How stupid am I?

micramadam

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I am so angry with myself as I have unintentionally caused a huge problem with my young mare.
I ride with an air jacket as I no longer bounce but break when I fall off. (Body keeps reminding me I'm not a teenager anymore)
Mare was coming along very nicely in her training and we had even progressed to small hacks out alone which went great.
All well and good till I dismounted forgetting to unclip my jacket. Naturally the air jacket was activated and we both got a shock, my mare more than me it seems.
Now I am unable to safely dismount. All because she hasn't forgotten what happened with the air jacket.
As soon as I swing my leg over to dismount, she shoots off sideways. God knows how I haven't hurt myself.

I have stopped riding her and now with the help of a good instructress we are literally taking baby steps with her to show her that dismounting isn't scary. It will take some time but I am in no hurry and would rather it take months than rush her just so that I can ride again. On the positive side, we can do more groundwork.
What I am scared of though is how do I prevent this in the future, my forgetting to unclip that is. I had never done it before and still can't believe I was stupid enough to forget this one time. Do any of you who use air jackets have a system or a trigger to help you remember to unclip?
 

wkiwi

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Don't be angry with yourself, as we must have all done something to upset a horse at some time, and you may not believe it now but it will help your overall bond by getting through it.
Sounds like your instructress has sensible ideas. For the other part of it with the air jacket, you need to fully habituate her to the noise, starting with a smaller similar noise some distance away and then gradually building up (in the same way you are doing the dismounting). Think of horses in traffic that need to get used to airbrakes on trucks.

Of course, you don't want to use your air jacket each time to do this as it would cost a fortune in gas cannisters so you might need to be creative E.g. i helped a horse scared of clippers by starting with a very small electric lady-shaver held several meters away then gradually closer until could touch shoulder then clippers at a distance until he was happy to keep eating then gradually closer etc. Not all in one day of course. For a horse afraid of electric fence ticking you can use a metronome; for a horse scared of velcro boots (yep - panicked when they were undone) i just stood their for ages opening and closing velcro.
I can't think of anything mimicking an air jacket other than a truck's air brakes, but maybe velcro ripping apart would be a start and others might have some good ideas of similar sounds that you could build up with?

I would definitely go down this track rather than relying on you remembering to unclip - am not doubting your memory here :) but you don't want her reacting if someone else you are riding near forgets theirs.
 
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What a shame that it activated. I've forgotten to unclip mine before and it hasn't gone off (horse is quite short). I think that you are doing the right thing (babysteps to build her confidence up again and getting a good instructor to help). I did write 'unclip jacket' on the back of my hand to remind me while it was new.
 

Caol Ila

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I think once she remembers that dismounting isn't scary, she will be more resilient to things going wrong or spooking her.

I agree with wkiwi; desensitize the horse to the noise of the air jacket. If you space it out again, it won't matter. And it will build the horse's confidence and teach her how to deal with other scary things she may encounter.
 

Annagain

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I know so many people who have forgotten to unclip their air jackets. You're not stupid and definitely not the only one. My favourite was my friend who remembered mid-air and tried to cling on to the saddle with one hand to stop herself falling and unclip the clip with the other. It didn't work so she then clung on with both hands legs a-dangling and begged me to help. I wasn't far away but I was too busy laughing!
 

Kungfoo-hamster

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Rather than use up all the gas canisters by constantly setting one off to de-sensitise her - could you record the noise onto a phone or similar and then you can play it back over and over at differing volumes as her confidence improves?
 

samlf

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you can buy cans of 'pet corrector' spray from pet shops, they will make a similar sound but obviously start far away if you are going to use that to desensitise.
 

Abacus

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Maybe try to train yourself with a ritual - ride onto the yard, stop by the tap (fence, tree, whatever), UNCLIP JACKET, pat pony, dismount. Get whoever you are riding with to try to remember as well.

Try doing this in a place you don't normally dismount so that it is different and helps you to remember.

Good luck!
 

DonskiWA

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I've done the exact same thing. Luckily my horse only shies away from me if I dismount in the exact same spot as I did when I exploded the jacket. If I dismount anywhere else it's not an issue. Now he associates that spot with the fright, rather than the act of dismounting.
 

Luci07

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And the day none of us does something stupid with our horses is when we are on our deathbeds..


Don't be so hard on yourself and you are taking steps to rebuild your mares confidence.!
 

micramadam

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Haven't tried getting off on the wrong side but maybe worth a try.
Today's training was good. She wasn't so stressed and I actually managed to hang over the saddle with my foot in the stirrup and lying over her back and then stepping back down to the mounting block and that was no problem. Even jumping up and down from the mounting block next to her didn't seem to phase her today. Mind you, I did tire her out first with a lunging session.
 

minkymoo

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Rather than use up all the gas canisters by constantly setting one off to de-sensitise her - could you record the noise onto a phone or similar and then you can play it back over and over at differing volumes as her confidence improves?
I was going to suggest this, have it playing on repeat quietly as you do something nice like a wither scratch or what ever else she likes. Gradually turn the volume up over a few weeks and see how you go.

I did something similar with a hose when mine was little, the end burst off and made a loud hissing noise whilst squirting him with water. He's now very tricky to bath where the hose is and I'm so cross with myself about it! We've all done something unexpectedly daft!
 

AdorableAlice

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Party poppers, used at a distance and not where the rubbish that comes out of them can been seen by the horse. Eventually she should get used to the bang.
 

twiggy2

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have not read other replies but I caused a problem with my mare which ended up i her shooting away from me when I dismounted, I ended up dismounting from the other side for a month or so as the association was not there and when I went back to dismounting as normal the issue had passed.
 

Barnacle

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I'm sure she'll get over it with gradual habituation to both dismounting and the sound as others have suggested just in case it happens again.

However, I'm not sure you'll ever need to be reminded again! I suspect this experience will cross your mind every time you prepare to dismount for long enough that unclipping becomes an ingrained habit!
 

Landcruiser

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A friend of mine used cans of fizzy drink to desensitize to the sound of it going off. She (very sensibly) desensitized her horse to the sound before she ever got on wearing the jacket because she knew that sooner or later she'd forget - or if she fell off, she didn't want the horse to make things worse by shooting off because of the sound.
 

AdorableAlice

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A friend of mine used cans of fizzy drink to desensitize to the sound of it going off. She (very sensibly) desensitized her horse to the sound before she ever got on wearing the jacket because she knew that sooner or later she'd forget - or if she fell off, she didn't want the horse to make things worse by shooting off because of the sound.
What a good idea.
 

AdorableAlice

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A friend of mine used cans of fizzy drink to desensitize to the sound of it going off. She (very sensibly) desensitized her horse to the sound before she ever got on wearing the jacket because she knew that sooner or later she'd forget - or if she fell off, she didn't want the horse to make things worse by shooting off because of the sound.
What a good idea.
 

micramadam

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Just a quick update for those interested.
We have been working very hard the last few days on this problem and it is getting better. Now at the stage when I can stand in one stirrup with my knee on the saddle or on her back.
I have also been swinging the stirrups around so that she doesn't become frightened by them accidentally hitting her on the back, flank or stomach. Another thing we have been practising is using the mounting block and jumping from it to either side. Sounds silly but I want to get her used to sudden movements next to her. Very very pleased with our progress, she is taking it all in her stride.
This is being interspersed with groundwork. We had a great time yesterday evening walking over tarpaulins on the ground. She eventually walked over them just by following me and without being led.
Love this horse, she is so willing to learn and it wasn't her fault the dismounting problem started. Time and patience will get us there. In the meantime we are both loving the groundwork.
 
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