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Ask The Big Hays

Ask The Big Hays is an horse advice page. You can submit any horse related question to ECHO, and we will give you some possible solutions to the problem. Questions and answers will be posted on this page. We will post the question and answer, but not you name or e-mail. This way no one will have any reason to be embarresed! Remember that asking questions is how you learn better. Don't be afraid because you don't know! No one just gets on a horse and then becomes the big name in training. It takes hard work, determination, a love of all things equine, and years of total dedication.

Question: My horse, StarDust, shies at jumps. I don't know what to do! What should I do?

First off, I would suggest getting in the round pen with your horse and "desensitizing" her to various objects. My favorite items are a tarp, a swim noodle, large playground type balls, a mop, a helium filled balloon, a plastic trash bag, etc. Just anything you think would freak a horse out that you can handle easily. Only bring out one item at a time though. Start with the item away from the round pen, preferably out of the horse's sight. Bring the horse in with a halter and lead rope. Detach the lead rope from the halter and put it aside.Then go retrieve the item and enter the round pen with it. Be as calm as possible and don't act like you are expecting the horse to freak. Sometimes a horse might take off and run around the pen, but just stand in the middle with the item, and act as if nothing is wrong. You want to make everything seem as non-threatening as possible. Eventually the horse will come to a stop once it sees you have no problem with this "scary monster". Put the item down in the middle, and put the lead rope back on the horse. Do not loop the lead around your hand though, place it flat over the palm of your hand so that if the horse takes off, the rope just slides out of your hand instead of acting as a noose, tightening and dragging you along with the horse. Lead the horse as close to the item as possible. See maybe if she will walk over it. Let her sniff or lick or do whatever she wants with the item. Once you feel confident enough, pick up the item while still holding the horse's lead. Have the horse stand while you back away about 4 feet, and turn so that you are facing your horse. Try stepping closer with the item, and if the horse backs away, follow it. Do not let the horse increase the distance between the object and itself. Next step is to have the item touch the horse's muzzle. Once she accepts that, and does not shy away from it touching her muzzle, reward her by stepping back and praising. Next time you advance forward, slide the object up from the muzzle to the bridge of her nose. Again, once she accepts that, step back and praise. Keep repeating this process by then going to between the ears, cheeks, neck, chest, front legs, back, belly, hindquarters, hind legs, and tail. When you get the the parts that are on both sides of the horse's body, like his cheeks, treat them as different body parts. When a horse adjusts to a tarp rubbing it's right leg, that doesn't mean it will be ok with the tarp on it's left leg. This process can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of days, so don't get frusterated. Any progress is good progress, even if it's slower than you'd like it to be.

Some horses are just completely terrified of jumps, especially when they're starting out. It's just a new thing for them and you have to teach them that everything is alright. Have a crop with you. When you're doing something new like this, and after the first few tries there isn't a positive response, a little tap with this doesn't hurt on approach or take off. Make sure the jump course you're working with is simple with large distances (at least six strides) between jumps. After you've warmed up on the flat (which you should ALWAYS ALWAYS do before jumping!) walk your horse around the course, stop, and let her smell, lick, and get familiar with the new "toy" that she gets to work with. If she gets freaked out and won't go near it, just get off, pull the reins over her head and MAKE her walk, talking calmly. Walk all the way around the jump, familiarizing the horse with it, then just get on and walk away. All riders should know that horses have a sixth sense. If you are scared of a jump, your horse is going to be. Even the slightest tension in your back can and WILL be felt on the way to the jump and its going to scare your horse. Start the jumps at a trot first. That way if the horse has a refusal right before take off, you have a smaller chance of flying over the jump since their is not as much forward motion as there is with a faster gait. Make your approach to the jump strait. Keep even pressure on the reins, and use them to keep the horse's head strait. When you turn a corner to come down to a fence, straiten the horse and yourself perpendicular to the jump. Be calm and relaxed, and if your horse starts backing off about three strides from take off, just a tap on the rump with your crop will let them know what is happening and what you want them to do. If your horse goes over it the first time, that's wonderful! Give praise, and bring her down to a walk and talk to them and tell them how good they are. Then repeat the process with the other jumps. If you are unsuccesful then the horse probably stopped or ran out. You'd much rather a horse stop than run out, but they are both fixable, so don't worry. If the horse ran out I'd recommend putting trot poles on each side of the jump just along the outside edge, perpendicular to the it. If possible, you could prop them up on the jump where the sides are like ramps, that way they have to jump either way if they want to run out. If your horse keeps running out to the same side, have someone stand there, that way the horse is discouraged from it because it should know not to run over people. If you block whichever rein that your horse is going out of, and block that shoulder it's running out on with your rein and leg, it should help some too, but don't just pull on the inside rein that they are running out on, because it just pushes that other shoulder out more. If after three tries there's still no success, get tuff! When I first got my horse, I was never stern enough, so he walked all over me and got away with way too much. So now I'm having to pay for it, cause it set me back in his training, so we are doing many things over again now that I have learned more. I had to learn the difference between being stern and mean. Let her know you gave her an easy way out, now you're getting tuffer each time she refuses. If your horse has jumped before, but you think she's just being pig-headed you could have someone beside you clapping their hands right at take off, and/or someone behind you with a lunge whip. Don't freak your horse out, but let her know that she is doing this, the easy way or the hard way. A good equestrian knows when to stop, so if you just cant get anything out of her, take a rest for the day. Maybe call your trainer and get some more ideas from them. If you do yet have a trainer I strongly urge you to get one. Make sure when you do any of this that someone is nearby enough to hear you scream if you get in to a bad situation. And always wear a helmet when mounted!

Special Thanks To Hope For Her Help In This Article!

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Please Note - The Big Hays do not claim to be experts on all things equine. Our answers are merely suggestions for you to explore.

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