Hi there everyone. I have a bit of a dilemma that a long internet search could not answer. I work for a place that offers pony rides to children. There's always two people per pony, one to lead and one to help the kid mount and to hold the kid while the horse is walked around a track.
The problem: We have one mare that finds this work boring and will refuse to walk or will stop at the same part of the track with the kid on her and start kicking at the sidewalker. She's learned now that this will get the kid off of her if she puts up enough of a fight. This was due to staff becoming scared and putting her away instead of working her through (Or parents yelling to get their child off the demon pony). This continued for a while with the sidewalker just dodging the kicks while the walker tried to get her to continue.
However now she's taken to kicking while at the mounting block, presumably at the sidewalker, but the child is now inadvertently put in harms way when she does this. If we do get the child on her when she's in that state of refusal, she will violently back her butt up into the perimeter fence. Any of the forms of correction we use on her are met with resistance. Being yelled at, or tugged sharply, or tapped, she will still refuse. She hates to be bullied into obeying.
A little history: She is a Palomino mare about 23 years old. We got her about two years ago when I first started working for this facility. The only history I know of her is that she was in a trailer accident before we got her and she used to be used for breeding/riding. She's always had a problem since day one with us, but we've slowly worked through some of them (kicking while picking hooves, kicking while putting a saddle on). On the track she would rarely kick at first, but exhibited that same stalling out behavior at the same part of the track. At the time a light pat on the butt got her to continue the ride. At the time we also had a more expirenced person to work with her, but she has since left. When we first introduced her to our herd, she quickly took the lead. A year ago we acquired an Arabian mare who usurped her and dropped her to the bottom of the herd. Outside of having to do work, she leads very nicely. Although she can be pushy and sometimes bitey. We've had our vet look at her multiple times for pain or back issues, but the result is always negative.
Most of the people we have working on the rides do not have previous horse experience. Even I have learned everything I know about horses in the two years I have been working here. Usually this is not an issue. We have three geldings and the Arabian mare who behave very well for newbies to work with them. Our supervisors are well aware of this pony's issues, but we are simply told to continue working with her. Hiring an experienced trainer is not an option due to money, even though that's the option I would prefer. So I have taken to researching everything I can on training techniques, watching videos, and the like. I'm basically taking this mare back to stage one to build her back up.
Solution?: I've watched many videos on pressure and release training methods. As in, put pressure on the horse until you get the result then release. I put her on the track and began walking her around with no sidewalker and no child. She put up some resistance of course, so I asked her twice to do what I asked, then made her do tight turns while going
After her butt with the lead rope (no hitting) or backing up until we peacefully walked down the track with no pressure. Basically, "I will make you do more work and make you feel uncomfortable until you do the easier thing I asked." One of the sidewalkers walked by too closely while I was working with her and the pony kicked out. I quickly turned her in circles, then released and we walked quietly down the track with no other words. When I ask her to stop, if she continues too far past me, I ask her to back up by placing my arm against her nose and pushing slightly for a step or two. When I ask her to stop at the mounting block I hold the rope out in front of her and wiggle it slightly. During the tight circles, I hold out the rope and point in the direction while I spin the rope behind her if she doesn't move right away. I'm trying to be as consistence as possible.
The next step I wanted to do was try with a sidewalker. I can do these circle corrections when she kicks again. After she relaxes with the walker, I wanted to then have the walker place a light sandbag on her. Again I can correct easily. I figure if she can peacefully walk with a sandbag, she will walk with a child.
So finally the question: Am I going about this the right way? Is this a feasible training solution? Are there any other better ways? Thanks for the help and sorry for the length! With only two years under my belt working alongside with easy ponies, I'm definitely no expert. Any advice is appreciated, especially if I have analyzed anything incorrectly. Thank you again!