Diagnosing a jumping problem

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14 November 2020
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My daughter got a 10yo OTTB early this year, it had competed at ODEs and done pony club before. We have only recently been able to compete because of covid and we are in NZ so things were quiet over winter. They ride well at home, school 80-90 and have been working on calming the horse a bit as she can get hot. Pony club also goes pretty well and she is getting less hot and more relaxed. She is happily popping over 1m xcountry jumps at pony club, they haven't done any show jumping there this season yet. Before the horse she rode ponies and was fine jumping at competitions.

At the first show she managed to get over one jump, a 70, refusals on the rest. Yesterday they looked awesome in warm up, relaxed and popping over the warm up jumps. When the bell rang total fail she wouldn't go over the first jump in either class.

She gets regular lessons but the person that does it hasn't been to the shows to see this and hasn't offered much advice other than keep trying, he is very well regarded and experienced. People we know compete at a higher level so we are pretty much on our own for the more basic shows we go to so just wondering if anyone has any advice? It's all feeling very demotivating. I think the fact I am asking for help here points to our problem, we don't know what we are doing wrong and don't really have anyone that can help us.
 

EllenJay

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Sounds like a rider nerves/confidence issue. I would suggest just going out competing, even in a different discipline, or at a smaller size fence, just to get over the nerves
 

paddi22

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it sounds like it could be her tensing up when she hears the bell and the horse picking up on it. it could be as simple as she is holding her breath, or just not riding strongly enough towards the first fence. I'd be tempted to take her to a few cross pole shows where she can literally walk over the jump if needed and to stick at them till the two of them were happy with it and then slowly raise heights.
 

ownedbyaconnie

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Are there any clear rounds near you? Good way of jumping away from home but without the “pressure” of a competition.

I was the same, I had a hang up about the first jump and would tense and just not ride to it and then get run outs. once I was over it the rest of the round would be perfect. Couple of tiny clear rounds just to get my confidence up did wonders.
 
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Thanks for the replies The horse is sensitive so that could be it and it wouldn't surprise me. The problem is she is the doing the smallest ones there for hacks. Local riding club does smaller but they are 18+ and she is only 13. Been looking for things for them to go to but options are limited.

Just have to keep looking for things for her to try I guess. I'm just worried it will all get worse if this keeps up.
 

Squeak

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Have you tried hiring a course? You could treat it exactly the same as a show, do a warm up as separately as possible, wear show gear and then see what happens. Hopefully they'll pop round no problem but if not then you could crack the arena hires and move on to shows.

Do they have the equivalent of clear rounds in NZ? They would be perfect for this scenario, otherwise would the shows do schooling rounds where they could give you a tenish minute slot where you could school round at the end of the class?
 

paddi22

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are there dressage tests for kids near you. does she tense up doing dressage tests too? it might be a case of teaching her breathing or calming techniques that can transfer across to her jumping rounds. if her issue is 'the bell goes and I freeze' then its just a case of getting her in competitive scenarios but keeping them tiny and easy enough that she gets around and doesn't get eliminated. it's probably a case where her mind might just go blank with nerves and the horse is picking up that's she's disappeared! so I'd literally stick her in ANY tiny class you can, even if it's against 3 year old kids. I always bring young horses through those tiny kids class hc and most comps will let you pay and go hc. dressage tests would work as well.
 
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She has done some dressage and her first non pony club event on this horse was dressage, she was visibly nervous on her first dressage test and did not do great but it wasn't terrible either and was much better and more relaxed the second and did pretty well. She will do these when she can.

She claims she was not nervous the other day as warm up went so well, she didn't look it to me to be fair. We are going to try and get a professional rider to take the horse to something and see if that will help with diagnosing what to focus on. In the meantime we will just get them out while we can. Its frustrating as she works so hard and it is really tough to see it end like that and she just blames herself. Just hoping we can get this figured out and make a call on what to do. Such a sweet horse and they are coming along so well I just don't know what will happen if they still haven't made it over a jump in another six months.

We will put her in the smallest hack stuff we can find but I have not seen anything smaller than 60 which TBH should be really easy for them both.
 

SmallSteps

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I wouldn't worry too much about finding tiny classes. For sure enter the smallest, but if your problem really is rider nerves then sometimes "you'll go in the tinies until you can do it right" can make jockeys just as anxious as jump height. I do agree with the coach that you just have to keep trying & try not to make a big deal of it. Worst thing* that can happen has already happened, and we're fine, everyone's fine here, let's go again there's always another try.

Can be really helpful to go in again HC as it removes a lot of of the rider nerves (you've already lost/been humiliated/whatever) but allows the rider to jump exactly the same course, in the ring, under almost the same conditions and go home thinking how silly, this horse could have done it. Go in HC twice. If there's a clear round great, jump that then go home. Your role as parent is really important, you need to find the positive and the fun in every show even on the crap days because sometimes you need to accept that it can go wrong, and that's OK, before it can go well. If stopping is the end of the world then it's really hard not to ride in the ring thinking "what if he stops", and trust me I've thoroughly tested the fact that if you think they might stop then they will lol

Don't tell her not to be tense (never helped anyone), or let her know that you're worrying about what will happen if the horse continues to stop. It's a phase, sometimes it's unavoidable, could be the horses stage fright rather than hers, doesn't really matter because either way the only thing you can do is make it fun. it'll happen and then it'll be over.


*getting eliminated isn't actually the worst thing that can happen but our stage fright thinks it is
 

Ambers Echo

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I was going to suggest getting a pro to compete her. At least you'll immediately figure out if it is a rider problem or a horse one. Shows are different to jumping at home and horses can pick up on that too. Lots of horses nap at shows for example but never at home. My friend bought a horse who jumped beautifully at the viewing and at home but would not go over a stick on the ground away from home. That was the horse not the rider for sure. Very confident, positive rider. We think the horse must have had some sort of accident/incident at an event as his BE record was fab up to the year before he was sold then he just never ran again and the seller was a bit vague as to why.

They did overcome it with lots of patience and timeand he went on to do well well again.
 
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I was going to suggest getting a pro to compete her. At least you'll immediately figure out if it is a rider problem or a horse one. Shows are different to jumping at home and horses can pick up on that too. Lots of horses nap at shows for example but never at home. My friend bought a horse who jumped beautifully at the viewing and at home but would not go over a stick on the ground away from home. That was the horse not the rider for sure. Very confident, positive rider. We think the horse must have had some sort of accident/incident at an event as his BE record was fab up to the year before he was sold then he just never ran again and the seller was a bit vague as to why.

They did overcome it with lots of patience and timeand he went on to do well well again.
This is a possible explanation and something we have talked about. just wondering how much time it took your friend?
 

Ambers Echo

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This is a possible explanation and something we have talked about. just wondering how much time it took your friend?
It was about a year really. They started by going out to lots of away from home clinics/ training comps and just keeping things relaxed and easy. Once he started jumping small things confidently away from home then going higher did not take as long. He was regularly clear XC at events after that rebuilding year. They worked on flatwork loads during that not-really-jumping year and at his first BE90 he won it!
 

Shay

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Could it possibly be competition sour? What was its background before? Sometimes horses just get tired of competition. Whether it started as rider nerves, rider over riding, a confidence challnege or just going out too often...they work out that if they refuse they don't have to work. They are wonderful at home but in a competition environment they just shut down.

My only personal experience is with BS ponies over jumped to much too soon and I have never known it solved. But the environment within which my daughter was riding then - if it couldn't compete it wasn't of value and got passed on. For the avoidance of doubt we neither had one of these nor ever passed one on - it was just common amongst the highly competative less experienced under 16's.

When you are dealing with a child the window of opportunity is far narrower than for an adult. This could take a year to sort - or more. But your daughter is 13. That year to sort this out could take her out of everything that makes ponies fun. Its a fragile age bracket. They are getting older, looking to new things. To have a horse which you have to nurse when all your freinds are flying off and getting selected for teams etc. is really hard. Its a real family balancing act I'm afraid.
 
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When you are dealing with a child the window of opportunity is far narrower than for an adult. This could take a year to sort - or more. But your daughter is 13. That year to sort this out could take her out of everything that makes ponies fun. Its a fragile age bracket. They are getting older, looking to new things. To have a horse which you have to nurse when all your friends are flying off and getting selected for teams etc. is really hard. Its a real family balancing act I'm afraid.
You nailed it with the age bracket. It's late spring here and I had been hoping she could be out doing stuff with friends this year but they are at bigger things. They come back talking about winning and placings while my daughter looks after other people's horses while they are away and focuses on how well the warmup went. She is fine with it all right now and convinced the horse will come right and be awesome but I'm just not sure. I really hope I a wrong. She has learnt heaps this year and is a better rider so that is good. Just trying to work out what to do. Thanks.
 

LEC

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I think you need to practice putting on pressure at home. Its one of the things that Caroline Moore is very keen on here in the UK. Make more mistakes in training so you can handle it all at competitions. Really simple stuff.
Lose a stirrup between fences and get it back
Swap your whip over between fences
Make her count the number of strides between fences and then tell her to go back round reducing it by 10-20 strides.
Time her and then make her go quicker without increasing the speed but by riding better lines.
Set the scene before the round saying its a championships and she needs to go clear - maybe mock up a bell. Pile the pressure on in a positive way.
Walk the course and make her say out loud her plan and how she is going to ride it.

If you do all this kind of stuff then she will learn to control the nerves and keep her brain in the game. Not enough riders practice at home dealing with pressure so they then go to a competition and its slightly alien.
 

Squeak

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We are going to try and get a professional rider to take the horse to something and see if that will help with diagnosing what to focus on. In the meantime we will just get them out while we can. Its frustrating as she works so hard and it is really tough to see it end like that and she just blames herself. Just hoping we can get this figured out and make a call on what to do. Such a sweet horse and they are coming along so well I just don't know what will happen if they still haven't made it over a jump in another six months.
My only query with using a pro to take the horse out is if the pro gets the horse to jump perfectly will this make your daughter feel bad/ demoralised? It is making it fairly black and white that it is all her fault. If on the other hand in a couple of months she's worked through this issue then she gets the satisfaction of having worked through it and sorted it herself without the angle that it was all her 'fault' to begin with.
 

paddi22

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yeah the issue I've seen with the 'pro take the horse out first' is that it can sometimes make the horse worse then when a nervy rider gets back on, as the horse isn't given the burst of confidence they need. I ride dodgy horses for people around courses a good bit, and usually as soon as the nervy rider gets back on it's a different horse again. Unless it's a specific issue for the horse like loudspeakers, crowds etc. and they just need a bit of babying to get used to it.

the only way I've ever seen it fixed (and we work with kids on project horses) is to get mileage on a level they can successfully do, then when they get bored with that level move up. It is damaging for kids to be constantly getting eliminated or not being allowed finish courses. they need to go in to an environment that replicates a competition environment but KNOW they can get around it. your daughter sounds like she has a super mature attitude and it will really teach her to become a proper horsewoman as she learns to deal with issues like these.

I've ended up running in walking kids over cross poles at times, but you have to instil in the horse that the only option is forward and through the wings, so tiny jumps allow that.
 
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We did some xcountry training yesterday. A pretty experienced rider/instructor came along with us who rode with my daughter on her own horse. Things were really good at first she popped over some small logs and and then went over some bigger ones and ended up going over a 1.05 table. We then moved over to another area where we discovered water was scary cleary something they need to work on. In the other area the ground was much muddier and she wouldn't go over even small jumps there.

The instructor thought it was a mix of ground conditions and my daughter being too nice. The ground make sense as normally she jumps in a very well drained sand/shell arena. When she stops at home it usually has to do with a new fill she wants to look at. The comps we have gone to are on grass and its been a wet spring so not great ground. I'm now thinking this may be part of the problem and going to look into studs.

Doing a 65 ODE coming up just not sure she can make it over the SJ part of it. After that there is a show with a 50 SJ round so going to give that a try. Unfortunately she just got shod so no studs for these but if we get some dry weather it will not matter as much.
 

QueenT

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My daughter got a 10yo OTTB early this year, it had competed at ODEs and done pony club before. We have only recently been able to compete because of covid and we are in NZ so things were quiet over winter. They ride well at home, school 80-90 and have been working on calming the horse a bit as she can get hot. Pony club also goes pretty well and she is getting less hot and more relaxed. She is happily popping over 1m xcountry jumps at pony club, they haven't done any show jumping there this season yet. Before the horse she rode ponies and was fine jumping at competitions.

At the first show she managed to get over one jump, a 70, refusals on the rest. Yesterday they looked awesome in warm up, relaxed and popping over the warm up jumps. When the bell rang total fail she wouldn't go over the first jump in either class.

She gets regular lessons but the person that does it hasn't been to the shows to see this and hasn't offered much advice other than keep trying, he is very well regarded and experienced. People we know compete at a higher level so we are pretty much on our own for the more basic shows we go to so just wondering if anyone has any advice? It's all feeling very demotivating. I think the fact I am asking for help here points to our problem, we don't know what we are doing wrong and don't really have anyone that can help us.
We’re in the exact same situation with my daughters horse - we’ve had him for nine months and he is more sensitive than we expected. Yesterday, she got eliminated in one class and placed in the next. Thing is, it is taking her longer to create a strong bond with the horse than she expected, so her ambitions are a little bit in the way, and she is beginning to learn/remember that the warm up starts upon arrival, not in the ring. So she needs to be focused and give him a lot more time to settle his nerves at the show. She has a pro trainer who joins some of the shows - this is the best help! Even with the elimination she got positive feedback for the decisions she made, and he can tell her better than mummy that don’t worry, it’ll all work out in the end - the horse is talented with record and she is doing the right things, they just haven’t found the perfect connection yet. So a long story short, you’re not alone with this challenge. See if you can find a trainer to join the shows and guide the warm up, and provide proper advice, “just try again” can be just as confusing as you describe, and will take a lot of trial and error. My daughter has finally accepted that the pro trainer is more important to pay for than the Italian breeches!
 

paddi22

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Doing a 65 ODE coming up just not sure she can make it over the SJ part of it. After that there is a show with a 50 SJ round so going to give that a try. Unfortunately she just got shod so no studs for these but if we get some dry weather it will not matter as much.
I would just query what the rush to get the horse competing is when it has so many gaps in its basic training? personally I wouldn't send any kids out to ODE on a horse that wasn't confident going sj and wasn't confident jumping off ground it wasn't used to? it's not going to be a good experience for either party. if it was my horse I'd have the kid working to crack the sj issue first without adding more pressure on to event. Then in spring let them have fun doing a season hunter trailing with no pressure, so they can get mileage across all ground and water/ditches etc without the worry of elimination, they can just get used to each other.

I think sending the horse out to ode at this stage, (regardless of height) is not setting them up to win.
 
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