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: 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: Hello, I have been training horses since I was 12. I’m no expert by any means and have lots to learn.
But as of right now I am currently working with a 3 year old quarter horse. She is the most nervous insecure horse I have ever worked with. Her previous owner told me they had started her under the saddle already and she had accepted it, which I found through further training was a lie. I have been constantly working with her since October and am hardly moving forward. I started right from scratch with basic halter training. Now, I have ridden her only because I was pushed into it by her owner. I stopped because I felt she was not ready, every time I sack her out its like its all new to her. I have used many objects such as a bag on a whip, a cowboy hat, a blanket, just a plain stick, and she still flips each time I bring out an object. Even if it was an object she has previously seen! She is having major difficulties with switching eye to eye. And frankly I am running out of ideas. I’m not sure if I should just move on and ride her in hopes I can work it out of her on her back.
Answer from April Reeves: I have run across a mare like this. You may have to back off from using objects to desensitize her as it makes them worse.
Where this problem originated was back in her history somewhere. Owners never tell you the whole story. It’s up to you to assume the worst and work from there. People can really ruin a young horse.
This mare will take a great deal of consistent gentle handling. Get rid of bags on the end of whips and other cool toys that work on other horses. With this mare, you will be doing basic work. But it’s not the work you are doing, it is HOW you will carry out this work.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged break horse, colt starting, Equine Behavior & Problems, foundation training, Groundwork, horse training, Natural Horsemanship, problem horse, spooky horse, western training, young horse
Question: Can you integrate Natural Horsemanship into jumper training? I read your dressage article on blending them, but I have an 8 yr old hunter – Dutch Warmblood – thoroughbred cross mare who continues to spook at fences at shows. She’s not what you would call hot, but has lots of get-up-and-go. What Natural Horsemanship exercises or training can I start on to get my mare less spooky with more even tempo? I have tried all the traditional methods with little to no success. She also tends to walk over me too when I lead her. Thank you April.
Answer from April Reeves: Of course you can integrate NH into your program! In fact, hunter/jumper is one area of traditional training that really gets a boost and solid foundation from NH. All my H/J students go through this basic foundation before advancing into fence work. There is no technique or method in particular that works with hunter/jumpers better than dressage horses: the methods are universal to all disciplines.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship
Tagged behavior, english riding, foundation training, gait, Groundwork, hunter, jumping, Natural Horsemanship, spooky horse
Question: I’ve been hired to train 6 horses this lady “rescued”. There are 3 three year olds, 2 two year olds and one yearling. They’re all fillies. Two of them are full sisters (and their grandmother on both sides is the same horse) and both are extremely flighty, nervous and skittish. I’ve gotten the three year old fairly well calmed and workable, but the two year old is another story. I’ve separated her, put her in a stall with a run so she gets hand fed hay and grain daily. The first day I tried to lunge her in the round pen it took me two hours before she’d let me touch her – now it only takes me about 15 minutes – so we are making progress, but… If I go into the stall and pet her, she’s ok for a minute but then any little thing and she’ll freak out. I haven’t even begun to put a blanket on her, brush her or work with her feet. They had to sedate her both to trim her feet and vaccinate her. I know this is hereditary since her sister is the same way, only not quite to this extreme. My question is, will she settle down and become a decent horse after a while or will she always be this way? And any tips to help her settle would be appreciated.
Answer from April Reeves: All 6 horses have the opportunity to be not just good, steady mounts, but each in their right can find a job to do that they excel at – even the 2 year old.
Question: I have been training my friends Appaloosa gelding, but I am having a very hard time getting anywhere with him.
I have noticed that he is head shy, and although he will eventually let me rub his head and ears it seems he doesn’t improve over time, in fact everything I try to do with him he doesn’t ever seem to improve on (except letting me catch him, even after he panics I can catch him easily now. I am guessing it’s cause he does have some light of trust in me, but not a whole lot).
This is the least of my problems though. Sometimes when I do something to help build his confidence he will do REALLY well, but then when I try to come back to it another day he acts as if I am asking him to do something he has never done before. And he reacts badly. As soon as he feels pressured or confined he spins away and slightly rears as he flings his head in the air. He has never kicked at me or tried to hurt me intentionally, but one of these days he is going to hurt someone or even worse, because of how badly he reacts.
Adiva Murphy enjoying a ride on Morgan mare
Question: I have a 6 year old Morgan gelding that I got last January. I ride him English and I jump him.
Ok, so here’s the problem. Every time I go out to ride him, he always has his ears and eyes on EVERYTHING around him. He rarely pays any attention to me. He practically jumps out of his skin if he sees a tree, a piece of trash, a leaf, or something that he didn’t see the day before. If I take him somewhere new, he gets soooo pushy and freezes up. I just don’t know what to do! I’ve tried taking him up to whatever it is that he seems to be afraid of. I’ve tried just riding on past it like it wasn’t there. I’ve tried turning him in tight circles, backing him, side passing, figure eights, etc to keep his mind on me instead of everything else. How do I make him relax? The only way I can get him to put his ears on me is by yanking on his mouth really hard. And then I end up losing me temper and smacking him. I feel soo bad. I feel like he doesn’t like me anymore. How can I earn his trust back? I know I’m not supposed to yank on his mouth but he makes me so mad sometimes I wanna cry!
Please help me.
Answer from April Reeves: Morgans are one of my favorite breeds, and the first one I ever owned when I was little. They can do everything. Even things you don’t want them to do. It looks as though this is where you are right now.
Horses ask us to step up and lead with confidence
Question: I have a mare she gets spooky when leading sometimes. My friend told me to speak softly and quietly and pat her when she is like this but she is just getting worse. Should I be nice to her, speak nice? It seems to make her worse. Why is this happening? Does she not like me anymore?
Answer from April Reeves: Here is a classic example of humans expecting the horse to react and think the way we do. Let’s break this scenario down into how each is thinking at the point where your mare spooks:
Spooky Trail Horse
Question: My 5yr old has a very bad problem with things jumping out at him. The only thing is there is nothing there. He thinks the trees are going to get him. He just started doing this, every time we go up the road, he keeps his attention on the trees or the ditches. Cars don’t bother him and deer don’t one bit. I don’t know what his problem is and would like to know how to fix it. I’ve had him since he was 3; he is an excellent horse, great with cattle, barrels and responds well to leg pressure and reins.
Answer from April Reeves: This is so typical of horses right when the leaves begin to fall off the trees. Although we can’t ‘see’ anything, there are changes in the way everything smells, especially to the horse. Since we keep our horses in an environment that’s fairly sterile, in the sense that the horse does not have the ability to learn about these situations for himself in the wild, he resorts to snorting, stopping and refusing to move quietly past these things.
So what can you do?