i have a 16yo TB that i've spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out/get to know. He came to me with several bad habits..walking away when mounting, snapping at me when girthing, running through the bit, turning in while lunging-sometimes kicking out at me, poor ground manners, generally a lot of bullying behaviors. I am still trying to find my alpha spot; I know that when he is convinced I am the boss, he will know his place..it's just getting me there. Over time he's gotten better and better and more in shape, more willing.
You'll get your alpha spot.. it doesn't happen overnight. Just remember that you need your horse to respond asap.. even if you ask for a head lower on ground and you get a small change like you feel his muscles relax.. praise! Green horses do very well with praise.. it helps boost their confidence.. just praise when it's earned. And also discipline when it's called for! If your horse tries to lean on you, lean on him and whack him with the end of the lead rope. Get him out of your space ASAP! Then give a nice rub when he stays there for a good minute :)
But great job!
currently I am having issues with him pulling on me. At a walk, he pulls his head forward and rips the reigns out of my hands even when I have a loose reign. Sometimes he throws his head. At a trot he speeds up and requires half halting and a lot of contact to get him to listen. I am constantly using leg aids to ask him to drop his head, stay on a straight line, work off his butt etc..and he fights me then too. I want to get him to the point that I am not always on him and he's not fighting me and pulling the reigns out of my hands to avoid me. He's really heavy on his forehand, has issues dumping his shoulder and working off his back. We are a work in progess, I gather that but I just get so discouraged.
Okay.. this sounds like a green horse to me that doesn't know how he is supposed to act under saddle. It could be some pain issues (always rule those out) but you have a horse that doesn't respect/doesn't understand/avoids the bit.. you need to work on your core and NOT LET HIM RIP THE REINS OUT OF YOUR HANDS. It's hard :P believe me, my boy used to be such a puller.. but he soon quit when I figured out how to keep my reins..
When he figures out he isn't getting the reins, teach him to give. Start on the ground.. put a finger on the side of his mouth like when you ask him to open to put the bit in. Then, work on him giving by alternating each side of the rein until he opens his mouth and DOESN'T PULL (this is on the ground btw, with his bridle on) If he lowers his head respectfully, that's a plus. Then when he's got that down, ask under saddle.. "play" (that's what I call it) with that bit in his mouth until he lowers he stops pulling and "gives". Praise him.. eventually he'll go from up and pulling to down and giving. It's a process.. but start in small steps.
As for using your legs.. well that has green written all over it. Horse riding is a lot of work, and some horses require a lot of leg, especially when they have been nagged on their sides and have become dull. You may not be using your leg to it's best advantage. Your calves need to be strong and contracted.. your legs should not wrap around your horse. His stride will get better if you get into his rhythm. This will take practice.. start from the ground.
At the walk, the horse's back left is the first beat, then the front left, then the back right, then the front right (or starting with right and ending with left) so if your horse is tracking to the right (walking clockwise) then you will apply incentive when his back right is coming forward. So if you had a lunge whip, you'd click and push the whip near him encouraging him to walk on and increasing his stride and speed. Same under saddle.. you tap with your leg when his back leg is coming forward.. or if you prefer looking at the front leg, when it's ABOUT to come forward. This is known as "walking a horse out of the shoulder" or the "marching walk" "working walk" etc.
Make sure your hips are loose and your seat moves in rhythm.
Don't be discouraged :) You're doing great.. he'll get there! Be confident in yourself and your horse!
i've made sure that his saddle has been professionally fitted so I know that's not the reason. I've had him adjusted a few times and there wasn't anything other than a rib or two out so I know that's not the reason. He's in a frenchlink eggbutt snaffle with a drop nose band. I lunge him at least 2x per week with side reigns and he does that without issue. So it must be me. What am I doing wrong and what can I do better? Sometimes I just want to give up.
Don't give up... breathe. Training a horse is hard work and definitely not quick to happen. It can take years.. and you're off to a great start. Breathe!!!!!!!!! You are doing a wonderful job at making sure everything is kosher.. that is the mark of a great trainer and horse owner so well done!
Ma'am, it sounds to me like your horse has an overall lack of respect. There can be a lot of reasons. When the situation gets like you're describing it can be because of things we did, and things we didn't do. Sometimes our timing isn't just right and we miss opportunities to communicate effectively so the wires get crossed between us and the horse, or problems will come up and we're not aware of them so we aren't able to fix them. It's totally normal for someone still learning to be in this situation with their horse. It seems to be as common as morning coffee.
The good news is that it's totally fixable, so long as the human is motivated to fix it. So don't sweat it too much! If it seems overwhelming now, just get some help from a more experienced person and/or trainer. A good horseman or horsewoman can identify problem areas, help you overcome learning plateaus, and jump-start your confidence.
I think that people underestimate how much time it takes to learn horsemanship, especially with "quick fixes" being so in-style nowadays. It can be done though if a person has the desire.
As for a solution to your specific problem, I think that the solution is that your entire relationship with your animal has to fundamentally change. If he respects you, he will trust you, listen to you, and take care of you when you're around him or on his back. The only way I know to go about effecting that change is to learn to become a better communicator in 'horse language'.
Yes, but it'll come.
I don't remember all the details of what you described, but my first impression is one of a horse in pain or discomfort. I know you had the saddle fitted and you said you had him adjusted and that a rib or two was out. Interesting, because that was one thing that came to mind; that he might have a rib out. This would accoiunt for grumpiness at girthing , stiffness going one direction more over the other, leaning in, bracing the back and running through the bit.
I agree that you may not have the "alpha" position with the hrose, but if he has a rib out or an ulcer or other sources of chronic pain, it makes for this kind of defensive attitude. When the horse is in a defensive attitude, and you feel that you must be in a position of dominance, it makes for two beings who really don't like being with each other very much. Would you say you enjoy being around him? Or he you?
Do you enjoy his company on the ground, when not riding? What's it like then?
I am sure that you will benefit from becoming more of a consistant leader with him but if he has either real or a remembered habit of pain, then it's going to make progress stall.
Is he like this with anyone who rides him? Does he get enough turn out? Are you feeding him too much grain, perhaps?
I am curious to hear more about your relationship with him.
I also want to know the answers to these questions. Being girthy could mean you could be going too fast, too.. Always take your time and try a different girth. Sometimes the material is bothersome or it pinches or rubs or causes other discomfort.
DO seek more resources like trained riding instructors to help YOU master the techniques like asking for give, using your legs, sitting on your seat bones properly, how to use your hands, etc.. it definitely helps your horse! Read books, research online.. talk to other trainers and other horse owners. Be an active owner, as I like to call it :)
You got this!