Mare refuses to lead on trails - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 07-07-2011, 08:29 AM Thread Starter
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Mare refuses to lead on trails

My 6yo mare refuses to lead while trail riding. This is a new habit this year and I can't seem to get it corrected.

We will be riding single file or side by side and if I ask her to take the lead she will stop and pin her ears and kick out with a back leg. She is 100% broke and not spooky or shy, it's not a fear response.

I have used spurs, ends of the reins on her shoulder and hindquarters and a short whip and it just increases her kicking and overall pisses her off more.

While riding at ACTHA rides she will walk away from the group and complete the obstacle but when we take off to the next one she will literally stop dead and make everyone else go ahead of her.

She does not do this in a arena with or without horses, just on trails.

Any creative ideas?
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post #2 of 7 Old 07-07-2011, 08:37 AM
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Is she just accepting her place in the pack and that is why she wants to follow and not lead?
Why is following bad?
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post #3 of 7 Old 07-07-2011, 08:43 AM Thread Starter
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It is not a pack deal, she is an alpha mare and will establish her dominance if allowed.

The following is bad because we have young horses and or riders and I need to lead. It also causes problem when we come to a problem on the trail and need to turn around or go a different route and we are in the position to move forward first. She will refuse to go forward and kick out which the horses behind her react to.

She needs to move forward and lead when asked to, being a follower is not acceptable.
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post #4 of 7 Old 07-07-2011, 08:59 AM
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So what changed?

Something has caused the change. Work out what and it's easy to resolve it. I guess I say it so often it's becoming a catchphrase, treat the cause and not the symptoms (or don't fix the itch).

In terms of change it's either something definite and sudden, or a build up of issues that went unnoticed over time, until it became big enough to notice.

Has the 'herd' changed, moved fields etc etc? Did something happen on the trail etc etc.

Don't discount herd issues yet, domestically there's little truth in the picture of the dominant mare as portrayed by trainers and books.
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post #5 of 7 Old 07-07-2011, 09:08 AM
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Just to expand on that comment. There is not necessarily any correlation between dominance and confidence.

I've been studying domestic herd dynamics and how fluid and changeable it is. For example a field with 8 mares. One particular horse is bottom of the rank all the time when the others horses are confident. They will be first out of the field, first to eat, constantly move her around etc. Now that same horse is very confident (bomb proof) around almost anything. So spook the field and what happens? They all fall in behind the mare who is normally bottom. She, moves they follow, she stops they stop. Then when the distraction has gone and they've settled down, it's back to normal pushing, biting etc.

No different from people really.
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post #6 of 7 Old 07-07-2011, 12:20 PM
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Doe makes a great point. To add on that... We have had a few "dominant" horses which lack confidence and or leadership skills. The herd will stay clear of their heels and teeth...( so people only watching that part will say they "respect" them, which isn't entirely true) But other than that they will not follow these horses unless there is a "crisis".

Now, I have a very low ranked little mare with brains, speed and a natural curiosity which just beats anything I've ever seen. She is like the horse Doe is talking about... Everyone picks on her... Until they need her... Then she leads the way to safety. Not at all a dominant horse, but with the other skills needed to lead.

On the other hand, another observation I've come across is the 5-6 year "phenomenon". I've found during these two years there is a shift that occurs in many horse's temperaments. For better or worse. I have a young gelding who was bold as brass until he hit 5 years old... He'd never spooked while riding him until that point, now he's like sitting on a jackrabbit out on the trails.

Another mare went the other way... Always nervous and high stung... Suddenly it was like she had an epiphany and decided it was all too much energy being wasted and she became totally solid... Overnight. Bizarre.

I have no idea why, exactly it is... Nothing with either of these horses had changed, from what I could tell... It was almost like as they reached the age of maturity their minds just settled one way or the other.

The other side of this is... I have Only very rarely met a horse who isn't kicking out of some feeling of defensiveness. So I'd start looking for what might be making her feel insecure. Is she feeling too much pressure from you when you ask her to lead? ( it's a big responsibility being up there... Some horse's just don't like that, pushing them can make the feeling worse). Has her tack been checked to make sure she's comfortable? (depending on the horse, being uncomfortable physically can be something they can handle until they feel stressed... Then they need to do SOMETHING). Just see if you can find anything that is new or different, at all, even if it seems too small.
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post #7 of 7 Old 07-07-2011, 01:00 PM
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Is she ok to ride out alone?
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