Issues At Shows (focus!) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 10-07-2011, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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Issues At Shows (focus!)

My POA/QH gelding, Specs, gets really nervous at shows and rodeos. He can't focus at all and just goes insane. Last 2 rodeos I've been to, he's bucked me (not off, just bucked and acted up) and he also just isn't himself at all. I've tried taking him to shows/rodeos and not showing him, but it still didn't take away all his jitters when he actually has to do it. How can I settle him down to make us more successful? He also doesn't like to stand still ever, (he is a major pawer) and when I enter him in halter classes, he finds it impossible to stand still!
Please help me, and please don't give me the "get a trainer or get lessons" lecture, It's not that easy for a kid too young to get a job. ;)
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post #2 of 4 Old 10-07-2011, 10:16 PM
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Bunbury, Western Australia
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what are you feeding him??

ozzie would be a down right little bugger out in spring with all the sugar, he use to be on NO grain at all for a week coming up to a one day event. he loses himself too. he once reared when i was trying to get him into the start box for xc. it's not like him to object that strongly. so i started to stop feeding grain or really anything other then chaff and hay coming up to it. long warm ups too. i know someone her horse is only on chaff and mineral and hay as he is nuts on anything else. maybe look at the amount of energy feed he's getting vs the amount of energy he's using. take away everything but chaff and hay coming up to the event so that he doesn't have the energy to spare for his antics.
but on the other hand, some horses are more excitable out then others. there are some natural herbs your can feed for calming. i had a horse that i couldn't take out for the same reasons you got, i didn't think it was worth it for me as i was a beginner, i just bought a different horse....not suggesting you do. your braver then me :)

good luck!

Elly ::: Diam ::: Ozzie
~~~Introducing Barney~~~
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post #3 of 4 Old 10-07-2011, 11:01 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
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I might have some people jump down my throat for this, but I've given my horse a calming supplement (tryptophan) starting a couple days before a show and then the day of. She is young and really nervous at shows. I think it helped to take the edge off and so we started giving her a daily supplement by smartpak. (SmartCalm Ultra). Hard to tell whether it's really helping or she's just settling in more and growing up, but I'm not taking her off it anytime soon.

It's not really "drugging" per say, but I know some people don't like it but if it gets them to relax and gives you time to get the training done to solve the real problem, well then I think it's a good idea. Makes life safer too.
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post #4 of 4 Old 10-08-2011, 08:26 AM
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I'll second perhaps tweaking his diet. My horses go on roughage alone unless they need the grain to keep weight and condition - they just don't work hard enough to need it. Scout gets free choice good grass hay and turnout, plus literally a tiny little handful of Blue Seal Strider formula as a "supplement." The type of hay that you're feeding can dramatically affect energy levels as well - usually alfalfa hay makes them hotter than grass/pasture hay. I'd do a little research on what you're feeding him, and figure out if there are lower-energy alternatives out there.

That being said, your issues at shows are not just because of the show - the more stressful, high energy environment brings most horses' training gaps and holes right to the surface. You said that he has a hard time standing still "ever?" If he can't stand still at home, it won't happen at a show. Start very small, in hand, and work up to mounted later. Just ask Specs to stand. When he does, wait for three Mississippi seconds (or however long he can hold it without fidgeting), then walk him out of it and praise him. Don't praise with food at this point - he'll just start trying to nose through your pockets, and you want him to focus on you and your directions, not food. Work up the time. When he can stand for 3 seconds easily, ask him to try it for four. In less time than you think, he'll be standing like a soldier for however long you want.

If he does start fidgeting, don't fight him. Ask him to move his feet in a way that you can direct. Put him up onto a trot, forward and working, with lots of transitions and changes in direction. Get him thinking. The more you can move his feet, the more you can influence his mind. When you feel him soften and relax in motion, ask him to halt and stand for three seconds. If he stands, praise and walk him out of it. If he fidgets, rinse and repeat. This way, he learns that standing is an easy way to not be put to work, and that fidgeting earns a harder job.

The difficulty will be that this kind of technique, while it does work in many many cases, is that it does take a good bit of timing and feel to work its best. Timing and feel are skills that oftentimes only come with many years of practice and experience. Because of that, I do recommend at least consulting with someone more experienced in training horses in person. It doesn't have to be a pro trainer. It can be an experienced horsey friend or neighbor. Also, a lot of riding instructors or lesson barns will allow students to "pay" for their lessons by cleaning stalls, grooming horses, etc. Then, your only constraints would be time and a ride to the barn.

Good luck!!

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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nervousness , pony , problems , rodeo , showing

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