Going UP steep inclines, and the competitive instinct.
OK, to complement the thread on downhills, here's one about uphills.
Last week my friend & I rode a few miles and down to a creek, the last bit being a couple of hundred yards of fairly steep 4WD track with a couple of bends. As we leave, my friend goes ahead, trotting up the slope. I held Ellie back to give some room, then started to follow, expecting to hold the same pace and distance. Well, Ellie turns into a racehorse, goes into a canter, and tries to catch & pass the other horse (on a track where there really wasn't enough room). Got her stopped about halfway up, on a flat part, but she was so impatient to go that she was starting to toss her head & crow-hop. (So I got off, held her back until the others reached the top, then jogged up beside her.)
So who messed up here, me or Ellie? Or both of us? And what can I do to correct it? Is it just my inexperience, not yet being comfortable cantering on anything but flat stretches? This was probably the steepest stretch of any length that I've yet ridden, and the only comparable one was a straight shot, and wide enough for 3-4 horses.
You did the right thing as far as I see. Horses instinctively don't want to be left behind, but you always want to be the one to pick the speed, never leave that decision to the horse or you'll be fighting your horse on every ride.
Mia can be a lazy horse, particularly in an arena. Ask her to canter, and she will...but she usually makes it clear that she sees no value in rushing if we aren't actually GOING anywhere. On a trail, with somewhere to go, she is a lot more eager. Get another horse going fast in the open, and Mia loses her mind. Her inner Secretariat comes out, and all she can think of is beating the other horse.
Sorry, but I'm not entirely sure. We are working hard on our stops - perfect stops, every stop, from any pace. I am pushing her to do more cantering in the arena, so she & I can both work on our balance and so going fast is just something we do every ride.
Do I trust her to canter nicely on a trail with another horse? Nope. She would cheerfully try to run over the top of Trooper and my daughter. Right now, the most I will try with her is a short canter with her ahead of Trooper (a must! she really would go over the top of him if needed) followed by a complete stop after no more than 50 yards.
That is what I'm trying. There may be some improvement, but I'll check this thread to see if anyone has a better approach...
I just worked on this same issue yesterday with my very forward horse. We were practicing alone, going a little then stopping and waiting for her to calm before going a little more and stopping again.
She likes to trot or canter up and down hills whether she is alone or with other horses. My other horses are similar on hills. I wonder if it has to do with balance?
Anyway, I make the horses stop and calm before we move forward. It helps if they aren't fresh into the ride at that point too.
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You did the right thing. Horses should go at YOUR chosen speed at any given time...not theirs.
My former gelding Red always wanted to rush going down hill. He would actually be pushing Sarge. I had to really be on him the whole time down a steep hill so he wouldn't push the other horses.
Going up hill he would have cantered or humped up them as fast as I would have let him. Once going up a STEEP hill he was going too fast and I half halted him with a light tap on the reins. Ok...he bucked out twice possibly to balance himself or maybe because he was pissed. OMG it slammed me into the horn of my Aussie saddle. It felt like I had been stabbed. My stomach hurt more than I can say. A huge hematoma came up instantly the size of a man's tube socks when rolled up. :shock: We were quiet a ways from the trailer but I made it back. That was 3 years ago and I still have a little lump in my abdomen - it was there for so long I named it Harriet Hematoma. It took AGES for it to reduce in size to the little lump it is now. My cousin saw it a few days after it happened and she had a cow. My abdomen was black and blue. She is an ER director and she insisted the ER doctor look at it to make sure I wasn't hemorrhaging and didn't know it! :oops:
LOL moral of that story is - sometimes rushing up hills can have long lasting effects!!! Make your horse go at your speed. If you have to get off to control hissy fits - so be it. Go in circles or if you can go up the incline at a angle and zig zag your way up. Sarge's trainer said that is how he taught Sarge to go up hills without rushing. Sarge will go up a hill at the speed you choose. He is a good boy!
What i would have done is-- if i didnt want to go any faster- i would have caught it at the first faster step the horse took.. thats always the best time to keep your horse under control-- When you feel them take that faster step - slow them back down before you get out of control.
'Bolters' are very easily shut down if you can feel the signs of them about to bolt on you- and you defuse the situation before it blows up.
My mare was a bolter.. shes broke bones-- and not her own, lol. :-P
When i felt her step out and try to get faster id slow her down immediately and make her keep walkin.. shes never once bolted on me.. shes tried- but failed. Once they know youre payin attention and youre in control of the situation that anxiety goes away.
--oh, i almost forgot--keep in mind horses use steep inclines are an excuse to bolt!!
Zig Zagging up and down the hills is a good place to start. Another way, IF you can do it and ride out the hissy fit, is to make them take one step, halt count to 3, step, halt, count to 3, all the way up and down the hill. I've found that after I can get them to slow down by zigging and zagging, then I can start working on 1 step/halt maneuvers. I usually wait until I'm almost at the top and the other riders have stopped before I try that one, the horse doesn't feel so left behind if he can see the other horses and see that they've stopped. I do that a little farther down the hill each time until one day, the horse just doesn't really even try to rush. It takes time and repetitions, lots of them.
Thanks for the advice, everyone. I think it boils down to more experience, no?
Went out again today, though on a trail with few steep spots, and she was generally much better at going at the pace I told her. Kinda funny, though: we went with a third person, and Ellie kept wanting to get ahead of that horse - yet every time I'd let her, she'd get a little antsy and start looking back like "What's that strange horse doing back there?"
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