My last post left off with me enlisting some training assistance from a friend and fellow boarder. At my barn, “E” is the rider we all idolize. She’s young (college student), accomplished (Advanced level eventing), and driven. She also has a knack for teaching and for training horses. She’s a quiet rider and always kind and fair to the horse. I learn so much by watching her ride (and it doesn’t hurt that she explains what she’s doing and the response she’s getting in real time).
E was the first person to jump Tybee after I bought him last year. I wanted to be sure he had a confident introduction to jumping, and since I, myself, hadn’t jumped in over a year at that point, I knew that I should hand the reins over to someone else. She did a great job with him that day, and he showed us all that he certainly has the athletic ability to succeed over fences. It was only natural to ask E for help with Tybee’s recent behavior issues, specifically, anxiety when ridden off the farm and bucking, leaping, or kicking out when tense/nervous.
When I requested her help, E immediately agreed and I was relieved for a few reasons: 1 – I think she’ll do a great job with him. 2 – I didn’t particularly want to send him away to an off-site trainer, because I still wanted to ride myself and also to be able to watch some of his training rides.
My regular trainer was on board with this plan and suggested that I have E ride Tybee off-site as much as possible since his anxiety and related behaviors show up most often when we are away from the farm. E sent me her tentative training and competition schedule through this spring and we quickly made plans for Tybee to join her for as many of those opportunities as possible.
We started last weekend by taking Tybee and E’s two upper level horses to a nearby farm to school in one of their jump arenas. Tybee stood quietly on the trailer munching his alfalfa hay while the other two horses had their first real jump schools of the season. Then it was his turn.placeholder://
The ride started with a lot of tension. Tybee was short-strided and tight in his back and neck. E stayed very quiet and just trotted all over the arena, incorporating lots of changes of direction, until she was finally able to put her leg on consistently without an over-reaction from Tybee. He responded positively to being allowed to stretch down with a longer rein. His back relaxed and his stride opened up. Progress!
When she started cantering, E had to work through more tension, but again, allowing Tybee to stretch downward with a longer rein seemed to be the key. He didn’t speed up or lose balance; instead, he relaxed through his back and began taking longer strides.
With a more relaxed horse, E decided to take Tybee over a crossrail. He jumped it willingly, landed on the other side, and kicked out. Womp womp. From that point forward, the schooling session was a mixture of some really nice moments and some really impressive bucking. Looking back at the video, Tybee sometimes started bucking when he became frustrated because his legs were discombobulated (i.e. counter cantering, cross cantering). But other times… it’s just really hard to say. To E’s credit, she didn’t over-react to his behavior and just quietly continued on.
And there was good stuff, too. Tybee was jumping great! He was brave over fences he had never seen before and also jumped bigger fences than he’s jumped before. When E got him in a rhythm jumping 6 or 7 fences in a row, he didn’t buck at all. He’s green, for sure. Some of his lines are wiggly and one of his bucking episodes came after he knocked a rail. We are all okay with green. He’ll learn. We just don’t want his bucking behaviors to escalate. All in all, we were happy with the day and started making plans for the next outing.
I had a lesson early Wednesday morning and was excited to do some jumping myself. Tybee started out very quietly as we did some grid work. From there, we progressed to cantering short courses of single fences, and Tybee started throwing in some bucks as we were traveling between fences. The bucks did not seem related to either take-off or landing, which makes them so hard to predict. This was really the first time this had happened to me at home, and in a way, it was good that it did. I was finally able to work through the situation without the added drama of being in a “scary” new place. The bucks didn’t scare me; I never felt like I was in danger of coming off. When Tybee bucked, my instructor had me stay in canter and circle until he felt like he could get with the program again and then we’d carry on to the next fence. I’ve got to say…I was absolutely exhausted at the end of my lesson, but I felt like we made progress, so I was happy.
Late Friday afternoon, E was able to do a jump school with Tybee at home and I was able to watch and get some video. What a difference! Tybee was so much more relaxed at the start of this ride. I didn’t get any video of him on the flat, but it was quite nice and the tension from the off-site ride had vanished. The only bucks Tybee threw in were when he heard a rail drop as we were setting fences. He reacted strongly by bucking a couple of times and that was that. Otherwise, E had a great time jumping him over some larger fences.
Next up is a combined test at Carolina Horse Park next weekend. In the meantime, we are forecast to get a lot of rain, so fingers crossed that we’ll be able to get in another jump school or two before next Saturday!