Share your stories riding this kind of stopper

I would love to hear some life experiences of other people who have ridden this particular type of stopper. We bought a young sweet, jumps a 10+, sensitive, a little spooky but super safe absolutely no naughty business (buck, bolt rear etc) warmblood. He’s built flat - it takes work to get him engaged from behind, can be lazy and sometimes stubborn - aka he has the pony syndrome on the ground (if my daughter leads him he’ll decide to become a permanent statue). From the first week we started jumping we discovered he had a bit of a left out at the fences - even with a strong supportive professional ride. He would go over when he was brought back around the second time but you couldn’t trust the left out. This improved as we worked on straightness. Then it seemed once we got him straight he started stopping. He stopped would stop in the middle of a oxer - hed start the jump - but decide mid air to put his landing gear down. I wouldn’t call it a dirty stop I would call it a horse who decided he actually couldn’t jump the jump after he’s started jumping the jump. Took him back around and he wouldn’t get within 5 ft of the jump. That particular incident snowballed into he wouldn’t hand walk over a pole for a week without dramatics. At this point he’s getting weekly professional rides. Professional rode him and she almost got dumped when he last minute decided not to go over a cavelletie. Even if he went over the pole on the ground one day didn’t mean he would go over the next day. We spent months of poles and confidence building ground work. We also did a full vet check - MRI ultrasound scoped for ulcers teeth you name it we did it. Fast forward 8 months - we are still doing lots of poles and x’s - everything we jump is walkable - inviting - easy. He easily goes over poles now without blinking - x’s are fine - any “new” tiny fences or ground objects are 50/50. If it’s scary we put it on the ground first and slowly move it to a very small jump…like I said everything is walkable so if he stops he still has to go over it. Sometimes what he would walk over on the ground was scary when put on the first hole off the ground. Here’s thing - it IS killing my confidence. I can sit defensively and still be flung out of a saddle like a rag doll as he deer hops the fence or puts his landing gear in the middle of it. I’d like to hear stories - successes and failures…I’ve been riding for 30 plus years but I’m ready to hang up my jumping boots. It’s been defeating to say the least. My other young horses have always wanted to jump - almost too much where they were bullish to the fences and after. Even when it was difficult there was always forward progress and they ended up being such amazing animals. This horse I question if there is progress…3 steps forward 3 steps back.

Almost everyone is going to tell you it’s pain and want a fuller rundown of everything the vets have done.

I had one who never turned into a bold jumper but ended up being serviceable as a hunter pace/second field type. Had to get him out of the arena and out into a field, pressure off, behind a confident leader. Sometimes they just don’t have the boldness. He really didn’t respond to a lot of drilling and the pressure of “work” made him very resistant to jumping.

Also how old is your horse? If he’s under 10, he may just wake up one day and put aside coltish things. Mine did really mellow out.

How does he free jump in a chute? Maybe lose all the tack and spend a couple weeks just letting him play, and you may see something from the ground that gives you an indication of why he’s balking.

Other things to check: check his vision, maybe try shadow roll, try cotton in his ears. Anything to mellow out possible too much stimulus. Magnesium, pull blood for Lyme and EPM etc

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Of course my brain immediately went to pain, saddle fit, vision, neuro, etc. Going off the assumption there is absolutely no pain, I’d find a really good NH type trainer. Someone who builds confidence a la Warwick Schiller as opposed to obedience. Teaching this horse to saunter over bridges, tarps, etc. until he seeks it out should go a really long way in his O/F confidence.

8 months of deer hopping over ground poles sounds horrendous for your confidence and his. I’d get off his back while he navigates his feet until he looks like a seasoned ranch horse going over all sorts of novel things. I’d also have the trainer haul him out and work the same stuff off property, do a walk hunter pace, etc. Let him learn that he can trust himself over different surfaces.

He is low confidence so I’d be meticulous about screening who he goes to if you go that route and be very present in the process. A yahoo type could fry his brain in a hot minute.

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Not to be pessimistic but maybe this horse is not cut out for jumping and would be happier with a different job. If you have ruled out everything physical and he’s getting good pro rides and he’s still 50/50 going over a tiny inviting jump— I would say it’s time to think about whether aiming him for dressage might make more sense. Not every horse wants to do every job. Even if it’s just a temporary job switch.

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Right. After we’ve gone down the rabbit hole of pain, I think it’s safe to assume that the horse really doesn’t feel comfortable and confident in this role. Not to discourage you, but I’ve found the “jumps a 10+” and sensitive horses to go down this path very quickly.

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You got a careful one, and it sounds like it had a wreck with that oxer. The good news is the really best hunters are this careful. The bad news is a wreck is hard to recover from, and starting a young one this careful over fences is 100% a professional project. It’s impossible to direct the right approach now that it’s lost its confidence without seeing the horse, since some are going to respond well to doing nothing and letting them figure it out, and some require just one good come to Jesus that would completely undo the former. You might need a different professional, but that’s impossible to say too with seeing what’s going on in person.

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This.
A situation like this is so nuanced that I think you could get into real trouble trying things from random folks on the Internet.
Everyone can agree on one thing, once you’ve eliminated physical issues, it’s a confidence issue. What to do exactly about that in the moment is such an instinctive judgment call.
I do second and third the idea of taking the human on the back out of the equation for a while. And possibly finding a pro who really specializes in tricky cases

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How is he during a ride that’s 100% on the flat, no poles, just at all three gaits and basic lateral work?

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My two cents: this horse has, or maybe had, a vision problem. I would stop jumping or trying to jump him. I don’t think this will ever be an enjoyable jumping experience for the rider or the horse. Hope he’s a nice ride on the flat.

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I will say that vision issues can be missed/misdiagnosed easily (it happened to me) and it wouldn’t hurt to take him to a true expert like the folks at New Bolton if there’s any question about his vision.

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I would also say check his vision. Most vets are not trained (or do not have the tools) to do a really in depth vision exam so you would need to go to a specialist.
But also, the taking off then crashing into the jump is usually a symptom of there being something wrong behind. Stifles, hocks, possibly even SI. They go to take off and find they have no engine behind.

If you can’t find anything medical causing it, I’d say that maybe it’s time to find him a home as a dressage horse.

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I agree w this post. I would also suggest adding a neck strap so if he leaps over poles, the person on him doesn’t catch him in the mouth or slam him in the back reinforcing jumping is a terrible idea.

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Mine is now a dressage horse :smiley:. He’s always been very spooky. My trainer felt that he had a vision issue but the vet couldn’t find anything. He has never showed any sign of soundness issues and is still very sound at 17. He’s just an anxious horse who overreacts.

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Not every horse likes to jump, even if they can do it. Perhaps the problem is physical, perhaps psychological, perhaps both. I have seen many people try to make a horse jump/like jumping for way too long without success. Don’t do it. Let the horse have another job. It sounds like you have already checked out most physical issues and tried to rebuild confidence and the horse is still saying no. Move on to something else or get another horse to jump with.

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Even if he’s trained out of this habit, would he then enjoy doing the job? I don’t have experience with this but I could see the animal cantering around a course and repeating, “Please kill me.” Sort of like when I have to do math. At the same time he could think, “Gee, now that I’m over my issue, bring on the puissance, baby!” … If it were my horse, though, I’d make the switcheroo to dressage. Too much sorting out to do, too little time and money. I like a project with pro guidance, but this is a lot of project. Best wishes to you both and keep us updated.

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You asked for real life experiences, and although I hesitated at first, here goes…

Mine was a gorgeous young WB mare. She was a fabulous mover: great eq flat horse and won pretty much every HUS class. She was never a dirty stopper or a runner-outer, but on a couple of occasions, seemingly out of nowhere, she did what’s described above. The last time she did it at a show, after winning earlier prizes in adult ammy hunters. I nearly ended up a quadriplegic, with numerous broken bones and a spinal nerve injury because I landed hard on my back. I have a permanent slump to my right shoulder.

I found her a great home where she excelled as a dressage horse.

While I’d certainly investigate vision and pain issues, I’d stop trying to make him into an over fences horse… especially for you. Believe me, I realize this is a sad decision. But how many times are you going to come off before you get badly hurt? Plus, no matter what retraining he gets, you’re never going to trust him like a horse with whom you have a true partnership. As you said:

Find yourself one of these again.

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All of these things are what’s gone thru my mind. Yes his eyes have been checked as it was my first thought when he started stopping. He’s fine on the flat - he will side eye spooky jumps but nothing that’s alarming. He used to be a dressage horse before I bought him. I think he was a bit lazy for dressage - I know they like them a bit hot. He could probably be sold as a low level dressage horse. He’s fine with poles on the flat - we do them almost every ride now so it’s part of the routine. He’s a funny horse - spooky but sensible but also a little stubborn. Sometimes he will spook at something on the ground but it will turn into I’m not really scared of it but making a point of not going over it…even if another horse walks over it first. Part of me thinks he’s just not cut out to jump. I was hoping to get him to the point of being a nice 2’6 hunter as he’s so so safe and my daughter loves him to pieces. He’s the horse she can ride bareback in a halter - he’s just dependable to keep his rider safe. It’s a conundrum. I agree he’s a pro ride over fences and I would love to send him to a warrick type of trainer who could do all the confidence building things (not easy to find said trainer).

I thought THE SAME THING. Had one that was always going… jumped incredible. Had it half-leased to a jr that had big jr hunter/big eq dreams. To this day, trainer will never admit that horse was crashed in lesson. Kid came clean about it years later after a few ammys in barn told me the truth when they heard it happen from the barn. Naturally, it all happened months to a year after… bc everyone was afraid of the trainer and the consequences if they told me.
Horse started to stop dirty or worry big time at the first jump or the in of a few lines after it happened. The worst part? Trainer made me feel like I was doing something wrong… all along knowing that she had asked the horse to do something that it was too green to be doing with a junior… kid missed… and horse with heart went anyway.
I’ve never forgiven her for it (among a few other things)… and it was a total confidence killer for me and to this day I still struggle bc of the terrible things she said and did to me during that time where I was in the dark. I have heard that she recently got her big R and I’m not mentally prepared to show under her. It still makes me so angry when I think about all of it because of the wear and tear that went into me and my beloved horse.

OP, I’d get horse out of that program and start fresh. Seems like there might be some gaps in what happened and you’re not being told the full story. Or go with a different vet for diagnostics. Xray back and neck… xray coffins/pasterns/fetlocks. All of those would be indicators why they might panic about the landing side. The only other thing is that maybe saddle is pinching or someone else’s saddle really pressed on him so he’s gun shy about the pinch. If he’s careful and really using his back, the saddle fit could definitely make him squirm. Good luck and get a good air vest if you are going to continue with this endeavor (ordeal?)… and the neck strap also sounds like a good plan… hell, if you can invent a seat belt… that would also be advisable. Being a lawn dart is not fun… ask me how I know.

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They aren’t all good at what you think they can do. Since the situation is getting worse over time, you are losing your own confidence, and this is meant to be a kids horse, I would sell him as a dressage or trail horse. Just cut your losses before you get hurt

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It may be this horse was crashed. It may be this horse doesn’t want to have a jumping career. One thing that hasn’t been suggested yet is taking the horse out of an arena and schooling over natural jumps, preferably with another horse leading. When I’ve started OTTBs over fences, I often took them to hunter paces where I could let them play over small fences and I could have a reliable partner go first. I don’t know where you’re located but where I am there are lots of places that have outside courses aimed for lower level eventers where you can pay to school. By changing the question completely, you may be able to assess whether the horse doesn’t like jumping in a ring (because of a bad experience) or simply doesn’t like jumping. I suggest asking a pro to do the schooling as safety should be your first consideration.

Foxhunting is probably not your cup of tea, but it’s an amazing way to get horses thinking forward and over, especially in territories with smaller fences. I know lots of people who get pro rides to start their horses in the hunt field to help give them confidence and make sure they are suitable for amateur riders.

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