Moch couldn't quite relax over the ground rails that evening.
I have posted about Mochs rushing fences and ground rails. While there are various reasons for horses that do this, I think I might have figured out where it's coming from with her. Some horses lose their balance and that causes the rush to the fence but I knew that wasn't it because she will do it over ground rails. Something else is going on. Even with one ground rail she used to rush at the trot and still does sometimes at the canter. I was chalking it up to balance or strength, lack of any real training program as a young horse, but one rail?? Rails on the ground?? No. She is associating something with going over things whether it's a ground rail or an actual fence.
The other day it dawned on me that this behavior is a glimpse into her past. She had this issue with going through a gate with me on her back. She didn't want to stand still she wanted to swing her hip away from the gate as soon as I would walk her up to it. After we opened it she would try to launch through it and repeat the same behavior when I went to close it. I never dismounted and let her get away with it. I just continued every day to do the same thing. Ride her up to it, leg yield her next to it, ask her to stand still (a couple times), lift the rope off, swing it open ride her launch through it like it never happened and repeat to close the gate. Within a month I noticed her dramatic behavior had decreased.
One day last week, Mochs stood like a little statue as I opened the gate and we rode through, then closed it. She stands SO quietly now. I can leg yield her up next to it and drop the reins and mess with it and she will stand there without issue. I have no idea what her previous owners did to her that involved a gate, but I proved to her that gates aren't bad, by making it a routine thing and not acknowledging her making the gate into a big deal.
It was not her previous owners that I bought her from. She was basically a pasture pet for them for years. It was the owners before that. She has been sold two or three times before I bought her. Somewhere along the line someone was rough with her involving gates. Ahhhhh the disadvantages of not buying a blank slate. Klein was my blank slate clueless baby that was barely halter broke when I bought her, and I have loved every minute of it.
The whole gate issue got me thinking, this rushing thing is most likely a result of something a previous owner has done with her. At some point she had some sort of stressful event concerning going over things on the ground. So, what I am going to do is make them not a big deal.
The other day we included just one ground rail in our warm up. I started by walking her over it. She is fine at the walk, her pace stays the same. We would walk over it then come around and walk up to it, halt in front of it, then walk over. Or we might walk over it then halt after it, or maybe figure eight over it. I just kept switching it up on her so she was thinking more about where we were going next instead of the *gasp* thing on the ground.
When it came to trotting, I did the same thing. Trot over it, trot up to it and halt before it, walk over it, trot after it, figure eight over it, halt after it, etc... One thing about Mochi...she soaks up praise like a little sponge. Every time she trotted over it without increasing her cadence I would praise her like crazy. I would tell her good girl and pat and rub her neck. If she did increase her cadence I would be silent, half halt and get her back to the proper cadence and come around again. The next time she would maintain her cadence. Ha. She seriously LOVES to hear what a good pony she is. It took her two times to figure out that rushing didn't get her a "good girrrrlllll!!!!" and a neck pat/rub.
After that we headed to the six ground rails in a line. That took about three times through before she really started to focus and give a good effort to maintain her cadence and not speed up (like she was in the first pic in this post). I have to really ride every step with her too. She needs the extra support and she also needs me to be very quiet on the approach to anything. I'll give her one half halt if she needs it, but after that I don't touch her face, but I don't drop her support on the outside rein either, she really needs that, more so than any other horse I've ridden. When she gave me two nice, even times over the six ground rails we stopped. That was a huge improvement for her and I couldn't ask for more. If we can build on that, we'll be golden.
If we can make ground rails not a big deal, fences will follow. Actually, the other day I put up a tiny 2' vertical and she was much better over that than cross rails. So, next jump school there will be no cross rails. She really has a powerful little jump. I can't wait to see it over 3' courses one day.