Scared of the Arena

Discussion in 'Problem Horses' started by Alice_Jayne, Jan 19, 2012.

  1. Alice_Jayne

    Alice_Jayne Active Member

    So I have just been given a horse to train for a mate and she has given me a list of all his faults. I have found really good ways to over come most of them but one i don't know how to handle is that he doesn't like the arena.
    He is a big boy and knows it and is pretty much spoilt so if he says he doesn't want to do any thing, they don't make him.
    Aparently they are really struggling to get him to go in thre and once in he either wont move or will just keep backing up and playing up.
    What should I do to help this boy?
    I am working on the ground with him first but what could be a good friendly way to get this boy to stop being a pain.
    Any advice or own experience would be great, thanks guys :)
  2. Sugar's Mum

    Sugar's Mum Gold Member

    as many ways to deal with this are there are horse people I am sure.

    if they have unlimited access to teh arena I would paddock him in there, feed him in there and sit on him in there before asking him to work in there.

    if they dont have unlimited access then I would saddle him up and sit on him in the arena while other horses work around him. If he gets stressy then work in small circles moving his but over so he has no power
  3. NumidianHorse

    NumidianHorse Active Member

    patience and persistence ... my gelding came from very open aspect farm ... my arena has trees on 3 sides - and on a windy day - he is just sooo upset!

    ... we do things such as focus on standing still (reward is then to move away when calm) ... focus on nicest slow walk / different paces as requested etc

    it all just comes down to patience and persistence ... I realise that this is going to be the "quickest" way of resolving the problem.
  4. Ali

    Ali Well-known Member

    It sounds like he is possibly sour of arena work. Lets face it arena work means WORK, ie, circles, changes of pace, working up to the bit etc, the horse has to have its brain switched on and alot find it a challenge,where as riding out on a bush ride is more relaxing. He sounds like he needs to be reassured that arena work can be made fun. Keep with the groundwork in there for now, give him short lessons, don't over do it time wise. When you make the move to ridden work try to get a paddock buddy to be ridden in there with him and keep things relaxed and simple to start off with. Again keep it short, even just 5-10 mins is enough to start off with the gradually increase the time.
  5. Hen

    Hen Well-known Member

    He's being bolshy and nappy - I don't put up with this kind of crap - crack on the arse and send him forward!!! He will possibly buck, rear, spin, etc etc as a new evasion, so unless you are confident to ride through that, leave the job to someone else.

    There are no good friendly ways to deal with a piggy, rude horse except a firm but fair method of discipline - ask once (legs on, go forward) then TELL him when he ignores you or says stuff off (smacked arse).

    "if he says he doesn't want to do any thing, they don't make him" and there is your problem - MAKE HIM **)
  6. Rubes

    Rubes New Member

    I agree with Hen here.

    My young horse tried this with me a couple of weeks ago. He decided he would not be mounted, so after 20 mins of arguing he got the point I wouldn't give in and I got on, then once I was on he decided he was NOT walking into the arena, so I applied the same aids I would to ask for forward - squeeze, then if no response a kick, then if still no response a smack with the whip, and in this instance an extra big smack with the whip and he reluctantly went in.

    Then once in the arena he planted his feet and decided he didn't want to go anywhere, so same again, squeeze, then kick, then smack and then a harder smack, and we were off. He did kick out at the whip but once he realised he wasn't going to win we actually ended up having quite a nice ride.

    And most importantly - he has never tried it again **). I always carry my whip but since that day all it takes is a squeeze of my legs and I get whatever I am asking right away. He has learnt that it is less work for him to do as I ask than it is to fight me because I will not let him win.

    It may take your horse a bit longer as he has been allowed to get away with this behaviour for some time, and he also may put up more of a fight (buck, kick, rear etc), but as long as you remain consistent in your methods and always end your session on a positive note (where you win) you will get there.

    Also, depending on how long this has gone on for, don't expect to get everything done overnight. It will take consistancy and repitition and just make sure you are a good judge of when you have a good note to end on.
  7. Alice_Jayne

    Alice_Jayne Active Member

    Cool thanks guys.

    He is an only horse so he is a spoilt BRAT!!
    I was so shocked as I have trained both of my horses to be friendly and willing but this boy is just rude.
    He has decided that he doesn't like me to much as yes I don't let him rub on me, don't let him in my space and make him MOVE. Was so shocked when he went to bite his owner and she did nothing but hold her hand up to him. I was like are you serious????
    so yeh think i will go harder on this horse, I hate with a passion rude horses as both of mine have learnt the hard way that you don't push your mum or be a pain.
    So think i will work on the ground in there still just so he doesn't hate me to much, and will keep the sessions short but will soon hop on him. Confident enough to ride him as I have ridden buckers and one of mine used to be a terrible rearer, so all I have to say to this horse is BRING IT ON BUDDY!!!

    Thanks again guys, will let you know how he takes to his new life :p
  8. jennh

    jennh New Member

    yes you can teach him manners all you like but it sounds to me like you need to teach your friend the "i still love you but no" approach to her big boy. i had a 17.3hh warmblood, was rude and nasty... taught him manners.... went back to his owner for 2 weeks wile i was away with work, he came back a right pig... so i politly showed her the rules i had set and she followed them and later thanked me as ALL her horses had attitude agustments :) good luck, and i hope it all works out
  9. Mad on Horses

    Mad on Horses Active Member

    Totally agree with the others he has to learn that he is not the boss and if that involves a wack on the bum then so be it.

    But unless your friend is willing to learn and change how she handles the horse you are wasting your time as once he goes back home then she will let him go back to been the boss.
  10. Caroline

    Caroline Well-known Member

    What sort of ridden work does the horse do??

    Arena work is very boring full stop for most horses, so horses like him need lots of bush work or trial rides. And it builds their confidence under saddle.

    Arena work means you go around and around, and some horses just dont cope with it. Some end up ejecting the rider in the arena cos the rider did not listen to dislike of arenas. ';'

    Work out what the horse does enjoy work wise. You can still do a dressage lesson out in the bush. Be inventive and keep the horse guessing whats next. **):D
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2012
  11. retroremedy

    retroremedy Well-known Member

    Although I make sure I vary my horses work, if I wanted to ride my horse in the arena for 10 days straight for 1 hour a day then I am sorry the horse can't start having an opinion and decide that it is boring and force me to change my mind about where I am going to train? I can't have my horse half way through a dressage test suddenly deciding that he is bored! I ride with my horses welfare in mind and I ride where I want to ride and horse has no opinion.

    To me this horse is thinking he is boss and having too much of an opinion...he sound like a smart horse that is brilliant at training humans ;) the last thing I would recommend to someone is to get on it and give it a effective is that smack going to be if you hit the deck? If the smack fails and hitting the deck eventuates then congratulations you just taught the horse to buck, rear or whatever to get out of what it doesn't want to do! A good strong rider can do it but even they can hit the deck, a good trainer will always start on the ground.

    Be smart and establish respect on the ground in the arena! Once you have done this and you get the horse thinking and respecting you there is a chance it wont even play up in the arena and you have saved yourself from risking your safety and potentially making the horse worse!
  12. beagle

    beagle Well-known Member

    to me, Caroline's & Ali's replies have been what i agree with most.
    horses need to be refreshed & given breaks & allowed to just be horses on rides.
    anyone who forces the issues of "you vill do vat i vant now ya!" really will end up with a sour horse at the end of the line.
    as intelligent creatures, they jack up when pushed to limits, or being naughty, sure.
    but when I ride with MY horse's welfare in mind i keep in mind relaxation & pleasure & fun for them also. If they don't enjoy things, they will not give you their all. to me, it's give & take, with a fair weight on making my idea THEIR idea. works well!
    a lot of horses in Perth are unfortunately restricted to arena/small paddock work, it's up to owners to get creative, as caroline says.
  13. retroremedy

    retroremedy Well-known Member

    If you think arena work is going around in circles and its impossible for a horse to be relaxed and engaged in their work in an arena then you must have only experienced very bad forms of arena work.

    Relaxed horses are those that don't get mixed messages about there jobs, know who the leader is, are physically conditioned to do the job and most importantly have been trained to think and not react.

    And yep my horses do what I want and lots of times what I want to do is nothing but the horse to stand or walk and relax and stretch.

    Sour or fried horses are not created by those principles, they are created by exhaustion, discomfort and never releasing the pressure plus a good dose of mixed messages.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2012
  14. beagle

    beagle Well-known Member

    I am quite lucky in a lot of ways as my "arena" is a 500 acre paddock.
    It gives one so much freedom to mix it up, take mini-breaks, & most importantly, gives one room to do speed control!!!
  15. uhoh

    uhoh New Member

    Perhaps the horse is sore and when asked to "work" it is in pain. So associates the arena with being in pain.

    If it was my horse I would check for sore muscles, chiropractic issues, teeth problems, ill fitting saddle, ulcers. And when I was 100% sure that the horse had none of these issues, and only then, would I be hard on the horse and MAKE him do as he is told.

    There are far too many horses belted around arenas that have veterinary issues. Make sure this boy is not one of them :)
  16. retroremedy

    retroremedy Well-known Member

    There are way more horses not working in arenas because their owners are scare of them than sore horses being forced to work in arenas! Horses that are sore normally can display performance problems that indicate unsoundness not aggressive rude or scary behaviour....these are normally behavioural or respect problems.
  17. KPH

    KPH Active Member

    I second this advice!
    At the end of the day the horse is been pushy and evasive and it takes tough love to overcome :)
    I used to get this type of behaviour from my mare, she would stand her ground, run out towards the gate and do all sorts of pushy things to avoid been ridden in the arena. A firm crack (after asking with other aids) did the job, and as Hen said, it does result in other ways of evasion, and to get out of moving forward she did rear and spin but she soon learned that this behaviour is not on.
    I'm sure the boy you are working with will soon also learn that his behaviour is not tolerated with the same sort of guidance **)

    It all comes down to how much the horse respects you!
  18. horse girl Jess

    horse girl Jess Well-known Member

    I would be interested in seeing some video of this horse's behaviour when he is asked to enter and work in the arena.

    You have said at the start that the horse is scared of the arena, but then you go on to make it sound like the horse is being stubborn. So which one is it? The cause of the behaviour is going to determine which training method you use to correct the behaviour.

    If the horse is genuinely scared of the arena then belting it to 'make it' enter and work is going to cause you more problems. Positive punishment really should be used to train horses in most situations as it has a high chance of either causing aggressive behaviour or instilling fear. Once you've done that it is very difficult to correct and can result in a dangerous animal (who really, is not the one at fault). Maybe you should look into the basic of operant conditioning to decide what approach would be suit this horse. Basically operant conditioning is a form of associative learning where by a positive or negative reinforcer is used to either increase or decrease the likelihood of a behaviour occurring. In brief there are four categories:
    Positive reinforcement- adding something to increase the likelihood of a behaviour
    Negative reinforcement- taking away something to increase the likelihood of a behaviour
    Positive punishment- adding something to decrease the likelihood of a behaviour
    Negative punishment- taking away something to decrease the likelihood of a behaviour
    (Positive refers to adding a stimulus, negative refers to removing a stimulus, reinforcement refers to increasing a behaviour, punishment refers to decreasing a behaviour. Note that positive does not been "good" and negative mean "bad")

    An example of each would be:
    Positive reinforcement- asking him to step towards the arena and giving him a carrot/praise when he does so
    Negative reinforcement- applying pressure on the lead to asking him to move forward, when he does so the pressure is removed
    Positive punishment- hitting him when he back up away from the arena, to discourage the backing up
    Negative punishment- ignoring behaviour so as not not encourage it

    So hopefully you now understand the different categories and you can assess the situation you are in and chose which one would work best. If the horse is genuinely scared of the arena then you can see by that hitting him or forcing him to move forward is not going to work. Positive punishment will never work in a fearful animal, it will just instil more fear by association and make things work. Rather than looking at it as though "hitting the horse will make him go forward" look at it as though "hitting the horse will further increase the association of the arena with fear and it will therefore make the problem worse". Or put yourself in a similar context. Let's say you are scared of crocodiles and I ask you to swim in a croc infested river. You will more than likely refuse (at least I hope!). Do you think if I physically force you to enter the river that your fear will go away? Probably not, chances are that it will make you even more fearful.

    If the horse is genuinely scared of the arena I'd suggest using positive reinforcement. Find something that the horse really likes as the reinforcer must be more attractive than the deterring problem (in this case the arena). If the horse is highly motivated by food then use carrots or a bit of hard feed. Or if he is motivated by interaction then praise him. Take things slowly, Rome wasn't built in a day and it sounds like his problem is quite ingrained. Start off with just a few steps at a time. Asking him to walk towards the arena and when he does so, reinforce with the carrot (or whatever you have chosen). Back him up the same amount of steps then do it again over and over until gradually you are able to walk into and around the arena comfortably. This might take a week or so, depending on how bad the problem is. If you genuinely want to train the horse though time won't be an issue. If he's been yanked on a lot to try and drag him in to the arena then he might object to being asked to walk forward. This is fair enough, after all someone has taught him that is how to respond to pressure in that situation. Instead you can try 'luring' him with the carrot, rather than asking him with the halter/bridle. When he takes a few steps reinforce with the carrot. Stick to the same method, just lure rather than pull. Don?t forget that you have to reward every single time he gives you with right behaviour and you have to do so quickly (straight away, not a few seconds after).

    Even if his problem is not due to fear, just stubbornness then positive reinforcement will still work. Again I would never use any form of positive punishment (hitting, yelling, whipping etc) and it very rarely works and can cause bigger problems such as biting, striking, rearing etc. You just have to assess the situation, find out what is causing the problem then choose an appropriate training method to overcome it. If the training doesn?t seem to be working the reassess- did you correctly find the cause of the behaviour? Are you correctly carrying out the training method? Did you choose the correct method?

    If you've ever wondered how the police force can train their sniffer dog, attack dogs or crowd control horses so well it is because of positive reinforcement. Many years ago they used to use positive punishment but they had all sorts of problems with training and the animals never worked as well as they do now- because everything was based on fear (you will do what I say or you will get hurt). Now rather than associating commands with pain they associate them with something good and the animals are much easier to train and respond much quicker and with more willingness.

    It?s sad that people still believe in positive punishment as a training method. I agree that it can have its time and place in some contexts but as a whole it is a pretty poor training method. Anyone who thinks they can force a 500kg + animal to do what they want probably hasn?t had that much experience with different temperament types or hasn?t seen the negative effects it can cause when used in inappropriate contexts.

    Good luck, I'm interested to hear how he progresses :)
  19. retroremedy

    retroremedy Well-known Member

    Training horses does not have to hard or complicated. Hitting a horse does not have to be positive punishment and positive reinforcement does not have to be a carrot. Asking for a response can be some form of pressure, telling can be a higher level of pressure and well timed release of that pressure can clearly communicate to the horse the desired response. Being clear and repetitive with your application of pressure and releasing that pressure are the keystones of horse training. Keep it simple for both the horse and rider to understand!

    It is true that a horse that is reacting at being in an arena could be either disrespectful or scared. Both I would handle exactly the same way. Get respect on the ground and get the horse responding to everything they are asked. The scared horse you work outside the arena and then let it rest in the arena....arena therefore because a nice place as it becomes associated with rest. When it becomes a nice place and they are happy to walk straight in there and rest then you can start working in the arena. Same thing goes if the horse is scared of a sign on the fence...even under saddle you work the horse at a distance it can cope with (I do lots of small turns and changes of direction so horse starts thinking of me and not scary sign and then let him have a breather and rest closer and closer to the then starts loving that sign as it is the rest spot.

    To be honest though most horses that I have dealt with that I once labelled as scared have actually been disrespectful and like calling the shots on where they like to ride and at what pace, get respect and what they have we're scared of funnily enough disappeared.
  20. old_mate

    old_mate Well-known Member

    Sometimes a good old fashioned growl and sharp smack on the arse works wonders and stops alot of the horse b### #### in the process.
    I dont run around beating my husbands horse up but I do carry a crop and the horse knows that I will use it.
    Now I just growl with out using the crop and 99% of the time the horse will do what I want.

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