I had a problem this last late summer/fall, and I'd like to get it fixed before it occurs again.
I was fortunate this summer and fall, as I could go out to the barn that I board at and put my horse and another out at 7 in the morning every day. My 2 & 1/2 year old filly has been pretty good with leading. To get her and the other horse out to the pasture, I have to lead them one at a time from the barn, to the top of a hill, then through one gate, down a narrow aisle, then through another gate. I always lead her first, since she doesn't mind being alone, unlike the gelding that she gets paired up with.
She did pretty well at first. She hadn't had any access to pasture before that point, and although she usually hadn't finished her morning hay, I always took her out without any issues. But after a few months, she'd get outside of the barn, and just plant all 4 feet. To get her to move, I'd just get her off balance, then walk on. She'd usually try it again though, and I'd have to snake her. When it got so bad that I spent about 20 min getting her to go 100 yards, I got pretty fed up and took to carrying a whip. Now someone did something to her with a whip before I got her, because she gets pretty aggressive with them. But I'm always working with that issue, and she's gotten to the point where she still puts her ears back, but doesn't bite or get aggressive.
So holding the whip in one hand helped a bit, but the issue still didn't resolve itself. So I tried leaving her in her stall for an hour longer, so that she could finish her morning hay. That didn't really work either.
My final action was to make it harder for her to stand still than it was to walk beside me. So I made her go in small circles, I backed her all the way down that stupid, long narrow aisle, and we got somewhere. But it didn't completely cure the problem. Other people- the barn owner's husband, for example- have tried to take her out. Instead of working with her, they just release her at the first gate, and crack the whip to scare her forward. This works just until she reaches the second gate, where she'll refuse to go through. Then she'll get scared, and try to run around the handler because the handler is still waving the whip around. It's not the greatest situation. Which is why I don't take that approach if I can help it. (And the reason that she doesn't like going through that second gate might be that she doesn't realize that it's open. I've heard something about horses not "seeing" an opening when there is fencing nearby that parallels the gate fence. But even that is hard to believe, since she goes out everyday, in the same pasture, through that very same gate.)
I'm not sure where this behavior is coming from, but it's not from fear or pain. She's never scared when doing this. It feels more like stubbornness.
When I have someone else to help me lead the gelding, she'll willingly follow, but she'll still stop a few times. I've put the gelding out first, then taken her out. But she'll still stop.
After all of these events, the only time I had her go completely forward without stopping was when I couldn't make it out to the barn to put her out, and she stayed in her stall/run all day. She was rearing to go out the next day!
Anyone have any advice for this? Like I said before- up until this, she was pretty good with leading. She's young, and still learning, but she was doing pretty good. It's a bit upsetting that we took so many steps backwards.
Two things you might try. The first would be a rope halter made of stiff 1/4" poly braid rope, with two nose knots and a knot at the poll. Then I would work with her in a round pen, or in a pasture, on ground-training for submission and leading. Take some time with it. Don't just hit it a lick and say, "done". Make it a regular thing.
If that doesn't have the desired response, I'd try a halter with a chain, like is used for pack horses and mules. The chain goes under the jaw, rather than over the nose. It is used to coax stubborn mules to keep up with the pack train.
And, there is the outside possibility that there is a health issue there, such as a neurological disorder. Those are sometimes hard to diagnose.
Take lash whip and keep it in left hand trailing behind you and when she plants them, pop it behind your back so connects with her near hip/legs and KEEP WALKING.
And if you are looking at her when you are trying to get her to move, stop that. That makes them stop/not move.
The main thing though is, you are not the leader, nor is any human if she is doing this with anyone else.
Which means there are problems with the handling of this mare, and more than likely other horses too for that matter.
As far as still working with issues of aggressiveness, that is not something that should have to be addressed over and over. You are not getting the message across, and are basically getting nowhere with her.
Instead of wondering if it is fear or pain, you need to focus on this mare is spoiled and change your mechanics of handling horses. All the backing and circling is doing is wasting your time, as it is not fixing this.
Make her yield more in stall, and on ground, in making her move one way or another from side, all 4 quarters, and lead her with determination, and use lash whip to pop her forwards when she balks. Do not flail away, or hit hard, just a light tap and the command to come up, and keep moving forwards.
And you need to read horses better as she is telling you she is going to balk, you are missing it, ears go one forwards/one back, hesitation in her walk, bossy attitude when bring her out of stall.
Horses are 'creatures of habit'. This means she does not need a reason. She did it the first time (for some reason she has long since over-come) and now it is just a habit and a 'battle of wills'.
The 'war bridle' or chain shank that thenrie describes would probably work. Only problem is, if you haven't done this before, you can get a horse rearing and striking and even flipping over backwards this way. An inexperienced person can make them worse or get them hurt.
This is a 'leading' and a 'halter respect' problem, so abandon the use of a whip. You should not have to lead a horse with anything but a halter. Here again is another horse that has been spoiled with the improper use of a whip. This is just another example of why I hate them and never use them. It is also another example of why some horses refuse to load into a trailer -- they just do not respect the halter or the leading process.
Here is what I do. It is 'low key' and 'low stress' and I cannot over-stress that you must stay quiet and never yank or jerk the horse.
Put a flat nylon web halter on her. Get a package of 1/4 inch soft nylon rope at a hardware store or Wal-Mart. [I always have some around and use it for everything.] Cut off about 2 feet of it and urn the ends. Take this piece and tie a hard knot with one end of it to the upper ring on the right side of the halter (just below her ear). Run the other end through the right lower ring, under her chin and out through the lower left ring. Tie a small loop in it and snap a lead-rope into the loop. This is much more mild than a chain and it releases better.
The object is to pull hard and steady until the horse step forward. Then it release instantly when you stop pulling. Again, don't jerk it -- just pull steady until the horse moves forward to reward itself. If you don't jerk on the lead, the horse should keep thinking and will respond rather than going into 'reactive mode' and getting on the fight.
I would first use this little cord in a different setting than the place she had made up her mind not to go. Just like teaching a horse to get into a trailer, I want them coming forward to that pressure when they are not reactive. I just lead a horse other places and go over logs and through other narrow places first.
Once I have a horse leading well on a loose rope and I seldom have to pull hard enough to tighten the lead, I would go up and down the lane 3 or 4 times. If she 'stalls out', just pull steady until she steps forward. You just have to stay 'low key' and not get them on the fight. I have not had one I could not outlast and have them going anywhere (including loading in a trailer) in less than an hour.
I think I'll try jerry-rigging a halter with the nylon rope. I've never been fond of chains, since they always seem to get caught up, and never release the pressure when I want them to.
Don't worry-I don't ever yank on her. The pressure always starts out slow, and increases until she does what I ask. The last thing I want is for her to get more firm! I'd probably need a forklift to move her then!
And the issue with the whip hasn't been a big deal for a while now. (I apologize, I didn't make that clear. I should have said, "She used to get aggressive with the whip.") She just gets tense when you tap her with a whip. It may be a respect issue, it may not be. Like I said, we're working on it constantly. Trust and respect isn't gained in one day, so I don't expect her to be okay with it after a short period of time. And even if she was okay with it, I'd still continue to work on it, to ensure that it stays that way.
I'm leaning more on the whip being a bigger issue for her though. Just the other day I went out to the pasture and lunged her without a halter, line, or whip. I just pointed, clucked, and she went around perfectly, with no bad behavior.
There is some hesitation in the walk before she balks, but I always have my full attention on her. I admit that I look at her out of the corner of my eye, but I want to know, for example, what she spooks at if she does get spooky, I want to make sure her attention is on me, I evaluate her gait and her overall appearance whilst leading her, etc. She's actually very well-mannered beforehand, so the only warning I have is the hesitation. She does it all very nonchalantly, which is why it's so puzzling.
The other option that I tried was to just make her stand there, when she balked. If she tried moving, I made her stand. That, of course, was a stupid idea, because she always ends up having the patience of a SAINT, and can out-wait me anyday!
If this is a respect issue, then it could be far, far worse. These types of issues are much less stressful to deal with than a spazzy horse! Either way, we're going to work on it and hopefully she'll be leading much more easily soon.
Another option is to have a long length of rope (I use a lariat since I have them handy and they release pressure immediately when I stop pulling on them) and loop it around her hindquarters and over her back. Then you walk with her lead in your right hand, her head at your right shoulder, and the extra coils from the lariat in your left hand (or you can bring it around the right side of your body so that it's across your hip/belly, however is most comfortable). When she balks, apply pressure to the butt-rope, just like Cherie described with the halter rope in her post.
Here's a pic I stole from Golden Horse showing how to put the rope on the horse.
Similar thoughts as Palomime...except I use a buggy whip
Stand on horse's left side, leadrope in my right and buggy whip in my left and start walking forward with her. I do not look at her, I look forward - all the time watching her with my peripheral vision. As soon as she balks, I swing my left arm back and smack on the lower leg/stifle area as hard as I can STILL NOT LOOKING AT HER AND STILL DRAGGING HER FORWARD but smack enough to scare her to jump forward and when she does, keep the forward momentum by breaking into a jog and keeping her going forward as fast as you can. You can slow her down later. You want her to wake up and listen and realize you mean business. When you stop, make sure she stops beside you and not by circling in front of you. Sounds like she has the upper hand and you just need to let her know in a firm (not abusing) way that there will be no nonsense.
Ground driving is another good way to start but it seems this little gal just needs the basics. Next time you go out there, but on your "I'm the boss" hat and don't be afraid to get after her a little bit. You are in charge!
After you think that you've fixed the problem, practice leading every day, and expect perfect behavior. I really need to get a video of me leading my 16'3hh gelding--the big head, left. His withers are 3 inches taller than me, and at over 1,400 lbs. I didn't want him dragging me anywhere, so we worked on leading. NOW, when he's stalled, he puts his head over the stall gate and waits patiently for me to put--manuever, maybe?--his big halter over his big head. THEN, I open the stall gate, and often ask for him to back a few steps and wait. THEN, we "walk on" and alternately "halt" and/or back--this I ask for in English, until we reach the turnout gate. There we halt, I open the gate and ask "around", and he walks around the gate, turns a right and puts his head over the gate. I hold the lead and let it drop on my side of the gate. Then, he waits for me to unhook the halter before he leaves for turnout. We do this EVERY DAY that he is stalled. I get him from the pasture during the summer by saying, "come here". Then I put the lead around his neck, tell him "head down", he lowers his head and I put his halter on, and he follows me out. I learned a LONG time ago that you can get seriously hurt if your horse misbehaves when you are handling him.
PERFECT behavior. EVERY TIME. It takes the effort to not cheat, and to expect perfect manners or retrain and tweak when your horse isn't mannerly. You won't get to this point in a week. It takes months and months and it is well worth the time to establish trust in you and for your horse to see you as the head broodmare or head stallion...ALWAYS.