Refusal to go past certain places/objects

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Refusal to go past certain places/objects

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    08-18-2008, 11:11 AM
Green Broke
Refusal to go past certain places/objects

I'm usually pretty good at finding the answers on my own when I come across a training problem, but I had a very disappointing ride last night. There is a dairy farm about a quarter of a mile down the road that Stella does not like to go past. Lots of machinery and equipment, strange noises and smells not to mention those black and white monsters. When I got her last year she only had about 5 rides on her total so I kind of started from scratch. The first several times going past the farm she would flat out refuse, spin around or just start backing up. There's a well known trainer who always says "make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult" so what I would do was get off her and lunge her right there in the road. In my mind I was getting her to focus on me and not what was scaring her. She learned that by refusing she was going to have to work harder and it worked. After a few times of doing that she decided it was better to just go forward. She'd still hesitate, but she would respond to my cues to move forward. Once we're past the farm she gives a big sigh of relief and there are no more problems.

Well, last night we reached the farm and she flat out refused like she did a year ago. She'd stop and spin around trying to go back toward home. Then, when I'd urge her forward she'd just back up. So I thought, okay, she wants to back up so I backed her all the way past the farm. (Make the wrong thing difficult.) Once we got past it, she was fine until I took her down a road I don't usually go down. We came to a bridge. Same thing, she stopped. When I squeezed with my legs to urge her forward she started backing full speed. Sooo, I turned her back around and we backed across the bridge. Next was an Amish farm. Same scenario. Coming back home was the same thing past the Amish farm and bridge. She was okay past the dairy farm.

So I'm wondering if I made a mistake by backing her. I want her to trust me enough to move forward when she's scared (which I thought I had achieved until our ride last night) so do you think making her go backwards is confusing her? I kind of feel like I taught her to just start backing up when she gets afraid. How do you handle refusals with your horse?
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    08-18-2008, 11:28 AM
When "grandpa" (not my real gpa but the guy that taught me LOADS and we all called him gpa.) was trail riding or just out riding like you were we never had a plan of how long we would be out or where we would go. He always said that trail riding was the best because it was a lesson everytime you mounted either for the horse or yourself.

When we came upon something that the horse refused, like the dairy farm, we would do what you did. TRY to get the horse to do it on it s own then with leg aids and perhaps a switch/whip then if the horse wouldn't go we would sit a spell. Just point the horse at the scary stuff and let the horse soak it all in. If the horse tried to turn we would redirect it and not make it go but look for a while. Then urge the horse forward one step at a time until eventually we were passing by and then we would go back and forth past it (the farm) 3 or 4 times then go on ahead and ride some more. If Gpa spent 2 hours in front of a farm and we had to head back then that was ok too. Next time it wouldn't be an issue. I wanted to add that Gpa never got off his horse, partly because it was hard for him to get up and down but partly because he wanted the horse to know that it was still working (getting down was time to relax)

I remember one time his horse wouldn't pass an empty house. He stayed behind and worked on his horse and when we came back he almost had that horse on the front porch!!! He just sat there and worked with the horse untill the horse decided that the scary thing wasn't so bad!

I know this is more of a story rather than a lesson guide but it's what worked for us. Patience and time.
    08-18-2008, 04:27 PM
Green Broke
Thanks Dumas! You're right, I should have kept taking her back and forth past the farm and not continuing on until she was calm. We've just made so much progress and when she refused I got a little frustrated and should have been more patient.
    08-18-2008, 04:36 PM
Well ..... you can always turn the saddle around so that at least one of you will be facing the right direction.
    08-18-2008, 04:38 PM
I've never backed a horse to get them past something. What I do in that kind of situation is sit quietly on the horse, put a rein in each hand, and concentrate all my energy on getting the horse to face forward. No turning, if the horse starts to spin, I make the horse spin the other way--keep their nose pointed down the trail in the direction you want to go. I just sit there, I quietly talk to the horse, squeeze with my calves, and wait.

If the horse will stand and look and snort--I let her. I let her look, smell, think about it. Then I quietly urge her on again. I'll let the horse back up on its own--as long at that nose is pointed in the direction I want, the horse can do whatever it wants.

After 9 years of riding horses (7 as a kid, 2 now), I've never had this method fail me. All it takes is time--you can always outwait a horse, always. Eventually they just get bored, or they finally realize that you won't accept anything else. You can't get mad or frustrated, and you can't hurry. Just sit, keep her nose pointed straight ahead, ask her to forward--eventually she will. It might take 5 minutes, 20 minutes--I doubt it would take an hour, but it might. The next time you come to that place, it'll be faster, and by the 4th or 5th time, she'll just be walking by, no problem. I'm not a fan of backing and lunging when a horse is genuinely frightened--just wait until the fear passes, and the horse will move ahead.
    08-18-2008, 04:40 PM
Just like DG's old friend! Lol!
    08-18-2008, 05:02 PM
Green Broke
Thanks, Arrow, I'll give it a try.

iridehorses wrote:
Well ..... you can always turn the saddle around so that at least one of you will be facing the right direction.
Awww, come on, you always give such great advice on here! Don't you have any words of wisdom for me?
    08-18-2008, 05:38 PM
Originally Posted by 3neighs
Thanks, Arrow, I'll give it a try.

iridehorses wrote:
Well ..... you can always turn the saddle around so that at least one of you will be facing the right direction.
Awww, come on, you always give such great advice on here! Don't you have any words of wisdom for me?

Iridehorses, You CRACKED me up!!! But, I must confess that I was wondering what you would do too.
    08-18-2008, 06:58 PM
Ahh shucks Ma'am, I'm sorry I've been in that kind of mood lately.

3neighs, you were on the right track with the lunging but I would have done it from the saddle. What I typically do is to start circling my horse in wide circles in front of the object (or place) or around it if possible, making the circles smaller and smaller until we are along side the object then move him forward like it wasn't there.

If he was still stalled there I take my reins and hold them out a little from my body and keep his head pointed to the spot I want him to get to. I'm still urging him forward he is not allowed to stop moving. If he doesn't move I'll circle him again and again and again until he finally goes. I don't let him back up but use his energy to go forward even if it's a circle. I'll let him drop his head and inspect the object (if that is the problem) or let him stare at the place (or bridge etc). When we are past the object I'll turn back and do it again. When we are well past the object I'll stop and praise him then continue on.

The time to do this is when you have plenty of time and accept the fact that you may not go any further on your ride then the problem farm. The next day it should be easier. Sooner or latter your horse will learn to trust your judgment and go better with new things. It is always easier if there is a lead horse but that is not always possible.

The gelding I'm working with now is a retired cutting and turnback horse that never really went on the trails. He would stop at everything but over the past two months he has accepted me as the leader and although he'll look at the object, he will listen to my aids and go where I point him.
    08-18-2008, 08:42 PM
I like it when you are spunky !!! :P

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