Category Archives: English Riding answers

How to handle a horse that won’t accept a bit

Comment from Horse Enthusiast writes: I knew this trainer who had a really angry paint filly- she was vicious when the owner gave her to him for nothing- and he managed to train her enough that she was easy to handle which was a big accomplishment considering if you showed up with a halter she would run you down, but she still pulled back when tied and riding she would blow up really badly on occasion, or at least that was the state she was at when I left…
I don’t know her history or how she’s doing now as I haven’t seen her since spring… Anyway he wasn’t my ideal trainer as  he was the “old” cowboy type and would run the snot out of a bronc horse, no matter what age. (this filly was only three and he was cantering and loping her constantly and working her really hard).

But the trick he used to get this filly to accept the bit, because she was terrible of course, was to turn her out with the bridle. (no reins)

Would you ever even consider this in the most dire situation or would you just give up and go bitless? My big fear at the time was that she would catch the ring of the snaffle on a part of the fence or something and rip her mouth apart in a panic, but luckily she didn’t but she actually became easier to bit and was less resistant to it after a week or so. But still, I think that’s too risky…
Just curious :)

Answer from April Reeves: There are many ways to ask a horse to accept a bit, and although many of those ways end up with a horse that will “take” a bit, the question remains, “Is there a better way?” I have had to work with some of the toughest of bitters, and have barely had as much as a fight or future problem.

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Morgan mare pins ears back and kicks now when being asked to move forward.

Question: I have a four year old Morgan who was doing terrific in her training and then I hurt my back. I couldn’t ride, had her trainer working with her and an experienced rider exercising her. I had just started to get back to walking on her in early August when she started pinning her ears for everyone who got on her back and refusing to move forward. We had her saddles checked by a certified saddle fitter, had the vet come out and check her (she’s also a chiro/accupuncture expert) and we let her rest for over two weeks. I’ve stayed off her; only her trainer works with her but she still will sometimes put her ears back or kick out when she’s asked to move forward into trot. It’s now mid-October–what haven’t we thought of to solve this? She was doing so well all of last year and had moved into learning to canter before this started!

Answer from April Reeves: Hi SallyAnne. This is a common problem but not easily solved at this stage. There may be several things going on here to build this mare up to this point so I will go over them individually.

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Why does my jumper stall out after every fence?

Question: Hi April, I have a really big problem that’s getting worse. My horse stalls out after every fence. We jump one fence and he just quits. I can get him moving again but he just keeps doing this over and over. I can go over one fence and he does it okay but he won’t do a line of them. Help me please! My instructor doesn’t know what’s wrong with him either. Is he sick?

Answer from April Reeves: No Angela, he’s not likely sick. He’s likely trained to do that, and you trained him. I know what you’re thinking right now “Gosh, no April, I’ve never trained him for that!’ but we unconsciously train our horses to do many things we don’t want them to do.

This is a typical scenario when you first learn about jumping. You aim at a jump, pray the horse will keep going, and then immediately stop the horse after you go over the fence and take a look at your accomplishment. If that isn’t training a horse to stop after every fence I don’t know what is!

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What it’s like to ride an Event horse: Peter Atkins and “Henny” on web cam.

I hear it a lot – young students watching a big Warmblood move through a jump or event course and saying “I could ride that horse”. Unless you have ridden the bigger horses, a lot, you have NO idea what it’s like and just how quickly you get somewhere. So for those of you that want to train for eventing one day and ride something 17 hands or higher, here’s a little test trial for you: one of the best video cams I have seen. This really puts it all into perspective: how fast you move along, how many fences you have to take (and remember), how much distance you cover and how long it takes. Granted this is Peter Atkins (one of my favorites), but if eventing is your aspiration, you will have to ride to a similar level, as there are no baby steps to eventing. It takes guts, stamina, and one incredible horse. Pay attention to the close relationship Peter has with “Henny”. Then tell me you want to train for this sport. Or not. Just for your information, Henny is only 16 hands!

Video cam of Peter Atkins and Henny at Richland Park CIC, 2010

My Horse Changes Direction With NO Warning!

Question: Hi April, I have a quarter horse that is 7 years old (gelding) that walks, trots and canters. Turns on the forehand, sidepasses.  For the last 4 weeks he has been doing the strangest direction change at a canter.  He will all of sudden decides he doesn’t want to go that way and will change without any notice.  Only tends to do it in one direction.  He also has started around the same time running into the corners of the arena. We have no idea why he is doing this.  I have started lunging him more then usual since this began and he is fine when I do it. I walk with him up and down the center of the arena when lunging and he doesn’t do the sudden change at all. But as soon as I ride him he does it.  I have tried putting alot of leg on him at the same point in the arena and pulled on the rein but he manages somehow to do it anyway.  There is no other reasons we can think of why he has started this. He does it with our trainer as well.  I was wondering if there is anything else we can do to control this sudden turns and running into the corner. Thank you.

Answer from April Reeves: Hi Cindy, That is one of the strangest things I have ever heard, but I may have an explanation.
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My jumping pony needs to be calmer: how can I do this?

Question: I have an 8 year old jumping pony. She is 14.2 hands. She seems to be picky on her jumps. She has the one plank that is red and white and she refuses it all the time. When I mount her she may sometimes take off or start rearing with me. After a jump she may sometimes take off but after that she calms down a little. She is scared at almost everything. Once at a show a man started fanning himself with his hat and she whipped around and then continued the next jump. She needs to learn to be a lot calmer but how? Help me.

Answer from April Reeves: This is such an important question and if you read my past posts you will see I say the same thing over and over again. Let’s review this, as we keep coming back to it, time and time again.

Why do horses lose their nerves? Why do they get edgy and do things we don’t want them to do? I want you to really think about this question, because if you can’t answer it, you can’t train or ride your horse past where you are now, and it’s likely you will get worse. The question poses a problem, and within every problem lies the answer. Now – start thinking…

What did you come up with? See if it matches anything I’m about to say.

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My horse throws his shoulder: How can I fix this?

Question: My horse keeps throwing her shoulder and I was wondering if there was some thing I can do to prevent it and because she does this it makes it hard to get her to turn easily without trying to go the other way.

Answer from April Reeves: Getting the shoulder from dropping is a task that requires a great deal of sensitivity and timing. I will walk you through it and you can take it as you feel comfortable.

As with any gait problems we’ll start at the walk:

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