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Arena sour

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  • Arena sour

    Hi! I’m wanting people’s thought on my geldings behavior in the arena. Since I’ve had him he has not enjoyed the arena a lot. He loves the trail and is great on them though. This morning I got ready for a playday and he was really scary in the warm up pen. He bucked a few times and was really out of control and scittery. He has done this before at other playdays but he isn’t seeming to improve. I even did some roundpen work at home with him before we went. What do you guys think I should do to help him improve in the arena and at playdays?
    Thanks!
    Naya

  • #2
    Well, first I think you should stop thinking about what your horse likes and dislikes. My horse likes to eat, hang with his buddies, and chase cows. I like to sleep late in a warm bed on cold mornings. But not once has my horse called up to me at the house and told me to stay in bed, he was good with missing breakfast. And I don’t have cows. The deal is that I care for the horse and he does what I want. What he likes isn’t part of the deal.

    I suggest more more work on fundamentals. He doesn’t LIKE the arena? Ok, how about 20 min trotted circles? Or work on transitions? Or other basics? Though my horse prefers cutting/sorting, he will willingly do anything else rather than more trotted circles. Buck? One rein stop and 50 trotted circles 25 each way, and he has decided that bucking isn’t worth it.

    Comment


    • #3
      How trained is he? I think trails make sense to a horse: they are going somewhere. Arena work is more random and repetitive: he has to listen to you more. Even if it is well trained, that focus/work ethic is something that needs to be developed patiently by actually doing it. I can't see how round penning will help.

      I would stop going to "play days" until you have him able to focus in a quiet arena setting, as the more he practices being upset, the more ingrained that response will be.

      I would start with just basic arena work and slow speeds: turns and transitions. Nothing fancy or demanding. Keep sessions short. Then add more complicated work such as leg yielding, speed and sharper turns. Try to finish your ride before he gets upset/stressed. Give him mental/physical breaks often. When he is good in an arena at home, then try the more exciting play days.
      Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        That makes sense! Thank you.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Farmgirl22 View Post
          Hi! I’m wanting people’s thought on my geldings behavior in the arena. Since I’ve had him he has not enjoyed the arena a lot. He loves the trail and is great on them though. This morning I got ready for a playday and he was really scary in the warm up pen. He bucked a few times and was really out of control and scittery. He has done this before at other playdays but he isn’t seeming to improve. I even did some roundpen work at home with him before we went. What do you guys think I should do to help him improve in the arena and at playdays?
          )
          You first need to figure out WHY he is bucking.

          Is he bucking because he is in pain? This is the first thing I would rule out with a gaming/playday horse. Playdays and speed events are hard on a horse's body and if something hurts, they are quickly going to get a sour attitude about the arena because they know what you are about to do is going to hurt.

          How old is your horse?
          How long have you had him?
          How long has he been doing gaming?

          I would find a good lameness vet in your area and take your horse for a checkup.

          If that comes back with an issue, then you know why your horse has been acting up. He hurts. Treat whatever the issue is, and then you'll have to rebuild his confidence that the arena isn't going to cause him pain.

          If the vet visit comes back clean with no issues, then you need to keep exploring reasons why he's acting up. Is he arena sour? Has he been run too much? Does he not like his job? Are you cueing him in a confusing manner that frustrates him?

          While none of those things give him a free pass for bucking (you should correct him), it is our job as the rider to figure out WHY a horse is doing something. And the majority of problems are rider induced, even if by accident.

          Or is his attitude simply behavioral and he requires more training, and/or a spank on the butt?

          Originally posted by Foxglove View Post
          The deal is that I care for the horse and he does what I want. What he likes isn’t part of the deal.
          Really.

          So if your horse didn't like cutting, you'd still make him do it weekend after weekend?

          I agree a horse should do what we ask them to do and be a willing partner ... but that works both ways. If it's clear that a horse doesn't care for their job and their heart isn't in it, it's only fair to give them a job they DO enjoy, and not force them to do something they don't like.



          It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

          Comment


          • #6
            ^^^ Yep.
            I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

            Comment


            • #7
              beau159 --interesting --I guess if I was totally into cutting, I wouldn't buy a horse who didn't like cutting --same with dressage or jumping. Part of being a responsible horse owner is to make sure the job is suitable for the horse.

              Now my current horses (I have two) have preferences --both LOVE foxhunting --hanging with the other horses, out in the countryside chasing hounds --they LOVE it. Neither likes arena work ---I get the big sigh when we tack up and go to the arena. But, they MUST do it --like it or not --arena work keeps our communication sharp. Training on the hunt-field is not allowed --so WHERE would you suggest I train? Training on the trail annoys the people one rides with ---I can't imagine saying, "Hey, folks! Today I'm working on transitions, so we're going to canter 20 m then trot 10 m and do that for 45 min." My horse would like it better if we trained on the trail with his horse pals --but not happening. Nor am I willing to hook up my trailer daily and drive to the horse park because my horse prefers to train on a trail --I have cc courses, dressage rings, and 20 acres outside my barn door --

              Right now I'm having (and winning) a discussion with one of my shooting horses. He LIKES to speed up at the end of the list --TOUGH! I need a consistent canter speed to shoot well. I don't CARE if he likes to go faster at the end. Would you suggest I continue to let him speed up????

              beau159 --I think we are talking about two different things ---in my opinion, what horses like is good care, fair treatment, and consistency. I don't think the horsey-brain has room to consider, "I like sorting cows; I don't like barrel racing." But the horsey-brain can become bored or become stimulated. I do think my former cutter got a thrill out of cutting/sorting cows that he does not get from doing circles and transitions in the arena. BUT HE NEEDS to do them to keep supple and be reminded that the twitch of a rein and the touch of a heel means something.

              I have a retired 3* horse who to me only seemed happy when he came off a cc course --he RADIATED JOY --but he's almost 30 --should I let him go out on the CC course on his ancient arthritic joints when I know that would be painful and possibly cause permanent injury because he LIKES to jump?

              I guess if you want to spend your horse $ and horse $ figuring out what makes your horse happy and doing that, --you should. As for me, I'll keep spending my $ and time doing what makes me happy: hunting, shooting, jumping ---and my horses can go with the program; in return they have 50 acres of green grass, a warm barn, great vet care, great farrier, and kind treatment. I think that's a fair trade.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Foxglove View Post

                beau159 --I think we are talking about two different things ---in my opinion, what horses like is good care, fair treatment, and consistency.
                Possibly. But I suppose I was a bit put off by what you wrote, since it was followed by instructing the OP to work her arena sour horse more in the arena, without knowing more about the horse. Especially if this horse is sore, doing more circles in the arena is only going to make the horse more sore and more aggravated, and escalate the problem.

                Don't get me wrong, my horses get arena work too. While you don't necessarily NEED an arena to work on making your horse more broke, it's one place to do it. Just the other night, Dexter was not happy that we worked in the arena while everyone else on his "girlfriends" went out for a trail ride. He threw a buddy-sour-fit but we still continued to do what I had planned to do that evening. He got over it. He would have liked to go with his buddies on the trail ride but we had other things to work on. I'm not talking about TRAINING and making your horse more broke. I'm talking about specialties and disciplines.

                For example's sake, if the OP's horse turns out that he simply does NOT like gaming and that is part of the reason why he is acting out, then no I don't think he should be forced to do it. Even if he gets 50 acres of grass in return, along with a barn, vet care, and farrier care - - that won't change the fact that he doesn't like gaming. And that's the point I am getting at: The horse should enjoy his job. I think he should be trained well enough to behave properly if someone would ask him to do it, but it's not fair to him for it to be his main job if he doesn't like it.


                Originally posted by Foxglove View Post
                I guess if I was totally into cutting, I wouldn't buy a horse who didn't like cutting
                Yes of course, but if you're like me and don't have the funds to buy finished horses, you start with prospects and train as you go. Sometimes you don't know if the horse will like something when you start out.

                I could buy the best bred barrel racing prospect in the world, but that doesn't guarantee he'll like running barrels. There's good chances he will, but not a guarantee.

                Originally posted by Foxglove View Post
                Right now I'm having (and winning) a discussion with one of my shooting horses. He LIKES to speed up at the end of the list --TOUGH! I need a consistent canter speed to shoot well. I don't CARE if he likes to go faster at the end. Would you suggest I continue to let him speed up????
                Don't be ridiculous. I did not suggest that a horse gets to do whatever he wants whenever he wants.

                It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think the use of the word "like" is being taken too literally.

                  A horse generally "likes" what makes him feel comfortable, and what makes him feel comfortable is what makes him feel safe.

                  Ring sour horses often fall into one of a couple categories (or have a bit of both) - they have been "drilled" endlessly by riders who are only interested in perfecting whatever skill they were working on to the point of frustrating the horse, and/or they have had repeated bad experiences - for example, being roughly pushed on a barrel pattern or a jump course - so that they learn that the arena is a place where they will not be treated fairly and they will not be listened to. At that point, there's not much reason to continue to try, right?

                  So OP, your job is to start to recondition your horse to understand that A) you will listen to him, B) you will take action regarding his concerns (and that doesn't mean "we will never ride in an arena again", but instead that you will do things to help him feel better about the arena), and C) that he will always be rewarded for a try, even the smallest one. If you are unsure how to get started on this, I strongly advise finding a skilled horse(wo)man to help, because just forcing this horse to "work through it" or pushing more schooling on him is unlikely to get him any better.

                  When I have a horse who is barn sour - i.e. doesn't like to leave the barn by himself - I take that horse out every day and I only go to the point where I can feel him start to get tense. The first few days, that might mean we don't even make it out of the parking lot. After a few days we might make it a hundred feet down the road. Then a few hundred feet. Then a half mile. But I work the horse up to it, I praise him for trying for me, and I ALWAYS turn him back to the barn when I feel his feet start to get sticky and his breathing start to get shallow - in other words, I never push him to the point where he feels he needs to get defensive. I often hang hay bags with really nice, leafy hay along the route and I let the horse stop for a snack when we get to those spots. In doing all this I systematically change the horse's understanding of what it means to leave the farm, and he develops a good feeling about it. Within a couple weeks we can go out by ourselves no problem.

                  ^^ You can do this exact same thing for your horse in reverse - forget arena work or playdays for a while and focus on just getting him to feel good about entering the arena. Leave the arena gate open, mount outside and walk your horse towards the open gate. How far in (if he makes it in at all!) does he get before he gets fidgety? Turn him around at that point and walk him away from the arena again. Then turn him back. Work him up to where you can walk him in without him getting upset, dismount in the arena and reward him with whatever motivation works well for him, and do so generously. Go back and do the same thing the next day and repeat until you can get on, walk the horse in the area and touch every point of the space without him getting ramped up. Then you can start testing him, seeing if you can trot a bit, canter a bit, etc. If you're timing is good and you don't get greedy (i.e. figure "well, that's good enough" before really getting the job done) you will cease to have this problem no matter what type of arena.

                  Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yes to this. A horse learns to dislike the arena if bad things happen there, either he is pushed to do things he isn't ready for, hurt him or scare him. Or his rider has had fights with him about doing these things and he is primed to be on the defensive in the arena. It is rarely boredom pure and simple. Horses don't get bored in quite that way.

                    You need to recondition him to being ok with the arena. That might mean doing something like just trotting in and one little circle and out over and over. Doing this at the start and end of trail rides. Going for a short trail ride until he is happy and forward. Just doing over and over short stints in the arena to break the pattern of resistance and fight. No pressure and no speed and no competition for months. If you have been increasing pressure on him in the arena stop that right away.

                    Why do you need to do this? Because a horse that will fight in the arena is a horse that will also fight on the trails. Maybe he seems happy now. But one day his Royal Highness will decide that he doesn't approve of a bridge or a path or a cow, and he will try this out on the trail because he knows it is effective in moderating your behavior.

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