my green hunter still thinks he's a racehorse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 06-01-2009, 11:43 AM Thread Starter
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my green hunter still thinks he's a racehorse

so four months ago i brought home baron, my new tb gelding. he'd originally been trained as a racehorse but was bought off the track by a cross-countryer before he was ever in an actual race.
baron's a typical green tb: sensitive, ultraspooky, and high-strung under the saddle.
bur, recently, his mind has gone back to his previous training where everything was about speed, speed, speed.
we've gone to four three-day venture series shows & have done pretty well in the ribbons considering how new he is to hunting and the fact that we still haven't practiced full courses in our lessons at home.
now, part of the speed problem is due to sore stifle muscles, as his backend was very porly developed when i first got him & all his new work is straining the underdeveloped muscles. and yes, we're working on this with lotssss of hill- and pole-work. (:

alright, now on to the current issues: anticipating his absolute favorite thing ever, cantering. once we've cantered, it's all he wants to do. he'll rear over and over and try to leap into a canter at the walk and especially trot. when he's not rearing, his head is held all the way up and his stride bounces, just waiting for another opportunity to do so. this occurs so much that it's becoming dangerous for me and other riders. hack classes are a nightmare. i'll have to halt him, circle him, and try to steer clear of my competitors while they trot nicely around the ring. it's frustrating and embarrassing, and i really need help on how to make him understand it's okay to just trot.
and those are just the flats.
he's always been super fast over courses, and i know this is just him reverting back to his pervious training where he was supposed to be as fast as he could. but just recently, at a show this past weekend, he developed a new quirk. as soon as he enters the arena, he'll rear/lunge/leap into the canter. and if i have the tiniest bit of contact, he'll rear over and over until i let him go. it's like he's still thinking of his racing days and the gates he was training to plunge out of.
again, frustrating and dangerous.
i know i own an absolutely wonderful athlete, and i know he's as green as they come. but if you guys don't mind, i'd like a little help or insight on his two vices: speed & rearing.

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post #2 of 18 Old 06-01-2009, 02:55 PM
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The best advice I can give you is to send him to a professional trainer.
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post #3 of 18 Old 06-01-2009, 03:13 PM Thread Starter
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thanks for the advice! (: but, sending him off is my very last resort. he has a wonderful, rounded jump, a beautiful extended stride, and knows how to do it all. he just needs to get his head right.
sorry if i wasn't too clear, but i'm looking for exercises to solve the anticipation of transitions, speed, and general under-saddle hotness that he and i can work on together.
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post #4 of 18 Old 06-01-2009, 11:16 PM
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Stop Showing him and work with him at home more. It seems like you are going waaaaaaaaaaay to fast for the mental mind of an OTTB, raced or unraced they are all trained to go FAST!

For his neck and head;

1.Check your saddle
2. See if you need extra cuhison
3. See if there is nothing wrong with him, being sore, stiff whatever...

Develop a warm up plan for everytime you ride. To get him lubercated.

And stop jumping.
IDK what hieghth you are jumping, but it sounds like he is not ready. A horse green or not should never fly over jumps. He will end up hurting himself and his rider(s).

Work on Boucnes, with tiny X's untill he learns that it is something not to rush and then you will notice this with jumping. I mean tiny like on the first hole.

How I did it was for the first week I set up a bounce and left the poles down untill she got used to where her feet where supposed to be over an object.

The next week at the very end I set up the first super tiny x and left the ground poles there.
Then advanced according to her mental state.

It is great that he has good form, but save that potential for later.
You should be devolpoed that the walk trot canter and your aids before jumping.

As for his canter, it sounds like his muscles arent devolped 100% and/or something is irritating him. Maybe you should just work on walk, trot, halt, back, shoulder in and out and haunches in and out and the trot and walk before you jump into a canter. Listen to your horse. They will tell you when they are ready.

Trust me I took it slow with my OTTB it was long, it was boring, and I was out of the show ring for an Entire year. Its what is going to happen when you get an OTTB raced or unraced.

They have a set mental state of mind, you have to change that to make them into great Equine Athletes and good partners.

Its not hop on, trot, canter, jump.

They need to relearn everything and it takes time.
If you dont have the patience for it you should not own one.

Last edited by SilentBravery09; 06-01-2009 at 11:18 PM.
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post #5 of 18 Old 06-02-2009, 02:50 AM
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Go back to basics.

Training Scale.

Dressage, Dressage, Dressage - seat into legs into hands to soften

Our horses reflect what we are doing in the saddle 100% of the time.
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post #6 of 18 Old 06-02-2009, 03:07 AM
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Look into his diet - take him off anything remotly heating. The rearing thing is really dangerous , if you are continually having problems one out of fashon method was to ride in a standing martingale - this will restrict how much he can throw his head up , you could also try running reins .
You could also try lunging him prior to any ridden work , this may get rid of some of his energy and after he has had a ' blast ' on the lunge may be more ready to listen to you under saddle.
As MIEventer says lots and lots of schooling.
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post #7 of 18 Old 06-02-2009, 12:21 PM
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Originally Posted by dakotaa View Post
thanks for the advice! (: but, sending him off is my very last resort. he has a wonderful, rounded jump, a beautiful extended stride, and knows how to do it all. he just needs to get his head right.
sorry if i wasn't too clear, but i'm looking for exercises to solve the anticipation of transitions, speed, and general under-saddle hotness that he and i can work on together.
Oh, ok. In that case I agree with what MIE said. Start from the beginning. I have an OTTB who has a tendency to get hot. We had progressed all the way to jumping courses. But I decided that she wasn't learning very well because of her hotness. And I'm pretty sure that she was getting hot not only because of her predisposition to it but also because I was pushing her to fast.

So I backed up about 20 miles and just focused on walk/trot work with her. I spent a good long time walking her. Our main focus was on bending in the corners and staying straight on the sides. I held my reins close to the buckle and used light rein aids and alot of inside leg to get her into the corners. Then we do lots of circles all over the arena using mostly leg to keep her from falling in or out. Once we had done that in both directions we'd do figure 8's. Again use light rein aids and alot of inside leg when bending.

After doing that at the walk, do the exact same thing at the trot. You may need to shorten your reins a bit. But try to keep it to a minimum. Try to slow down your posting instead of asking with your hands if you need to slow your horse down. Work on bending and circles in both directions and then do some figure 8's. He may not bend as well as he did in the walk. That's ok, he just needs time to get supple and responsive to your leg.

After trot work I like to work on walk halt transitions. This gets your horse thinking about slowing down a bit after trot work. Keep as much slack in your reins as possible, give a loud, clear ho or whoa. Then gently increase rein pressure until he stops.

After that I like to work on walk trot and trot walk transitions. Again use ho or whoa in the downward transition.

Then we work on backing and then end the session with what we started with. Walking around the arena and bending. However if your horse doesn't understand or gets frustrated with bending, just walk on a loose rein until he understands what your asking him for. Always end with something he knows how to do.

Now, don't immediatly progress to canter. Spend a few days or maybe even a week just doing walk trot work. You don't want your horse thinking that every time he goes into the arena he'll get to bomb around at a canter or gallop. The walk/trot work will help get that into his head. You may even have to revisit it later in his training.

When you are ready to canter to walk canter or if it's easier, trot canter transitions. Always ask for canter in a different spot in the arena so he doesn't anticipate and start to get hot. Canter for a few sides or down one side of the arena and then ask for a downward transition to a walk. This is where the walk/halt lessons will become handy. Say ho or whoa and use gentle rein pressure until he walks. Then walk around the arena a couple times before asking again. Increase the amount of cantering as slowly as your horse needs. Eventually you'll be able to add canter circles an figure 8's just like at the walk and trot.

I don't know your horse so he may already know how to do alot of this. Even if he does, it doesn't hurt to go back and work on it without including more advanced work.

As for his head. If you want to use a martingale that's your decision. I found that the more I worked with my horse the less likely she was to throw her head up. I also found that not pulling on her mouth also helped a great deal.
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post #8 of 18 Old 06-02-2009, 07:30 PM
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Tons of transitions from walk to trot. Work on lengthening and shortening his trot step (not too much, just a noticeable amount). I would put a standing martingale on him to help with his head...again, not tight, especially if he has never worn a martingale, he will have no idea what it is. I work on walk/trot work for a week or so. See if you can get him settled like that. Then try to add some cantering in. But start with like 8-10 strides and then bring him back to the trot. Use your voice to help him relax with TONS of rewards (pats, good boys, etc) when he comes back down. Be very consistent with what you are asking and how you are asking. As for jumping I would stick with trot jumps for a bit. Use trot poles on either side of the jump, then add a trot in canter out and then bring him back to the trot in the corner. Make sure to incorporate what you are doing on the flat into your jumping. Good luck!!!!
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post #9 of 18 Old 06-02-2009, 07:54 PM
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I have to agree with MIEventer and the above post.

If a horse is rushing, it's NOT due to excitement but to lack of balance and training. I don't care how nice of a jump he has or what he "knows" but if he's unable to slow down, or once he speeds up he doesn't want to slow down, there's a much deeper issue here.

Trot work trot work trot work trot work. As he builds muscle, start to add transitions to canter, back to trot. If he can't canter for 3-5 strides and come back to a trot w/o a fight, he shouldn't be jumping AT ALL otherwise you'll end up with a horse that gets faster and faster and more and more nervous and off balance.

To help a horse like this I'll start with lots of trotting, as they get settled, then I'll work on varying paces within the trot - sitting a slower trot using my seat & legs to slow down, a more forward bigger posting trot asking him to move foward, etc. all the while giving and following with my hands. As soon as the horse starts to rush or brace, it's back to the walk until we settle.

Once the trot becomes easy, like I mentioned above I'll add in little bits of canter. I don't expect a horse to come right back to the canter the first time I do the exercise but I DO try to get the downward transition as soon as possible after the upward one so that the horse doesn't have time to get off balance or rush and get tense/nervous. I ask on the straight (easier for the horse to balance than corners) and use the corners where the horse is more likely to break from the canter coupled with some strong half halts to get back to the trot. As the horse gets more responsive, the time in the canter can be shortened to keep the horse's focus, balance, and work on muscles and responsiveness to the aids.

Once we've mastered that, we can move to small jumps - a single x-rail or 18" vert to start where we walk up, trot over, walk after, circling any time there's rushing, and coming back to the walk any time it becomes an anxious rush to the fence, and try again. Again repetition is key. Once the horse can do this easily, I'll add cantering this jump in a circle to use the circle to keep the horse soft and balanced, trotting a few strides after the jump, rebalancing, then picking up the canter again. Adding in the trot mimmicks the exercise on the flat, something that the horse should remember and be comfortable and confident in by now, and also helps with balance and prevents leaning or rushing in the circle that can lead to increased speed as you repeat the exercise. Provided you've worked circles and serpentines and figure eights into the flatwork routine, this exercise builds on that so that you can change directions after jumping in a circle a few times to work both leads and directions for the horse. After the horse is bored with this, then I'll let the horse continue to canter the entire jump.

From there add gymnastics - not sooner - as while I love them, overfacing a horse with gymnastics can be VERY intimidating as horses see tons of poles and obstacles and can panic and rush worse. That's why it's important to complete the above exercises and then build gradually. After the horse is able to complete gymnastic exercises with ease - on a long rein as well as w/o reins - YES REALLY! - then progress to full courses.

All of these exercises work sequentially on suppling and balancing the horse through proper muscling and balance. I also noted that you mentioned that you only add leg as a last resort - which tells me there's a huge gap in your training as well as that of your horse. My legs are incredibly sore from reconditioning my jumper the past few rides - and I promise it's not from wanting to add speed, but from asking him to slow down, engage, and balance. All of this comes from the seat and legs, which you need to be able to use independently - as well as be able to use the parts of your leg independently. There's a lot more to leg than calf/heel, and if you're not using the various parts of the calf, thigh, and seat muscles, you're missing a big part of the communication with your horse that will give you the light flowing ride that will take you from seat/leg to hands in a soft supple manner.

I can relate to your issues - my 11 year old OTTB is off the track not for lack of speed but for rearing, bucking, and tossing most of his riders. I got him when he was 5, and we spent literally the first entire year just trotting - no canter at all. It took a lot of patience but paid off. And now that my knee is healing and I'm riding more again, we're back to lots of trot, and all the above exercises. While he CAN jump a course, and has done so up to 3'6" many times, right now we're working on balance and going slow over individual fences. I'm not worried about showing him as I know that we can go into a 3' class as-is and likely place very well. What I want to be sure of is that we're also RIDING well and communicating properly with balance, rhythm, and a soft responsiveness to the aids. And I know that won't come from riding more courses, but from doing more trot work and the exercises above. We've been focusing on the circle exercises over the jump with some refinement - trotting in and landing on the lead I'm asking for in the air, then coming back to the trot and doing it again. Even over a 2'6" jump it's a pretty challenging exercise that requires the horse to be focused on me and my aids, and me to be soft and able to use my leg even in the air.

With time and patience, you can build up to this - however I strongly urge you to reconsider the martingale and any other shortcuts, and go back to basics starting from the top of my response onwards - it's proven successful time and time again for me and my horses and students.

Good luck!

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post #10 of 18 Old 06-02-2009, 08:56 PM
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Well said CJ8SKY!

People focus more on the jumping aspect "we jump so therefore we are" without putting any time, consideration and training on the flat - dressage.

If GP Jumpers do Dressage 6 days a week on their horses and jump only 1 -there is a reason behind it. That process needs to trickle down to lower levels.

I find it funny how it is opposite - lower levels people spend more time going over fences "LOOK I AM A GOOD RIDER BECAUSE I JUMP" instead of focusing on the most important factor to riding all together - Dressage.

While at Mid to Upper Levels - Dressage is disciplined time and time and time again.

Always go back to Dressage.

As all the Greats such as George Morris and Jim Wofford and many other say - ALWAYS go back to the Training Scale.
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