Re-training a Bad Mannered Horse - The Horse Forum
  • 1 Post By walkinthewalk
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post #1 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 08:45 AM Thread Starter
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Re-training a Bad Mannered Horse

So, I recently started retraining my new gelding, due to his extremely bad manners under saddle & when lunging. He has a very hard mouth and has been practically desensitized to almost every other aid, (leg, whip, spurs)... due to the lack of riding skills and heavy-handedness of his prior owner.

What would be some good techniques to un-train these ^^ habits? And I am at the stables every day, so what would be a good schedule to keep, to make every day not seem monotonous, if possible.

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post #2 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 09:04 AM
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1. It all depends on your honest appraisal of yourself, in terms of ability to re-school a horse like this.

1.1 That includes a huge amount of gut instinct to recognize when the horse is trying to please vs. when it's trying to suck you in

2. I'd go right back to the beginning with him. Pretend he doesn't know anything, including what a saddle is for. I'd stay off his back until his ground manners are back in proper working order.

2.1 Horses like people have different levels of learning and comprehension - figure that out first.

2.2 Make his initial lessons short with plenty of reward (I am death against food treats in this type of situation. Plenty of scratchies, high neck massage, verbal praise.

2.2.1 The minute he "gets" something and does it, stop right there and praise him. You always want to stop with you being the winner

3. Move on to something else using the same method but I still wouldn't make the formal schooling portion longer than 30 or so minutes. Spend the last part of your time just being with him, playing/brushing. Everything is a lesson good or bad.

When I used to re-school rank horses, time was never money to me. It took me longer to get a horse "done" than professional trainers but I didn't care - it's why I never took horses on for money. I refuse to be on a clock when it comes to working with horses.

That being said, once the horse knows the rules and is well under way, I have been known to tell one of them "I have until midnight if you don't do this because you know better"

Best of luck, I hope you end up with a great horse
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post #3 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 01:02 PM
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Retraining troubled horses requires experience, good timing and knowledge of horse behavior. The techniques are not so different than those I might use to start a colt but you need enough experience to determine the cause of the problem before you can select the appropriate technique to fix it.

I am curious how you can get the responsibility to successfully retrain a troubled horse if you are not certain how to address these issues?
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post #4 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 01:19 PM
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I think you need to go into it with a different midset. You aren't re-training, you're fixing.

Dull horses can be one of the most challenging horses to fix. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time to get them back to responding to lighter cues
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post #5 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 01:51 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Hackamore View Post
Retraining troubled horses requires experience, good timing and knowledge of horse behavior. The techniques are not so different than those I might use to start a colt but you need enough experience to determine the cause of the problem before you can select the appropriate technique to fix it.

I am curious how you can get the responsibility to successfully retrain a troubled horse if you are not certain how to address these issues?
I know how I am going to do it, I was just getting a different perspective. Everyone has different methods of training, and for all I know, my methods may not work, so it is nice to see what others would do.
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post #6 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 07:25 PM
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I do not think retraining spoiled and badly trained horses is anything like training an unspoiled green horse with no bad habits or problems. Horses are creatures of habit -- so when old BAD habits have already been well established, you have to interrupt them at the same time that you replace those responses with the response you want. It usually takes a lot more pressure on a spoiled or badly trained horse.

The first response you need to change is to get a horse to 'move from pressure'. This includes pressure on every different part of his body from the ground first. This means you teach him that he should back up from a light tug on his halter, move his shoulder or hip from a light touch on his shoulder or hip, and so on and so on and on. He needs to learn to stop when you stop and not walk past or around you. He needs to learn to 'give ground to you' every time you step toward him and lightly "smooch".

When a horse moves nicely away from pressure on his various body parts while you are on the ground with him with a halter and lead, he needs to learn to ground drive. He will learn much more quickly from pressure there, too, while you are on the ground instead of a passenger. Again, expect to put a lot more pressure on him than you would have to put on an unspoiled horse.

This, again, is why trainers would rather get in an unhandled horse than some obnoxious animal with a lot of baggage and bad habits.

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post #7 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 07:51 PM
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I think lots of groundwork, natural horsemanship & liberty training would be a great place to start. Learning to respect and respond from the ground first will be beneficial to carrying that training along to under-saddle work. I would refrain from riding with a bit since he has such a hard mouth. Being light and sensitive with him is probably the biggest thing this horse needs.
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post #8 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 08:33 PM
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I retrained my old gelding from the ground up, as he had similar issues due to ignorant owners. He was the first horse I had ever really worked with one-on-one. I had my friend (who is a trainer) helping me, but I did all of the work.

It was a very long process. My gelding had been ridden direct reined in a twisted wire snaffle with his head tied down to his chest. He was absolutely obnoxious on the ground. He ignored rein and leg cues in the saddle and was just a complete train wreck. His owners somehow thought that putting him away if he even acted like he was going to spook was a great idea and gave him peppermints for absolutely everything. He learned VERY quickly that "spooking" got him exactly what he wanted, which was to not work.

Then he met me and my friend and his little world turned completely upside down. The turning point in our "relationship" was when he "spooked" at a leaf that blew across in front of us as we were walking to the wash rack and he almost literally climbed up my shoulder. We had a "Come to Jesus" meeting right then and there. I ran his happy butt backwards for a good fifty feet until we came to the fence and couldn't go any further. Stood there for a second, then turned around and led him back the way we had just come. He stayed respectfully off my shoulder and when another big scary leaf came to get him, he just dragon snorted and side-stepped away from me one step.

There was a lot of lunging (both free and on the line) to get him to stretch long and low. He was under the impression that he had to travel around like a carousel horse with his chin tucked to his chest. We lunged him in a surcingle with side reins to get him to accept contact from the bit (we used an eggbutt french link snaffle) and to stretch into contact.

This was him when we first started working with him. Roly-poly (his owners actually thought he was in perfect weight here...he was so fat he jiggled when he went faster than a walk) and acting like a carousel horse:

This is him, a year and a half later. The little girl on him is about six-years-old (my cousin's daughter). We used him as a bareback lesson horse for a little girl who was 8-years-old and had been thrown from a large warmblood at her previous barn, so was scared of horses. He loved kids and was a perfect gentleman with her, but also made her work for what she wanted him to do (not exactly a "push button lesson horse").

And this was me on him (excuse his derpy was windy and he was shaking his head when my friend snapped the pic):
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post #9 of 10 Old 07-11-2014, 09:14 PM
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My kids welsh was a nasty piece of work ready to turn on someone in a heartbeat if he felt threatened. I started him by reintroducing the halter and teaching him how to correctly lead and progressed from there, sometimes by inches and he turned out suitable for children.
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post #10 of 10 Old 07-12-2014, 01:43 PM
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It would be best if you did not think of them as "bad" habits, just habits. I'm sure your horse doesn't think of himself as bad. He has reasons he does what he does.
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