Everyone must have heard this quote before:
There are no problem horses, only problem riders.
If I'm not mistaken it comes from a book somewhere. Anyways, so I've been thinking about this quote a lot recently as I've recently been teaching my horse to free jump on the lunge line.
Now he'll easily jump anything shorter than his knees, but when it comes to the taller jumps (about 2 feet) I find myself really having to get after him and drive him forward. Okay, not a big deal... but there were several times when he would get right up to it and just stop dead.
And I would growl, mutter, and then circle him around and approach the jump again. Now I noticed that he would jump it about 1/3 times. And when he jumped it he was beautiful... I mean his form sucked, but I was exstatic and I could tell he was proud of himself too.
So I stepped back and I wondered what on earth was going on as he still dug in his heels sometimes. I could even tell when it would happen.
And I was even more baffled by the fact that when I rode him he would jump it easily and with no qualms at all.
What was happening??
So I got a friend to video tape me... and then I saw what was happening and I admit I felt horrible for grumbling all those nasty things at my poor horse, who was doing exactly what I asked of him.
You see I've taught my horse when lunging that the hand I hold out away from my body is that one that drives him forward. When I switch hands he is to reverse directions... and when both hands come up he is to stop.
I looked at the video, and to my horror I saw my hand holding the lunge line to lift up as he approached the jump. I did so to give him extra rein to get over the jump with, but unconciously I was also telling my way-too-smart TB that he should stop.
The next time I asked him to jump, I kept my hand down and just moved with him, and he jumped beautifully (in his awkward way) again and again.
So it really is true... no problem horses... only problem lungers.
Moral of this story, if your horse isn't doing what you ask when you ask, take a step back. Look at yourself. Ask yourself what you did just there. Video it. Take pictures.
I'll bet a bag of carrots that you'll see some cue that you didn't realize you gave (or sometimes a space for a cue you should have gave)
Then you can readjust yourself and try again... and I'll bet double or nothing that you'll find yourself on the road to improving again.
Argh!! Look at me!! LMAO