Re starting an older horse, confused - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 04-04-2010, 05:37 PM Thread Starter
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Question Re starting an older horse, confused

I have just started working with a 12 year old mare, I understand that she was used for ranch work as a 4/5 year old, but then had a foal a year since then. In this time she was basically untouched, her feet have never been done, struggled to catch her, she's a draft cross, so is a big heavy girl to deal with.

She has made a ton of progress now, I can touch her all over, lifet her feet, clean out the fronts, and at least hold the backs, the farrier has agreed to help me get her feet done when I've got a couple more weeks work on her feet.

I've had her working loose and on the lunge in the round pen, she's had a lunge cavesson on, and is working in a surcingle and I've been really happy with the speed we're moving at. Today I thought I'd try her with a sidepull and mmmmm. I tried hooking the side reins up, but the pressure on her nose just had her backing around the pen, so I dropped those off again a bit quick. I hooked up a long rein to each side of the side pull to see if she would ground drive, and that was a mess

If I took pressure on the right rein, she turned sharp left, pressure on the left rein, she turns right. I did work on just standing still and turning to direct pressure, but she seems really confused, always turning the opposite way........HELP.

I put the side pull on, because I couldn't even touch her mouth when she first turned up, but today when I untacked her I tried slipping a bit in her mouth and she took it beautifully, so will be bridling her for her next session. I'm wondering if the sidepull is confusing her, or if she was taught to neck rein, and she is confused by direct reining.

Any ideas?
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post #2 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 07:40 AM
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Perhaps unorthodox but try direct rein applications from the ground with a simple snaffle, nothing extra and by her head, so that she can gently "hear" only what you request. Then teach her what the request/pressure means. Just need to stand by her head and show her the bit movements in her mouth, and touch her mouth corner encouraging her to just look in the proper direction for now, Don't worry about GOING, LOOking is a good start, with praise for correct reactions.

Personally, I would do lots of ground work involving moving the feet around, disengaging the hip, and then shoulder, to reinforce the direction of intent. Then try a simple bit and teach the use of it as though she has no clue. This approach follows the "teach to hold the pencil before teaching to write" philosophy. Not for everyone, might not work for you or the mare but it's a gentle yet direct method that won't frighten her (if handler is kind/patient) or set her back so far you can't recoup. Good luck with her, however you choose to go about it!!

Last edited by foreignmusic; 04-05-2010 at 07:43 AM.
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post #3 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input, I think that a bit is going to be her best option, and you have some great ideas, I'll give it a go and see how we get on.
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post #4 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 12:06 PM
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^^ I agree with the above poster's ideas...

Older horses can be retrained quite easily, but you may have to take more time introducing concepts, and it may take a bit longer for her to fully grasp a concept. Just take your time, and make sure to follow through with what you are trying to get across to her; let her figure things out and stick with her, and you'll be just fine!

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #5 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 02:26 PM
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If she was WELL TRAINED as a 4-5 year old then you won't have any problem. Give her a short refresher and climb on and ride. If she was POORLY TRAINED then you will have to train her properly. Also she is of the age that gennerally requires a teeth floating. Get her teeth looked at before you do much with her.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #6 of 8 Old 04-05-2010, 11:51 PM
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I wouldn't be lunging a horse that has never had its feet done... they are probably atrocious. It just throws them out of balance and its easier to trip and injure themselves. It's like you running in flippers.

I'd stick to ground work, getting her 100% on picking up the feet, etc etc.

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post #7 of 8 Old 04-06-2010, 12:00 AM Thread Starter
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Today was much better, she took the bit no problem at all, and we spent a lot of time just standing around taking a small pull/hold on one side, then waiting, waiting and waiting until she gave. Everything was really quiet and peaceful, and she had a lightbulb moment and suddenly got what I was asking for, and I was able to ground drive her and get some good turns. I was so pleased I just made much of her and put her up for the day.

I will put her on the list for the next dental visit, I'm more worried about getting her feet sorted out at the moment.
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post #8 of 8 Old 04-06-2010, 06:37 AM
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Excellent report : ). Just remember to soften the pressure as soon as she does. Pressure being the request, release being the reward. It's all about the timing. Enjoy!!
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