Former carriage horse retraining issues-advice wanted

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Former carriage horse retraining issues-advice wanted

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  • Retraining the driving horse
  • Retrain the carriage horse

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    06-05-2012, 06:50 AM
Former carriage horse retraining issues-advice wanted

Hi folks, I'm hoping someone might be able to help me out. I bought my non-horsey hubby an 8 year old Friesian/morgan cross gelding that was used as half a carriage team and shown under cart. I've had him for only a few weeks.

The gelding has adapted well and has a wonderful sweet disposition. As far as retraining, I am finding some strange "quirks" that I think may be a holdover from driving. I know nothing about driving and am hoping someone who does might post up here.

When I lunge him to the right, he is his usual calm self. I just walk up, turn him to the right and cluck-he stays on the circle with no problem. However, when I try and go to the left, I.e. I approach him and try to get along his left side he looses his mind and backs up and blows. I mean he flips his head up, quakes and motors backwards all the while keeping his head in line with my body. The first few he was just a mess. Acted like I was going to kill him if he didn't back up.

Before anyone asks, his vision is fine according to the vet . In the past few weeks I have gotten him to calm down and am now able to rub the lunge line and the whip on his left side, then I can motion him out though he still blows and takes off doing his huge earth shattering trot for a few minutes until he settles down.

Could it be that the former owner-whom I can't contact-had some sort of "back up" command? I mean this guy who'd rather sleep than work just about levitates himself back in a straight line.

Oh, and this only happens when he is hooked to a lunge line, never on a normal lead line or when he is bridled which is why I wonder if it is some sort of command rather than a training issue.
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    06-05-2012, 03:10 PM
Green Broke
Was he driven single or dual? Drafts are taught gee and haw, for left and right, walk out, and whoa. Do you let him loose when you round pen ? Or do you use a line? Do you let him have free time to run play before you work him?
I would just keep working him , you may try seeing how he responds to gee and haw, you may find a driving site for help
    06-05-2012, 03:29 PM
Originally Posted by stevenson    
was he driven single or dual? Drafts are taught gee and haw, for left and right, walk out, and whoa. Do you let him loose when you round pen ? Or do you use a line? Do you let him have free time to run play before you work him?
I would just keep working him , you may try seeing how he responds to gee and haw, you may find a driving site for help
He was half of a matched team. The horse that he was paired with suffered an accident in the pasture and had to be put down. So our gelding was sold because the old owner could not buy another that matched him.

I don't use the round pen, though there is one at the barn-I am not familiar with how to correctly use one but I've been reading a bit about it. As far as free time to run, he is in a 16 acre pasture with run ins and other horses so he gets a lot of time to just be a horse That having been said, left to his own he has 2 preferred gaits...sleeping and eating LOL so this spookiness is just so "out of character" for him.

I use a normal lunge line, and if I start out to the right he is calm and I have no issues. But as soon as I approach the left side he gets all twitchy and uptight and does the back up thing. With soft voice and patience I can get him to go left it's just that he acts like I am going to KILL him unless he backs up which is why I wondered if it had something to do with how you back a horse into position to hook them up.

The reason I'm wanting to work him more from the ground is that his trot was ...dynamic to say the least when we first got him. He knew only one speed at the trot-extended and really fast. Given his conformation, that extended trot is murder for my inexperienced spouse to ride. Once he gets going to the left he trots himself out in a few circles and regains his composure.

He has a great work ethic, and likes attention. After we ride we usually hand walk and let our horses graze and relax before they get put up in the pasture for the night.

Thanks for the reply!
    06-05-2012, 03:44 PM
Green Broke
I think you just answered your own question... Half of a team. He was probably the horse on the right. His buddy was on his left. ! Patience and work on his left side . He had someone on that side so he is not used to the exposure so to speak !
    06-05-2012, 03:59 PM
I hope so...thanks again :)
    06-05-2012, 04:29 PM
That is not normal behavior on a trained driving horse.When you are lunging is he bending both directions or pushing out of the circle not wanting to bend?

Is he flexible on both sides? He may have pain if he bends on that side and is rushing to get away from what he is afraid is about to come. If he seems stiff I would have a vet look at him and maybe a chiro.
    06-05-2012, 04:47 PM
Thanks for the reply. He seems to be okay in terms of bending around the circle once he settles down. I also do stretching/flexion on the ground before we do most anything and I don't see any signs of soreness. Nothing in the saddle either, he goes just fine and does smallish circles both ways with no hiccups.

He did pull against the lunge (body stiff and head thrown up body cocked outward braced going both ways) for the first few weeks as he was very unbalanced. I didn't use any side reins as my goal was not to mess with his headset just to get him to understand "trot" doesn't mean "charge" LOL.

There was a pretty extensive vetting done before we bought him that didn't show any issues.
    06-06-2012, 12:01 PM
It almost sounds as if something happened on that left side that left him leery and worried. Did you ask his former owners if he was in any driving accidents prior to his team mate dying?

I think your doing the right thing of working with him on that side to show him you mean him no ill will or harm, then going along at a slower pace and go from there. I am sure, as time goes on he will settle in and hopefully get over his anxiety about what his issues are.
    06-06-2012, 02:28 PM
Thanks GreySorrel, either something happened as you said or it has been suggested to me that the former owner could have been pretty aggressive while backing into the cart. I will just keep up with my plans of gently showing him I won't hurt him. He gets totally shaky if I use a full size lunge whip, so I use a 4 ft dressage whip as a cue.

I can't question the former owner, he had been bought by a hunter/jumper trainer as a prospect then they figured out the gelding is totally unsuitable for jumping.
GreySorrel likes this.
    06-06-2012, 02:47 PM
Yes, I have seen people be over aggressive when backing a team, jerking on the lines, being over aggressive with the whip as well and/or whip. When I back my team, I will lightly but with even pressure on my lines, tell them "Easy Back", they know it is slow and steady. As they get closer to whatever I am hitching them to I will touch them with one hand and say "Easy" one more time, they know to either stop or take one more step.

Have you tried talking to him as you work with him and not use any aides you have to hold, like the lunge whip? Would that work? As I said, I think your doing a great thing by giving him time and taking it easy...I personally think something happened and now he is fearful and apprehensive...good for you!
stevenson likes this.

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