So, I recently purchased a 9 year old quarter horse mare. The day I took her out on a trial trail (pre-purchase) ride, I rode with the BO's daughter and her easygoing gelding. It was all good, and quiet. Suddenly, some stray dogs just busted out of the brush and scared the gelding, and my mare went too! I landed on my head and neck in a big trench that she jumped over. (Was trying out a potential saddle too. NOT IN LOVE WITH SLICK LEATHER SEATS!!!)
Caught horse. Got back on horse. Had a nice ride back.
I placed a downpayment on the horse, and the BO has been letting me come mess with her every day. Today, the BO, daughter, and I all went for a trail ride. BO's Daughter's horse is the "leader" in their herd mentality. We were FINE! The leader decided he wanted to try his rider, and came galloping past us. My mare was fine. She didn't move at all. She didn't act like she wanted to run with him or anything. I was so proud of her. I told her how good she was and gave her a ton of petting.
We rode through the woods, and onto a country road. We passed an ATV and all the horses were just fine. We got to the end of the road, and my mare stopped. She would only back up. She would not walk forward no matter what. I turned her several times, but she would only walk back toward the barn. The pair I was riding with kept piddling on while I sorted things out with my mare. She must have done 100 tiny circles just trying to get me to turn her the other way. I clucked. I kicked. I smacked her rear. (I felt awful about it too, but that's what everyone kept telling me to do. ) She would just turn and look up at me like "Why'd you do that?" Finally, I turned her and let her walk back down the road toward the barn. I stopped her by the woods and turned her again. I thought maybe I would suggest she go that way, and make it "her idea".. Well, I got her to take a step toward the way I wanted, and gave her tons of praise and pets. She ate that up and went walking just like all was well again. I was so proud of her and I kept petting her....
....and then we got to that spot that she stopped at earlier. She started calling for the other horses we were riding with, but they didn't answer. The BO called me on the phone and asked what was wrong. She sent her husband out in the ATV to help me encourage her to continue the ride and not get her way. BO's husband comes and we finally get her encouraged enough to walk past the spots she was avoiding. All was well in the world. When he turned his ATV to leave, she spooked and hauled herself down the road. I did not go with her. (This fall was much softer than the first fall, and I landed on my side... not my head. ))
...she did eventually stop to munch on some cattails. We caught up to her and I got back on her. The BO and her daughter met us and we turned around and headed home. My mare was fine the whole way back. She wasn't in a hurry to get back to her pasture or anything.
I did some groundwork with her when I was finished. (Some with saddle on. Some with saddle off. ) And she got cozied up in her pasture with her roundbale and called it a night until I grained her later in the evening.
Every time I have been on this mare (twice) I have fallen off. I have always gotten right back on. I am not scared of her. I always think she is going to do something because I am her leader and she will follow me. I don't hesitate. I don't ask her to do something I am not willing to go through with. I know she will test me, and she is very intelligent. This was not something that I took lightly when I committed to buying her.
I already do some groundwork with her, but I am going to have to find some more activities for us to do together.
Sorry if that was a long, horrible tale. I just felt like spilling my guts today, since I don't really have any horse-savvy friends.
What were your favorite trust/respect building activities to do with your horses when you first got them? Maybe she was just scared. (On the way back, I was told they saw some big cat tracks.. so maybe that was something to worry about..) but I would like to blame myself and say I need to have more trust/respect with her. :p