Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Dang, I feel so bad for you. :( And honestly, more of what I'm going to provide here is empathy, not so much with the advice.
It does sound like she's taking advantage of you, and sweetie, you haven't "ruined" this horse at all. Don't bear yourself up; being a kind, patient rider/trainer is a good thing in some circumstances. In this one, however, this mare needs to be shown who's boss.
The horse I lease gets at me like that. Yesterday, for example, she was full of it after not being worked since last Friday. I had her in the round pen free lunging and she came at me charging, rearing, striking...not fun. I used to get terrified by this behavior (and still get scared, honestly) but I don't think my mare nor yours really has the intent to hurt. They're just trying to say "I don't want to do what you're asking and I'm going to scare you so you'll leave me alone." The best advice I can offer is persistence and do not back down. She hates the side reins and throws fits? Too bad. Let her throw fits, let her run around on that line until she's tuckered herself out. She needs to know that her behavior isn't going to dictate what you're doing. Yesterday when Spree was pissy and coming at me, I growled, took a big step toward her, said NO and actually tossed the line at her (holding onto one end). The end with the snap hit her in the chest, startling her, and then she started listening and being more respectful.
I would give the same advice under saddle as well, but it sounds like you two need to go back to basics on the ground. If you're scared of just leading her around, that's a problem. Lots of people in here have wonderful advice for gaining respect on the ground, so I'll let them handle that.
I'm sorry you're dealing with this though-it's frustrating and can feel like you're doing everything wrong. Good luck!