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  1. #1
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    Default Horse with unusual "crowd" problem

    I have a horse with a somewhat unusual crowd problem (unusual for me, at least).

    He basically has trouble working with even one other horse in the ring (especially in an indoor; less so in an outdoor), UNTIL he gets to know that other horse by being ridden with it a number of times. Over the years, I've reached a point where he can be worked with certain other horses consistently with no problem. Other horses, he just can't ever be worked with comfortably.

    The part that I find especially unusual is that he is generally fine if he is in the ring first (alone) and then other horses join us after he has been working for some time. He is much worse if one or more horses is already in the ring and we join them. It is especially bad if we join an active, busy ring with horses cantering, trotting, jumping, etc. He can usually stand and observe those activities completely comfortably on the buckle with not a care in the world. But attempting to actually work while those activities are going on around us is quite interesting at times.

    He basically crow hops around and generally acts a fool. Sometimes broncing a bit, spinning, and so on. Not at all fun to ride. The problem is worse when other horses get close to us, but sometimes will happen even when the other horses are at a good distance.

    He is absolutely horrible if he gets trapped between the rail and another horse. And for some reason, it seems like EVERYONE wants to pin my horse on the rail. I don't know if it is just bad luck, or what, but even if it is only me and one other person in the ring, if I happen to be walking on the rail (or trotting, or whatever), the other person always wants to ride right next to me. And often not just for a short time...they want to hang there next to me it seems. Until my horse blows. And then they often leave the ring completely, which really doesn't help me address the problem either.

    It's quite annoying and disruptive. I feel funny asking others to accomodate me (by not riding next to him, etc.) - I feel like he needs to just get over it...but...he's not. It's the same fight every time, and he always escalates. I feel like the best situation (from a training perspective) is for other people to just ride normally - not hang next to me for long periods. Just ride - and sometimes they will be next to me for short periods; other times they will be away. That gives him a chance to cool down after each "encounter" and also still gives me enough to work on during the "encounter" (it is like sitting on a powder keg when other horses pass - I consider it a success if he can handle a horse passing without blowing up and then continue on and eventually relax). I think people notice he is tense and are trying to be "helpful" by coming near him. They think it will calm him down, when in reality it is their very existence that is upsetting him.

    Ugh. Anyone else ever dealt with anything like this? Solutions? Suspected causes? Thoughts? Observations? Sympathy?

    ETA: He is a 7 year old TB. He had 8 starts on the track. I have had him since he was 3 1/2. The problem has mostly stayed the same in the time I have had him.



  2. #2
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    I am sure others will have plenty of training advice for you, but I will just say don't be afraid to tell other riders in the ring that it makes your horse very nervous to be pinned between them and the wall. I always make a point when I am riding with a green horse or rider to tell them I will look out for them.... and I do the same if I am on a green horse. Don't feel funny about it, it is a safety thing not just for you but for the other riders and horses, too. Just give a polite heads up and be profuse in your thanks to the other riders when you leave the ring or they do. I'm assuming you are riding at home all the time with most of the same other boarders (?), so giving the heads up one time to each person you ride with should make your life a lot easier and get you on the way to working past this traning issue. Good luck!!
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  3. #3
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    I'm not saying what's worked for me would/should be used with every horse, but my OTTB went through that phase when he was about 6-7; sometimes he'd be fine, but most times if other horses were riding with us and doing anything at speed, he'd get all riled up and stupid-- head in the air, tail in the air, ears and eyeballs all on the other horse(s), snorting, scooting, snapping/kicking out, and not paying attention to me At. All.

    I chalked it up to poor boundary-setting on my part... Horse is allowed to notice other horses which might come into the ring with us, but it better just be a glance and he better get over it within a couple seconds, otherwise his world is going to get Pretty Darned Uncomfortable until he remembers that I'M riding, I'M in charge and he better darned well pay attention to ME. That might mean a growl, or little trot circles, or if he's really being a snot (ears pinned, threatening to kick/bite), he's gonna get whalloped and THEN immediately put to work, HARD. We walk when I say we walk, and if he decides to jig/snort instead of walking, then back to work we go. Every. Single. Time. He never, EVER gets to dictate the outcome by being an idiot, and if he gets so unsafe that I have to get off, well then may God have mercy on his soul, because he's gonna work 5x as hard once my boots his the ground.

    Fortunately, Horse is a lazy slug by nature and is highly offended by being put to work in a fashion unbecoming his laziness, so with a lot of consistency, he got over the shared-ring stupidity fairly quickly.

    Or it could just be that he's 9 now and has finally started to grow up a little...
    *friend of bar.ka

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  5. #5
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    Thanks, EmJ628. I do usually end up saying something. For some reason, however, there are still a few people who insist on coming and walking or trotting right next to me/him for prolonged periods. They are well-meaning, I think. They think that either the problem isn't as bad as it really is, or that they can help him get past it.

    I am working him at home, but this is a new(ish) barn for us. We've been here a few months. People are *really* nice, and I don't think anyone means any harm at all. It *is* hard to believe that he can be explosive because he is a completely different (very quiet) horse when worked alone or with horses that he is comfortable with. He does best working with mares, for some reason. If you have seen him when he is good, it is tough to imagine how bad his bad can be. It is almost like some people want to test it out to see if I am serious.

    I had thought for a while that I wanted to show him (actually took him to one show where he was promptly injured in a freak accident with a former trainer), but at this point...I doubt it. He has a lot of soundness issues that we are constantly battling, and this crowd issue just adds to the reasons I will probably just make myself content with having him as a non-show horse. I do love him, and when he is good, he is great. Very smart, very trainable. He has a lot of buttons installed...unfortunately, they become jammed when he is having a "crowd moment"!

    I should note that he has had a lot of pro rides in his life, particularly when he was younger. The crowd issues also exist with the trainers that have ridden him, so it is not just me.

    The process I have used for getting him comfortable with other individual horses in the past was that I would ride with them quietly and at a distance for a period of months (in the same ring, but at a very good distance), then gradually work up to getting closer and closer. By the end, he could generally work with those specific horses completely fine. In particular, one of my friend's mares could walk/trot next to us with no problem. We rode together a lot, and the mare was very no-drama.

    He has the hardest time with horses that are a bit wound up or that are being ridden by riders that are erratic/not looking where they are going. He did get bumped at my former barn (we were cantering on rail; trainer on big grey dressage horse half passed right into us, not looking where she was going), and pretty much couldn't be ridden in the ring with that horse/rider again. And, honestly, I didn't want to ride with that rider anyway, as she was very dominant in the ring and didn't give a crap about running people over. His problem definitely worsened after that incident/being in that barn all winter. And the problem is definitely worse with grey horses.

    But anyway, yes, I think I am going to be a bit more proactive about the not pinning me on the rail thing. And, as I get to know more people, perhaps I can get one or two of them to help me like I did with past horses/riders.

    I wish there was some better way to do this other than having to desensitize him to specific horses one by one. That's not very practical, and it really doesn't help me when other horses ship in, etc.



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by cnvh View Post
    I'm not saying what's worked for me would/should be used with every horse, but my OTTB went through that phase when he was about 6-7; sometimes he'd be fine, but most times if other horses were riding with us and doing anything at speed, he'd get all riled up and stupid-- head in the air, tail in the air, ears and eyeballs all on the other horse(s), snorting, scooting, snapping/kicking out, and not paying attention to me At. All.

    I chalked it up to poor boundary-setting on my part... Horse is allowed to notice other horses which might come into the ring with us, but it better just be a glance and he better get over it within a couple seconds, otherwise his world is going to get Pretty Darned Uncomfortable until he remembers that I'M riding, I'M in charge and he better darned well pay attention to ME. That might mean a growl, or little trot circles, or if he's really being a snot (ears pinned, threatening to kick/bite), he's gonna get whalloped and THEN immediately put to work, HARD. We walk when I say we walk, and if he decides to jig/snort instead of walking, then back to work we go. Every. Single. Time. He never, EVER gets to dictate the outcome by being an idiot, and if he gets so unsafe that I have to get off, well then may God have mercy on his soul, because he's gonna work 5x as hard once my boots his the ground.

    Fortunately, Horse is a lazy slug by nature and is highly offended by being put to work in a fashion unbecoming his laziness, so with a lot of consistency, he got over the shared-ring stupidity fairly quickly.

    Or it could just be that he's 9 now and has finally started to grow up a little...
    This is very helpful. And pretty much what I have been doing. We end up making quite a few tiny, angry little circles when others are in the ring, lol. The tough part with this particular horse is that his soundness is not always fabulous (it is being addressed, but there are multiple issues to keep on top of, and he really benefits from a certain type of controlled work...involving at least 15-20 minutes of walking before trotting...tough to do on a powder keg!). It is a fine line between wanting to work. his. butt. off. and not wanting to cripple him so that I can't work him for weeks. Very frustrating. In the end, though, he's got to be safe and this unreasonable crap has to stop. I think I fall into the trap of babying him even when he is sound because I'm worried about his underlying soundness issues.



  7. #7
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    Oh, and he definitely is the sort that goes much better if I am a little tough on him. It's not my natural type of ride. I'm much more of a "let's just get along" kind of hunter rider. Works great with nervous types and hot horses that don't have 'tudes, but works less well with jerks. And, um, he is a bit of a jerk. We have had to spend countless hours on ground manners over the years. He can get quite dominant on the ground (studdish, really), but quickly falls in line with firm confident handling. I probably just need to bring this approach to my riding...



  8. #8
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    I find that slightly larger circles do more good for my OTTB's tiny brain than the tight angry circles do. Little angry ones just seem to work him up even more ("OMG I'm getting in trouble so I'm gonna freak out even more!"), vs. bigger circles that are more "ok, now I have to work, dang!" with leg yields, haunches-in/haunches-out, etc. The only angry little circles we do are in retaliation for serious acts of nastiness on his part; then it's out on bigger ones. (I'm thinking maybe 15-meter circles on average? Not quite the whole end of the ring, anyway.)
    *friend of bar.ka

    "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"



  9. #9
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    Try the nose to your foot type circles. Those can be done very slowly as in barely moving. As soon as he gives even a tiny bit, drop the rein and allow him to go forward. Alternate directions.



  10. #10
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    Just to clarify, we do nose-to-foot circles after serious infractions (aka, trying to toss my butt!) and then gradually widen the circles as he becomes more compliant. Another serious infraction = more nose-to-foot circles, followed by gradual widening, lots of changes in direction, eventual use of entire arena if we are able to cope.

    The nose-to-foot circles were originally employed years ago to address a very serious type of infraction that we do not speak of out loud (it starts with an "r")...the small circles are now employed immediately when any misbehavior starts, otherwise most other infractions eventually escalate to the "r" behavior.

    I'm making him sound like a hellbeast here, but seriously, on his good days he is just SO good.



  11. #11
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    Nose to foot endlessly until he gives, then reward by letting the rein go completely. Making the circle bigger isn't a big enough of a reward to get the punishment/reward connection through to them in my opinion.



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laurierace View Post
    Nose to foot endlessly until he gives, then reward by letting the rein go completely. Making the circle bigger isn't a big enough of a reward to get the punishment/reward connection through to them in my opinion.
    Interesting. So do you go forward at a walk then and then gradually pick up where you left off? Or do you go foward at a trot? Or?



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by FineAlready View Post
    I think people notice he is tense and are trying to be "helpful" by coming near him. They think it will calm him down, when in reality it is their very existence that is upsetting him.
    Hrmmm...I can't imagine anyone being that kind of helpful. I don't ever want my horse near the tense, upset horse..even if the rider asks. It's the best way to get my horse tense and upset. Why would I want to do that?
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by FineAlready View Post
    Interesting. So do you go forward at a walk then and then gradually pick up where you left off? Or do you go foward at a trot? Or?
    Just let go. Hopefully the horse will straighten himself and walk calmly forward and you can go on with your ride. If anything other than that happens immediately yet calmly bring his nose to your other foot. This is not racing them around in circles, in fact they don't necessarily need to be moving as long as they are bending all the way around.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laurierace View Post
    Just let go. Hopefully the horse will straighten himself and walk calmly forward and you can go on with your ride. If anything other than that happens immediately yet calmly bring his nose to your other foot. This is not racing them around in circles, in fact they don't necessarily need to be moving as long as they are bending all the way around.
    Thanks for the clarification!



  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by RugBug View Post
    Hrmmm...I can't imagine anyone being that kind of helpful. I don't ever want my horse near the tense, upset horse..even if the rider asks. It's the best way to get my horse tense and upset. Why would I want to do that?
    Yeah, I'm with you. But I think the issue is that he doesn't *look* that tense. He looks, perhaps, mildly anxious. And usually not even that. I think it is a matter of "Oh, let's make the little new horse feel at home by escorting him around the ring." And then when I say, "He's not fantastic with other horses," they are like, "Oh, he seems fine...look!" The results, unfortunately, speak for themselves eventually...but I'd really prefer it not get to that level.

    He's always been the kind of horse that appears to be calm/normal and then will blow up out "nowhere." When you are the one on him, it is not out of nowhere (you can definitely feel it), but it is very hard to see when you are not the one on him. I remember watching a (very good) trainer ride him once and I couldn't figure out why she looked like she was riding him so defensively. I finally asked, "Is he fresh or something?" She was like, "You're kidding, right? He's extremely fresh." For the first time in my life, I was like, "Ooooh. So this is why no one believes me when I say he is fresh. He doesn't look fresh at all!" Everyone who has ridden him (pros and amateurs) say that he rides very different than he looks.



  17. #17
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    Well, I might get flamed but I'd slap a running martingale, german martingale, or drawreins on him which ever you like the best. Any of these will offer you immediete control if he's an idiot and will not be active if he's being a good horse.

    I agree with the other posters, boot him forward and make him work or nose to the boot if he's an idiot then boot forward.

    Have you considered putting him in training for 30 days specifically for this issue? You have a pattern of behavior where you think it takes months to get him used to other horses and you probably worry and get tense under saddle when he's an idiot. Perhaps another rider with a different set of expecations will get a different result.



  18. #18
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    I have had a few off the track that had similar problems. I try to find a way to get the horse to associate good things with the presence of the other horses. I have the other horse ride in circles around me while I feed the anxious horse cookies. Then we switch and I ride circles around the other horse while he is standing in the middle. You can walk towards each other, then halt and give cookies--anything you can come up with so the horse will associate the other horse with good things--scratches, rubs etc. Your horse may have had an accident on the track during a race or while in close quarters. It sounds like fear to me.

    Also, you mentioned soundness problems. Tension in the body because of pain will tend to make them more reactive to things in general.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by enjoytheride View Post
    Well, I might get flamed but I'd slap a running martingale, german martingale, or drawreins on him which ever you like the best. Any of these will offer you immediete control if he's an idiot and will not be active if he's being a good horse.

    I agree with the other posters, boot him forward and make him work or nose to the boot if he's an idiot then boot forward.

    Have you considered putting him in training for 30 days specifically for this issue? You have a pattern of behavior where you think it takes months to get him used to other horses and you probably worry and get tense under saddle when he's an idiot. Perhaps another rider with a different set of expecations will get a different result.
    He was in full training for two years with a GP level trainer...it didn't fix the problem. I do agree about the getting tense part of things... New trainer has ridden him three times. First time he was a deadhead, second time a wild freak about another horse in the ring, third time very good.



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by LookmaNohands View Post
    Also, you mentioned soundness problems. Tension in the body because of pain will tend to make them more reactive to things in general.
    I do think this is part of it sometimes too. I also wonder about whether he had an accident on the track, though his racing reports do not show any accidents.



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