My Horse Can’t Help RUNNING from Pleasure
Q. I have an 8 year old gelding that I show in western working events. He is perfect during warm-ups and is excellent in patterns, but I’m really having a problem in rail classes with him raising his head and speeding up- RUNNING, actually, and only when we’re being judged. The last show I rode him for 90 minutes thinking he just wasn’t tired enough, but when we got in the ring, I again had a battle on my hands. I’ve tried everything form ripping his face off to just trying to school in the class with no pressure, but I just can’t get him back. He CAN pleasure when he wants to, but those times are getting fewer and farther apart. Can I fix him? Or, should I just forget about pleasure and do trail and horsemanship? By the way, he does not do well out on the trail. He is very reactive and spooky, so trail riding is not an option. I’m pushin’ 60, and the bones don’t heal as well as they used to!! Thank you for your input.
A. Marilyn, you are not alone with this problem. This is a common complaint, with different levels of “non-compliance.” Your horse has figured out that he can evade work in the show pen or he has become anxious/scared because he has learned to speed off and possibly some of the techniques you have tried may have added to his anxiety. If your horse can work with a consistent rhythm outside the show pen, and on a loose rein for a reasonable amount of time, then the problem lies in how you show and how you school in the show pen. If, however, you have trouble establishing a consistent rhythm outside the show pen as well, you should take him back to some basics. I would encourage you to read some of my previous articles and questions that all go back to rhythm and lift being the building blocks. Once you are happy with your work outside the show ring you need to test your work showing. Consider how you make your corrections. All too often I see people trying to make a quick fix and not get caught. They jerk their horse’s face and then turn loose like nothing happened….and the funny part is that they are right….nothing did happen except upsetting your horse by ripping on his mouth. When it’s possible to make a correction and keep showing, that’s great. However it sounds like your horse is beyond that. You will need to school him several times by drawing your hand back and making him keep his rhythm. It is important to catch him as soon as he picks up speed….on the first step. Don’t wait until he has rolled like a boulder going down a hill, then you’ll have to have a harsher reprimand and he will in turn, overreact. It’s OK if you even need to use two hands, but often when people go to two hands they do so in anger and still don’t get the needed result. Be calm and collected and make sure you get the result, even if you need to pull your horse back to a jog out of the lope. The key in successful show ring schooling is to get a result, not school in anger, and not to disrupt the other riders in your class. Be patient as his problem most likely didn’t develop overnight, it will take time to fix, but if you stick with it, you should see results. Horsemanship would be a great help as well because it is acceptable to have more contact and you can help your horse more without feeling out of place.
Best of luck and thanks for the question!
Troy Green is a firm believer in the importance of a good foundation for every horse with balance, rhythm, and self-carriage being key. A good foundation equals longevity in the show pen. Troy has won over two dozen All American Quarter Horse Congress Championships in western pleasure, versatility, reining, halter and western riding, and has coached clients to over 50 Congress championships. Troy has three AQHA World Championships and two National Championships under his belt, and has won at all major futurities. He spent three years on the national board of the NSBA.
Troy Green has an extensive background working with youth and amateurs at all levels and of various disciplines. He specializes in pleasure futurity and all around horses.
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