Anxious horse

Rubic

Equine Karaoke Queen
Apr 15, 2012
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Well. I have come to the conclusion that Nimbus is anxious when ridden and I don't think he trusts me yet.

In the stable I can brush him all over, touch every part of his body, pick out hooves etc and he doesn't move. I can tack him up with no problems but when it comes to mounting we have issues. I can walk him up to the mounting block and stand him beside it with no problems. I can be at his head and he doesn't have any issues. last night I could stand at his shoulder and again he wouldn't move but the minute I get on the block myself he moves his back end away so he turns to face me. It is almost like he is wanting to keep an eye on me and isn't comfortable with me out of view. When I eventually do get on him he can feel quite tense at points and will jog. He also turns into a poo-monster. I have never known a horse to poo so much when being ridden.

Last night I lunged him for 5-10min then spent nearly 1hr at the mounting block with him and not once could I get him to stand beside it while I was on it. I eventually got him close enough and still enough that I could get on but I didn't have much time left as I had a gym class booked so we just walked around on a long rein focusing on relaxing and stretching for 5min before I got off again. Some days I have managed to get on him without issue (and funnily enough I've had little issue with him jogging on those days too) but I have no idea what is different!

His owner also has issues too. I feel like I need to gain his trust. He has had his teeth back and saddle checked recently and all have been given the OK. When ridden he doesn't seem sore at all, just anxious and it takes him a good bit of time to settle down. Any ideas? Owner has said I can try clicker training with him so I think I will do a bit of that and see if that will help.
 

squidsin

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Feb 16, 2013
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If it's not pain, then it's either the memory of pain and/or learnt behaviour. My old horse was nervous at the mounting block and would take off if anything, no matter how small, freaked her out. She pooed loads when ridden too which I assumed was a nervous/fear response. Roxy isn't the best for waiting patiently by the mounting block - she was formerly ridden by kids though and my guess is they probably didn't make her stand nicely while they mounted but just jumped on and they were off. Maybe try a calmer?
 

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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I was going to ask if he had ever actually been taught to stand at a block, it is so often overlooked as the first person who backs them always gets a leg up or mounts from the ground then the next owner/rider assumes that they know what they are meant to do at a mounting block and wonders why they wander off.
Jess will do the turning to face you thing when she isn't in the mood to work, normally when she has worked hard for a few days prior or if I am not keeping things varied enough for her.
We always chuckle about the TB I look after, we have come to the conclusion if he ever had an impaction we could just tack him up to clear the blockage as he poop's constantly :) he does do it when he is more anxious, this seems to be helped by sticking to a routine for him, even down to within a schooling session if we change things he starts pooping.
 

Chrisnscully

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Aug 11, 2007
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There is a clicker training exercise called "Bring the saddle to me".

Once you have introduced the horse to the clicker concept using targets, lead the horse to the block without you climbing on it and position it so the saddle is alongside the block, click & treat. Lead the horse away and repeat several times. Then repeat with you climbing the block as well. Then repeat with you putting one foot in the stirrup. Then repeat with you putting weight in the stirrup and leaning over his back. Then repeat with you mounting and getting back off.

Worked with Scully - but I will have do some more to stop her chewing the fence while I mount!
 

Rubic

Equine Karaoke Queen
Apr 15, 2012
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If it's not pain, then it's either the memory of pain and/or learnt behaviour. My old horse was nervous at the mounting block and would take off if anything, no matter how small, freaked her out. She pooed loads when ridden too which I assumed was a nervous/fear response. Roxy isn't the best for waiting patiently by the mounting block - she was formerly ridden by kids though and my guess is they probably didn't make her stand nicely while they mounted but just jumped on and they were off. Maybe try a calmer?

I really think it is nothing to do with pain with him, there are no other signs that it is pain and everything has been checked. He doesn't take off or anything. In fact when I actually managed to get on he stood perfectly until I asked him to walk on, I just had to get on at a bit of an odd angle. I honestly think it is more that he doesn't trust me and therefore is worried by me getting on, going out of his sight. As he isn't my horse I can't just give him a calmer but I might suggest something along those lines to his owner if it continues.
 

Rubic

Equine Karaoke Queen
Apr 15, 2012
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I was going to ask if he had ever actually been taught to stand at a block, it is so often overlooked as the first person who backs them always gets a leg up or mounts from the ground then the next owner/rider assumes that they know what they are meant to do at a mounting block and wonders why they wander off.
Jess will do the turning to face you thing when she isn't in the mood to work, normally when she has worked hard for a few days prior or if I am not keeping things varied enough for her.
We always chuckle about the TB I look after, we have come to the conclusion if he ever had an impaction we could just tack him up to clear the blockage as he poop's constantly :) he does do it when he is more anxious, this seems to be helped by sticking to a routine for him, even down to within a schooling session if we change things he starts pooping.

I don't think he really has. His owner has done bits here and there and again sometimes he stands ok and other times he doesn't. He came from a dealer and originally came over from Ireland. Talking to the YO out on a hack on Sunday I think people have either been given a leg up or got on so quickly he hasn't even had any time to react. I do think the mounting block is a totally new concept to him.

He is worse when he hasn't been worked for a few days. He doesn't poo loads when he is lunged in the school, only when ridden. He is still relatively new to the yard and obviously I'm new to him too. He's also recently gone from being out most of the time (with a few hours in during the day) to being in overnight and changing fields so I do think things may just be a bit too much for him which is partly why I don't want to focus so much on doing schooling with him now I just want to work on getting on and having a calm walk around and gradually build up from there.
 

Rubic

Equine Karaoke Queen
Apr 15, 2012
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There is a clicker training exercise called "Bring the saddle to me".

Once you have introduced the horse to the clicker concept using targets, lead the horse to the block without you climbing on it and position it so the saddle is alongside the block, click & treat. Lead the horse away and repeat several times. Then repeat with you climbing the block as well. Then repeat with you putting one foot in the stirrup. Then repeat with you putting weight in the stirrup and leaning over his back. Then repeat with you mounting and getting back off.

Worked with Scully - but I will have do some more to stop her chewing the fence while I mount!

This is what I did last night. We are absolutely fine until it comes to getting on to the block. I did make a little progress in that I could stand on the bottom step but when I went any further than that he would move so I'm starting to think I need a slightly different approach.
 

Rubic

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Apr 15, 2012
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He can see you - their vision goes pretty well round to their rump when their head is straight.
Hmmm, but when you are getting on you are really going into an area where their vision isn't quite as good. Getting on a horse is a massive change for them when it comes to sight and feel.

I just don't think he likes the thought of me getting on his back!
 

Chrisnscully

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I think he has learned that moving away from the block avoids work - I would make him work from the ground every time he does it - perhaps a trot in hand.

If that doesn't work then:

1. Try mounting from the offside and see what he does.

2. Put the block a horse width from a wall so he can't move away.
 

squidsin

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Feb 16, 2013
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I don't think he really has. His owner has done bits here and there and again sometimes he stands ok and other times he doesn't. He came from a dealer and originally came over from Ireland. Talking to the YO out on a hack on Sunday I think people have either been given a leg up or got on so quickly he hasn't even had any time to react. I do think the mounting block is a totally new concept to him.

He is worse when he hasn't been worked for a few days. He doesn't poo loads when he is lunged in the school, only when ridden. He is still relatively new to the yard and obviously I'm new to him too. He's also recently gone from being out most of the time (with a few hours in during the day) to being in overnight and changing fields so I do think things may just be a bit too much for him which is partly why I don't want to focus so much on doing schooling with him now I just want to work on getting on and having a calm walk around and gradually build up from there.

I've heard that it's quite common practice for Irish dealers (those with a 'back em quick, sell 'em on quick' policy, not all of them obvs) just to leg up the riders when backing young horses, so they don't always get taught to mount. This was certainly the case with my old horse Poppy, who came from Ireland, and was scared of the mounting block and much preferred the rider to mount from the ground. In which case, it's probably just patience and perseverance - and when he gets to know you and trust you, as you say, hopefully it should get easier anyway.
 
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Kite_Rider

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Is your mounting block moveable Rubic? Only asking because Belle used to do this occasionally too, it was just her being her and saying actually I don't want to do this work today, but I found that if I moved the mounting block out a way and positioned her between the block and the school wall she really had no where to go with her bottom, I'm not saying this was the right thing to do but it worked for us and she's never done it since, this was when I first got her too so new yard, new person, new routine same as your lad.
 
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Rubic

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I think he has learned that moving away from the block avoids work - I would make him work from the ground every time he does it - perhaps a trot in hand.

If that doesn't work then:

1. Try mounting from the offside and see what he does.

2. Put the block a horse width from a wall so he can't move away.

I was actually thinking of doing that last night but I had taken off the lunge line so couldn't really do that but next time I think I might try that. If you try and move the block so he can't swing his quarters away he will walk forward or back so that doesn't really work!!
 

Chrisnscully

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If you try and move the block so he can't swing his quarters away he will walk forward or back so that doesn't really work!!

Let him walk forward , then round again and again till he shows a "try" to stop then click & treat - patience and persistance!
 

Rubic

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Let him walk forward , then round again and again till he shows a "try" to stop then click & treat - patience and persistance!

Again, this is what I ended up with last night which was why I spent nearly an hour at the block. He walked forward until he could turn his back end away from the block or walked back and planted so either way we were nowhere near the block. Each time I got off the block and put him back where he was meant to be then I gradually worked on me moving from his head towards the block and then up each step. If I stand on the block and try to move him from their he just side steps round it:p
 

Chrisnscully

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Lol - EXACTLY what Scully did when Becky first taught me the exercise - she told me to use the schooling whip to tap the offside rump to swing it back again.
 

Kite_Rider

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Not sure if this would be the right thing to do but if it were me and he did that I'd make him move quick sharp forwards or backwards and then ask him again and if he reacted the same he'd get the same again, i'd put money on him soon deciding that standing still was the better option. Sounds like Nibus is a clever boy who's trying his luck if it's not pain related but without seeing him who knows.
 
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Chrisnscully

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Not sure if this would be the right thing to do but if it were me and he did that I'd make him move quick sharp forwards or backwards and then ask him again and if he reacted the same he'd get the same again, i'd put money on him soon deciding that standing still was the better option. Sounds like Nibus is a clever boy who's trying his luck if it's not pain related but without seeing him who knows.

Yes - exactly what I meant above by making him work.
 

domane

Gracie's mum
Jul 31, 2005
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All of mine have been trained to stand at the mounting block and they all get a treat from the rider when they first climb aboard. It's actually quite hilarious for anyone watching who doesn't know as they all turn their heads with their mouths open expectantly.... like baby birds!! :p The youngsters had specific mounting sessions with clicker training so it set the precedent for riding. I do think it is worth using a riding session to just play around at the mounting block, feeding treats for good behaviour and stuff. Boo isn't three until April but next autumn I will be introducing ground work to start the foundations of his ridden work the following summer when he is 4 and standing at the mounting block will be covered in the early chapters!!

I brought Boo in from the field a couple of days ago and he made the "mistake" of spooking at a bread bag and biscuits wrapper that blown into the hedge on the yard. Of course, that made me notice them so we quickly had an impromptu session of sniffing, investigating and learning not to be afraid, ending up with me rubbing down both sides with the offending crinkly biscuit wrapper. Bet he wished he hadn't started it.... lol
 

Cortrasna

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Aug 5, 2009
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This is a fairly common complaint with Irish horses. There aren't that many that have been trained to the mounting block. Either the rider is quickly legged up and off they go....or the very supple riders just swing themselves up and away they go too. So very often the concept of a mountain block is all very new and scary to a young Irish horse. I have also seen many horse riders ride straight off whilst tightening their girth and altering stirrups, so in these cases the horse hasn't even learned to stand still until asked to move forward.

Dolly had no idea what a mounting block was, but being older and steadier she very quickly learned, thank heavens! JJ on the other hand was a swine and in the end I had to position the mounting block alongside a wall with just enough room for him to be between the two and get on from there, to stop him swinging out. I also had to enlist a helper to stand right in front of him until I told him to walk forward. We got there in the end but it took months rather than days with him.:( He had trust issues too I think, so was a harder nut to crack.
 
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