Need some help *understanding* my horse

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Need some help *understanding* my horse

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  • How to understand my horse
  • I really need some help with my horse

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    10-08-2012, 11:40 AM
Green Broke
Need some help *understanding* my horse

I bought Red in May. He is 6 years old. I have spent the entire summer trying to figure him out, as he's much different personality-wise than any horse I've had before. His previous owners spoiled him and he never really even left the farm, so he's been having some big changes with me being his new owner.

One issue that is arising that I do not like (and probably I am not handling right) is that he sometimes threatens to rear. Rearing is a NO in my book and I do NOT want him to learn how to do it. It has only happened a handful of time, but yesterday was one of those days.

I was over at a neighbors house (not quite 2 miles away) because he lets me use his outdoor arena. I practiced our barrel pattern, as he's still learning, and then my neighbor rounded up his steers so that I could track one around the arena on Red (which he did very much seem to enjoy, and quite cowy with ears pinned!).

When we were done, I was just sitting on Red, talking to my neighbor. He had just gotten a good work out so he stood nicely for the first 5-10 minutes. Then I can tell he doesn't want to stand anymore. Red is very much a go-getter. He's never been one to want to stand still, no matter how tired he is. I never have to ask this horse a second time to GO. He goes. However, I wanted to continue talking to my neighbor. Red continued to protest when all I wanted him to do was just stand nicely. It wasn't exactly a rear that time, but it was a little crow-hopping thing. Either way, not acceptable. I worked him in a few small circles for a few minutes, and then asked him to stand still again. He did initially, but then eventually wanted to go again.

Well it was about time for me to get going home at that point, so on our way out of the arena, I wanted to practice opening and closing the gate (like you would in competitive trail). I did it when I got to the arena, and Red did pretty good, despite his first time doing it on an actual gate.

Well him being pretty "annoyed" we'll say from being made to stand still already, he wasn't liking having to be patient working the gate. When I was attempting to close the gate, he DID come up off the ground a little on his front feet. Technicially a REAR. And it's my fault for that one because I didn't do anything to reprimand him necessaryily, because I just wanted him to be calm next to that gate! I could tell I wasn't going to be able to get that gate closed, as he just wasn't even listening to me at that point, so I made him do some sidepassing nicely in the direction I wanted to go, and called that task a day.

On our almost 2 mile ride him, he wanted to go-go-go-go-go. Therefore, I wanted him to WALK. And frequently STOP and STAND. He didn't like it.

I'm thinking in my head that if I want to stop and just stand, he should. Period. Looking back now, maybe this isn't the best approach for his personality. Maybe I should just accept that he's a go-go-go-go type of horse and not ask him to stand still if he doesn't want to? But then that's letting him have his way......

When we're about a mile from home, I asked him to stand again. This time, he comes up off the ground a little with his front feet. REAR. It's not much, but it's still a rear. I'm ready with my hands low and to the side. I pull his head to the left, and make him MOVE his feet. NOW. In a circle, for a good 10 seconds, and getting a good firm verbal reprimand as well. He stood pretty nice after that. And then we continued walking home.

I was pretty furious with him at this point, so I just walked him the rest of the way home so I wouldn't do something stupid in my anger.

Just to note, when I ask him to stand still, there is NO rein pressure on his mouth. When I ask him to stop, he gets the seat cue first, then the verbal cue, then the rein cue (in that order). I release the rein pressure immeidately when his feet stop moving. I keep my hands low and/or near the saddle horse; never up in the air.

Also, I've been working really extra hard all summer to have good soft hands and always release pressure immediately. Because he really hung on his snaffle bit when I bought him (I don't like to blame the previous owners completely, but...). We've been working a ton on flexing both way, breaking at the poll, and giving to the bit. He's improved tons, but he still can improve tons more.

I suspect because I am not letting him move in any direction (forward, backward, sidepassing) and just asking him to stand, he feels he's gotta go somewhere (UP).

Sorry this turned into such a long story, but I am still trying to "figure him out".

Should I just not expect him to stand still, because of his personality?

Or should he be made to stand still, no matter what?

Opinions? Thoughts? Advice? Have you had a horse like this?
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    10-08-2012, 12:24 PM
Green Broke
And the other thing I thought I should mention as well, is he wasn't ridden much when I purchased him (the reason he was for sale! Wasn't getting time or attention). The previous owners told me he has never bucked or acted up or anything of that nature. Well he was also never made to actually work and/or do a job.

He only did it a handful of times, but especially when I would make him lope circles, he hated it and would let out a buck or two. Nothing big, so I rode him through it and made him continue working until I said we could stop. He figured out pretty quick that throwing a bucking temper tantrum would not get him out of work.

So like I said above, the threatening to rear seems like its some sort way to "get out of" having to do something he does not want to do (stand still). I don't want to make a mistake of handling this one, because while I can handle bucking and he obviously knows how to do it, I do not want him to learn he can rear!

I'm in the process of purchasing a trailer of my own, which will be followed by the eventual process of purchasing a pickup to pull it. Money is very tight right now, but I am going to call a trainer this evening to see if they'd even have time to help me, and/or how much it costs. Ideally, I want to send him to a reining trainer for 30 days or so to improve his neck reining, teach him flying lead changes, and get him softer in the bridle. (Follwed up by lessons so I can also get him to do those things he learned). My pocketbook might protest right now though.
    10-08-2012, 01:05 PM
Super Moderator
You have a couple of problems.

First, your horse is not broke enough to be trying to do barrel patterns unless it is strictly at a walk or jog. You really gain nothing doing patterns before a horse is really broke. They do not need to learn the patterns nearly as much as they need to learn to listen and obey the riders legs and reins. As soon as they start 'thinking' they know where they are supposed to go, they stat anticipating and doing the wrong thing.

Second, when a green horse wants to go forward instead of stoping or walking quietly, you need to ride them with one rein and NOT pull on both reins at the same time. When a horse rears, it is ALWAYS rider error or a previous rider's error. The horse wants to go forward and stopping it with both reins make s the horse feel trapped with nowhere to go but up. Pulling on both reins is not going to make the horse want to stand still as it is already reactive. A reactive horse is not thinking or responding to a rider. So, it only thinks 'forward' or 'go home' more and the only place it can go is up. The more a riders pulls on both reins, the more reactive and frantic the horse gets.

I would first teach this horse to do a very good, 'one rein stop'. To do this right, teaches the horse to stand perfectly still whenever you take its head away form it. Here is a link to an old post / article that explains in great detail just how to teach it the way we use it.

How we teach a 'One Rein Stop'

This gives you the control you need and prevents rearing at the same time. You cannot 'scold' or punish a horse for not standing still without making it even more reactive and making the problem worse.

Every time the horse breaks into a jog and will not walk on a loose rein, stop it with one rein. Then, turn it around and go back the other way until it wants to stand. Make a trip to your neighbor when you have 2 hours to get back home. Just keep stopping your horse (very quietly and softly) with one rein and keep it standing there until YOU ask it to move on. Never let the horse go forward when you let it straighten up. If it takes a single step on its own, take its head away again only the opposite direction.

If you have light hands and do not lose your patience, one session will fix most of the problem. The one rein stop will act much like installing a 'off switch' in your horse. Any time you feel your horse getting 'light' in his front end, take his head away and STOP pulling on both reins at the same time.
    10-08-2012, 01:06 PM
Green Broke
Honestly... you took what is still a pretty young horse and threw way, way, way too much at him.

So first you had a 2 mile ride, gate practice, then arena and cow work, then standing still practice, then yet more gate practice, a 2 mile ride back home and you wanted to stand still some more....

The more fights you pick, the more worked up he's going to get and the longer (and bigger) battle you are going to have. He did well on the way there, was fine with the gate, arena work was good and then you worked on standing quietly since that was obviously an issue. The minute I had achieved any sort of good result in that, I would have praised him and be done for the day. Head home immediately and as long as he's behaving safely on the way there, call it a great day.

I'm not saying he shouldn't stand still when asked, I'm saying you can't go oh look, lets get these 10 things accomplished today and expect a good result. You overloaded his brain and burned him out so he became sour and uncooperative.

I try not to introduce more than 1 "new" thing per ride with my 6yr old unless he picks it up immediately and is happily accepting of it. There have been rides where I never even rode, we conquered the evil horse-eating mounting block and standing at it while I got on on a few times so we were done. Next time the mounting block wasn't an evil monster so we moved on to do something else. Had I pushed him to do more and more, I know for sure we would have been back at square one with the evil mounting block the next ride.
    10-08-2012, 01:16 PM
Have you tried using the one rein stop.? So, when he starts to move from the stand still, you very casually (no harsh punishment) pick up one rein and lift it slowly so he goes into a circle, tighter circle, and then hip disengagement. You give him a chance to come to a stop before you go all the way into a disengagement. When he stops (or if you have to go all the way to disengagement), you then completely drop the rein and allwo him to make the same mistake again. Don't rush or punish and make sure you have a lot of time available.

Also, for the long ride home you can either do that described above, or turn him around and let him walk AWAY from home, and maybe trot him a bit, then turn and allow him to walk to home, if he speeds up, you turn away from home and keep trotting. So, he gets to go the speed he wants, but it's not in the direction of home.

Now, take my idea with a grain of salt. I am NOT a trainer, so my experience with challenging horses is limited, quite.

ETA I posted at same time as Cherie. She will know the needed correction.
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    10-08-2012, 02:11 PM
Green Broke
Is Red the horse in your avator? You didn't say, but what breed is he? QH? A cross? Any Arabian in him?Breeding does make a difference. Arabs are a "hotter" horse w/lots of "go" in them-usually, so this has to be taken into account.For as young as he is, & his limited training, you did a lot in just one day. Is he kept at your place? Are there any other horses there w/him? Does he run & play w/them or is he just in a small area w/restricted movement?Is there anyone w/a good trial horse that you can ride with? So you two can have good experiences w/out a lot of pulling. Also, w/a young horse, if you want to talk w/someone for awhile, it is ok to dismount while you chat, so the horse can relax also. Just thinking of different approaches that may help.
    10-08-2012, 02:27 PM
Beau, at this point, I really think it's time for Red to go to a trainer. The others have posted wonderful advice (I 'liked' my two favorite posts) but I do not think that you have the ability right now to handle him. He is not very experienced and you said yourself he has a personality that you haven't seen before. Even if it's just for a couple rides or a week, as a trainer to help you. Take some lessons. Watch while they work the horse. Get a visual of how to get on the right track. Often at the barn I'm at now if someone has a problem they will leave the horse at the barn to be ridden for one week and they come back changed. One week, one lesson, your world could be completely changed without having to pay for the full 30 days.
    10-08-2012, 02:27 PM
First of all, my horse does this EXACT same thing. She just wants to GO and will hop up off her front feet when she can't. It's not a full out rear, just a hop, and she slams her feet down.

I completely disagree with the person who said your horse is not "broke" enough to do barrels and poles. My horse is a 3 time cutting and reining champion. I'd say she is "broke" enough to do anything.

I struggled with sugars rearing for a long time but the truth is you need to STOP looking at the horse and look at you. 99.9% of the time it is the persons fault and not the horse. Have him checked for mouth pain, back pain and ect first and then look at what you are doing. Maybe too much pressure with the bit when you are getting him to stop.

I completely fixed Sugars rearing problem by switching from a but to a rope halter/hack. Bits hurt horses and I think that if you can't ride without a bit, you can't really ride. Your horse should be that sensitive and responsive to feel alone.

After I took the bit away from the equation and worked with her sensitivity and feel more, she knows that a small tug on the rope means to stand still and not move.

Also, never, ever get off when they do this. It just shows them that they can rear and you get off. Problem solved. If you can't keep your anger in check with your horse, don't ride until you can. Horses mirror you, remember that. He was probably just as mad and aggravated as you were.

From your post, you seem mildly insecure with riding, and that probably has a lot to do with making your horse insecure. Work on yourself before you work on your horse. I am a firm believer that your horse is a mirror image of yourself. And, it is NEVER the horses fault. You can fix this without a trainer, btw.
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    10-08-2012, 02:30 PM
Basically, this is what I would do: Do groundwork to increase his sensitivity and feel. Ride in a rope halter to increase sensitivity and feel. Do this until he is so sensitive that a slight tough will move him. You can use a bit after this if you absolutely want to, but he will be so sensitive to feel that you won't need to put nearly as much pressure on his mouth, which is what causes the rearing.
Posted via Mobile Device
    10-08-2012, 02:39 PM
Okay so on class internet I can't quote anything that KSL said but I have to address some things so I'll copy and paste with quotation marks.

"I completely disagree with the person who said your horse is not "broke" enough to do barrels and poles. My horse is a 3 time cutting and reining champion. I'd say she is "broke" enough to do anything. "

There is a significant differance between your horse and Red. Red is not a reining and cutting champion. He is not a solidly experienced, broke horse. He is a horse with talent but not nearly the experience or consistency. Plus reining and cutting are differant than barrels and poles; Yous tart a hot horse on reining and they get a focus.. You start a hot horse on barrels and things get disasterous fast, especially is the OP is insecure (as you said).

"I completely fixed Sugars rearing problem by switching from a but to a rope halter/hack. Bits hurt horses and I think that if you can't ride without a bit, you can't really ride. Your horse should be that sensitive and responsive to feel alone."

Again. You ahve a reining and cutting horse. I would be CONCERNED if you couldn't go without a bit. But again, Red is not that. You can't jump on any green horse and ride without a bit. It takes AGES to get to that point. My mare can go without a bridle or neck rope, but my three year old? Hell no. He'd kill us both. Maybe in a while after he gets his training more consistent he can go without a bridle. However, I will say this again. This is not something that the OP needs to try with Red. He is not solid enough for this.

"Also, never, ever get off when they do this. It just shows them that they can rear and you get off. Problem solved. If you can't keep your anger in check with your horse, don't ride until you can. Horses mirror you, remember that. He was probably just as mad and aggravated as you were. "

Thank you for reminding me to bring up a key point.

OP, if you feel you need to get off, DO IT. But, don't just get off and quit. Get off and JUMP at him. Smack his butt with the rope. Run him backwards. Lunge him aggressively. Disengage his hip from the ground. Sidepass him down the fence. Back up again. Lunge again. Disengage again. Scare the crap out of him. Then, forget it happened. Forget he did anything bad, get back on, and walk as if he was the best horse in the world. He does it again? Get your "war face" and do it again. Then forget.

"From your post, you seem mildly insecure with riding, and that probably has a lot to do with making your horse insecure. Work on yourself before you work on your horse. I am a firm believer that your horse is a mirror image of yourself. And, it is NEVER the horses fault. You can fix this with pith a trainer, btw."

Only thing I agree with in that post. The OP is a very talented rider, but I believe Red has taken some of her confidence.

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