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WWYD....Horse is an angel on the flat but loses his mind O/F

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  • WWYD....Horse is an angel on the flat but loses his mind O/F

    Strictly for my own curiosity, and becasue I like a challenge:

    I was talking to one of the boarders last night after she had an atrocious ride on her horse. She had asked for some advice, and honestly I'm stumped! Thought I'd throw this out to the COTH crew and see if you have any insight.

    Horse is a lovely TB gelding, that has unfortunately had some bad trainers along the way. He has tons of scope and could have really been a great little jumper. Unfortunately, he was overfaced too soon and it has kind of fried him. Previous trainers had all sorts of gadgetry on him, and rode him absolutely backwards, creating a hoppy, inverted monster. Owner decided this was not what she wanted for him, along with the fact the horse was really being pushed height-wise in his O/F schooling. She changed barns, left him out in a field for a month, and started fresh. Put him in a loose ring, ditched the jumping and worked only on the flatwork for about 6 months. Horse is finally trusting the leg and hand, and now goes beautifully on the flat.

    Over fences, it's a whole other horse. About 3 strides out, he will throw up his head and run to the fence. Will not accept any contact, but once he is over the fence, is more than willing to come back down softly and steadily. She has worked over trot and canter poles (which he does well), cavaletti, jumped on circles, jumped from a walk, but nothing seems to help. She has lunged him O/F, and free jumped him, and he is more relaxed without the rider, but still runs to the fence.

    She asked if I thought a bit change may help, or maybe a standing martingale until he realises that there is nothing to worry about, then back to the snaffle again. She jumps small crossrails with him and keeps things very easy and encouraging for him. She has worked so hard to get him normaled out again and IMO is a good little rider. Horse has tried almost every bit out there, and nothing has really helped. I'm at a loss, I don't know what to tell her to help her out. I know she has had the vet out a couple times, no issues anywhere on him. I thought ulcers maybe, but that was ruled out along with my other suggestions, hocks, back, stifles and teeth.

    To flat this guy, you would never know. He is as safe as can be, but he just loses his marbles when it's time to jump. I am really interested to see if you guys have any input or if maybe he just isn't going to be fix-able. Thanks guys!

  • #2
    Is there any way to get a video of his behavior? What does the rider do when he throws his head up? Drop her hand or follow him to keep a straight line from bit to hand? You can make these horse worse if you drop your hand and hit them on the bars of their mouth, making them more inverted and unbalanced.

    Has she tried trot poles into a small x? Does he blast through the trot poles once he sees the xrail? I would think it is best to stay out his way in front and over the jump and then give him a job on the other side, half turn, half turn in reverse, leg yield, etc until he settles, then come back and repeat.

    If pain has been completely ruled out, I won't think it is a lost cause but will require patience and good riding.
    www.brydellefarm.com ....developing riders, NOT passengers!
    Member of LNHorsemanshipT & Proud of It Clique
    "What gets me up every morning is realizing how much more there is still to learn." -GHM


    • #3
      Sounds a lot like my horse a few months ago. One thing that got us back on track was buying a new saddle. My particular saddle fit her well on the flat, but when she would jump and round her back during the bascule it would dig in right behind her withers. This was part of the problem.

      Once I got a new saddle and brought her back to jumping, she was still defensive and would grab the bit and RUN to the jump then buck on landing. The ONLY thing that turned her around was walking fences. I walked fences with her for two months straight.

      Now you said this girl has done the walk fences. What about this: Set up 3 or 4 trot poles 9 feet from a small cross-rail. Do not let the horse trot until he is about to step over the first trot pole. My horse was so busy concentrating on the trot poles and where to put her feet (since she didn't have that rhythm coming in) that she would pop quietly over the X. This keeps their feet and mind busy and doesn't give them the chance to lock on to the fence. I am now trotting and cantering fences with my mare, but anytime she starts to rush we go back to this exercise. It is the only thing that helps screw her head back on. Good luck.
      Last edited by acking01; Dec. 9, 2009, 10:26 AM. Reason: to clarify exercise


      • #4
        Honestly, when I had a freight train over fences, we did a lot of dressage until he really did obey the hands and work in a working/training level frame. Basically, kept him busy and learning to listen to the aids. THEN he jumped, with the snaffle.

        For the head, I wouldn't say no to a standing martingale but would be careful about any other equipment fixes unless he really needs them--that might be something he associates with the rush training he had.
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        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the replies-here's a little more info

          As far as I can see, as soon as the head goes up she softens and follows with her hand as he gets even more upset if she jabs him accidentally. What it looks like is he just hikes his head right up in the air and bolts, does an inverted jump, and then a few strides after will soften and relax.

          He WILL jump the trot poles, and has jumped the whole shooting match a few times and has really gotten himself into trouble. He doesn't look like he gets heavy, quite the opposite, there is nothing there to hold! I give her major kudos, she stays very soft with her hand, keeps her leg on and body out of the way, and always praises him even if he does a terrible job. On the landing side he alwasy does a circle to a downward transition, then makes sure he is reaching down and into the contact and keeping a steady trot bfore she will try again.

          I am fairly sure she had her saddle fit to him, but will ask again, and I will tell her about the walk pole exercise (I wish I could still jump!) Keep the suggestions coming! Thanks!


          • #6
            My OTTB got very anxious when I started jumping him and wanted to rush the fences.

            What worked for him was
            - trot poles in front of the fence
            - gymnastics, gymnastics, gymnastics where all the distances were easy for him and where the rider can leave the horse alone.
            - small easy fences that were integrated into rides, many of them out of the ring. Once he started to accept that hopping over a smallish fence wasn't going to be the end of the world he remembered to breathe and stopped running at them.

            Good luck -- once they've been overfaced it can take a long time to convince a horse that his current rider isn't going to push him beyond his abilities.
            Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
            EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


            • #7
              I've known a few horses like this - it's not that they pull; that can be easily corrected...instead, they get light in the front and extremely inverted.

              No bit in the world will change this - it's a learned evasive behaviour resulting from poor training..poor guy!

              Some of the horses I knew were never really comfortable O/F ever again - you'd maybe get one or two soft, relaxed jumps out of them but as soon as you tried a course, they would revert back to their old habits.

              IMO, it's very very difficult to reschool a horse that has been fried O/F - it can be done but if often takes years and that horse may only ever be "normal" for one rider.
              \"Don\'t go throwing effort after foolishness\" >>>Spur, Man From Snowy River


              • #8
                I'd counsel relentless patience on this one.

                I'd keep the horse in the loose ring, adding a (loose) standing martingale if the rider is worried about getting popped in the face when the horse flings its head. It should not be adjusted to do more than that.

                The same rules apply over fences as on the flat, and the rider has done a lot right so far. The key in overcoming this issue is for the rider to remain completely composed and unemotional as they school through this issue.

                With a horse that worries and rushes, you HAVE to go back to something they can calmly do well.

                In this case, I would go back to rails on the ground... ride a circle over the rail at the walk, trot and canter. When that is no big deal, add standards NEXT to the pole, without putting the pole in the cups. Again, WTC... til it is no big deal. I would also make it just part of the normal day's flatwork... meaning work a bit on the rail, make a few circles over the pole, go do something else, come back to the circle, etc.

                All of this has to happen with the rider remaining relaxed, ho hum about it, maintaining a NORMAL contact with seat, legs and hands. That is the reason to do this exercise on a circle, as if the horse rushes, the rider simply calmly guides the horse around on the circle with a quiet tactful contact, pushing the horse out with the inside leg into the outside rein and allowing the circle to encourage the horse to balance and slow the stride down.

                When that is no big deal - meaning not that the horse is not just obedient, but calm and relaxed throughout the exercise, put ONE end of the pole in the first (lowest) cup. Repeat WTC until that is literally no big deal and both rider and horse are basically bored to death. Continue to intersperse this exercise with regular flatwork. Once the horse can completely maintain composure, put another pole into the first cup on the other standard to make the world's tiniest crossrail. If necessary, pull the standards further apart to make it even easier. Repeat WTC as before, incorporating this exercise with others that the horse finds easy and does well.

                This will have the added benefit of helping the rider relax as well since it is quite likely that they are tensing up in anticipation of the horse's reactions to jumping at this point.

                At any point, if either horse or rider gets the slightest bit worried, step back to the previous level until they are both bored to tears.

                Slowly increase the height of the rails as the horse/rider get bored and eventually, the horse will be able to manage that single with no issues. At that point, you add another rail on the ground somewhere else to form jump #2 and continue from the BEGINNING with that one... again incorporating both jumps into the horse's regular flatwork and other exercises.
                We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                • #9
                  Managing a horse that get above the bit and quick is tricky. You have to keep your leg and keep the line from bit to hand straight by raising your hand and keeping equal resistance.

                  Once the behavior occurs, would she be able to circle him, maintaining equal resistance and a straight line from bit to hand until he settles and repeat. Put the jump on the centerline so she can circle both directions. You could even do trot poles more than three strides out so he doesn't run through those, and then as he improves, you can move them closer and closer and eventually go over the jump (probably NOT in the same session or even the first 5+ times she does the exercise). I won't repeat this exercise too much, you will have to accept the slightest improvement and then move on to other flat exercises and perhaps come back to it again 1-2 x during her ride, depending on his anxiety level.

                  It is more about the behavior he has learned than the jump. She has got to train him that he can't evade her contact by raising his head, VERY good that she doesn't drop her hand and snatch him but by giving her hand to him, he gets NO contact. He needs contact (equal resistance) in her hand and support with her leg. It is a balancing act and very difficult to ride a hollow horse, so independence of a riders hand and leg is paramount in this situation.

                  Good luck! Patience has served this horse well so far (kudos to her for being so wise), so if she continues like that she will probably be able to find his way back!
                  www.brydellefarm.com ....developing riders, NOT passengers!
                  Member of LNHorsemanshipT & Proud of It Clique
                  "What gets me up every morning is realizing how much more there is still to learn." -GHM


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JustABay View Post
                    He WILL jump the trot poles, and has jumped the whole shooting match a few times and has really gotten himself into trouble.
                    IMHO, if he's jumping trot poles, he should not be asked to do more until the issues over the poles are resolved. Walk a pole on the ground. Over and over and over. Once he can calmly walk the pole, then ask him to trot it. Trot the single pole over and over. I would not do more than a single pole until he's able to basically ignore it. Then increase it to a cavaletti. Do the same walking over it, then trotting, until he's completely bored by it. He should not be asked to jump even the tiniest x-rail if he's JUMPING trot poles. The trot poles are the basics and he should be able to do that nicely.
                    A lovely horse is always an experience.... It is an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words. ~Beryl Markham


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by KristiKGC View Post
                      IMHO, if he's jumping trot poles, he should not be asked to do more until the issues over the poles are resolved. Walk a pole on the ground. Over and over and over. Once he can calmly walk the pole, then ask him to trot it. Trot the single pole over and over. I would not do more than a single pole until he's able to basically ignore it. Then increase it to a cavaletti. Do the same walking over it, then trotting, until he's completely bored by it. He should not be asked to jump even the tiniest x-rail if he's JUMPING trot poles. The trot poles are the basics and he should be able to do that nicely.
                      I understood from the original post was that he will do trot poles & even canter poles but will jump them if there is a jump after them.
                      www.brydellefarm.com ....developing riders, NOT passengers!
                      Member of LNHorsemanshipT & Proud of It Clique
                      "What gets me up every morning is realizing how much more there is still to learn." -GHM


                      • #12
                        With my horse, who started rushy to fences and would get pissed if you touched her face, we did the following.
                        Walk up to a single pole. Halt quietly at the pole (the horses front feet should be on one side, hinds on the other). Make your halt quiet and kind- no yanking or jerking or ugly, say whoa. Stand for a second and walk off. Keep doing that same thing, but sometimes go over the pole and sometimes halt on top of it. Always be kind, never impatient. When that is easy, repeat the exercise at a trot. Eventually your horse will start to listen- do I need to stop or go? Go means you quietly add leg.

                        Then you put a pole out a few strides from a jump. Halt on top of the pole, again, focus on relaxed. Use your voice- a quiet whoa- minimal pulling on reins. Then trot out over the jump. Ideally the horse will wait for your leg and even pause a bit, but if not, say whoa quietly. If it's bad, go back to your pole until that is relaxed. When you land, don't pull up roughly, use quiet aids- even if you need to circle.

                        What this did for Niki was teach her that an obstacle on the ground may not mean "GO OVER", it might mean to stop, so listen for my leg, plus it helped reinforce whoa and gave me a tool other than seat and rein to get her to wait/slow. It's a long process, and probably not ideal for a stopper.

                        Now, I can use a little rein in front of a jump, which is nice. But she knows now that jumping= soft rein, so no reason to hurry. You just need to keep everything soft and quiet- on horses like these- you can't use strength and force.


                        • #13
                          I read about this one somewhere, but can't remember where to give reference-but it seems as though it might be worth a try, and fits in with the bove post asbout throwing poles into flatwork.

                          It was this: Put the jump (at first a pole between standards, then a pole on bricks between standards so it's maybe 3" high, etc.) on the centerline. At the walk, then trot, then canter, circle everywhere BUT over the jump: just inside it, just outside, more inside, more outside, back close etc. When the horse is completely relaxed and not thinking about the jump, circle into it from as close as possible, so he doen't have very long to prepare, and over and keep circling. Go away from it again, and only circle over every several times by, so he never knows if he's going to be asked to jump each time until he's right there.

                          I haven't tried it, and it might be nonsense, but I remember reading it and thinking it made sense-if he has no chance to anticipate, he doesn't have long to act up.


                          • #14
                            Try a different rider? You never know...

                            Some really good jumpers just aren't a good match for some really good riders.

                            Get another (really good) rider, and see if it's a better match.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Brydelle Farm View Post
                              I understood from the original post was that he will do trot poles & even canter poles but will jump them if there is a jump after them.
                              Ohhhh, that makes more sense. I guess she really needs to find his breaking point and take a step back from there. If he can do trot poles but his brain is fried when there's a series with a jump, can he do just a series of trot poles? What about trot poles with a cavaletti at the end? Is it only with an actual x-rail that he gets fried? Can you make a teeny tiny x-rail (think basically cavaletti) and work from there?

                              As someone else said, patience is going to be the key here. Make his job something he's very comfortable with and only occasionally test that comfort zone.
                              A lovely horse is always an experience.... It is an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words. ~Beryl Markham


                              • #16
                                I'm working with one like this right now. Very scopey over fences but was overfaced and learned to invert and run.

                                Have to go back to the very very very basics and it'll take a long time to get back to jumping courses. I think a lot of these horses freak out because they get off balance and think they have to bolt in order to jump safely.

                                We started out over a single pole. Trot pole. If he sped up and didn't stay working over his back and connected, he walked the pole. Each time the focus is on staying the same over the pole. Eventually work up to the canter over the pole. Then we added a second pole with the same concept. Then added an itty bitty crossrail/cavaletti and made him trot or walk through it. Then I'd add a placement pole and make him trot through it. All the time giving big rewards for staying calm and sane.

                                Also make sure the rider is really well balanced on the horse. I can get this particular horse to canter around small fences now but his owner who still has some work to do on her balance has a hard time getting him to stay straight and quiet to trot fences. It's important to breathe and not feed into their insanity - the whole time just taking deep breaths and focusing on keeping them calm.

                                Work away from the gate to start - sometimes horses speed up when they're headed for the ingate.

                                It can be done, it just takes a long time and a lot of patience. If the horse is nice, and doesn't want to do dressage, then it'll be worth it. Oh and a standing martingale is really helpful.


                                • #17
                                  Nothing will replace patience and good riding but one option as far as biting goes is switching to a combo bit or even hackamore (with curb guard) that let rider apply pressure over his nose when he tries to go above the bit, it might make him less resistant and stiff in the jaw. Just a thought.
                                  www.brydellefarm.com ....developing riders, NOT passengers!
                                  Member of LNHorsemanshipT & Proud of It Clique
                                  "What gets me up every morning is realizing how much more there is still to learn." -GHM


                                  • #18
                                    A friend had a similar horse. He was so fried over fences that he never was really able to do it successfully despite all her best efforts -- great trainer, great rider, etc. He'd just get so anxious and hysterical that it wasn't worth it. He does dressage now . . .


                                    • #19
                                      My instructor gave me an interesting excersise for this type of problem. He had me approach the side of the jump and cross in front of the jump parallel to the jump. You are not actually presenting the fence. You continue to cross parallel to the fence as close as you can get until the horse is quiet when close to the fence several times. Then you actually present the fence. After jumping return to the parallel activity until the horse relaxes and then repeat the presentation. He says that the horse is getting nervous when it is close to the fence and so it needs to learn to relax close to the fence before actually attempting to jump. It has worked for me and is a very quiet way of doing it. Sometimes I think walking and halting worry the horse more and make the horse more likely to rush. By the way it works to help a horse get over a jump that they are afraid of as well. It works great for ditches.


                                      • #20
                                        Not sure if this has been mentioned above already but something I found really helped with my mare (who was exactly like this) was to implement the jumps into your flat ride. While flatting do lots and lots of figures around all the jumps set up, pretend they aren’t even there. Then every so often when the horse is very listening come in a short approach, or make the small jump/or pole part of one of your figures, pop over it and then continue on like nothing happened. Continue flat work until horse has calmed down again then gradually implement the obstacles into your flat work again.