Ring Smart or Not?

by Troy Green | March 29th, 2013 1:05 PM | No Comments
Q: My daughter has an AQHA gelding that has a bad habit in the show ring.  When they going into a western horsemanship class he will be good until you start the pattern.  He try’s to lope off and buck, then my daughter looses control and he won’t stop. Is he just getting ring smart and anticipating the pattern?




A: Hi Brenda,


Your gelding may be acting out for a number of reasons and without knowing all of the pieces of the puzzle like what his training or work routine involves, how you prepare him to show, etc it’s hard to diagnose but I can offer some advice on how to eliminate as many potential problems as possible. When a horse is acting out in such a way I take away some of their liberties and crack down more, as if you’re dealing with an unruly child. Overtime, as the horse proves himself you can restore certain liberties.


First thing is to make sure your horse is properly worked down. I would lunge and if for some reason you are unable to lunge, lope him down to take the edge off and get his energy out. It often takes more than one session and it’s a mental state of readiness that you’re trying to achieve as well. The first day at a horse show, the horses are all excited. I like to let them settle in the first day after a long trip and go to working them the next day whenever possible with the schedule etc. If your horse is that fresh that he needs to buck and carry on in the show pen, he needs to work harder. I would also rather lunge and or ride one multiple times for shorter lengths of time than lunge or ride for an hour for example. It’s easier on the horse’s body and mentally they get more prepared each time out.


In addition to making sure your horse is worked down enough, you might consider ear plugs if outside stimuli can “rev” him up. I have had great luck with ear plugs on many of mine. Keep in mind, your horse can still hear you say “whoa” or cluck etc, the background noise is just filtered and muted which makes a lot of horses less reactionary. Even if he doesn’t spook at sound, this may help him. When you school at home it’s also important to make sure that your horse can stand in the middle of the arena at different places and having cones scattered about to practice stopping and standing at are a good idea for a horse that anticipates patterns. You should be able to ride around and stop at different places for different amounts of time and have your horse stand quietly on slack.


Something great to do while your horse is standing is scissor your legs back and forth against his sides with the flat part of your foot. Be sure you don’t rake him with your spurs. The goal is to desensitize him to your legs, almost as if you’re rubbing or petting him with your feet. If he won’t stand still for you to do this, that is a big part of your problem and you need to ride with your legs more. If he doesn’t like your legs against him, you need to get him used to them a lot more. People tend to do the opposite and the horse becomes like somebody who is ticklish and they know that at the cone they are going to be tickled. The anticipation mounts and they overreact when they feel your leg. If you can approach and stand at the cone with more leg contact, it will comfort your horse but it takes time and a lot of work at home.


After you do all these things if he is still acting out, you (or your daughter) will need to school for as many classes as it takes to fix the problem. He learned he can get away with what he wants in the show pen, so to fix it you need to show him that he can’t. You may need to hold him back and walk or trot parts of the pattern that may call for a lope, or ask for departures and maneuvers later than the cone, whatever it takes, the goal of the school is not to make him more upset, it’s to comfort him but also make him do his job. Good luck and I hope you make some progress with your gelding. Let me know how your progress goes and best of luck,


About the Author

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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