Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chino Valley, AZ
Yep, by backing off, you've told her "Okay! Sorry! You're the boss!!" Giving a horse time to adjust is one thing. Letting the horse walk all over you in the process is a whole different issue. One thing I've noticed is that mares are especially quick to take control if you won't. After all, a band of wild horses is led by the lead mare...the stallion is there for breeding and protection.
This is fixable, it's just going to take time, hard work and consistency.
I'd start by working on manners on the lead. Any minor infraction--not stopping when you do, crowding you, pissy faces--gets an immediate correction. Make her back up, make her yield (move) her forequarters and/or hind quarters, make her trot circles around you. You control the feet, you control the brain. Once she's good leading, move in to other areas she needs work.
As for spooking on the trail, that's a simple issue. She doesn't trust you to "keep her safe," so she's going to react to the unknown. If she spooks, immediately disengage her brain by taking control of the situation. Make her do a one-rein stop, then make her circle by whatever spooked her until she relaxes. Again, you control the feet, you control the brain.
Do you have a trainer or knowledgable horse person who would be willing to help you work with her?
I just re-read your answer and noticed that you said you attributed her behavior to nervousness and being in a new environment. That's the best time to take control because then you are, in the horse's brain, saving them from this new, scary situation. I expect my gelding (a coming 4yo 16.2hh draft cross) to behave in all situations and to look to me for guidance. I did nothing but groundwork with him for the first three months I had him (not entirely by choice...he was an unbroke, unhandled 2yo and I suffered a fractured ankle shortly after purchasing him) and it was the best thing I've ever done. I now have a horse who trusts me completely and respects me completely.
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Last edited by DraftyAiresMum; 03-11-2013 at 12:42 PM.