Young, Insecure Horses in Training

Discussion in 'Training Horses' started by katers93, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. katers93

    katers93 Well-known Member

    I am quite confused with the behaviour in one of my horses. She has just turned five and is having some behavioural issues such as fairly serious separation anxiety and general nervousness. In training she gets very nervous if she doesn't have another horse or a person to rely on. For example, I did a bit of free jumping with her a couple of small jumps and she had no concern about the jumps themselves, but seemed scared of the thought of being sent away from me. Often she gets very nervous and insecure and I'm unsure if this is normal and what people do to help with this situation in young horses. I am looking for advice now as to hopefully ensure the problem does not get worse and I can help her with her confidence. I don't believe she is being pushed too hard, I have taken things slowly with her and have try to make things as simple and clear as possible. Also I don't think she is incapable of the work she is doing, she seems like a very intelligent and naturally courageous horse but I think I must be going about something the wrong way. For background information she has been off the track for over 1.5 years and been in light work for about a year and is just started to show these signs.
  2. Go the Distance

    Go the Distance Well-known Member

    My personal way of dealing with this is by not 'buying into' the nervous behaviour. Just keep focussed on what you want your outcome to be. Let her paddle on her own with it all and she will eventually learn to cope.

    If you want her to free jump and you know your not over facing her then keep asking for it until she sorts it out in her head. If you think your asking too much then back off a bit.

    If you get 'emotional' and buy into the behaviour it just reinforces it. Be honest with yourself too are you slightly emotional or anxious when you send her off you. If you are just remind yourself that your a compassionate, competent horse person and you are not asking her to do something she can't. Let go of that anxiety.

    She is only young, she also has a racing history so she is going to have a few hiccups. Have faith in her and she will come through with the goods eventually. This is something she can only do herself.
  3. Deb2

    Deb2 Guest

    I also have a five year old mare, that I started and have intermitantly been bringing her on.

    My horse comes across as very confident, but inside is more worried about things than you would think. I have had to learn to tune in to this, and taylor her training/play to suit this so as to not cause her to get stressed, or to expect too much too soon.

    With your girl, what would she be like if you initially taught the free jump exercise on the lunge first, then when she is really settled, go free. You might be able to set the jumps up in a round yard, start out on the lunge, then progress to lungeline free, then move on to a bigger area. That way she can get confident in a smaller area first.

    Have you tried doing ground work with her where you teach her to mark (or touch her nose to something on command)? I used a ball the size of a basket ball and held it out to my horse, and when she went to sniff it I said 'mark' and gave her a reward when she touched it. She learnt very quickly to touch it when I said mark (and get a reward) then we got to the point where I could kick it away and point to it and ask her to mark it, which she would. We progressed to jogging around the round yard, me kicking the ball and her trotting to it and marking it then looking around at me for her treat. She learnt this in about half an hour from start to finish.

    This might help your horse because you are sending her away at liberty, making it fun, and rewarding her for going from you.

    You could build on this to where you are sending her further and further away, therefore building up her trust in being away.

    You could even send her to a 44 gallon barrel with pony nuts on the top, or a bit of carrot????

    Remember that, from the horses point of view, when they are away from us, (ie lunging etc) they tend to be working very hard, and when we have finished lunging them they come in to us and get a rest, so perhaps she is of the oppinion that closer to you means less work?????;)

    Have you also looked at her feeding regeme to make sure there is nothing there that would be heating or inclined to raise the anxiety levels?
  4. katers93

    katers93 Well-known Member

    Thankyou so much for your advice so far. GTD that's pretty much how I feel, when she gets upset and nervous I tend to buy into it and wonder if I'm asking too much of her, when I know that I'm not and that's probably not helping at all. Deb my mare sounds very similar to yours :). I have started with some poles and small jumps on the lunge and she is very happy to do this and the problem only seemed to start when I sent her away. I will definitely try a few of the excersices you suggested and will try to see if there are any other issues apart from confidence, such as avoiding work. I have her on a pretty low energy diet, plenty of roughage with hardly any concentrate but she always seems to have buckets of energy regardless of what I feed! Thanks so much for your advice so far, I appreciate it :)
  5. Blackbat

    Blackbat Well-known Member

    She might be confused, and not understand how to work around you at a distance, without the reassurance of a feel through a halter, or a wall/fence to follow? Perhaps you are asking too much only in assuming she understands what you are doing. Most of us handle our horses at close range only, and never do anything pleasant with them at a distance.

    It takes time and practice to develop communication at liberty, and maintain a connection with a horse without touch, at a distance, and under pressure. Its really hard to concentrate on a human 100%, especially when they dont express the subtlety of horse body language, and to obey their commands when its so much easier to check out and leave. Most will bog off, I think it's great that she is still trying for you, being chased away usually kills this. freejumping can become 'lungewhip means run away from human over fences'. (you lurking anywhere Horsewest?).

    Just think, you might be trying freejumping, but she is wondering why you are chasing her away despite her efforts to engage and come close for the reassurance she needs. You don't want to teach her that it's easier to escape you than listen to you.

    If the idea of developing groundwork or liberty concepts doesn't appeal, maybe you could try free-jumping like free-lunging in a roundyard or half arena, so when you chase her she has a wall to follow? Just to give her a bit more structure, some boundaries she can understand. Also, spending some time sending her away from you and just standing there, or leading her from a distance, so she can understand it's okay to not be close.
  6. Brew

    Brew Well-known Member

    I don't regard a 5 yo ottb as a young horse. At this age they should be fairly well developed in body and mind. I would look for the cause of the behaviour and it could be as simple as she does not like her paddock or perhaps she is not on the correct diet. If you as the owner are trying to be too kind to her and she does not see you as a strong leader etc. There is also the chance that the mares hormones are out of whack. I would start by reducing her to a hay diet and perhaps then change her paddock. Make sure that you are firm but fair in all your regular dealings with her and don't alow small naughties.
  7. katers93

    katers93 Well-known Member

    Thanks for your reply blackbat :) It isn't my primary aim to get her jumping I just want to get on the right track to becoming a bit more independant and confident in general. I can definitely understand what you're saying and I never really put enough thought into how much different it is to ask a horse to do things at liberty. I'll remember to confine her a bit more so it's more like lungeing and less like chasing to her haha, probably half an arena as you suggested.

    Brew, yes I agree there may be an underlying problem as her behaviour is definitely off. Even when we can achieve something at home, she just has no idea what to do with herself as soon as we leave the property and things tend to go very poorly. As for her paddock I have had her in a couple of paddocks in the last year and she has currently improved her behaviour at the current property I'm on so it's hard to say how much is training or environment, but absolutely will keep it in mind. I will have a look at her diet and see what I can do about it, I get my feed analysed for my other mare but haven't for this one, so I'll see if I can figure something out. I don't try to be too kind to her and on the ground I am very strict with her but perhaps I am getting too worried about upsetting her when I need to be very confident myself before I expect her to have any. I will have a think about these things! Thank you very much :)

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