Is this bad to do for a horse that refuses?
My horse is a green bean, and we are coming back into work from winter. Last year he was going solid over 2'6" fences, and we are doing 2'-2'3" jumps right now. When he first started jumping I would always show him the jump before I started, so that he knew it wasn't going to eat him. I was able to stop doing that for a long time. This year however, he has started refusing and rushing. Don't get me wrong, he had his fair share of refusals and duckouts before, but it's gotten bad since I haven't been showing him the jumps. I know I can't always do that at a show, as I may not be able to school the course beforehand, but do you think showing him the jumps is bad? Do you think he will start to depend on that? Or is it okay for now, and slowly wean him out of it? I know it isn't pain related because he will trot everything nice and slow, and not refuse (if I show it to him) he's just getting quick at the canter. My trainer is helping me work on that. I have a lesson Friday, but I couldn't wait until then to see what you guys think about his. I don't want to be setting him and myself up for failure :( but I'm also sick of getting dumped on the ground. Also, he doesn't ALWAYS refuse if i don't show it to him, but it is definitely more often than not.
(btw, today I showed him all the jumps first and he was wonderful. Except for the warm up crossrail. He's got that down pat.)
Have you guys ever had to do this with a green horse? and if so, did they turn out okay? Were you able to stop showing them to them? Thanks so much, I hope you guys have some good insight :)
I think it's a bad idea, and most trainers/coaches will discourage it for that very reason. At a show, out on the course, you can't show him the jumps so where is that going to get you? I think teaching him to see the jumps will only falter his confidence and it would be best for BOTH of you to start learning to do it without seeing them first.
Also consider, it could very much be you knowing he prefers to see the jumps and actually tensing up when he doesn't and causing the signal for refusal. You know he's more likely to refuse, so you may be subconsciously anticipating it and not realizing it which is usually what's happening in these cases.
Either way, perhaps some desensitization work is in order. Have you done any free jumping with him? Perhaps to encourage him over this fear of the unknown, let him sort through it himself on the ground first - keep changing the jumps you have set up in the chutes and get him going forward and letting him know refusals are not acceptable because he wants to see them first.
Best of luck!
if its out of fear then by all means let them look at it, let them sniff it, touch it and whatever, but keep them facing it. fear usually fixes itsself with exposure, as long as it's not really "run or i'll die" fear, just unconfidence.
but if it's out of defiance then push.
I think it is more out of fear, because when I walk him up to it, he hesitates, then reaches his neck out to sniff it and tries to turn or back away, but I don't let him. I make him stand there until he is calm and isn't interested anymore. Guess I should have added that, but thanks so far. and to the first reply, you are very right, I know he might become dependent on it and that's why I'm worried. I try my very hardest to keep my eyes up and looking forward and remind myself of my leg, but sometimes it just gets the best of me :( (and I praise him like crazy if he does it right)
Horses are creatures of habit. You are teaching him that the jump is to be feared if you do not let him look it over and decide it is OK. This is NOT a good idea.
I have trained many very fearful, 'fraidycat' types of horses to jump without EVER showing them a jump.
I have always used a method I watched a German Olympic rider use when I was a child working at the same huge H/J stable that he taught at. I watched him for hours and learned a LOT. It is where I learned my method of training trail horses to go anywhere and do anything even if they start out terrified of things.
I NEVER RIDE A HORSE STRAIGHT TO ANYTHING THEY FEAR! I NEVER LET A HORSE LOOK AT OR EXPLORE OBJECTS THEY FEAR. That sets them up to stop and back up or bolt around the object -- like like your horse is doing on jumps.
I teach horses to 'leg yield' shoulder / ribs first while going past the scary objects. So, to gain an obedient horse learning to jump, I would ride parallel to the jump, go past it repeatedly with his head 'cocked' toward me, AWAY FROM THE JUMP and his shoulder getting closer and closer to the fence. This way, you gain obedience to your leg and you overcome fears without setting a horse up to stop or bolt around something.
You must be sure to leg yield both directions. If a horse usually ducks out predominantly one direction, work on that side more. He is obviously not being obedient to you leg. So, schooling a horse in this manner, you 'fix' a couple of major 'hole' in his training. You can keep him going forward while he is learning to obey your leg and you can teach him to not duck out -- also because you are teaching him to obey your leg better.
There is no downside. Horses learn to be brave. Horses learn to be more obedient to your aids. You do not set them up with a habit that they think they have to concentrate on each jump. They learn to trust you and concentrate on you and your aids and not the big bunch of flowers at the side of the jump or the smoking smudge-pot under the jump, etc.
I have helped people train many horses so they could get CLEET certification as police horses. They are all trained the same way. Since you cannot show a horse everything in this world that might frighten them, you need to train a horse to focus on you and your aids and refusals become almost non-existent.
besides being fearful of the jumps, it sounds like he is not comfortable cantering them as well. go back to some pole work at canter and also cantering small cross rails with a placement pole, to teach him how to canter fences. rushing at the canter means hes feeling anxiety about it, most likely he doesnt know what to do with his feet. horses cant see the jump the last couple strides so you have to teach him what to do with his feet even though he cant see it.
You have to stop blaming your horse for the refusals, ducking out and fear - this is rider error and something that you need to take a step back and ask what it is that you are doing, or not doing, that is causing the issues at hand.
As Ian Millar says "A good rider blames themselves, a poor rider blames their horse"
As Gypsie said, horses jump blindly, they cannot see the fence at all when they are about 5 strides out. If you, the rider does anything - meaning dropping, looking at the fence, stop being supportive through your legs, core, upper body - anything, will cause the horse to say "woah, ok, what's going on? Something is wrong here, if she's not coming with me, I'm not going either".
There are 2 types of horses, horses who need their riders support to the fence, and horses who just do their job regardless of what their rider does or does not do on approach to the fence.
Sounds like your horse, is horse #1, a horse who needs the riders support, and solidity on approach and between the fences. You need to make sure you are solid through your body, and supportive through your body to help your horse do his job properly.
So the question is, what is it that you should/could be doing while on your horses back, or are doing, that is causing the outcome you are getting? I doubt it has to do with letting him see and sniff the fences - it sounds like he is being over faced too quickly and pushed too quickly to do the job at hand.
Go back to basics with him. Lots of dressage, lots of lateral work, lots of bending, circles, transitions. Trot pole work. Getting him off of his forehand, and onto his back end.
Learn how to be an effective rider, learning how to use yourself and your body to help your horse do his job accordingly. Learn position, aids, tall body, solid legs, etc, etc, etc.
A rushy horse not only has to do with the fact that the horse is scared and scrambling, but also because he is heavy on his forehand pulling himself around, instead of pushing himself around. Unbalanced. Not using himself properly, rider not using themselves accordingly.
This is a team effort :)
Go back to basics. Take one day at a time, slowly - ensuring that you, who is his rider and trainer, makes sure that the both of you are doing your jobs, to build confidence, solidity and security and balance. Dressage is very important to help build a balanced, engaged, mount who is light to your aids. Building confidence starts there.
If you have video footage, that would greatly help to beable to see what exactly is going on.
I wish you both all the best.
I doubt "showing him the fence" is causing the issues, but I don't think it's necessary to do it. His running out and refusals are more likely do to improper start over fences or getting inadvertently punished by the rider over jumps. I'd back up the training a bit. Lunge him over an x or small vertical at a trot and then at a canter. I used to think this was stupid, but it really teaches a horse how to find distances and jump on it's own. Take a couple weeks off and do more flat work and set up a jump chute to work him in a couple times a week. When you go back to jumping ride him to the fence, allow him to do the jump and stay out of his way, and ride again on the back side of the fence. A lot of people do too much to soon and end up "helping" the horse too much which ends up backfiring. Just get his mind back in the right place and carry on.
Edited to add:
When you start jumping again under saddle, the best thing to do it go back to grids and if possible do it with your instructor present for guidance.
How experienced are you?
I'll admit that I haven't read all of the other responses before submitting this one. My thought is no, don't show the horse the jumps unless there is a definite fear. It sounds to me that he's rusty after the winter off. Go back to the basics, do a bunch of flat work and then throw in one or two jumps at a lower height, maybe with some trot poles leading up to them. Get his mind back on the game. Don't worry about cantering courses at 2'6 right now. He sounds like he's very up, green, and rusted.... Just my thought.
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