Help! Why does horse suddenly refuse to move forward? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
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Help! Why does horse suddenly refuse to move forward?

I just purchased my 10-year-old QH mare about a month ago. For many years, she was ridden by a young teenage girl who showed her in english and western classes. She seems like a very content, happy horse in general but I'm having a couple of issues:

My problem is that when we work in the arena on the flat, she will suddenly stop and refuse to move about 15 to 20 minutes in. At first, she is willing and receptive...but at some point when we go back to a halt or walk, she will suddenly stop and refuse to go forward. She will even back up a bit sometimes but usually she just stops in her tracks. I try kicking her while turning her head tightly to one side or the other. The only thing that will get her moving again is by using a dressage whip and snapping her with it behind my leg. I also seem to need the whip to get her to canter and it takes a lot of work to KEEP her cantering. I have not found any "trigger" that seems to start this. It doesn't matter if other horses are around or not. She just seems like she's decided she's done!

I'm really frustrated by this because I hate holding a whip while I ride. I also don't like using spurs and really don't want to do this. The whip is so distracting to me and I hate that feeling of having to handle it all the time. Plus..I want her to WANT to work with me.

Is there any way to train her to move forward willingly without the whip? I am a very experienced rider but all my past horses have been very willing compared to her. I rode her several times before purchasing her and she didn't do this at that time. I did find out from the owner recently that she pulled this same behavior with the teen daughter and the daughter got very frustrated with her. I'm now wondering if this was the reason they sold her....but I'm not sure. But I suspect it might be the reason.

I do want to add that when we are out of the arena, she (so far) hasn't done this. She loves to be out on the trail and I don't need a whip then. Perhaps she just hates arena work?

Any advice would be appreciated. I'm really bummed! I'd love to know why a horse would do this and how to fix it, if possible.

Last edited by bluesunhorse; 05-19-2012 at 10:11 PM.
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post #2 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 10:16 PM
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There could be something pain related going on, or she could have tested the waters, figured out she could get away with it, and is not ignoring your leg.

So check your position, the tack, and test her muscles for any pain. If her shoulder is being blocked, then she can't move out as well and may be a slow poke or stop.

If it's behavioral though..

Do you have split reins? I would give her a good hard smack on her behind (I'm talking really hard) in conjunction to a reasonable squeeze of your legs and be careful not to hold her back on the reins after she takes off. Keep with her. Let her run around, stay with her, and slowly bring her back down to a trot and walk. Then next time you use your legs, she should immediately go. Then praise her lots.

You can do the same with a whip. A good little short crop is easy to conceal so your horse doesn't know if you have it or not (versus a long whip)

The idea is to drill into her head that that smack can happen at any time with no warning if she doesn't listen to your leg. It's a surprise.

If you don't feel comfortable doing this with her, find someone that can. She's in need of a "tune up."

Another thing you can do is lots and lots and lots of lateral work. She will be more than willing to move forward after you spend quite a bit of time doing this (or circles, but be careful of her joints)
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post #3 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 10:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluesunhorse View Post
I just purchased my 10-year-old QH mare about a month ago. For many years, she was ridden by a young teenage girl who showed her in english and western classes. She seems like a very content, happy horse in general but I'm having a couple of issues:

My problem is that when we work in the arena on the flat, she will suddenly stop and refuse to move about 15 to 20 minutes in. At first, she is willing and receptive...but at some point when we go back to a halt or walk, she will suddenly stop and refuse to go forward. She will even back up a bit sometimes but usually she just stops in her tracks. I try kicking her while turning her head tightly to one side or the other. The only thing that will get her moving again is by using a dressage whip and snapping her with it behind my leg. I also seem to need the whip to get her to canter and it takes a lot of work to KEEP her cantering. I have not found any "trigger" that seems to start this. It doesn't matter if other horses are around or not. She just seems like she's decided she's done!

I'm really frustrated by this because I hate holding a whip while I ride. I also don't like using spurs and really don't want to do this. The whip is so distracting to me and I hate that feeling of having to handle it all the time. Plus..I want her to WANT to work with me.

Is there any way to train her to move forward willingly without the whip? I am a very experienced rider but all my past horses have been very willing compared to her. I rode her several times before purchasing her and she didn't do this at that time. I did find out from the owner recently that she pulled this same behavior with the teen daughter and the daughter got very frustrated with her. I'm now wondering if this was the reason they sold her....but I'm not sure. But I suspect it might be the reason.

I do want to add that when we are out of the arena, she (so far) hasn't done this. She loves to be out on the trail and I don't need a whip then. Perhaps she just hates arena work?

Any advice would be appreciated. I'm really bummed! I'd love to know why a horse would do this and how to fix it, if possible.
She has gotten a thumbs up from the vet? No health issues that you know of? Have you worked with her on the ground? If so, how is she with ground work?

“When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine...you know you are loved.”
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post #4 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 10:25 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Fingerlakes View Post
She has gotten a thumbs up from the vet? No health issues that you know of? Have you worked with her on the ground? If so, how is she with ground work?

She got a thorough vet check and passed with flying colors. I haven't done ground work with her.
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post #5 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 10:44 PM
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Carry the whip with you. Squeeze your legs, if the mare does not move forward, start bumping your legs, then if she still does not want to move forward then use your whip. Stay off her mouth, you already have a broken gas pedal, so do not apply the brake.

The reason that I am saying to bump your legs is because you do not want to carry the whip, so you need to give your legs meaning again, because somewhere they have lost it.

Most importantly, when she takes a step forward, release the pressure. One step release, if it takes all day to get down the road then that is what it takes. You have to find a starting point! One step at a time
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post #6 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Fingerlakes View Post
She has gotten a thumbs up from the vet? No health issues that you know of? Have you worked with her on the ground? If so, how is she with ground work?

What about you? What's different between trails and arena? Anything? Just a thought.

“When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine...you know you are loved.”
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post #7 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 11:04 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Fingerlakes View Post
What about you? What's different between trails and arena? Anything? Just a thought.
I'm probably more relaxed on the trail but I enjoy both. I consider myself a gentle but firm rider but I hate using aids like whips and spurs! I hate "making" a horse do something. I'd prefer they want to! But I guess we all want that!:)
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post #8 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 11:22 PM
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My horse suddenly started refusing to move forward and it turned out she was in pain in her back/ribs and needed a chiropractic adjustment.
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post #9 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by bluesunhorse View Post
I'm probably more relaxed on the trail but I enjoy both. I consider myself a gentle but firm rider but I hate using aids like whips and spurs! I hate "making" a horse do something. I'd prefer they want to! But I guess we all want that!:)
Remember, you're the leader.. I guess you can look at it as giving the horse something to do instead of making the horse do something. :)

I think being a new horse, you may not have yet gained full respect, you may just have a disrespectful horse at this point. My 2-cents!

“When your horse follows you without being asked, when he rubs his head on yours, and when you look at him and feel a tingle down your spine...you know you are loved.”
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post #10 of 17 Old 05-19-2012, 11:50 PM
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My girlfriend's horse, a beautiful copper Appy gelding 7 yo, had trouble moving forward. I also used a crop to get him going, but we don't want to rely on such heavy-handed aids. So we always ask with this sequence: squeeze (you legs), cluck, spank. When he responds to the lighter aids we praise him and let him have a short rest. Sometimes he would refuse when we forgot the crop, and I mean refuse to move an inch (I know, what were we thinking?), or sometimes he would shake his head and make me worry he might buck ( he carries his head nice and low at canter). When he does these things, I get off and make him lunge. I go after his butt with the end of a lead rope like I plan on killing him. I make him move fast and hard. Then I get back on and squeeze, click, spank. If he moves, I praise him. If he doesn't I jump down and do it again.

The key to making this a short term problem is to always start with the softest of requests first, your squeeze. Your horse will quickly learn to respond to your first request. You have only had a month with her, and it takes time, but it has worked for me!
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