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
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 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:
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
On Saturday, my beautiful big palomino QH, Max, passed away from an infection in his hoof.
It was one of the freakiest accidents I have seen yet. The 3 vets who attended him were completely baffled over the week he stayed with them. They tended to him daily, but could not get the infection under control. It was only after his death that an autopsy show the capsule around the pastern bones was severed by the small chunk of wood that was lodged at the front of his coronet band. Once that seal is broken, there is no hope for the horse. Who would have thought 1. a horse can even get a piece of wood shoved into his hoof there, and 2. that it would cause such incredible damage and pain?
Life can be so fragile sometimes. They are with us one day and gone the next. For all our loving and caring we put into these magnificent animals, they still have their own agenda’s for their time here with us on this planet.
Many people have said that Max would not have lasted his 8 years if I had not owned him. He was an exceptionally difficult horse, right from birth. His first owner disliked him. She could not bond with him as he had a mind of his own, and it was far away from what any human could have wanted. I saw him as a weanling, while looking for a horse for a client. Aside from being very tall, very pretty and a stunning golden palomino, there was something else about this feisty little horse that captured me. I wasn’t looking for a horse. He wasn’t looking for an owner.
By the end of the day, we were a pair. A match made in heaven.