Show jumping rider and trainer Simone Starnes knows her way around a challenging, quirky horse -- she grew up riding them and now enjoys bringing along horses with big personalities for the show ring. This summer, she hosted a personal Q&A for Masterclass members and shared three of her golden rules for managing quirky horses.
1. Rule out pain.
"First, think about biomechanics. If they seem reactive to your aids, or are trying to dance the tango in the cross-ties, investigate a physical reason first. Sore stifles or hocks? Ulcers? Consult with your vet first to rule out a pain reaction. This is always the starting point with any horse (reactive, antsy, dull, spooky, etc.)."
2. Your core will never be too strong for a quirky horse.
"A lot of my students will tell you I’m all about core. But you have to be able to separate muscle groups in your body and focus on the specific muscles that you need at any given time. For example, sometimes when people tighten their core to keep their body stable, they will inadvertently tighten and shorten their arms, accidentally pulling on the horse’s mouth. There has to be a little 'disconnection' from your shoulders to your arms. You can have a solid core while also having soft hands.
Make your brain separate your core from your arms and from your lower leg. Think about your core strength extending from your shoulders, keeping your hands soft. Then, extending it down through your legs to just below your knees so you can keep a soft lower leg. You are holding yourself in that position to keep your hands steady and still. If you don’t feel the contact, then you put that lower leg on to push them into your hand."
3. Gymnastics are your friend.
"My go-to for quirky horses is gymnastics. Gymnastics are always great. Not only does it tune the horse to what he needs to do, but it helps the rider focus on their body position, release, and balance.
I really do think gymnastics are key. If you only have one day to jump and you want to make the most of it, incorporate gymnastics into your coursework. Think about sprinkling in a bounce or a few one-stride combinations throughout a course.
Another handy tool is the canter pole. For quirky horses who like to rush, this helps them gauge their stride and helps prevent any rushing off or silliness after the fence, too.
With these horses you have to try something and see if they respond well to it, and sometimes it doesn’t work. Then, you try another exercise. When they are quirky, you’re guessing a lot because you want to help find something that works for them. Keep it up!"
Want to learn more from the most knowledgeable equestrians in the business with exclusive insider tips, live Q&As and more? Join the Masterclass Community.
Photo by Kailtyn Karssen for NoelleFloyd.com
Written by Editorial Staff
Brought to you by a pack of horse-crazy creatives across North America... and all of their rescue pets.