back again, with more trouble from my OTTB
Hey guys. Remember me and my ex-racehorse, ex-cross country horse, 5-year-old green TB, Baron? I told you 9 out of 10 times he refused to listen, wasn’t good about his leads, spooked at absolutely everything, galloped over fences 2’3 to 2’6, leapt/reared into the canter, and after he’d cantered his trot would be choppy, fast, his head would be high and tense, and he was overall just a ball of nerves and anticipation. You told me to take a couple huge steps back and just walk, trot, and eventually reintroduce the canter for a while. It made perfect sense, I rode him this way every day for 7 weeks straight, and at first it seemed to have worked. We’ve even dug out the old Pessoa rig and have been lunging him in it at the walk and trot, working him up to about 20 minutes total without the clips even attached to the rings [we have them clipped and then tied to the rope, about five inches away from the clip so that his head is just past or on the vertical]. My trainers and I have also been riding him in draw reins once or twice a week. He looks wonderful: enough fat that his ribs no longer show, his back end and topline finally built up; even his hooves have a better, higher heel that when he arrived with his long, low, racehorse feet. After we took off the draws, he’d still be a bit tense with his neck and head, but would settle in and finally relax after about 5-10 minutes of straight trotting. He stopped leaping into the canter from the trot and eventually his canter became relaxed, smooth, and the best it’s ever been. Still though, there were as many ups as there were downs. Some days he’d be tense and fast and flip out every time he passed a jump, and other times he’d be fine. He was so inconsistent, but when he was good, he was really good, so we took him to a 3-day show just for flat classes, only 2 one day and 3 the next at that. On the schooling day, we tackled the cover arena as well as his regular open one, and I schooled him until he was relaxed and did look at anything in both. The next day, he was flawless in warm-up, but as soon as we got into the show ring he was more of his old self: fast, tense, and nervous. He even tried to leap into the canter from the trot without cues again, something he hadn’t done in a long time. The next day, I schooled him in draw reins before my 3 flats, and they were his best hack classes ever. We were still low in the ribbons, because they were hunter classes and while he was relaxed, slow, and flowing in his movements, that head and neck were still tense and high. But he didn’t leap, our transitions were flowing, he picked up the correct lead every time, his trot was more relaxed than ever, and he was finally, finally evenly paced. I was ecstatic, because after all that work, after tough rides every single day he was improving. Finally, we saw progress.
We had to leave the show before the third day for a week vacation, and so I asked my trainers to ride him for me a few times while I was gone and at long last take him over a few x’s. But we came back to bad reports. One trainer had only ridden him twice, and in her attempt to jump him over a 16’’ cross rail, fell off. It was like he’d never seen a jump before in his life. He’d refuse, or go in really tight and scoot over it, or jump it like it was 4 feet high every time. It was just one x, and when he didn’t improve over it after god knows how long, she just trotted him around the arena. The next training ride, no jumping, just hacking with draws, and he still had way too much energy. I got back three days ago. Rode him in a lesson first with draws and then without the first day, and he was great. Relaxed, pretty evenly paced, and no jumping. The next day, I just took him on a little walk-trot trail ride around the property to get out of the arena. Yesterday, I rode him in a flat field next to the arena that’s set up with three jumps. Did him over poles for a while, then put a pole between the standards. Hitched one end up on the lowest hole trotted him over. He looked a bit, but didn’t leap, just stepped over it. Put the other end up and trotted him again, and he ducked his head to look but jumped fine: no scooting, and he didn’t jump like it was 4 feet. I did it a few more times until it was perfect, then took him up.
I just got back from my lesson today. He was the worst he’s ever been. Fussy with the draws, tense, nervous, and fast the whole way through, and even though he’s been ridden in this arena for months, he spooks at everything on a regular basis, but today he was even wilder. I took him over an 18’’ x with a flowerbox probably 25 times, back and forth, and my trainer was right, it was like he’d never seen a jump before. He didn’t improve, just continued to scoot, duck to look, leap like it was huge, and overall didn’t listen to me one bit.
Now, I’m scared, frustrated, and upset. Scared, because I don’t want to ruin him, like it’s so easy to do with OTTBs. Scared because we paid 12,000 for him, and if we got to the point where we had to sell, I doubt we’d get 5,000. Frustrated because I’ve put so much time and effort into this horse and now we’ve fallen back even farther than where he was when we got him. Upset because who wouldn’t be? He’s so inconsistent that I just don’t know what to do anymore. It would be better if he was steadily bad or good, so at least we’d have something to work with. And it’s hard, continuing to go from such a proud high whenever he’s good to a low the next day when he’s bad again. I just don’t know what to do, it’s like I’ve come across the one horse you can’t train.
I’m sorry this was so long, and I’m sorry this was more of a vent then anything, but my trainers aren’t giving me anything new to work with, so I’m asking you guys. Do you have anything for me that we can do at home? I want to send him to a month or two of professional training, but my mom doesn’t think we can afford that. So, please, any bit of help is extremely appreciated. All I want is a tiny little bit of steady improvement.