As some of you may know I have a 5 1/2 year old horse named Indy. A little background for those who do not know him:
I bought him as a four year old, he was started under saddle at 3 1/2, but before that he was out on 100's of acres in North Carolina. Until he was four he only did light work, walking on trails some trotting. When he was four I bought him and had thirty days of his original trainer riding him. All was well.
It is a year and a half later and I have "made some observations":
1) He is much better behaved outside rather then inside, in the indoor
2) He is a lot more hyper and... not uncontrollable, but more strong willed during the winter
3) As he has gained weight he has had a lot more energy
We have been doing things to balance him out. We work outdoors and indoors, making sure that nothing is left "undone". We work him harder and longer (with a longer cooldown period, don't worry
) in the winter, and we have adjusted his feed (amount) a couple of times (gradually of course) until we feel he is at the proper amount to hold his weight but not be to filed with energy.
Lately I've been having some problems with him though. One thing you should know is that I am a full time student which severely limits the time I can spend with him during the week. I can only be at the barn two hours a day which usually translates to about an hour and fifteen minutes of work with warmup, workout, and cooldown.
When I bought him, he was the amazing four year old that was unflappable, didn't give me any problems, and was perfect. No one believed that he was a four year old. Then the winter rolled around and some people labeled him as "crazy" telling me I should sell him and find something more of a schoolmaster. Now, I have been riding for 13 years and while I by no means think this means I am the best rider in the world, I do consider myself in being fairly competent when working with horses. I stuck it out through the first winter and was rewarded with an extremely responsive horse who everyone at my barn was envious of. He would do anything and everything I asked of him, no ifs ands or buts.
Okay, so this winter rolls around and all of a sudden the "physcho" horse is back. He has loads of energy no matter how we feed him, he is testy, he bucks a lot, he tosses his head, he has been biting lately.
Now I'm going to address these issues one by one.
He has IMPECKABLE ground manners. Leads no problem with or without a lead rope. Stops, backs, turns, moves over etc. all just by where you walk towards. (example: I stop, he stops. I stand next to his shoulder & walk towards his tail, he backs up. I walk towards his hindquarters, he turns etc).
Recently he has started nipping at me. He never
actually bites or gets a hold of me but he makes faces and opens and closes his mouth. He also chews on EVERYTHING. His leadrope, my jacket, etc. When he does this, I usually reprimand him with a tug on the leadrope or a smack on the shoulder. This stops him, for an hour. Then he tries again. Same thing. It's not that big a deal, just something new that I am trying desperately not to let get worse.
He round-pens as if he has been doing it his whole life (which he hasn't). He walks, trots, canters, ALMOST auto lead changes when he picks up the wrong lead, switches directions at the raising of my hand, etc. No problem. Then he follows me around like a puppy dog.
The problems really only start when I am riding. I have thought about the fact that he may have ill-fitting tack or may be in pain, or that I may be doing something as a rider but I will address that towards the end.
I get on. We walk on a nice loose rein. Practice turning, stopping, backing up, stretching, bending, walking over poles, etc. No problem. He's perfect. Then we start trotting and sometimes he tosses his head a little bit. The first few times he tried this I thought it may be due to a bridle issue or maybe he was in pain (such as his little tiny baby teeth with a bit hitting them). Barn owner/manager checked bridle seems to fit fine, and it shouldn't be to close to his baby teeth. Okay so next time I ride him, I smack him on the shoulder when he starts this. Problem solved. He stops. Happens a couple times then problem disappears.
This is where it starts getting interesting. We trot for a while, really get warmed up. Then I ask for the canter. He is fine for a couple of rounds but then he starts to get fast, I check him and he slows down. Then out of nowhere, no warning or anything, he has a bucking fit. No warning or anything. Sometimes he will try to put his head down but then I circle him and go back to what we are doing. And I don't mean he bucks once or twice. I mean he does his best impression of Namayuna (
). Jumps straight up in the air, bucking twisting, anything trying to get me off. I do everything I can, sit back, try to get out of the saddle a little bit, keep his head up. The weird thing is, he can find a way to get his head down to buck. If I have his reins shortened up, he wont rear, just jump straight up into the air and throw his head down. This usually lasts about three minutes and I ride it out. Then he's fine. This happened maybe, twice or three times a month for a couple of months. (Knock on wood) I have not fallen off him yet. Then I started to get scared when he did this because he would run at the sides of the arena or the fences and get a little close for my liking. So when he showed signs of wanting to buck, I would get off, roundpen him, then get back on. Then he would be absolutely perfect. No other signs of misbehavior.
I realize that I probably shouldn't get off when he does this, but he is by no means being rewarded by my getting off. He is made to work harder when I get off. Then I get back on, with no problems as I stated before.
By now I have chalked it up to me not being a good enough rider to handle him. I start doing more research about different things I can try with him, I work with the trainer even more extensively.
Then, about a week ago, he threw one of his fits and I couldn't handle it. I got off, took him in the round pen, got back on and then finished on a good note. Then I proceeded to call the trainer and ask her to have one of her guys ride him. They usually ride him once every couple of months for a tune up.
For the first time EVER, she called me to let me know that he was misbehaving worse then she had ever seen him. He didn't buck or rear (knock on wood he hasn't reared with anyone on his back). But he refused to do what they asked him to do no matter what they did and she said he looked like he was going to try to unseat the rider at any moment. She also said he was tossing his head quite a bit. A problem which I have not seen in about a month now.
They worked with him for two hours, ended on a good note, and are going to work with him again tomorrow.
I have thought that maybe his saddle doesn't fit right. His first saddle was a bit to small so I bought him a nice new saddle, much bigger, wider, fits him better. This didn't seem to change his attitude. Could his saddle pad be bothering him? I have a special one that deflects the sweat so the pad is not soaked by the time I am done riding. It is rigid but not hard and it molds/conforms to his back.
This is my question to you: What do I do now?
I have thought about sending him to a professional trainer, I have thought about selling him and buying something more "suitable" I guess to my time constraints but I can come up with pros and cons for every situation. I do not know what outweighs the others.
The one thing I never let him do is get away with anything. If he won't do it, we go back to it in ten minutes when he is calmed down. Sometimes I feel like he gets into these moods out of nowhere. He is such a sweet and loving horse on the ground. I just don't know what to do anymore.
Thanks for reading this, & cookies to anyone who reads it/responds to it