Question: In the indoor arena where I ride, my mare keeps slamming me up against the wall. I try to use my outside leg to push her off, but my teacher doesn’t like me coming off the wall.
My mare also doesn’t do circles very well. What can I do?
Answer from April Reeves: Get off the walls! We call it the “loser’s loop”, when people ride up against a wall or fence with no real clue as to why they are doing so. Ride at a minimum of 5 feet (10 if you have room) from any wall. One of my students rides in an indoor arena of 60 feet by 100 feet, and rarely uses the wall (on a continual basis. You do need to get close once in a while when doing certain exercises).
Posted in English Riding answers, General riding answers, Hunter/Jumper
Tagged April Reeves, Arena, bearing rein, circles, diagonals, fence, foundation training, inside leg, longitudinal stretching, straight horse, trainer
By April Reeves, with help from Guliz Unlu (see below: one of Canada’s best Equine Energy & Body Workers)
I work in several high-end barns of various English disciplines. My clients are looking for ways to work with their horses without always riding them. Some of those clients want specific training on the ground that transfers to the saddle and aids in the training of eventing, hunter/jumper, dressage and other specific disciplines.
What is Equine Agility Horsemanship?
Agility Horsemanship is working with your horse to improve his/her ability to become obedient, maneuverable, flexible and multi-tasked. The point of the work is to help keep the horse sound in both mind and body, and to set him up properly for his chosen discipline with select groundwork first. The horse learns to move his body in ways he would not come across naturally, but will have to learn once asked under saddle. Many horses get caught up with not understanding or feeling confident about their footfall patterns and lack grace and fluidity with lateral and backward moves. As the horse builds physical abilities, he builds mental as well, creating a versatile, safe and athletic mount that’s eager and happy to learn. It’s important to note that this work can speed up saddle training, and save hours of frustration. It’s also just plain fun.
Posted in English Riding answers, General riding answers, Hunter/Jumper, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged Agility, Body Worker, Equi-Bow, Equine, Guelph, Guliz Unlu, Horse, parelli, Training, Vanessa Bee
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!
Posted in English Riding answers, Hunter/Jumper
Tagged counter canter, english riding, Equine Behavior & Problems, Gallop, horse forward, horse training, hunter, Jump, Jumper, jumping, Lead Changes, Rein back, Stride
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
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.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Hunter/Jumper
Tagged April Reeves, behavior, english riding, Equine Behavior & Problems, foundation training, horse forward, horse training, jumping, spooky horse
Question: My horse tends to get very strong while we are jumping. I have a twisted D ring but I just feel as though i cannot stop him. Do you have any suggestions for a bit that is not too harsh, yet will help me slow him down? My trainer told me to look into a D ring with hooks but they are all very expensive.
Also, I read some other answers to similar questions like mine, and all the answers state that it is all the riders fault. I would just like you to know that I am a very good rider and I am never harsh on my horses. I just simply cannot find an appropriate bit, and am looking for suggestions. Your help is appreciated!! Thanks! Olivia
Answer from April Reeves: Hello Olivia. Thanks for asking me this question, as I will be honest and keep it real, but it may not be what you want to hear. I urge you to consider my answer, as it is the only way you will fix your problem.
My first suggestion: consider another coach and get the softest bit you can find. I kid you not, and this is why:
When a rider comes to me with a problem like your having over fences, it has nothing to do with bits and everything to do with lack of a good foundation on a horse (and rider). You won’t solve the problem with a harsher bit: it will only slow down the horse for a few days until that bit also becomes useless, as his mouth gets tougher and tougher and he gets stronger and stronger (ie: his brain). I’m not being mean: I’m just keeping it real.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, Hunter/Jumper
Tagged behavior, bitting, bold jumper, collection, english riding, foundation training, horse too fast, horse training, hunter, jumping
Question: I have a 10 year old arab that I’ve switched from the Arab circuit to eventing. I bought him as a 5 yr old and did Arab shows for a couple years. He’s a gorgeous horse and an amazing mover, but has a really hard time keeping himself under control. He is always a happy horse, with ears pinned forward. My problem with him is when we get to shows he gets so excited that he literally can’t contain himself. He ends up rearing/jumping/bucking nonstop. I’ve had a chiropractor out, a vet out, and he has no issues with back or saddle fitting. If I take him to school at a place, he’s a pretty good boy. He just really feeds off the commotion of the show. Eventing has been better, he loves to jump and does great on cross country and stadium. But dressage is the first phase and he usually rears and leaps through our test. I’ve tried lunging him for an hour before, and he just gets more excited. We generally get there the night before and that hasn’t made a difference either.
If you have any suggestions on how to get him to calm down, please let me know!!!! He has amazing talent, but he is just like a child with ADHD.
Answer from April Reeves: Arabians are one of my favorite breeds: they are highly sensitive and intelligent, and learn fast. And they’re just incredibly beautiful as well.
They also can get a little out of control, which always brings me back to groundwork. An Arabian can never have enough groundwork. It’s great for their minds and they catch on to it faster than many breeds.
Posted in Breeds, Equine Behavior & Problems, Hunter/Jumper, Natural Horsemanship
Tagged behavior, bucking, english riding, foundation training, Groundwork, horse training, Natural Horsemanship, problem horse, rearing, spooky horse
Question: I have a 7 year old Appendix, who is in full show hunter training, and he is a fantastic hunter, but he has one major issue. He is a fairly dominant gelding and when another horse, no matter gender or size, passes him or gets too close (in either direction, although the same direction is worse) he bucks. I don’t mean like a baby or one time buck. It is a full bucking fit around the arena. The last time he bucked, it was because a pony passed him and he took 5 minutes of pure 4 feet of the ground bucking, and a run in with the fence to stop. He did NOT do this when I first bought and showed him. It started in June 2008 and that was 6 full months after I purchased him. My trainer and I have exhausted all of our options, and cannot find an answer as to why this started nor can we find a solution. We also thought it was me for a while, but I have been evaluated by a mental coach and my nerves are not the cause, they are a reaction to his bucking fits. Can you help?
Answer from April Reeves: I need a bit more information. What are the options you have exhausted? That way I won’t need to go over them again. Have you done any groundwork and if so what did you do? This is an easy fix but it will require time and probably someone with a different skill set. I will wait for your reply before suggesting a solution.
Question: My 6 year old Oldenburg over-jumps everything then lands in a big heap with a grunt. These are 18″ to 2′ jumps. On occasion when she jumps correctly she is lovely and talented, but has this over jumping quirk that manifests itself especially over a new fence. We have changed fences, flowers, coolers, etc without long term success. Help please!
Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: Many horses jump too high when learning. There are many reasons for this:
Good Front Leg Form Over Fence
Question: I have just had two horses pass a vet check and now I’m more confused than ever as to which one to buy as a potential hunter. They are both geldings, 16.3HH, both 5 years old. The green horse has a good mind, great legs, and is gorgeous, but very, very green! He went over a small grid we set up, but he has very little of any training other than walk trot and halt. He has no papers. The other gelding is also 5 with lots of experience over fences, but he refuses, runs out and seems very sour of the whole thing. He seems hotter than the green horse. When he does jump, he’s amazing. He has Canadian WB papers. What would you do in this situation? How do I choose wisely?
Answer from April Reeves: A few more questions need answering before you bring all the facts in to make your decision.
I would look at the conformation and way of going on both horses. There will be something that will tip you one way or another. My gut instinct is to lean towards the green horse. If he is built properly, and moves long and low (daisy clipper) I would take a few more free jumps with him if the owners will let you.
Question: My coach and I have been working on retraining my horse (an Oldenburg/TB cross), for the most part he’s been coming along nicely, but he really LOVES jumping and has the tendency to take the easy out and surge to jumps and fall on the forehand afterward and is hard to pull up. I’m hesitant to go to a harsher bit as I’d rather use mild means and go only as fast in his training than he is ready. We have him in a french-link eggbutt snaffle. Some have suggested a pelham, but I while was browsing the world of bits and equipment I found something called a Kineton noseband. I’ve read so many varied opinions on this piece of equipment that I’m left wondering what to believe. Is this piece of equipment harsh when used properly? (I know that anything including a snaffle can be harsh if used incorrectly). I’m wondering if this type of noseband could be a mild addition to my corrections when he goes to surge onto his forehand and pull?
Answer from April Reeves: Your problem is common, and one that I see in almost any training level. That being said, it does not need to exist, and will take time to work out. I encourage you to take that time for several reasons: 1. It’s a natural evolution on your path to becoming a better horseman, 2. Taking the time will give you a fresh insight into training methods you will use again with another horse 3. Your horse will be the winner here, as you will not have to resort to harsher equipment.
Question: I can’t seem to place well in the hunter classes, even the small ones. When I enter, I try to start slowly and not get too anxious about the whole course. I try to let the judge see that I am not nervous. My horse has a hunter build and movement as I place well in the ‘hunter-under-saddle’ classes. What could I do to improve this?
Answer from April Reeves: Many beginner and intermediate riders in the hunter divisions blow their placings before they get to the first fence.
A Bold Jumper
Question: I was told that my horse is too bold when he jumps. What exactly is that? How do I correct it? He does run at jumps and I have trouble stopping him after. How should I be riding this?
Answer by April Reeves: What is a horse that is ‘too bold’?
A ‘too bold’ jumper is a horse that uses way too much enthusiasm when approaching a fence. His strides increase in speed, he tends to ‘flatten out’ and charge, causing the horse to miss the height he may need to get over.
Question: I’m thinking of buying an Appaloosa for jumping and cross country. Is this breed good at jumping?
Answer from April Reeves: The Appaloosa can be a fairly good jumping horse. Let’s go over some of it’s attributes.
First, the original foundation Appy’s had really good bone. Their legs were almost indestructible, and because of their spotted coloring, they tend to have great feet. Their bone joints seem to take a bit more abuse than many of the other breeds, especially their back hocks.
Question: I have a 4 year old mare who is getting really bad and I need help NOW. She rushes jumps to the point where I can’t stop her and is now running full speed past them and refusing. My coach said that we need to practice more, and to jump her 6 days a week. We have been doing that, but she is getting worse, not better. What am I doing wrong? My coach is getting impatient with her.
Answer from April Reeves: I don’t usually answer questions like this as they make me absolutely stunned at how stupid people can be, but this one I have had in various forms lately, so sit down and listen! I’m telling it the way it is (I’m afraid to ask what age you broke her).
First Thing To Do
FIRE YOUR COACH! I’m not kidding. I am absolutely disgusted at any coach who jumps more than 2 times a week (a level 3 I might add). Do it NOW! Or that thinks it is okay to jump a 4 year old (mare jumps up to 3′ 6″).
Second Thing To Do: