Frustrating Power Struggle - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 12-11-2012, 10:21 PM Thread Starter
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Angry Frustrating Power Struggle

As I've stated before, I am really new to hoses. I am 32 years old and have been doing weekly lessons for about 3 months now. I work from home (I am a Certified Vet Tech for the small animal side, I now do practice management consult work). I started leasing my 9 yo Paint Mare about a month ago. I did this for a number of reasons, the main being that 30 minutes/week was not enough hands on for me to accomplish my goal. Since I started the lease I have been doing ground work with her daily (I only miss days when I have to take my daughter to her chemo appointments 4 hours away). Just yesterday I was given the clear to ride Leagum on my own. (Although I'm leasing her, I am not going to chance anything and ride alone before I was ready and needed to wait for my instructor's ok). Leagum ALWAYS focuses on my instructor vs me when I am on her back. She is better about focusing on me on ground now. So I am happy that I can work with her daily on back (actually I am going to split the time I spend on ground and on her back to 3 days each/week for now). She did better today than the past few lessons. She wants to take me in the center of the arena all of the time. Granted I am really new and my reaction is not natural or reactive...I have to think, and sometimes she has already made up her mind. So she will take me in the middle, stop, back up, turn in circles, throw up her head. Just really naughty, rude power struggle stuff. I know she is testing me to see if I will give up. I won't, I guarantee that! We did so well today, we were really feeling each other. She was doing so well I was able to go from direct to neck reigning (which I had to recently switch to due to our power struggle), trot, do figure 8's, circles, etc. We have never been able to do this. It was so exciting. So I asked her to walk to cool down, and she had to take me in the middle and start backing up, turning, throwing her head up, etc. I was so mad because I thought we were going to end on a really positive note, but then she had to act up, we had our struggle, I got her to FINALLY push through and do what I asked for 2 laps with a few circles and finally stopped on a somewhat positive note.
Then...after ALL of that, she was being sassy on the wall, and I do not know how she managed it, but got her lead over her head and freaked out! So I got her untied and settled her, tied her to the exact spot, finished grooming her, and took her back to pasture, but I feel that what was accomplished was ruined.
I am so frustrated, I know miracles do not happen over night, but to have such a breakthrough be thrown away is so frustrating.
Is this normal to have a power struggle like this? When she's good, she's really good, she's excellent with children, she's beautiful, and will be great to show...but she hates listening to me! I am very familiar with animals and cues and behaviors, and not letting them win, but there's a huge difference between having a dog on a collar and leash and sitting on top of a pissed off mare! I do not know if I'm venting or asking for advice, but it feels good to get this off of my chest!
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post #2 of 10 Old 12-11-2012, 10:43 PM
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You are doing fine! You are identifying what is happening and working towards solving it. You will get more confident and your actions will come second nature and it will be a LOT easier. It just takes time.

She doesn't hate listening to you, she just knows she can get away with it like a bad 4 year old "You're not my real mom!". One day, you will be the pissed off alpha mare and surprise her! They know who is on their back and will get away with what they can.

The day wasn't ruined by her putting her lead over her hear, it is just something to work on tomorrow- giving to poll pressure.
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post #3 of 10 Old 12-11-2012, 11:54 PM
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You are doing absolutely nothing wrong by ending on a somewhat positive note. Anything with a positive ending is a successful day! Another thing that will make you feel better is that to be a successful equestrian you have to have the mentality of not riding your horse but training your horse and yourself because no horse is perfect, broke maybe, but not perfect. Every time you get your horse from halter on to off at the end of the day you should expect to be training them. It's fun for your horse to learn something new or perfect something old because they can feel that you are satisfied and that leaves them satisfied as well. Don't give up! You're doing great! If she's trying to go somewhere you don't want to go, fine, make her work harder in the middle of that arena or wherever it is she keeps going to; turn her head to your knee and disengage those hindquarters making her flex and soften up and respond to your inside leg, make her go both ways, turn it into a game for her. The easier she responds to you in that tiny circle the bigger you can make it, and she'll soon realize that arguing with you makes things slightly more inconvenient for her. The good thing about disengaging her hindquarters this way is, although it'll be difficult for her at first (be patient), it'll stretch her neck and body and soften her posture and back. By the time working in tiny circles in her favorite spot to act up gets too easy, she'll have already decided it's not worth fighting you there. Circles are you and your horse's best friend. They are the best training method I've ever known, teaching my horses to submit to the bit, trust me more, maintain better posture, collect for me, respond to me quicker, and maintain a more steady pace by relaxing. They've made my lazy horses stronger and more responsive, and my overly anxious horses calmer. Try not to do too much at first however, because you could overstretch her and possibly injure her. Never push her past her limits. As soon as she responds to your leg aides reward her by letting her walk straight again and ending on that positive note! Good luck!
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post #4 of 10 Old 12-12-2012, 12:34 AM
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Some horses test their riders more than others. Don't be discouraged, they are like kids, they HAVE to test you.....I think you did a good job ending it on a good note!

My horses are the joy in my life.....
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post #5 of 10 Old 12-12-2012, 01:32 AM
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I agree with the others. YOu are doing fine, and not to worry about one day and a few struggles. It'll get better.
your mare might be a bit bored. I bet she does a lot of the same stuff, day in and day out. when you feel ready, try some different things, like ride outside around the arena, or put some cones in the arena and do pretend barrel racing. or ride side by side to someone (if the horses can behave).

The trick to working with a hrose that tries to keep drifting to the inside or the opposite is to anticipate and move them onward, faster, right BEFORE they act on the thought to go to the middle. I can guarantee you that the hrose is thinking about it well before it acts on it. Interrupt that thinking El Quicko.
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post #6 of 10 Old 12-12-2012, 08:30 AM
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That is the hardest thing to teach someone is to respond before the horse makes a move. On the ground, I can see the horse think about breaking from a trot to a walk, but a green rider cannot feel it. I am then usually jumping up and down saying "Kick!Kick!Kick!" Because they only have a few seconds to correct.

That just has to come with experience.
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post #7 of 10 Old 12-12-2012, 09:32 AM Thread Starter
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Agreed! It is very hard to determine when I'm on her what she is going to do. My instructor can give me a good 5 second notice..."She's going to slow down...push her through." It's crazy! I am getting a lot better at reading her ears and head position. But do you know what she does (and I know you will all say "oh yah...they do that")? She will turn her nose one way but go the other, just to see if she can throw me off (no pun intended) my game! I'm glad you are all so encouraging, I was just so frustrated that we did so well for about 10 minutes, and then she started to loose focus and "get bored." She has been a lesson horse for some of the youngest riders there, so my instructor said that she is not asked to do much, she is lazy, and that is why she is so great with the kids. Apparently she doesn't like adults because we make her work. I'm going to ask my instructor about any games I can play with her on my own to keep her engaged and not so bored. I live in northern WI where it is already wind chill of -10, and because I am green, we stay in the arena where there are always other people around in case of accident, and I have more control. I know she is bored out of her mind!
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-12-2012, 09:41 AM
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When she turns her nose one way, she is most likely dropping that opposite shoulder and just ducking out. You can feel this through your seat. On the side her shoulder is dropping and she is moving towards, pull the same side rein towards your same side hip (keep the rein low) to bump her nose back to center, and then (Keep that thump up!) bring that rein to the opposite hip to correct the shoulder.

You are actually moving each body part. Just remember to keep your thumbs up when direct reining and keep your elbows close to your body. If either of those are flat, it gives her an easy way out.

More to add. Think of how your body moves as doors. If she is escaping out that shoulder, you have let her out that door with your elbow. If she is backing up, sit back in the saddle to close that door. In the same breath I must say. When you close one door, you must open another for them to go through. If she is backing up, sit back to close the back door, but put your hands forward so she has a door to go through to go forward.
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Last edited by aldebono; 12-12-2012 at 09:44 AM.
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-17-2012, 02:43 AM
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She may only want to work in the centre of your workspace if that is how she has been previously trained. You think she is trying to get her own way, and she thinks she is doing the right thing Just a thought :) It's not, IMO, the norm for a horse to want to work in the centre of an arena, they usually want the GATE end

What she has upset you with at the hitching point, is not what she will remember about the ridden part of her work. Those are two separate incidences and you cannot let your feeling of diappointment convey to your saddle-work.

Chin Up
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post #10 of 10 Old 12-17-2012, 08:21 AM
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A lot of lesson horses are used to standing in the center of the ring while others are using the rail. It's not uncommon for them to seek the center, or another human body, in an attempt of "Save meee!" and get out of work.
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