on the rail problems

This topic contains 11 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by Joe-Joe Joe-Joe 3 years, 4 months ago.

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  • stephanie_korth Original Poster
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 1

    My 4 year old saddle bred stallion decided a week ago that the rail is the scariest thing ever. How do I get him back on the rail? I’ve tried making work on the inside harder but he makes a game out of it. I’m fed up with fighting him. Any ideas?

    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 2

    Does your horse work off your leg? Can you leg yield, move his haunches and shoulders? When you try to get him back on the rail (say tracking left) are you looking directly AT the rail or are you looking to the center of the arena?

    When I’m trying to work a spooky horse past a scary spot I never look directly at it. Nor do I ride directly to it. For example, if I’m tracking left and I’m trying to get him on the rail I would never use my right rein. Instead I would first get him working on the bit then use my left rein to bend him left, make him think ‘left’ (but still traveling straight at this point, almost in shoulder fore.) THEN when he’s traveling straight but thinking left I use my left leg to leg yield sideways to the wall. Just a step or two. Continue straight with a slight bend left. Ask for another step or two. Then go straight. Then maybe I would leg yield towards the middle. Straight. Step or two back towards the wall. Repeat.

    Instead of pointing him directly at it and riding directly towards what’s scaring him (the moment you focus on it he will immediately pick up it on from your body language) you are focusing your attention on the not so scary center of the arena and asking him to focus there, too. By leg yielding first towards the wall, then away from it you are asking him to use his brain. Throw in some transitions and circles. Ride as if you have no intention of being on the rail. If you get him thinking first and keep his focus on what you are asking him to do instead of where you are asking him to go you should be able to step him right over to the rail. Don’t stay there too long at first. A step or two on the rail is fine and can be built upon slowly.

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 253

    Part of the way to successfully deal with a horse that is suddenly spooking at something that was formerly not an issue is for the rider to control the tension in his/her body. If you can stay relaxed when he thinks there is something spooky there, your body language is telling him that there is nothing there to worry about. But if you tense, then he will also feel that and assume you have the same concerns he has, and that there really is something spooky or dangerous. Keeping your body relaxed while the horse is misbehaving or spooking is obviously easier said than done and takes practice. One way to relax is to pretend what he/she is doing is amusing instead of annoying, frustrating, stupid, etc. Sometimes being able to laugh at your horse and yourself can be very useful.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3

    Whenever my horse is having a hard time getting to know something scary I always start from the ground and work my way up. It helps build my confidence and his. It also helps keep anxiety low for both of us. G&S is right in not tensing up when you get close to the rail and expect something to go wrong. Stay firm in what you are asking. But getting back to starting on the ground, I start in the middle lunging and slowly let him get closer to the rail. If he starts to shy away then I move back, to where he will actually go around in a circle, from the rail and make him work harder. As soon as he focuses back on me, that’s the goal of the exercise, I can give him a reward of getting to walk or go slower. As long as he is paying attention to me then I can move him closer to the scary object until he is passing it without thought. After he is good with one side, I START back in the middle going the opposite direction. I don’t want to rush him and send him back in panic. And then I repeat earlier steps to work his other side. My horse is an Appendix and he shows his thoroughbred side most of the time so he gets really nervous and distraught at times. He responds really well with taking things slow and getting a rhythm that makes him feel comfortable. All horses are different and you know how your horse ticks so your judgement is the best as to what you should do, but I have always found a foundation from the ground to be much more stable and safer for all who are involved. That’s how my mom trained her horses and that’s how she taught me and I realize that it is my way and not precisely your way. So I wish you the best of luck in getting this fiasco figured out. Happy Trails!

    GHFrider GHFrider
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 32

    Good answers!

    Having been through this myself, I can add to mvrck’s suggestion with what worked for me. Try starting work in the middle of the ring, down the center line and working out to the rail and back again. I have bending poles in the ring and crossrails and barrels and trotting poles, and I use them all. LOL The deal with my most recalcitrant horse is that if he will do a successful training level dressage test without fussing, he gets to do the rest of the stuff until he’s happy. Doing it in the reverse order didn’t work. He enjoyed the warmup with the fun parts then was resentful and pissy when I tried to get him to the rail for the test. Over time you should be able to spend more and more time on the rail. Just for now, lose your focus on the “straight horse going straight” mantra and do circles, spirals, work over ground poles…anything that will keep his mind busy. He’ll hardly notice that he’s back to working the rail when it happens. But it might take time. This isn’t something you can rush. No anger or frustration. Just come up with a new plan for each session and be happy with what you get in the way of progress. He may be bored. They do that, and when they do, they come up with things to occupy themselves. If you change your focus, your stress level should drop considerably. There’s no law that says you always have to work on the rail. In fact, an internationally-ranked dressage rider/trainer once told me never to do dressage more than two days a week. He said to jump two days, dressage two days, trail ride two days, and just mess around on the off day, and that would keep my horses from burning out. It works.

    Horses In the Yard

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Your idea of making him work in the center with “relief” at the rail was a good choice, but start small, on line. Ask him to walk on the rail with you on the inside using a dressage whip or carrot stick to gently encourage him to walk on the rail. Allow him to circle around you, disengage his hindquarters, change directions frequently. Keep his feet moving! Make Visits “to the Rail” short and using your voice to relay that you are happy with his choice to go there. It may be an emotional thing for him, it could be a form of confinement fear, horses are claustrophobic at times, the rail may be just enough to be causing this for him. Can you ride him other places? A pasture, a field? Horses don’t enjoy boredom anymore than we do, while they will gravitate to familiar things, most horses welcome a new challenge as long as it does not involve horse eating fences lol Parelli Natural Horsemanship has helped me with my horsemanship immensely.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Is he doing this at every point along the rail or in specific places? Has anything changed in or near the ring? He may be misbehaving because he is afraid, or (which is more difficult to fix) because he is bored.

    It is never the horse's fault

    mia_h mia_h
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Groundwork is a good idea. Just slow and steady– lead him up to it until he acts less frightened, then continue until he walks the rail with you.

    When you’re riding and he veers to the center you should let him, and then take him directly back to the rail without stopping. If he’s being obstinate, he’s only telling you he doesn’t want to do any work. The best way I’ve learned to relieve this situation is approaching it like, “Hey, yup that’s the center of the arena, thanks for showing me but we’re going over here.”

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 7

    hi stephanie
    horses change their minds about things all the time, much like a kids.
    in this case the first thing i do is hand walk the rail first with me outside ‘on the rail’ then with my horse out side. remember when you are on him your point of vision is much different, doing this will help spot anything that he is reacting to. next you can give him confidence, he is very young and between 4 and 6 years his developement and hormones will play with his emotions and brains just like when you adolescent. try riding with a friend (on a gelding! no mares just now) the same way sometimes on the inside sometimes on the outside. horses learn from each other, as herd manners are much easier for him to absorb. then when all goes pretty well, dont ask for perfection yet that is for later, try the suggestions above they are really great. good luck and when you give him a treat in the ring for a while go to the rail it helps change associations so the rail is a good idea.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Try this:
    Keep him/her in the arena where the rail that he is afraid of is. Keep some carrots or treats on the edge of the fence somehow, maybe a bucket of grain. This will lure him/her closer to the rail, realizing that the rail means no harm to him. This helped me with my horse, but it may not help yours.

    Joan Fry
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Stephanie, your post caught my eye because you have a Saddlebred, a breed I know and love. I agree that you’ve gotten some good advice, especially from mvrchk, Joe-Joe, and the poster who suggested carrots. Whatever you try–going back to the longe line–do it in short stages. As mvrchk said, ask for a bend on the rail only for two or three strides. If you keep drilling on him, he will get bored or antagonistic or both.

    May I ask why you’re riding a stallion? That may be your problem. It takes an experienced rider, usually one working with a trainer, to successfully school a young stallion. He’s not taking you seriously because he has other things on his mind. Please let us know how you resolve your problem.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Joan – did you see that I got another horse? Joe Joe needed a friend.

    It is never the horse's fault

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