Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Hatton Vale, QLD, Australia
agreed! Physical pain should be the first thing you look for when trying to figure out what is stopping a horse from doing something. If he has had these issues with being worked over rocks etc then he may be carrying some long term injury or bruising etc that may still be effecting him.
If it is determined that it isnt physical, rather a mental issue, you will need to return to basics and get a lot of groundwork and lunging going with him. It sounds like you have a great bond but you need that trust to follow through with things that he isnt sure about. He should be able to look to you for comfort in times when things are scaring him. Start on the ground with a pole. Just one. Walk him up to it. If he is scared of it, turn him around and come back to it. Let him sniff it, snort at it or anything he needs to do to understand the object isnt going to hurt him. Each time he refuses, ask him to do some form of work wether it be circles, a turn on the forehand etc etc etc eventually he will figure its easier to walk over the pole than not refuse it. Only once he is going over the pole with a 'meh, who cares' attitude, should you push him to do any more than that. This should also teach him to have even more trust in you as you have worked through a fear with him.
When you ask him to canter wether it be on the lunge or in the saddle (preferably on the lunge to start with) and he only does it for a few strides and then trots, bring him back to a slower trot and ask him to canter again. Horses find it easier to canter from a slow trot than a fast one. You can never let him get away with cantering and then stopping and doing his own thing. Its allowing him to get away with it. When you bring him back to the slow trot, make him work harder eg; figures eights etc so that when you ask him to canter, its actually easier for him.
Also be mindful that you arent pulling back on the reins when he canters. If you are a little nervous, you may not be realising that you are putting any pressure on his mouth. Give him a free rein and even when he starts cantering, keep urging him on by saying something like 'keep it up, keep it up' and so on. This is what I say and the constant way I say it seems to keep the momentum going. Once again, if he starts to trot, bring him back, make him work hard and then ask again.
As said though, be sure there are no physicals issues causing this behaviour. This is very important as you don't want to be perpetuating any injuries.
Good luck with him and keep us posted. I wouldnt give up on the old fella though ;)
"I whisper but my horse doesnt listen...So I yell!!...He still doesnt listen"