This was an ongoing email from a young rider in Australia. These are often the most fun!
Question: I have been riding English for about 7 years now. I think I’m a pretty good rider, and I do take lessons in the cooler months. I’m trying to learn about down transitions. I can’t get them and I’m confused from what my coach tells me. I have to keep my legs on and bring my hands back, but my mare just slows down and gets bouncy and doesn’t stop. I don’t understand what the reason for having my legs on the horse to stop is? My coach can’t tell me in a way that I get, and was hoping you could.
Answer from April Reeves: Well Alli you are not going to like my answer much, because it goes against everything your coach is telling you.
First, lets address legs on. If it confuses you, it should. It is the signal for forward and, done correctly, to bring the hindquarters under the horse, and although a lot of teachers believe you should have your legs on for downward transitions, I don’t and here’s why.
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
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 is a bit “hot” so I lunge him before to take the edge off. Some say I have to, and some say I will only get a hotter horse as she gets fitter. What is your take on this? I read about your sending exercise. How does this differ from lunging? I keep getting mixed answers but no real advice as to why you would choose one technique over another.
Answer from April Reeves: Oddly enough, a well-mannered hot horse comes down to good ground manners, not time on a lunge line. I often see some of the hottest horses that are still safe because they have been taught the skills to know how to channel the “heat”. Ground manners are everything.
I do not lunge a horse that is quiet, as I don’t need to and like to have the energy in the saddle, not burned out around a circle.
If the horse is hot or not joined with me in the work, then that horse is put to work until his lungs catch up with his brain. They all have a “breaking point” where they finally exhale and chew. Then you can go to work and learn something.
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 NSH in training that will primarily be a “show horse”, but I have always believed in a horse appropriate level of easy trail riding or anything out of the arena occasionally to prevent horse boredom and getting arena sour. The worry is the show shoes or even just because the horses’ lack of experience outside of an arena.Would Hoof Boots (i.e. Easy Boots ,etc.) be the right thing to use? Or are they only meant to be used for barefoot horses? Thanks!
Answer from April Reeves: Some of the easy boots can be worn over shoes, but it does void the warranty if the boot is damaged. They do fit however.
My thought to you is: are you considering them because you don’t want to risk losing a shoe? It’s a problem with gaited and motion horses.