Hi Everyone, I have an OTTB that I would like to start eventing, but we have issues with hacking out . We have a big field in the back that we go out and ride in and we are alright for a little while, but after about twenty minutes he loses his mind and spins, rears (sometimes), and bolts back to the barn. My trainer and I have been working on this and have changed his bit to one with a port so he cannot get his tongue over the bit and that helped a little. We have tried lunging him in the field before riding out there and lunging him in the arena before riding outside, but neither one really seemed to help. He does better when he is the only horse around and isn't really spooky (unless it's windy and he's feeling a bit frisky). When another horse is out with him, he gets extremely anxious and tries to run towards them to be with them. Even if he is doing well, whenever we turn away from the barn he tries to pop his shoulder and drift towards the barn, which I have been working on, but he is quite the contortionist. I'm worried that if we do start to event that he will get anxious leaving the group for the start of XC. Any ideas on how I can make him more confident outside? He is pretty good in both the indoor and outdoor jumping and on the flat by himself and in a group. We have trail ridden him and again he gets really anxious when he loses sight of the horse, same with foxhunting. Thanks!
Not meant to be the complete solution, but have you trailered him out anywhere yet? I'd start taking him on low key outings as often as possible. In small changing groups. If, as you say he isn't really spooky, it sounds like a 'barn' thing, not an 'out in the field' thing. Take the barn out of the picture. Hopefully, he will start to make 'behavior when hacking out' rules that override the 'I know where the barn is' behaviors even when at home.
ETA: I just got the part about hunting, but is 'the horse' a buddy? Try taking him only with horses he doesn't know well, and practice 'being alone' by riding away from them (as opposed to being left by them)
I agree - take him somewhere else. I can't ride my 11 yo OTTB gelding at home not even in his own stinkin' pasture. He goes out cross-country just fine tho', well except for the whinneying. BUt it helps my trainer keep track of us as we go around. I know the shoulder pop thing -my boy is an expert. I laugh because I have too.
Now on the other hand I just got a 4 yo OTTB MARE and she hacks out just fine! I guess we'll see who is the resale project!
Something that worked well with a horse I worked with that had a similar issue was getting off, calming him down and getting back on again. He was a horse with a lot of fears about being alone. Another horse can be biting his tail and nipping at him and he's happy as a clam - a stranger horse at that. Take that stranger horse away and he can get upset.
He also liked to spin, to the point where he has fallen down hills and tripped over dressage chains because he's to busy freaking out to pay attention.
Something that may work is to lead him into that field a few time and let him graze in the back of the field. You can also ride him out there, but at the 15 or 20 min mark, get off and lead him around the field. As long as he is calm after a few minutes, get back on, do a minute or so of work, then go home - praising all the way. Increase the initial riding time gradually, decrease the time leading him, increase second riding time.
Take him out to cross country schooling events and just lead him around the jumps, to and away from the horses. then work up to riding in the schooling events, but not jumping = work on short trips away from the other horses first. Once he is comfortable with being away from his friends, then start jumping.
Not an exact answer to your question, but what do you feed him and how much turn-out does he get?
My OTTB was a different creature when he was on alfalfa hay and sweet feed. A bit loony as you describe. Also, if he doesn't get out for many hours a day, he is loony. If I feed him Triple Crown Senior, he if fine and low key.
I boarded out for a couple months, took him somewhere he was unfamiliar with, didnt know any of the horses and started from day one.
Yes he was a little uhhhh crazy the first couple days, but I would bring him in by himself and put him in his stall and let him scream and scream and scream. I would give him 15 minutes to himself then bring in a buddy. I always turned out the buddy first gave him another 10 minutes to himself and turned him out.
The same thing with riding, I started in the ring, By ourselves found a friend to kind of " do there own thing" and changed it up, The other horse left first , I left first we left together.
3 weeks of this and hes back home and hacking lonesome all over the farm, but you have to be consistant and when you bring him home, start again with day one and dont deal with it. My guy tried it for the first 3 or 4 days. and got over it real fast !!
Right now he's on Triple Crown Maturity with a bit of Triple Crown Essential K he also gets steamed oats and a grass/timothy mix. He's out for about 2-3 hours a day plus I ride for about 45 minutes a day, longer if he doesn't go out...turnout is hard because of limited space. We have played around with his food and have found that foods with higher fat content make him a little crazy, so all his feed is below 6% fat right now and it seems to be working for him in every other area.
I cannot speak for your horse, but if my OTTB were out only 2-3 hours a day, I think that I would be taking my life in my hands (and he is 16 now). I know that it can be really tough at some barns, but you may want to consider changing barns so that he can be out a lot more. Some young OTTBs just cannot concentrate if they don't have enough turn-out time.
I have seen more injuries occur from riders trying to 'lunge the hotness' out of their horse rather than working it out U/S on their back. Every horse/rider is different I suppose, but eventually one gets to the point where more is accomplished thoroughly working the horse U/S than running him around in a circle. Just my two cents.
I grew up with my OTT horse in training with an instructor who never influenced us to ride out. Flash forward 5 years later, I end up into an eventing barn where we basically had to start over our fundamentals in hacking out 101. Our great accomplishment over a 3 month time period was literally walking down to the end of our drive way (about 1/4 mile long, pastures bordering each side, with and without horses in them) It seemed worthless than but our hard work paid off. Once he would calmly go to the end of the drive way we would hack out a little further each ride. Now we can hack out on the roads for hours on end, pass cows, cars, bridges, etc. Maybe someone can pony you for the first couple of times out?
So hear me out before you judge....have you tried getting him to join up? And I'm am not talking about buying a carrot stick to wave around at him. But it seems like he relies on the other horses to let him know that the world is ok. The idea of Join Up a horse is to make you that thing he turns to for reassurance. I have started doing it with my gelding that has mounting issues and it has helped tremendously.
Agree with all the suggestions on baby steps. Just wanted to add that it may help if you try to make the riding out purposeful as opposed to relaxing. To me, that would mean picking little targets and trotting to them with several in a row working in a circle back to the barn so that you aren't stuck out somewhere. Eventually make them bigger.
The worst I have ever gotten hurt riding has been at the walk hacking.
You say that he's "alright for a little while" and then "loses his mind." Is there any specific trigger, or place that it happens? Or just when his internal clock decides "Hey, I'm done, see ya" ? How old is he... is this purely baby anxiety, or is it an older horse getting his way?
Unless he's really baby green, I would *work* the horse out in the back field. Doesn't have to be much, but before he gets too silly, give him a job. Walk/trot transitions, small figure-8s, leg-yielding, whatever is suitable for his training. Be sure that you can accomplish this in the open; then, use it as "punishment" when he acts up. Horse, you can walk on a long rein nicely and enjoy the outdoors, or you can work your butt off. The key is to keep the horse concentrating on YOU, not his dinner or his buddies back home. You must be very consistent, fair, and relaxed about the process--don't get angry or scared, just roll your eyes and ride though it. If you tense up, get nervous, then he will too. Once he understands that he can't get you off and spinning won't get him home any faster, he'll quit trying. It may take a day, or a month, but keep at it. It will build his respect for future situations, a tool you can use later... like when you ride out with friends-- he starts to act up, you revert to your work-routine until he settles.
I have used this process with many horses (several OTTBs) when they enter a beligerent phase. For those that balk REALLY badly, I have been known to back them step-by-step 200yds or more back towards the barn... after that they're usually quite willing to walk calmly forward on a loose rein. If they start up again, 4 or 5 steps back produces an immediate "Uh oh, Yes Ma'am!!" response.
I had an OTTB once. He did all that crazy stuff,too.....except when I had him on solo turnout. Once he was turned out with other horses, it made the hacking out impossible. In my case the solo turnout was the best solution (aside from good training also) to the barn-sour, herding aspect of his behavior. I was his "herd", so he had no desire to run back to the barn.
In additon to the other suggestions, if you feel he is barn sour somewhat, I would switch his work and rest places. Let him rest in the field some. Get off if possible, if not just let him stand. If you get off feed him a little, pet etc. When you get back to the barn work him there. Switching the work and rest place sometimes helps change their perspective. They think of the barn as their salvation and going out as too much work. This has helped on several of my animals. If he is truly fearful this probably won't help much, but might.
He is a little over 8, so he should be somewhat mature by now, but he did race until he was about 5...so maybe he still has some catching up to do (mentally)? We have tried keeping him focused, which is hard enough, but when he decides he's done, he's done, and that varies, we could be just warming up or halfway through our "lesson" of the day. He really only does it when we are trying to go past and away from the barn, the closer we get towards the barn and then turn away the more adamant he becomes. I've tried doing halt/walk transitions but that gets him more worked up, so we stopped that...we've also tried flex this way then that way, leg yield, shoulder-in, etc. We also went XC schooling once and that was no fun! He was fine over the jumps...bold, not spooky or anything, but every time the other horses we were with left him or walked off a little he got really worked up (nervous and jiggy) and he didn't really settle down the whole time.
It sounds like he knows when he can be done to me. Have you ever tried just working through it?
If he starts throwing a fit, ignore him. Let him wear himself out. Since transitions seem to get him more excited, walk in a circle (10-15 meters so he can't be too silly) until he calms down, and then continue on. The whole time, have a "You're doing this to yourself" attitude. It's not punishment, you're just waiting him out. If it gets to the point where he decides to just stop and won't go (in a "you can't make me" way), go ahead and give him a tap. If he still won't go, pull to one side until he has to go on a circle (gently though. Remember, it's not punishment). It'll put him off balance and he'll have to move.
When he understands that he's not going to get to go back to the barn no matter how he acts up, he'll get over it.
My nine year old TB gelding is ridiculous like you described if he's turned out with mares. Put him in a pasture with geldings and he's fine.
I agree about over-longing, too. At some point, you just end up with a very, very, very fit horse. You can't ride them down.
Try ponying him out and MAKE him behave while ponying- this worked with my client's recent OTTB. I ponied him out twice and he was a bear, rode him out, same crap. Ponied him out two more times with a stud chain off a cranky mare and MADE him mind- he hacked out on the buckle the next time.
You might try hauling him somewhere with a group (of horses he doesn't know, preferably) for a couple hour trail ride. Don't make him try to leave or do anything to pressure him- just a couple hours riding down the trail with a group of laid back horses- then the stress of doing things is gone, just chillin' on the trail.
I had/have some similar challenges with my current OTTB. He is a lot better and ended on his dressage score at our last recognized event, so there is hope where there is patience!!!! My guy is by nature a very careful horse and I realize in hind site that I probably scared him when he was a youngster (4ish) by taking him out by himself over hill and dale, water and muck and forcing some issues (you will cross this puddle, muck hole, talk about pressure!). He told me he was scared and I did not listen initially. After one two many come aparts I regrouped. I removed him from the scene of the crimes by boarding him at a barn I work at instead of at home. I started his trail rides only after I warmed up in a no stress ring. Initially I rode him only a very short distance from the barn. I figured out his triggers and slowly built up to them. He was much more confident on the roads and woods and less so in the fields. He was OK with seeing scary stuff, if it was stationary. Moving stuff, other than cars and trucks were pretty scary. He liked to follow if only walking, maybe trotting but cantering behind was to much. He preferred to be by himself, horses behind him were a bit of a stimulus. I slowly built his confidence with very positive experiences. One of the huge advances we made along the way was a rider thing. If I became tight in the leg (pinning knees, tight thighs or calves) it was an alarm bell for him. He hated it when I fell off; it really scared him, worse then what ever it was that spooked him. So I had to get uber riding fit and practice mind over matter I made sure that I rode twice a day at least 3-4 days a week. It was really hard because I have a family, career and a small family farm. The most important ingredient to our progress…………….no pressure. Whatever it took I had to take off the pressure. We still have lots of challenges but we definitely turned a corner this summer. GOOD LUCK!!!!