We have a 19 year old Quarter horse who spent his entire training and life as a barrel horse until he bowed a tendon at age 14. He then had a year off in recovery from the injury. He spent age 15 to 17 being ridden very little and age 17 to 18 being trail ridden by a novice rider.
He has proven to be an excellent lesson type horse in his old age and with all of his experience. He is great for my six year old sister to ride all over the yard and in the round pen bareback!
When he sees a barrel pattern or other gaming type activities, he cannot be handled by someone without very advanced riding skills. He has healed from his injury, but his leg is permanantly altered and at risk, so he cannot be allowed to actually run barrels and other games (although he is still very, very good).
More importantly, when riding trails alone, he puts up a huge fight going out and wants to prance or speed up going home (yes, I know barn sour). He gets more and more worked up as time goes on in a ride. I can walk a trail ride on him, and he will be dripping sweat within 20 minutes (he tries to canter in place the whole time). In a group of horses, he is worse. He doesn't care about being in front or not, but he cannot stand still at all. He canters in place if the group stops. Again, he becomes more and more worked up as the ride goes on. He wants to run in open areas, and will canter in place if held back. This problem had always been mildly there when he was a barrel horse, but it has seemed amplified in recent years. The novice rider had taken him on a competitive trail ride last year, and near the end of a 25 mile day, he got worked up in a field, took the bit, and took off (something he had never done before with his soft mouth). She did an emergency stop with him, but was on grass, so he fell on top of her, jumped up, stepping on her, and then continued on running off. After that incident, I realized his problem was much worse than I had ever realized, and he has not been trail ridden by anyone but me or equivalently skilled riders since. Though, I can handle him, he is not enjoyable to ride on trails at all.
He is getting older, and over weight. He is starting to get arthritic. I have my riding schedule kept pretty full riding Dez, my stallion, so his only exercise is riding around the yard with my little sister and when I give walk trot lessons using him. I ride him periodically between lessons to keep him in good working order for the kids, but he is not getting enough exercise.
What I want to know is, does it seem possible to get him rehabbed/calmed down on the trails to where I could feel comfortable leasing him to a rider with medium experience? Has anyone been able to do this with a horse who had such a well established and driven habit? In some ways he is such a doll, and others (like on trails), it is like he has lost is cookies...it seems like years of adreniline has gotten to him. He has weird habits that just show how worked up he his. When he is standing on a loose rein, he often has a stiff, arched neck (beautiful through the neck and poll if I didn't know he was crazy) and bobs his head up and down. He often does the same at feeding time.
For such an old guy, he is an adreniline junkie. Can he be fixed? Is it worth my time? Should I just let him remain fat? How can such a good babysitter horse in certain settings be so nuts in other settings? I have many tools to work with trail behaviors, as that is a large part of my training with my stallion and other younger horses, but would I be wasting time on this old guy. I would love for my little sister to be able to trail ride on him also when she gets a couple years older - not an option now.