Arena bound - The Horse Forum
  • 1 Post By ChieTheRider
  • 2 Post By Granite2020
  • 4 Post By Aprilswissmiss
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post #1 of 5 Old 07-01-2020, 11:47 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2020
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Arena bound

I bought a 5 year old MFT in Oct 2019. I took him horse camping and he did great. I took him to a dressage trainer for 5 months. Now he is a dream horse in an arena and a nervous wreck on the trails. Is there a thing where a horse will become unwilling to work outside of an arena?
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post #2 of 5 Old 07-02-2020, 02:07 AM
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Subbing. You can work mine bridleless in the arena but if we go out on the trails its the Kentucky Derby.
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No matter how much you think you know about horses, there will always be one that'll come along and teach you something new.
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post #3 of 5 Old 07-02-2020, 04:19 AM
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Does he behave the same if he is with other horses out on trails or does he only get scared when he is alone? Was there a specific horse that he is friends with at the camp?
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post #4 of 5 Old 07-06-2020, 11:16 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Horsef View Post
Does he behave the same if he is with other horses out on trails or does he only get scared when he is alone? Was there a specific horse that he is friends with at the camp?
I took him trail riding this weekend with an experienced horse friend. 2 days and 3 rides later, he is once again the lovely horse I had before he spent all that time training in an arena. It was sort of like rebooting a computer.
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post #5 of 5 Old 07-06-2020, 06:04 PM
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I was refraining from posting here because I wanted to see others' responses before I threw my potentially less-educated one in. I do see your last post that he has turned back into the lovely horse you knew before training (which is awesome!), but I figured I would add this in case it helps you in the future (should he get re-wound for any reason) or helps other people reading.

In my experience... Dressage-trained horses, since often ridden with perpetual contact, learn to hold onto that contact emotionally and depend on it for every single action they take. They learn to depend heavily on structure and instruction. And then when you let them go, they go "What?? What do you mean you're not telling me what to do with my feet every single step of the way? What am I supposed to do?" and they turn into a big ball of uncontrolled nerves. I have seen it myself when (some) high-strung and high-level dressage horses have the reins dropped in the first few minutes of a ride, they go "What??" and run around with their heads flinging around looking for the contact and the guidance.

In the arena, you could work on relaxation and letting him go on a loose rein (will attach a video below). That might help before he even gets to the trail. If he gets to the trail and starts wigging out, you could ask him to ride just like you would in the arena - a half-pass here, a collected walk there, etc. It might give him the structure he's looking for.

The buddy he had on those trail rides for the last couple days could be exactly what he needed to re-teach him how to unwind.

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