Mental transitions

Caol Ila

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I have a theory. Very dangerous, I know! But I think Foinavon's hacking alone concerns are, in fact, identical to his schooling concerns. He happily follows OH around the school. He follows other horses around the school. He is absolutely fine with me during in-hand work in the school. He is fine if I lead him on hacks. Could do that all day. He is brave and sane on the trail with only OH as foot soldier, no horses, and he loves adventures. He goes in front of a group (or OH) without any trouble now, but he's not stupid. He knows OH and/or his horse buddies are still with him.

Somewhere, during his education, he failed to make the mental leap between trusting a human on the ground to entirely trusting one sitting on his back. Doesn't matter whether you're in the arena or on the trail or whatever. It must be a big jump, because following a leader who's walking with you is very natural for horses, whereas following one who's sitting on top of you isn't. When I've worked with youngsters, they've just figured it out, but maybe because Fin was started as an adult and it was all a bit spotty and inconsistent, he's not getting there so easily.

I'm trying to chip away at his mental block by doing very short stints in the arena, without ground support, or very short hacks on our own. Not so much that he gets panicked, because that's not helpful for anyone, but just pushing slightly beyond his comfort zone. I was wondering if anyone has any other genius ideas, or if I should just keep plodding on with what I'm doing, and time and patience will pay off.
 

Caol Ila

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Yeah, he's fine with that. Even with OH or horse friend behind him, he's calm and brave. He still knows they are there. They would have to disappear completely, which isn't practical because they have to get home too.
 

Roxylola

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I started my horse entirely myself, had him from a foal - we went walkies together, we went in hand showing, we lunged a bit, we had a little ride round the arena together, we went hacking both alone and in company without ever a blink.
I thought I'd done everything I needed to until I popped my super capable friend on board and he just wouldn't go without me stood in the middle of the arena.
So it turned out I was his foot soldier, he'd go anywhere because I was there, he just didn't care if it was on board or on foot. He got past it with experience though.
So my suggestion would be to do a bit on foot with him where it's just the two of you
 

PapaverFollis

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Can you lead him out for a walk round a route, then hop on a short distance from home and ride him the rest of the way... progress from there? Until you are getting on closer and closer to the start.

Does he long line? I think that can give them confidence with moving away in front more in line with the concept of having you on board?
 

Merry Equimas

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My lads better in the arena alone. With instructor in he’s very clingy and we struggle to focus on just me. Lone hacking is doable to a point but not very enjoyable, in company he’s a total rock steady. His life has been mostly happy hacking so nearly always with a leader/Walker beside him.
 

GinaGeo

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This is how I use long lining. I don’t do it loads in an arena but do do loads out hacking when mine are babies. You could do some in the arena too. Start off lunging on two lines and you will then be able to ‘school’ him without him realising he’s being schooled.

Out hacking start off with someone at his head and then they slowly drop off until they’re walking behind you and eventually until it’s just you. It bridges the gap between human leading them and human behind/above them. 😊
 

Alibear

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It's a step in groundwork that's sometimes missed, people do the work leading the horse but at some point, you have to step aside and send the horse first. Obstacle training in hand, so going over tarps, past barrels etc can be quite good for that. Or as above long lining.
 

JGC

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This is exactly the issue I had with mine when I got her two years ago. She'd been in a riding school (well, two) and she would definitely see a human on the ground as an adequate replacement for a herd member, but not once you got on! It's taken a while but she's pretty reliable on her own now, although never as confident as with a buddy.

What I did was a lot of starting off in hand and then getting on. I only did routes that we'd already done a few times with others and I did a ton of going out alone (maybe three a week), but making sure to intersperse it with going out with others/in-hand/with dog etc. (having the dog seems to count as a herd member for her!). If I hacked out for five times in a row without a buddy, for example, she would seem to be more stressed the last couple of times. And then we'd do a couple of group hacks and she'd be back to being less stressed the next time out alone.

I still won't usually go more than 2 hours on my own, but that's also what suits me so I've never really tried to go further alone! I do have to be careful if she's had a couple of weeks off in the field to build up gradually to being out alone again, so starting off the hack in hand for example, or long-reining first.
 

planete

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This is exactly the issue I had with mine when I got her two years ago. She'd been in a riding school (well, two) and she would definitely see a human on the ground as an adequate replacement for a herd member, but not once you got on! It's taken a while but she's pretty reliable on her own now, although never as confident as with a buddy.

What I did was a lot of starting off in hand and then getting on. I only did routes that we'd already done a few times with others and I did a ton of going out alone (maybe three a week), but making sure to intersperse it with going out with others/in-hand/with dog etc. (having the dog seems to count as a herd member for her!). If I hacked out for five times in a row without a buddy, for example, she would seem to be more stressed the last couple of times. And then we'd do a couple of group hacks and she'd be back to being less stressed the next time out alone.

I still won't usually go more than 2 hours on my own, but that's also what suits me so I've never really tried to go further alone! I do have to be careful if she's had a couple of weeks off in the field to build up gradually to being out alone again, so starting off the hack in hand for example, or long-reining first.
Very useful experience, thank you. I have the same problem with my little cob and he seems to need his confidence boosted on a regular basis too. Good to know persevering is likely to pay off.
 

Caol Ila

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Should have added that I'm wary of long-lining him. His previous owner said he panicked in the long lines and they could not get him over it. Maybe something to do with how he was captured.
 

Roxylola

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Should have added that I'm wary of long-lining him. His previous owner said he panicked in the long lines and they could not get him over it. Maybe something to do with how he was captured.
I've started youngsters without long lining. I'm not very good at it, I've never had a horse to practise and get better so I just don't do it. I'll use reins over the head and work from level with the saddle area sending the horse in front of me
 

Caol Ila

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I've been doing classical in-hand work with Hermosa, where I send her forward with me standing at her shoulder/girth. Right now doing it with a cavesson and a single rope, but you eventually do it with reins over the head like you describe. That might work for Foinavon. Doesn't involve ropes flopping over his back end, which is what his previous owner said was the issue with the long-reins.
 

Regandal

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I used to walk my horse out in hand using a lunge line. Varied between me in front, at his shoulder, and sending him in front. He got the hang of it quickly, but he’s quite bold.
 

humblepie

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Not quite the same as you but I found the same with my ex racehorse when in different places - so would always get my OH to walk down to the arena with me or walk him around the lorry park in hand for a while as it relaxed him - probably like walking around the pre parade ring at a racecourse, it was a routine he was used to. Now we go all over on our own both hacking and competing and he is fine but that human on the ground was a real comfort to him (and to me). Good luck and some fab advice above.
 

CanteringCarrot

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Mine has always been like this. We've hiked miles together on foot with OH and the dog. He's marched into competitions (even for the first time) like he's done it many times before (he hasn't). He doesn't question me riding him in new schools (for clinics and whatnot), and handles traveling quite well. Solo hacking can go well, but he's always less confident and things are more likely to go pear shaped.

He's gotten better with age and experience. Long lining has helped his confidence out there too since it puts him in front. I think solo hacking will always be a bit of a weak spot for him. Most of the time he's fine, but once in awhile he has a bit of a breakdown. He's not a confident or brave horse exactly by nature, and when he was younger if you were a second too late in your reassurance of something he'd lose the plot. Could get him back, but he'd get into a bit of a tizzy.

I think it is just slow and steady time and experience. I also prefer to hack with others so it isn't a huge deal. I know some feel as though a horse has to 100% hack alone, but to me if everything else is fine, I don't care soo much if the solo hacking isn't 100% perfect. However, in your case I think it's linked to the school too, and it's a good theory.

It's just a slow and steady wins the race type thing. Small victories you make a huge deal out of. Lots of positivity. I do think time and patience will pay off. Can be frustrating, I know, because it's just so easy for other horses, but they're not all the same, and that's fine.
 

tristar

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Should have added that I'm wary of long-lining him. His previous owner said he panicked in the long lines and they could not get him over it. Maybe something to do with how he was captured.
the transition from leading to lunging to long reining is where they go from following to facing up to the world themselves, i am a great believer in it, but if it goes wrong and not put right it must be a sore spot for them

i would try to de sensitise him to the reins, and show him there was nothing to fear, perhaps he got loose and dragged the reins behind him, but for me he is lacking a chunk of his prep

if he is used to following in the arena could you start off like that then get the leader to stand in middle then on the outside of the fence, or even get the leader to lunge the horse so when reverting to standing in the middle of the arena its like being lunged

but perhaps he is a shy soul who finds the world a bit overwhelming as well
 

Caol Ila

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He feral, so captured actually means captured! Probably run into a race.

He also spent two months at a pro training yard this past spring (before I bought him), and the pro wasn't able to fix this. I think it's fixable, but will require patience and out of the box thinking. I think the pro may have attempted to make the long lines work but not very successfully.

The other thing to know -- and I need to remind myself -- is that he was broken and ridden away kindly and sympathetically, BUT he had about two rides, before his trainer had an accident on something else, and then lockdown happened. He spent over a year doing nothing, then was sent away to the pro for re-starting. Came back from that yard, sat around for another two weeks, then guess who rocks up? Me!
 

tristar

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consistency must be very important to the young horse, a period of regular and consistent work through the breaking time seems to set the scene for future success
 

Carrottom

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Have a look at Warwick Schiller's 'observing the ears' on YouTube. I'm not a huge fan of everything he does but this has helped with a similar problem with my ex racehorse, still a work in progress.
 

RHM

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When my pony was younger he was a nappy nightmare! What I did was walk him out in hand and when it was clear we were heading home I would hop on. You can slowly build it up and stay within their comfort zone while still pushing them. They are typically happier alone when they know where they are heading.
 
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