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When Dpony decides we're off, we're off........where next?

28 replies

elephantpoo · 08/08/2011 21:02

I think I just want somebody to say keep going, he'll turn a corner soon.
Dpony had been doing soooooo well (backed in April, taking life in his stride)
until a couple of "episodes" that have lead to me losing a bit of confidence in myself and him:

  1. He reared when I lost my dog on a ride one day (I put this down to frustration / confusion, as we were stood around for several minutes in a gateway and then went back through a couple of gates to re-trace our steps) Not the correct way to behave, but I could see where it came from.
  2. He reared again (I thought it was more of a spin, though my friend tells me he was quite high) This was because I was asking him to pass some pigs and he is scared shitless (literally!) of pigs. Can see why he did it.
  3. He bolted with me and I had to "crash" him into a hedge to stop him (Same ride / different day as 2) He passed the pigs, but then ran at the last minute. Again, not the way to behave, but I can understand why he did it.
  4. I took him back to re-do the pig-bolting ride (dosed up on super calm) and he cantered off down the round because something spooked him (this was before we even reached the pigs!) When we reached the pigs I got off, walked him close enough to see then, but not to push him out of his comfort zone. He stood and looked (snorting and sweating up) and then I turned him back and we went home. That felt like a small victory.

Anyway, to combat 1. I have been throwing in random "stopping and waiting" into rides, which seems to be working.
To combat 2, 3 and 4 I have been avoiding pigs.
What I don't know is what I can do to stop him "running". That's such a major instinct for a horse. The fitter he's getting, the stronger / more flighty he's becoming, spooking at things I can't see. I rode him out today and we'd been out for 1 1/2 hours, he'd worked hard. I thought we were getting somewhere. 10 mins from home before I know what's happening we're cantering down the rode. Then we had "crash" no. 2 because I couldn't stop him.
Usually on a hack, when he isn't panicking and running, he stops when I give the aids for a half-halt. He's responsive in that way.
I'm riding him in a sweet iron loose ring french link snaffle, with a flash and martingale. I don't know where to go next with bits and him in general. I think we have lost our bond that we had early on.
OP posts:
Disasterpiece · 08/08/2011 21:42

Quick reply as I need a wee. Keep the poor bugger away from pigs, all horses are scared of pigs, they can smell them a mile off. Hes only been backed 3 months! Will reply again in a minute.

Saggyoldclothcatpuss · 08/08/2011 21:50

You need support from someone knowledgeable who can be there with you. He is young, and it's all understandable. I'd be tempted to say, it just takes time and will probably all pass. Just get him used to as much as possible. With regards to fit = flighty, could you do with a feed review? It could be that you are feeding him more as he does more work, and it's just going to his head. Maybe consider something different. We use Falcon Biocare. It doesn't heat the horses and has loads of oil in it which is apparently good for nerves! Im very wary of over bitting, just take that slowly, maybe try a snaffle, of something with a hanging cheek. Don't give up. You can get over this, you just need good help.

Callisto · 09/08/2011 08:48

I would take it back to basics. Don't get him too fit, don't feed him too much (does he need any hard feed?), school, school, school and give him time. Don't change his bit if he is happy in it, over-bitting at this stage will be a real step backwards. The bolting will be less to do with not having good brakes and more to do with him forgetting the aids.

Have you done much long-reining? IME this is a good confidence builder for young horses as they have to go first.

elephantpoo · 09/08/2011 08:52

Thanks for your replies x

Disasterpiece-we have been avoiding pigs as far as possible, because of his severe reaction. It's so limiting though....they seem to be the animal to have where we are :(
In the short term I can carry on like that, but in the long term it's not a solution. I know all horses hate pigs (almost instinct-going back to wild boar) but others seem to cope without bolting around the countryside. I suppose that comes with time. Also, the "flighty" behaviour seems to be happening more often when pigs aren't around.........he seems on edge alot of the time.

Saggyoldclothcatpuss-I had a feeling time might be the answer, but wanted an outside perspective to see if I've missed anything obvious.
TBH I've reviewed his feed, and he's been on just grass for several weeks now. When I was feedng hard food he was just having 1/2 scoop chaff + 1/2 scoop pony cubes on the days he was ridden.
Falcon Biocare sounds interesting.......will look at that as an option when he needs hard food again.
I agree with you re. over-bitting. What he's in is great usually, but when he decides to run I don't stand a chance. Will investigate more bit options.

Thanks again.

OP posts:
elephantpoo · 09/08/2011 09:03

Callisto-was typing as you replied!
I'd considered going back to basics. He long-reins beautifully, and likes to lead if we go out with others, so not sure of the benefits of going back to long-reining.
Totally agree about schooling. We don't have a school (though there is a field set aside that is ok for the basics). I build half-halts, transitions and leg yields etc into our hacks all the time to compensate, but I know we need more work in that area.
Just joined our local RC, which gives us use of a school. Trouble is we need to box there and I can't tow on my license, so I'm reliant on others to take us. Think I need to set up a few lessons for us.

OP posts:
Callisto · 09/08/2011 09:45

Can you try some desensitisation as far as the pigs go? Perhaps get some pig poo and put it in his field and then give him a treat/feed so he begins to associate the smell with nice things?

dappleton · 09/08/2011 10:08

I was just reading through this thinking - lessons, lessons, lessons... then got to your most recent post where it seems this is what you have in mind anyway - but just thought i'd say that I think thats the best idea. For a horse backed just a couple of months ago it sounds as though things are going fairly well and the biggest risk IMO at this stage is you loose confidence in him, get some lessons so you can get advice from someone who can actually witness this behaviour or at the least can see you on board! Best of Luck.

elephantpoo · 09/08/2011 10:46

Callisto-have tried a little desensitisation which seems to help. A pig lives at the yard (out of sight / smell of Dpony) She was in a stable for a couple of nights and I got Dpony, and a pony friend as company, to stand by the stable door munching carrots. That went well so we then did it on our own which, again, went well. Then we did no. 4 in my OP (the pig-bolting ride), which also felt like a step forward. Great idea about the poo in the field-he can smell a pig without meeting her :)
Will keep it going, slowly. Thank you x
dappleton-thank you x I am teetering on the edge of complete loss of confidence the whole time, which is a shame because he is a super pony. I also worry that he knows I feel this way........he's very sensitive and thrived on the strong bond we had early on. I just want to step back a bit and just enjoy him for a couple of weeks, so we can get back the bond.
Lessons and pig poo it is then (hopefully instructor can advise re. bits)
Thanks guys :)

OP posts:
Pixel · 09/08/2011 18:14

Before I got to your last post I was going to ask if you could borrow some pigs. We used to rent stables in a barn and the owner came back from market one day with a couple of berkshire pigs and just shoved them into a spare stable. It was quite a small barn (six small stables in a sort of semi-circle) so you can imagine the shock but within a couple of days all was fine.

Lucyinthepie · 09/08/2011 19:40

DON'T shove him in a stable next to pigs and leave him to get over it. That might work for some, but if the pony is really scared you are in danger of flooding him. If you do that, then your current pig problem will pale into insignificance compared to what you will then have to deal with.
He's a young horse, not been out long and I think you may be over-facing him.
Are you taking him out on his own? He may need a nanny until he is more confident.
I wouldn't take a dog out when riding a youngster. Your attention needs to be on the pony, apart from possible accidents if the dog gets too close to pony's hooves.
I think you could do with a bit of experienced help. Not so much a riding instructor, but someone who is good at starting young horses and bringing them on. Maybe one of the Intelligent Horsemanship associates, I think they only charge about £30 an hour. I think you need to take some steps back and improve your foundation, and they would be able to help.

Pixel · 09/08/2011 22:24

Oops, wasn't suggesting bunging a youngster in with pigs but it's definitely useful having them around in a safe environment, rather than meeting them by accident when you are out and likely to lose the horse or get injured.
If you can be matter-of-fact about the pig being there and carry on with your routines I think the horse picks up on that.

chocolateyclur · 09/08/2011 22:42

Have you got anyone at your yard with an older horse you could hack out with for a bit? Just wondering if an older, calmer horse might eventually help with the fight or flight response - if the "pack" mentality is different to his own reaction he may slowly learn to calm.

Lucyinthepie · 09/08/2011 23:11

Sorry about the pig reaction. Grin It's just that I know the owner of a horse that had a "pig problem" solved by a prominent "equine behaviourist" on TV - by flooding as described. That horse nearly dies of fright at the smell of pigs now, you can't go in sight of them.
I think the simple difference between desensitisation and flooding is that with desensitisation the horse is able to move away from the thing that is frightening it, and is not subjected to it for prolonged periods of time. Flooding is when we remove the options.
I said on another thread, with young horses I walk and walk and walk with them. Or even older horses that need starting late or re-starting, I do the same. A lot can be taught with in-hand work, provided you have strong groundwork in place first. I would take a big step back with Dpony, work out where he starts to come undone, and then take him forwards again one step at a time.

Muckyhighchair · 09/08/2011 23:42

You need to school
School school.

Nothing more to it, you know why he's acting that way. I wouldn't take him out on any hacks till, you can stop him ever so easily.

Only ride out with a safe older horse.

Ask the farmer if you can some in hand work next to the pigs. In a safe place. Ie a field with gates closed. Start by just giving him his tea and build it up to lunging, long reining and so on till his happy. Then ask to take him past on the road.

The rearing is babyness, he is looking to you for leadership and when you give it ie stopping and looking for the dog. He worries and throws his toys out. This only get better with more schooling.

I personally wouldnt go changing bits. Putting a stronger bit wouldn't help, a horse will bolt regardless of bit if scared enough, and yours sounds that way, if you had hedge him.

Don't take him out until his schooling is up to starndard now, hes bolted twice and reared, this needs upping in to bud before it imprints to being a away of life.

Trust me, having worked the horse industry for years and having to redo so much bad work done with youngsters at this stage that messes them up for life.

Not saying that you are, but put an extra 2 months good work in now will give you so many more good years then knocking your confindice

Good luck.

Saggyoldclothcatpuss · 09/08/2011 23:59

Also, dont forget, this poor baby has only been backed since April!
With all the dogs, gates, pigs, leg yielding and stuff that you are throwing at him, maybe he is just overwhelmed! Dont forget, horses used to be backed then turned away for a while. This would give them time to absorb what they had learned, and come to terms. Maybe, you just need to give the poor chap a break!

Lucyinthepie · 10/08/2011 08:17

How old is Dpony? I'd be cautious about school, school, schooling a newly backed youngster.

Disasterpiece · 10/08/2011 10:39

I was going to come back to this post but then it all got a bit "Do this no do this" so kind of thought my input would be pointless.

Anyway here is my thoughts:

Turn him away now, let him live out for the rest of the summer, give him a good few months off work but spend that time bonding with him again and getting each others confidence up again. Bring him back in October doing lots of inhand work, long reining, lunging for short sessions. Get him going off voice commands.

Then get back on him in December. Lots of really gentle hacking, get someone with a really calm horse to come out with you, dont be tempted to always let them go infront but a calm horses influence will be really good for him and give him confidence.

I know schooling is very important but I think you can school a young horse too much and put too much pressure on them. 15 minutes in the school/field before or after a calm hack is more than enough.

I used to ride out with my old instructor on her recently backed mare because my mare was so good out hacking especially on the roads, nothing phased her at all. It was especially cute because they were both striking dark bays with lots of presence and both called Heidi!

Young Heidi used to hide behind my Heidi and the funny thing was mine was 13.2 and she was 17.3 and just 4 years old! Grin

Muckyhighchair · 10/08/2011 11:13

What I mean by schooling, is by no means hacking out. The horse isn't safe to.

She needs to rebuild the trust up, get breaks by softly using her aids. Not by sticking a bigger bit in.

20mins 3 times a week is pently. Which is prob less then what he is doing now.

Get your braks and trust, hack out for a few weeks then turn away for a while.

And start again. His young, he needs time to get his head around it. But I really really hack out till the trust is their again.

redredruby · 11/08/2011 13:51

I agree with the posters who suggest turning him away for a bit - horses (and people!) need time to process their experiences and a few months turned out could be just what he needs. I think considering he has only just been backed that you are currently asking too much of him.

When he is turned away still do spend time with him but without asking too much of him and then when you bring him back to work do it gently with someone experienced.

I would also suggest when riding out (in time) that you go with another experienced horse to give yours confidence.

But don't be disheartened Smile it sounds as though you have achieved so much in such a short space of time!

CalamityKate · 11/08/2011 19:15

I think you're asking a HELL of a lot to expect him to go out alone and cope with things like pigs.

At this age/stage I'd say he should be going out with a nice, unflappable horsey buddy as a "cover" horse, who can lead him calmly past scary things and teach him that when you meet something alarming, you don't HAVE to run like hell. Is there any way that could happen?

I also agree with those who said turn him away for a bit.

elephantpoo · 13/08/2011 09:20

Sorry I haven't replied sooner.....didn't realise there had been so many replies!
Bit more background.........
......Dpony has just turned 6. I got him Nov last year from a lady who used him for "stud duties" (hoping he'd grow big enough to be her horse, but he didn't make the height) and started "working" with him in Jan. He had 3 months of slow, steady in-hand work, lunging and long-reining. He's proved to be very sensitive and easy to teach. It all went brilliantly. He is a very sweet boy, with a super temperament. He's amazed everybody at the yard with how he took everything in his stride. He doesn't always go out alone. I go out with others and once he knows the rides we go alone and he loves it-stepping out and generally being forward going. YO is brilliant for advice / help and has done loads for us so far. I used to back horses in my teens, but after a 12 year break I need reminding. I don't think I've overfaced him really-I find that a little upsetting. Dpony is my first pony, and I plan to keep him and love him forever.
Given that Dpony is not the usual age to be backed, I'm not thoroughly convinced of the benefits of turning him away? I am open to convincing though.
Think I'm going to stick to my plan-Carry on with pig desensitisation, have a few lessons, and do a little more ground work with him. If I do go out I'll stick to "safe" rides. Yesterday we rode out in a different bit-not sure what it's called. It's a loose ring snaffle, with 2 semi circles built into the ring (one at the top, one at the bottom) and it had a lozenge. Dpony loved it and when he had a moment going past some pallets randomly chucked in the hedge I was able to keep him in walk without too much trouble.
Thanks for all of your advice and encouragement x

OP posts:
Booboostoo · 13/08/2011 10:05

I may not have understood this correctly, so apologies if I am confused, but is this a stallion that wasn't broken till 6 years old and is your first horse after a 12 year break? On paper this sounds like a disaster in the making. I hope you prove me wrong, but for your safety I think you should get regular lessons from an experienced trainer who can help you decide whether this in a viable partnership.

Re the pigs some horses never get over their fear of pigs, desinsitisation is the way to go with the ones who are not terrified of pigs, but I would keep away from the pigs until you have established the basics and have control of other situations.

Best of luck.

elephantpoo · 13/08/2011 10:34

Sorry-missed out that bit Blush
He was cut by his previous owner at 3 1/2 or 4.
Crikey-that would be disasterous!
Desensitisation is proving to be going well so far. I will keep it going, slowly.
And I will continue to avoid pigs, as per my plan.
Thank you.

OP posts:
CalamityKate · 13/08/2011 11:29

I don't think anyone means to upset you, but the fact that he's rearing and bolting and sweating up and having to be dosed up on SuperCalm, suggests something is amiss, and if he's as honest as you say, chances are it's simply that he's telling you he's not quite ready for certain aspects of your rides.
redredruby · 14/08/2011 15:26

How much work did his previous owner do with him? 6 is still young for a horse and if he had not been doing any work before you got him then you do need to treat him as you would any young horse, including giving him the time and space to process the learning.

There are no short cuts with horses (I learnt that the hard way!) and if you miss a step along the way then they will at some point tell you which he is currently doing by rearing and bolting. It could simply be that the current lessons just need reinforcing via repetition. My horse was dreadful going out by himself so we used to do the same short ride over and over again and then extended it by 5 minutes and repeating again etc - this took months and he was 17! But, by taking the time to really cement the learning he is now so much confident. If I had pushed onto the next stage before he was ready then we would have really undermined any confidence he had gained.

Please don't be upset by the comments here - everyone is trying to help and it is clear that you have your horses best interests at heart, sometimes however, an outside perspective can be extremely benefical.

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