DEAR DANA: My horse got backed into a little over a year ago while entering the show arena gate of my horsemanship class. Now he’s afraid to go in the gate at every show and is equally nervous when moving around other horses in the line-up before all my pattern classes. However, he is completely calm on the rail and while doing the pattern. I have tried walking him in and out of the gate before and after the show dozens of times with no results. Do you have any ideas?
—Ashley of Sterling, KS
DEAR ASHLEY: I am sorry that happened to you and your horse. Sometimes one seemingly small incident can become a really big deal to your horse. I have had similar things happen to me, and it can take a lot of time for your horse to get over a bad experience. It takes many good experiences to program over a bad experience. If a horse has had the problem for quite a while, it has built up bigger and bigger in his mind. Be patient with your horse but don’t give up as he will get over it with persistence on your part.
It sounds like there are two areas that your horse has developed a lot of fear. One, when horses move around him as in the line-up. Two, when he goes through the gate. I would enlist a friend on a very safe horse and I would be willing to spend whatever time is needed to have a breakthrough. Be prepared to take hours, if necessary. If you can do this at a horse show, it is even better.
I would start by ponying your horse off of a very safe, non-reactive horse. If your horse is really afraid, stop and touch your horse’s face, neck—all over—and also talk to him. Horses really do respond to your voice and touch. If you can, ride the pony horse and reach out your hand until you touch the face of your horse. Do this over and over until he relaxes and preferably takes a deep breath, or licks his lips. This shows acceptance. Stay with it until you have a victory. Then, (a) start walking on the pony horse, (b) pony your horse, (c) stop, (d) pet his face—then walk off, stop, pet him, etc., over and over until it turns into a positive experience.
He’s going to see the back end of a horse and a good thing will happen, rather than something fearful. You can even carry treats and give him a treat. You have to re-program him to expect something good when a horse moves his back end around your horse. Then start ponying him through the gate over and over. Stop if you get partly through the gate and pet him, talk to him, or give him a treat and wait until he relaxes. Then have someone else ride the pony horse and you ride your horse and repeat this again, over and over. The difference in this arrangement is that you are directing him rather than him being ponied. He may have refused your cues before to go right up to another horse, but now he is OK with the horse in front of him. You should be able to push him right up to the horse. Make sure you end each interaction with the other horse positively by your horse getting a pat from the other rider.
Next, I would get other horses and people to repeat this with you over and over until he can walk right up to another horse and see the movement of the horse and the person’s hand reaching over to him –it’s no big deal! Once you have his confidence in this area, you should be able to get him to walk through the gate and relax. If he has been refusing your cues and veering or shying away from other horses and the gate for a long time, that may have become a habit. You’ll then need to re-program him to say “yes” to your cues.
I hope this helps you, and good luck with your horse!
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The 2009 PCHA Jack and Linda Baker Reining Classic Finals were held Aug. 14-15 at Los Angeles Equestrian Center as part of the Cancer Awareness Classic Championships Horse Show from Aug. 13-16. Also featured at the horse show was the PCHA Youth/Amateur Trail Classic won by Mary Ellen Locke riding Too Flashy To Zip.
Spooner, along with Ashlee Bond, were two Californians among the U.S. show jumping team who traveled throughout Europe for nearly four months to eventually take an honorable second place in the Meydan FEI Nations Cup finals. “The U.S. was really a force to be reckoned with in the Nations Cup this year,” Spooner said. “Ashlee was fantastic and so were the other team members.”
Separately, Spooner also competed in the Global Champions Tour and other international shows, which took him to places such as Monte Carlo, Monaco; Paris and Cannes in France; Estoril, Spain; and Rome and San Patrignano in Italy. One of the highlights for him included winning the Grand Prix of Monte Carlo, Monaco, while riding Cristallo.
Traveling across the country to Chicago from Westlake Village, Calif., was worth the trip for owner/rider Louise Koch and her own San Shivago. Bred in Germany by Walter Huning, this black Westfalen stallion (Sandro Hit — Donna by Donnerhall) performed a lovely test to earn the win in the 5-Year-Old Preliminary Test with a score of 8.38 from judges Linda Zang, Gary Rockwell, and Jeanne McDonald. 62-year-old Koch and her impressive stallion were the champions at the USEF Young Horse Western Selection Trial for the FEI World Breeding Championships at Flintridge, Calif., in May.
Some of those riders recently returned from representing California and competing admirably at the 2009 FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in Lexington, Ky.
Samantha Harrison and Santika, owned by Harrison Farms LLC, were part of the Zone 10 riders to take the Team Gold Medal home to California from the North American Junior Team Show Jumping competition. Back at the $5,000 Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, Harrison and Santika finished in second place.
Chics Magic Potion wins 2009 ‘World’s Richest,’ then retires from arena
A 225.5 fence work score in the final day of action earned the 38-year-old Montana trainer the win with a 663.5 composite score earning a $24,000 purse. The Floridian-owned Reymanator (Dual Rey x Savannah Hickory) had scored well in the herd (219) and rein (219) work earlier in the week, and his “lights-out” run along the fence Sunday resulted in a decisive, three-point win on the composite scoreboard.
Phillip Ralls rode Soula Jule Girl (Soula Jule Star x Okies Hickory Girl), owned by Rory and Heather Livingston of nearby Atascadero, to the reserve Open title with a 660.5 composite. A half-point behind them were Ron Emmons on Reygans Smart Lena (Dual Rey x Smart Fancy Lena), another Dual Rey-sired entry, owned by Doung and Cynthia Granade of Shingle Springs, Calif.
Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park is widely known for its year-round equestrian events, especially hunter/jumper shows managed by Blenheim EquiSports. The grounds have hosted several national championships, along with Olympic and FEI World Cup qualifiers.
“I couldn’t have been happier with his performance; he was unbelievable tonight,” French said of Rumba. “He is very adjustable and is happy to have courses that ask more of his scope, range and handiness.”
Continuing in a Series
In the next few installments, Les Vogt takes you through exercises of his Five Easy Pieces. When you’ve mastered them, you should be able to put any part of your horse’s body where you want it, without resistance.
This time, we will continue discussing the parts of Exercise No. 1: Lateral Flexion.