Rotten attitude, rotten ride - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 10-29-2013, 08:36 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2013
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Rotten attitude, rotten ride

I've sort of posted about this problem before but I feel like I didn't really get anywhere with it so I'm trying again, with some rephrasing.
Frankly the horse I've been riding recently has been behaving like a little you-know-what. She's a haflinger mare, I think around age 7 or 8, completely broke and normally pretty gentle. A bit shy and spooky, incredibly sensitive to her rider/leg aids.
However, she is EXTREMELY buddy sour. The past two or three rides I've ridden her while my friend was on her buddy, so we were in the same pasture working together. As long as she can see her buddy she's okay and will stop putting up a fight.
The real issue comes when we're riding. We used to have really good rides, she was willing to work and did everything I asked of her. Then I took a 6+ month break from the barn due to other things going on in life and I've started to get back into it, but in that time I took off, her owner didn't do any work with her and I've discovered I've come back to an almost completely different animal.

As soon as I get on her attitude turns rotten. She doesn't want to go forward, she just wants to stop and nudge my foot. I can move her into a walk, but she pulls me every which way and I have a difficult time keeping her straight (something I'm planning on working on hopefully this weekend). After a few times around at a walk, we go into a trot which I can keep productive for probably 5-10 minutes before she gets tired of that game and begins to get mad. She will break the trot, she will try to go whichever direction she wants, and she will create phantom objects in her head to spook at (ex. suddenly one section of the fence will become a frightening mass of splinters that wants to kill her). When she gets really pissed off she stops completely and backs up, dropping her head, which I saw one member on the forum put beautifully as "a horse backing up is basically giving you the finger". I do not tolerate this, I give her a good squeeze/kick, take up the slack and move her forward again. I go into game-mode when she tries this, which of course only irritates her more. The most frustrating part about this is I can't use a crop on her because she is deathly terrified of them. Even the sight of one across the paddock causes her to shy away. I KNOW I can resolve this with a firm tap or two because god knows how many horses have tried to get away with this with me and have been sorted out with just a light tap on the shoulder. But I can't use a crop, so I'm wondering if anybody has any tips on how to stop the acting up/backing up/overall supremely negative-bitchy attitude. When she gets like this she completely ignores my legs and I feel like I'm just barely controlling her, like my control could slip at any moment. I'm not afraid, just irritated and frustrated.

I've checked with the owner, who firmly insists all tack fits and who I believe. No ulcers, my legs aren't on her sides, and she has plenty of rein. No scary objects in the paddock, everything is familiar to her because she spends nearly 24/7 out there. I know she doesn't want to work but she's going to have to get over it, I just don't know how to get her over it. I have been riding for 8-10 years & just recently had a falling out with my trainer. Trainers here are extremely limited so I won't be getting one any time soon. She acts like this both when riding w/ the buddy and when riding without. When she tries to snake out from under me and weave and stop, my seat is pretty solid in the saddle and I sort of just go with her. I'll try and get video the next time I ride. I've thought maybe she's bored and I should take her out on a trail, but when I really get down to it she just doesn't want to work. Plus, if I can't get her under control in the paddock, who knows what could happen out on a trail? She could endanger both herself and me, so I'm not willing to risk it :/

Last edited by Msail; 10-29-2013 at 08:40 PM.
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post #2 of 9 Old 10-29-2013, 08:58 PM
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Florida
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This horse does not respect you. Do some ground work with the horse to establish your roll as leader on the ground. Show her you can move her feet left, right, forwards and backwards. Lunge her with lots of changes in direction, send her through gates, ditches, over logs, teach her back up with a little shake of the lead rope. Desensitize her to the crop, whip, lead rope ect. a horse should not fear the tools we use around them. Get her thinking of you as her leader and worthy of respect. The respect you gain on the ground will translate to the saddle. But your correct you should not be riding her outside of a controlled area until you have control, the best way to gain control is get her respect and that is best done on the ground. Good luck to you and be safe.
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post #3 of 9 Old 10-29-2013, 09:03 PM
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The first thing you must do is change your attitude about her attitude. People can have rotten attitudes, but horses don't; they're just horses doing what they think is best for their survival.

If you continue to look at her as copping an attitude, you're sunk. We've all looked at horses as having bad attitudes, but at some point some of us realized how blind & counterproductive it is to do so. Good Luck!

Better to see that she's taking over leadership because you haven't thus far been her reliable leader, than being "disrespectful". Horses work it out in the herd without going on about disrespect, because they're really just working out who is the best leader.

Last edited by Northern; 10-29-2013 at 09:09 PM.
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post #4 of 9 Old 10-29-2013, 09:16 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2013
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I don't know why, but it never really even occurred to me to do any ground work. I definitely will though when I next ride! Idiot moment I guess. I also will try desensitizing her to the whip. The only problem is because she's not my horse and I see her sort of irregularly, it'll be difficult to keep up continuous work but I'll try my best.

@Northern: her herd has 4 other horses in it, and the owner says she's usually the lead mare, so I totally get the leadership complex.I just don't know why this problem started up after I took the break because as far as I know she's always been leader of her herd.
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post #5 of 9 Old 10-29-2013, 09:17 PM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Perth, Western Australia
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Was she ridden while you were away? Is she fit? How often do you give her a little break when riding?

She could be trying to stretch her neck down to let her muscles relax. Working in a frame is not an easy thing for a horse. Try doing a wall squat. Your muscles are tensed and after a little while they become fatigued. You need to have a break and let them relax. It's impossible to do a 45 min session of just wall squats with out a break. As your muscles get stronger you will be able to hold it for longer but you will still need breaks.

Also if she has indeed had 6+ months off, her body will have changed shape. Her gear which may have fitted her before, will not fit her now.

Have her teeth been done?

Horses behavior does not just change without a reason. It's normally because we as rider and owners do not listen when they try and tell us in other ways. We tend to ignore it until the horse cannot stand it and the feel they have no choice but to escalate their behavior and hey presto - you get "problem" horses.

I would be thoroughly investigating teeth, saddle fit and check her out for pain and soreness (rub your hand over her muscles... not lightly but quite firm. If she dips away, stamps her foot, tries to bite or kick or swishes her tail... She's sore). Once they have been ruled out or addressed, see how her behavior changes.

I am an Equine Bodyworker. The amount of "problem horses" I have seen that are truly badly behaved is a big fat zero. They have all been trying to tell their owners something. The owner has chosen not to listen. Teeth done, saddle fit checked, a bit of body work (physio, bowen, chiro, accupuncture, photonic red light therapy, whatever) and some ground work... Voila different horse.

Gene Kelly ~ Omdurman <3 my boys
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post #6 of 9 Old 10-29-2013, 09:34 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2013
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I don't really work her in a frame, I usually let her have her head (but not so much that I can't control her) because I feel that I should be improving on other aspects of riding her (ex. walking in a straight line) before I move into constant contact and being nice and framed. & we don't work continuously enough to achieve a 45 minute session of anything really, lol. If I can get a good trot, I keep it up for about five to ten minutes, then she gets a walk break until she's either not breathing heavily or until I think she's ready to try and trot again. She was not ridden while I wasn't there, but she is in shape (maybe a little bit on the pudgy side, but not fat)

Originally I thought she didn't like the bit (I still have some suspicions. It's just a single jointed dee ring snaffle, but hey, every horse is different :/) but the owner swears everything is good and has gone over tack fit with me recently, says everything looks okay. I'm positive she's UTD on everything, teeth, shots, feet, etc. Definitely doing a more thorough check for soreness when I get back there next, though. I'm hesitant to suggest that the tack may not fit or anything because while I love her, the owner's more the type of person that may possibly take offense.
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post #7 of 9 Old 10-29-2013, 09:36 PM
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I think she's bored so she's playing up. What happens if you trot 5 steps, walk 5 steps, trot 5 steps as you do a half circle (to change direction) transition to canter maybe, etc.

Lots of transitions keep any horse, especially buddy sour ones, busy.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #8 of 9 Old 11-02-2013, 07:14 PM Thread Starter
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update for anybody who cares-
I rode with a new person today who wanted to know if I'd go out on a trail with her. I was a little hesitant but we warmed up in the ring and when I saw that Cedar was listening to me, I said yes. Prior to that when I was tacking up, I carried the crop around with me and every time she'd sniff it or let me tap all over her body with it, she'd get a nibble of hay. Even though she didn't mind it touching her, she didn't like when I just carried it around with me, so I didn't think it was necessary to take it with me. I also firmly ran my hands all up and down her body, and she didn't try to flinch away or give any signs of soreness, so I'm positive now that it's just pure unwillingness to work. She's used to meandering the pasture with her friends and doesn't want to stop.

She behaved almost perfectly out on the trail, up until 2/3 of the loop when both the horses got antsy. They tossed their heads, tried to trot, danced, etc. My riding buddy's horse threw in a buck and jumped up the bank from the side of the rode, which sent Cedar into a bucking fit, trying to take off across the moors with me. I slowed her down and we decided to turn around, because their behavior was just getting worse and worse. We both stayed on through two of these fits and when we got back, the owner told us that the girls who rode them before us would always gallop them home in the same spot, even though the owner told them repeatedly not to. So, that would explain the taking off and the getting antsy.
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post #9 of 9 Old 11-02-2013, 07:36 PM
Join Date: Oct 2013
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My two cents: she's out of shape

Seems to me "bad attitudes" and "laziness" are almost always just lack of muscle.
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