (which would include jumping from a bad spot as long as we aren't talking about jumping 4 feet from a standstill) vs. horses who want to please you but are acting out of fear. He reminds me frequently that my horse visibly loves his job when he's at ease and that the best way to fix the problem long-term is to keep the experience as pleasant as possible and the least stressful as possible for him.
                  "To understand the soul of a horse is the closest human beings can come to knowing perfection."


                  • #10
                    The tap should come as soon as you feel it slow down/stopping. This tells the horse, hey go forward at the jump not backwards (this is more of what GM is getting at). Many riders are not comfortable with tapping at take off which is a shame because it is a very valuable tool. Remember a properly trained horse doesn't think of the whip as "uh oh I'm in trouble" it thinks of it as "I need to go forward". So many riders today are afraid they will hurt the horses feelings etc, if they use the whip however, when it is used appropriatly it can be a wonderful tool.

                    When used after the stop...I do not like seeing the rider smack a horse 5 times while holding the horse in front of the fence. That gives mixed signals (whip means go, pulling back means stop, all in front of a troubling fence). After the stop if you use the whip it should be as you are circling to get the horse in front of your leg. Then you should tap on the take off to reestablish "go forward" at the jump.

                    As to the novice rider on a green horse, thats easy. Get off and put an experienced rider on. Novice riders don't belong on novice horses, so if they can't deal with a stop properly then somone who is more experienced should get on.


                    • #11
                      Since just about every time my mare stops, it is my fault, she rarely gets a smack.

                      Sometimes a stop starts out as my fault, but then while we are fixing me, she goes into refusal mode. As in,"Oh, this is the jump we stop at! I got it!" Then she gets a smack to remind her that we go over the jump. Really, this only happens in cross country venues (Schooling or at horse trials). I came from a hunter/equitation background and the jumps that fall down don't scare me as much, so I make less mistakes.

                      One schooling day, we were jumping over this VERY scary looking jump. Or trying, at any rate. I think it was four refusals before we went over. Not one smack to her. If I stayed off her mouth and put my leg on like it was a less scary jump, she would do it - it was my fear and resulting improper riding that caused the refusals. We finally got over it and it was a great feeling to make it over that scary trakehner/drop fence.

                      A dirty stopper is another story.


                      • #12
                        Depends on the horse's mind, not whose fault it was.

                        IMO, horses need to know that they need to try always. They don't get to hold us to their standards of perfection.

                        You punish or not as it gets the horse to try hard next time. I try to give the horse a much better distance on the second approach. I smack or not based on how worried the horse was by the initial stop.

                        After I have made my point, we go back to a blank slate. I give the same soft ride from way back. If I feel sucking back, I drive, growl or smack for a stride or so-- and we are perhaps 4 or five strides out here. If I give the soft ride, I invite the horse to tell me what he'll do in time for me to "make a statement" and then relax, letting him focus on the fence again.

                        If the "get going!" ride freaks him out, I keep cantering, circle and give him yet a third approach to find the fence in a relaxed way, by himself.

                        To me, the point of all this is to teach the horse that a) he must get to the other side of whatever fence I point him at; and b) that's his problem-- hence the relaxed ride that lets him address the fence himself. He can't think about the fence in front of him if he's worrying about my aids behind him.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat


                        • #13
                          Love all the answers above!

                          I agree though...it depends on the situation. Dirty stoppers will be punished....but learning horses get one chance to try and then we start to get a lil more forceful on offense number 2.

                          My horses RARELY stop. They have stopped at their first shows (new place, new fences), but I didn't get mad, they deserve the opportunity to WANT to do the jump. I never FORCE any of my horses to jump....I start teaching them from the beginning that jumping is fun and they enjoy it.

                          I think maybe in instances of school horses who are fully trained to jump, they can get 'snotty' and just not want to do it...those ocassions can deserve punishment.

                          If a horse needs more than like 2 smacks on the butt from a crop to get over a fence.....time for a new job or to check for other issues.

                          I think one of the most important part of being a RIDER is developing the ability to know, feel and understand just when a horse is being an ass vs. when something went wrong and it just needs to be tried again.
                          Horse Drawings!


                          • #14
                            I think the height of the jump makes a big difference. Any horse that is reasonably atheltic should be able to handle a 3' oxer, even if I bury him occasionally. He's physically able to do this. I expect that I have to ride more accurately at 3'6".

                            Most amys don't have 100% accuracy to the jumps. The horse has to try.


                            • #15
                              Depending on the horse and the degree of disobedience, I will give between one and three whacks for a stop. If it was a horrible distance, in self-preservation, then no punishment would follow, but I do expect the horse to jump from a slightly long or tight distance and would discipline any stop with a single whack, increasing to three hard whacks for a real dirty stop.

                              Punishment is always with the crop held upright within three seconds of the refusal as we circle away from the jump.


                              • #16
                                Great responses here, especially from findeight and mvp. I agree with findeight that getting after them/punishing after the stop doesn't do much--the incident is already over and they won't make the connection.

                                I have had to deal with this a bit recently as my greenie decided that running out was a good way to avoid jumping if he was unsure. Using a stick on him afterwards just made him EXTREMELY worried and he would rush the next attempt and/or make an even harder/more exaggerated effort to avoid it the next time.

                                After videoing some of this, I discovered that a) we were overfacing him and b) I wasn't riding like I needed to. Many of the runouts were because I just quit riding two strides out and expected him to pack me over--but he's green, and he didn't.

                                I fixed it by going back to ground poles and gradually working up to crossrails. A couple days ago he did his first two-stride line--he ran out twice at the 2nd element, which sucked, but I fixed it by calmly re-attempting, riding a bit more aggressively, and getting him over no matter what--even if that meant jumping sideways from a standstill with no stirrups.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Dapple Dawn Farm View Post
                                  As long as it's not a habit of the horse to stop, I'd just circle and re-approach. If you find a good spot and he tries to stop again, then use more driving aids.
                                  Yep, I would go by this.

                                  Originally posted by FlyingSwap View Post
                                  There is nothing more upsetting than watching at a show when someone hands their horse a terrible distance and then goes nuts on them when they stop.
                                  I definitely agree. I can't stand seeing things like that!


                                  • #18
                                    One of the nicest things I have seen was how Marcus Ehning handled a stop in a huge international class a few years back. He brought the horse to a bad distance, it was a communication error and a human error, and the horse stopped. Ehning leaned forward, seemingly whispered "sorry" in the horse's ear, gave a pat, and quietly reapproached for a nice fence.

                                    If it is legitimately the rider's fault and jumping would = crash, or the horse is so confused that he didn't understand what was asked of him, then the horse should be delt with delicately.

                                    But ONLY if this is a rare occurance and ONLY if it's a legitimate "But!!" on the horse's part.

                                    If riders miss so often they are causing refusals, they should stop jumping and relearn the basics. Nothing teaches a horse to stop quicker than a rider who cannot ride a fence correctly.

                                    Additionally, horses cannot be allowed to 'choose' their 'preferred' distance. If it's safe but long or safe but quiet, that horse should have jumped and he SHOULD be punished.

                                    Many don't realize that stoppers are most often created...and usually by rider's overhandling or underhandling of stops. Handling and disciplining stops should be given great thought and requires diplomacy and thought on the part of the rider, as well as firmness and an unyielding hand if the situation so calls.
                                    It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)


                                    • #19
                                      I like the Marcus Ehning story!

                                      When a horse is worried by his own decision and I'm pretty sure he thought he it was a matter of life and death, reassurance is in order.

                                      Horses who know they are supposed to go don't need any more stress on top of their concern that they would have died by leaving the ground. In this case, the slow stroke down the neck let's him know he can leave the ground next time-- you and the jumps aren't here to soley to kill him.
                                      The armchair saddler
                                      Politically Pro-Cat


                                      • #20
                                        Just curious - does anyone back up their horse after a refusal instead of circling?
                                        When we asked David O'Connor what to do in case of a refusal, he told us that he does not circle. Rather, he backs the horse up to a distance sufficient to reestablish a good pace and asks agin. He says he pictures a lane going to the jump in his mind, about 2 feet wide, and the horse is not to deviate from that path.
                                        "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."