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Horse checked out during dressage

1514 Views 15 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Jolly101
Hello!
I had my first show with my new horse last weekend. It was a CT and Dressage show. We did 2 CT classes and 1 other dressage test. In hindsight, I probably should have just done the two CT classes, but whats done is done. Anywho, PeeWee (my horse) was acting a bit strange. She was great in the warm-up and jumping, however, in the dressage tests, her brain just kind of shut down half way and she really wasn't listening to me at all. No matter what I did, no matter what cues I gave, she was only half listening. I'm not sure if it is something I did or what was wrong, but what do y'all think? I don't think dressage is going to be her favorite thing to do but it is still important. We had a spook in one of the tests due to something happening in the woods next to the arena. I will attach the video of the test. PeeWee can be pretty lazy but never to the extent she was in the ring. I know my riding wasn't the best, I was just trying to keep her going. You can see my leg was on almost the whole time and I used my whip quite a bit. What should I have done differently? How can I help her? I want to make dressage a positive experience for her, but she felt really off in the ring. Note that she was off ONLY in the ring and during all 3 tests. Warm up and jumping she was excellent.

Video:
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She really did look like she was hard work.

I'm very much of the not trying to 'fit a square peg into a round hole' mentality because a horse has to want to do something to really excel at it and based on what you're saying in that post, your mare really does not enjoy dressage, even if she can do it, she's hating every minute of it.

I've had horses like this and usually find that the best thing to do is to find the horse a job it really enjoys doing.

I have a now retired mare who would go round a dressage ring like a dead donkey - or behave like an idiot, spooking and prancing, but put her in a ring full of jumps or take her hunting and she'd be a super star.

You're wearing spurs, your legs are very busy, you're using a whip and if it only happened in the dressage arena, the horse isn't ill or in pain - she's just telling you that she doesn't want to be a dressage horse.
 

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Was she maybe tired from the jumping? But also - it’s her third class of the day. If she’s a private horse and not used to showing her routine is one ride per day. She going “Lady, it’s one and done - get off”.

Or as @jaydee said - she just doesn’t like dressage.

She sure is not showing a lot of enthusiasm in that test…
 

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She didn't want to work that's for sure. I'm not sure if I'd go with she doesn't want to be a dressage horse yet but she definitely didn't want to be there that day. She was lazy but energetic at the same time. You have a lot of hand movement going on and do quite a bit while you are cantering. It looked like you had to work to get her into the canter but then I don't know if she was trying to speed up or if you were trying to set the head.

It wasn't a train wreck and I'm sure it felt sloppier than it looked. Watching her ride that test I would guess she's a hunter/jumper kind of gal but I guess you will just have to figure it out as you go....

PS - you did good.
 

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I have a mare, Patti, who is a superstar at the 1 day shows. She is ON and loves to show off during her tests. Make it a 2 day show and you're riding a totally different horse. She will give me nothing. She's still a superstar and does the moves beautifully, but she's always trying to duck out of the gate, focusing on the horses in the back barn who are fussing, looking over the arena wall to the other horses that are waiting. Never does anything dangerous, just let's me know that day 1, she gave me everything and then some. Day 2 is all on me. My solution is to take her to nothing but 2 day shows this year and next. Then maybe a 3 day....she'll step up. But she loves dressage. Your horse just may be saying, "I'm dog tired and don't want to anymore." or "I really hate dressage, is this really required?". If it's the 2nd one, you may just need to find a different horse to do the dressage on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
We actually hadn't jumped yet. This was like the 2nd test, the first one being just trot and walk. I was just wondering if there is something else I could do for her, because we will probably do another combined training show at some point. She is usually fine doing dressage, just when we got in the ring she kind of died. I will probably try hunters eventually. That interests me the most and maybe she will prefer that as well.
 

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First show with new horse. A mare. was she maybe cycling? My mare loses her concentration when cycling, even when doing something she loves. I don't show so I just work around it and don't expect her best performances.
 

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We actually hadn't jumped yet. This was like the 2nd test, the first one being just trot and walk. I was just wondering if there is something else I could do for her, because we will probably do another combined training show at some point. She is usually fine doing dressage, just when we got in the ring she kind of died. I will probably try hunters eventually. That interests me the most and maybe she will prefer that as well.
Just keep working with her and let her know that while you appreciate her input, she still has to do the work. Patti can be quite the DQ and has little foot stamping fits, and once she's done we go back to work. The fits get less as time goes on.
 

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She spooked just after you asked for the canter, good job of riding it out by the way, I wondered if she was getting tired of the spurs and decided to complain. I noticed that your heels were up some times and the spurs were connecting with her.
Just my opinion
 

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I didn't see her being spaced out . I just saw her ignoring your leg. I didn't see you use the whip at all. In fact, I thought you didn't even have one in your hand. becuase that's what I would have done ; use the whip enough to get a real change.

You kept opening your hands real wide and lowering them so far, I didn't quite follow the reason for that. It may be that she needs MORE contact on the rein to get her to feel more in contact with YOU. It's almost like you are leaving her hanging out there, with not much communicatiion from the front. Sometimes when you get a horse to come up to the contact (which mean you may need to short the reins a bit) and you get some impulsion from behind, the horse will feel more likely to follow the contact forward if you give them more rein. She had nothing to follow at all. Maybe that's why she felt mentally somewhere else?

Nice job riding a big spook//buck.
 

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Are you working with a trainer? If not, I would make that a priority. If so, I hope they are helping you develop a plan now that you've seen this horse in a show environment.

I don't see a connected horse in your video - you want connection, and if you lose that connection, you need to have a toolbox of things to use and try in order to get it back. At a show is not when you try to figure out an answer - so good on you for not trying to pick a fight or get frustrated with her - but now you know what you need to work on at home (and off-property, I would prioritize off-property schooling with this horse IN dressage show boards!!!). A dressage test lasts less than 5 minutes at this level, there is no good reason for her to be slugging around, unwilling to come off of you leg and go forward - ESPECIALLY if she has the energy to spook and kick out (after that spook and canter, she was FINALLY trotting somewhere, I liked that last bit of trot!). She's got your number and she's taking advantage of you.

Positive remarks - your tempo was good, her trot was a very even 1-2-1-2... But impulsion? Where is the impulsion?! Again at the show isn't the time, but you need to establish an escalation process with her for when she isn't responding. Ideally, you want a long leg during dressage but the entire time your leg was bent up to have that spur on her. There were points where you leg was over the knee roll, at a 90 degree angle, trying its hardest to get her going. At home, starting now, you need to ask for forward with a squeeze - no response? Then kick - no response? Crack her with that whip. Next time, ask for the same gentle squeeze again and escalate if she doesn't listen. Eventually the dots will connect in her head, that "Oh, if I don't response to this squeeze, i'm going to get kicked. Oh geez, I just got kicked, if I don't get going I'm going to get snapped in the bum with the whip!".

This Amelia Newcombe video is super on lazy horses: How to ride a lazy horse

The key with correcting a lazy horse is that you have to push them beyond the speed you ideally want if they start lagging behind and ignoring you. My trainer talks a lot about creating chaos - and horses creating chaos to get out of work. It doesn't seem like your horse is trying to create chaos to get out of work, but rather ignore you. My suggestion? Create some chaos. Light a fire under her bum. Now you know how she is going to act in the ring, and you already knew she was lazy. It's time to get after that, demand more impulsion, and don't let her give you anything but that.

Another quick Amelia Newcombe video: How to get a lazy horse hot

And a YourRidingSuccess video with Natasha: HOW DO I MAKE A LAZY HORSE GO QUICK? - Dressage Mastery TV Episode 277

Transitions (and escalations) are going to be your best friend with this horse.
 
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How did she do in the second jump class?

I see a horse that is capable and a rider that isn't there yet for several reasons. I think it would be of benefit for you both to go back to the basics and work on that. I'd also suggest a different saddle that better balances you. I'd work on not riding from the knee. I'd work on hands. I'd work on effective use of a whip. I'd ditch the spurs. I'd work on softening her back up again. I didn't see a spook as much as I saw a response to how she was asked to canter.

That said you both have potential. You both need work. It may be that you need work apart before coming back together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
How did she do in the second jump class?

I see a horse that is capable and a rider that isn't there yet for several reasons. I think it would be of benefit for you both to go back to the basics and work on that. I'd also suggest a different saddle that better balances you. I'd work on not riding from the knee. I'd work on hands. I'd work on effective use of a whip. I'd ditch the spurs. I'd work on softening her back up again. I didn't see a spook as much as I saw a response to how she was asked to canter.

That said you both have potential. You both need work. It may be that you need work apart before coming back together.
I promise I ride better than this than usually. I was really trying to get her moving. She felt like the moment I would take my leg off, she would break. She is a lazy horse, however, she is not usually this bad. As for the spook, I think it was a mix of the whip and a spook. There was a forest right in that corner; a lot of horses spooked there. I also think my stirrups were way to short for dressage when I go back and watch the video.
Like I said, both PeeWee and I are normally functioning much better than this. I found it very odd that she just died like that. Both jumping classes she did amazing. She was forward and we were the only pair not to knock a rail or have a refusal in the whole class. I am thinking that I may have ran the tests too much beforehand; she knew what was happening and decided that she didnt want to participate anymore. That was my fault for signing up for three tests. Physically she could handle the tests; mentally, probably not. This show was definitely a learning experience for us. Thank you for your suggestions.
 

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Wow, you girls make a lovely little pair and I see loads of potential here. My advice is to find a dressage instructor.

A dressage instructor is going to help you learn how to use your seat and legs to encourage Peewee to stretch and seek contact with the bit and into your hands. Getting her to move forward and over her back and engaging her hind legs.

Internet advice can be good, but nothing beats a knowledgeable instructor on the ground helping you through every movement.

To me, I see a very athletic albeit bored horse that would excel in more challenging work, and dressage can certainly offer that.

I wish you the best of luck!
 

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Hi there emma.eq56,

I have also had my own horse (a dressage horse) check out in the ring, but not quite like this. I vividly remember one time, where I was riding 2 strides canter, 2 strides trot, alternating between contact and a long rein, shoulder in etc in the warmup ring, all by seat...it was perfect. Then, we got into the show ring, I put a light leg touch on him and he shot down the rail in 4 strides of canter like a barrel rolling and generally ignored my seat altogether :rolleyes: He was tense and no doubt, so was I, which probably factored into the equation. That was the first show of the season, but as one of my instructors used to say, you only tend to get 40% of what you had at home, in the showring... which is why you should always be schooling a higher level than what you show.

I think when it comes down to it, practicing in a show environment more frequently is important to make your horse's behavior more predictable. You do say your horse is also lazy at home. I think, as per the previous suggestion, that coming up with a "ask, tell, demand" routine for when your horse ignores leg, is important. My horse is also on the chill side, but when schooling, I always emphasized an ENERGETIC response off the leg. That doesn't just mean he trots off when I ask him too, but that he quickly responds and I can feel a push from behind and he is ahead of my leg. If he pops into canter and is just plodding along, I'm going to keep at him until I feel that push, then I will praise as it is the energy I am looking for, not the transition itself. If you aren't getting that at home, it will be dulled even more in the ring.

Also note that positive reinforcement does wonders for a lazy horse... I had once gone back to retraining my horse (for a separate reason) and one result was that he became much more willing to try and so much more forward. My main approach was to stop a ride directly when he got something right and in turn, I think he came to see riding as less of a chore and more fun. You want to create a mindset that controlled energy = praise (stopping the ride, giving a treat etc). You need not long rides to do this, rather if you are finding yourself having longer rides at home to "get something right", I'd argue that is an indication you need to quit while your ahead. Choose a marker to stop at and build upon. For example, forwardness. You ask with a light touch of leg, it is ignored. you squeeze harder, it is still ignored, so then you move to a kick...your horse trots, but not energetically. Then you ask again and tap with the whip and your horse moves the trot with energy. Then you praise, halt, hop off and end the ride there. You may find that your horse becomes more eager to provide the right response quicker in the next ride because he knows he will be rewarded for it.
 
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