Need Advice - Super long post sorry!
So before I ask, here’s a little about me that may help better answer my question. I am 20 years old have have primarily ridden English for 10 years, this has been 10 consecutive years so I’d say its been more like 7 or 8 and most of that has been Hunter/Jumper. within that time I had ridden a bit of Western (Had formal training) and a bit of dressage (also formal training) and Trained and worked a large variety of horses from green broke to tune ups and have been pretty successful with the ones i’ve worked with but I would NEVER consider myself a trainer. I do tend to ride with more contact (again I was a jumper) but I’m usually not ever heavy in my hands or in a horses mouth when I shouldn’t be and I definitely don’t ram or hang on their face, but i’m really not used to a super loose rein like they use in western (It actually causes me to feel a bit uncomfortable). I think generally I have a good seat, but I don’t think I sit deep enough and I often don’t know if I’m even communicating through my seat, though I didn’t do bad in either Western or Dressage which both have the deeper seats and I did take a major break from riding so i’m a bit out of shape.
Okay so that you know a bit about me, here’s my problem. I currently answered an Ad for a person who needed to their horses ridden a bit before they started riding again. This person was older and just wanted someone younger to work her horse before they took him on trails so that they knew he wouldn’t be stupid. The horse is 7 and was professionally trained twice for western at a very young age. He was trained once by someone not so good, and then again by someone who was really good. He was ridden a bit and then got injured and his training wasn’t kept up, owner said he was last ridden in the fall by another girl around my age. He is not that tall but a very beefy guy and is pretty intimidating, he's a foundation bred QH. On the ground he is very sweet and good for tack up.
The first day I rode him he tossed his head and wouldn’t listen to me leg cues at all. I really like to use leg to push them to the fence and he wouldn’t move over one bit. I was in his face a bit (Like I said, I’m used to contact) and he had a bit that was a bit too hard so he tossed his head and acted up. We decided to change out his bridle and gave him a snaffle and I put my english saddle on him and he was much happier. I rode him a bit in the arena and then took him out and rode him a bit around the house and he crow hopped once while out and then did a few small rears while I was at the barn, and then danced around a bit, which was when I realized he was barn sour.
The next day I went out, I tried my own bridle on him and we put a lighter western saddle, as the owner didn’t want him to get used to the lightness of the english, This saddle didn’t fit me at all so my feet weren’t in the stirrups, but it did allow me more contact. My bridle is a traditional english bridle and has a full cheek snaffle. He didn’t seem to mind it, but still tossed his head a bit when I first started to ride, but this ride didn’t go horrible and I relied of the owner to give me a bit of info on how he was trained so that I was riding him to fit those standards the best. I was more relaxed in the reins and he did fine, but again he wouldn’t listen to my leg cues to move over at all. I ended the session by leading him around and bonding with him to gain my trust.
This last time I road (today) he wore his bridle with a D ring bit, and a saddle that fit my legs better and we again rode around in the round pen. I kept my hands relaxed, used the advice the owner gave to help him turn and ultimately things went -okay- he didn’t fuss but didn’t stay on the rail and acted bored as ever, but because he was being so calm I figured it would be good to have him ride out of the round pen and give him some freedom. So I took him out and went went down the drive and he did fine, suddenly he went into a trot and so I sat back yelled woah and tried to get him to slow and ultimately had to pull on the reins pretty hard to get him to stop which caused him to toss his head, rightfully so. If I can I do everything I can before pulling the reins to get a horse to stop but at this point he seemed to not want to listen. we got around the house and he tried to get fast so I made him circle (again I couldn’t just get him to woah with my seat and legs) and he bucked and reared on me, which completely confirmed that he’s barn sour. I didn’t want to end him on a bad note so again we went around the house and he did better but as soon as we got in site of the barn he began to trot so I pulled him in a circle but the contact on the bit caused him to toss his head but when I’d give him his head he’d speed up, and suddenly seeing his owner he took off into a canter, then a dead run and stopped just short of the barn and I admit I did not handle it like I should have and I didn’t have control of him, which was extremely concerning. I talked to the owner a bit about what had happened and luckily no one got hurt (other then my pride) and we agreed that we needed to end him on a good note, so I went back the other way to see if he would be any better. Again he got fast and I had to pull him into a series of tight one reined stops just to get him to stop dancing around and fussing and got off when he finally stood still and calmed himself, as he was huffing air angrily and I ended the session in the round pen with me leading him.
Now remember i’m not a horse trainer by any means and he has been trained before. I have only ridden him 3 times and learning slowly what he tolerates and what he doesn’t. My problem is I don’t feel like I have any control over him. In the Arena he is calm and slow and when I figured out how to turn him how he was trained, he turns, but he won’t listen to my leg cues to move over to the fence and is super stiff. Every time I need to steer him i have to hike up on one rein and pull it up as he won’t even go around the pen in a circle, he just wants to meander. I can’t have any contact on his mouth, because he tosses his head and I don’t feel like he listens to my seat, which could be completely my fault, is halt is -okay- but I feel like I have to use the reins more then I’d like. When I take him out of the arena he is horrible barn sour, and likes to speed up when not asked and is a nightmare to woah. He races towards the barn and will fight you and get even MORE frustrated if you pull him into circles or turn him around and fights the bit nail and tooth. If I have contact he fusses, if I give him his head he takes advantage and tries to get fast.
So here are my plans, I decided after today to ditch riding him out of the arena until we master controls as I find there is absolutely no reason to ride him out until he is able to listen and especially until he is able to woah without me using so much rein. I already have read some stuff to help with barn sour horses and will be trying that out, though I know the owner wants to use him for trail rides off their property so I assume being barn sour shouldn’t affect that.
But I have no clue how to handle his fussiness with contact. I give him his head but he doesn’t listen or he takes advantage of it and tosses and fights. I don’t know how his teeth are, as he’s not my horse, though the owner seems to take very good care of them and as far as I know he’s not in pain anywhere else. I’m not ruling out his teeth being the problem, but from what I can see, I don’t think it is. I just would like to feel like I have some sort of control without being in his mouth and I’m not training him, so I am 100% prepare to change anything I’m doing as I know how he responds could be all me. I just need advice so that I can help his owner be able to ride him again.