Tag Archives: horse training

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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Hot horse needs lunging or bad idea?

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.

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Hard bits: where to go from a twisted D ring snaffle?

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.

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Arabian gelding has serious anxiety issues

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.
Thanks! Stefanie

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.

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