I think I bit off more than I can chew....
Ok, for some reason I can't post in the 'training' forum, so I'll post here.
Let me introduce 'Ready To Rumble', a 15 y/o, 15.2hh palomino Thoroughbred/Quarter Horse gelding, who is registered Australian Stock Horse. 'Andy' is very much TB in temperament. He is fiery, highly-strung and difficult at the best of times. His owner is an older lady who is scared to ride him because he bucks. And he doesn't just buck. When you try to get on, he rears and shoots backwards and starts bucking. When you put a leg behind the girth or ask him to canter, he bucks. You can't catch the ratbag, and when you do he throws himself at you in an epic tantrum. He freaks out if you do up his girth more than one hole at a time, and pulls back when you try to put the bridle on.
Now, when he is a good boy, he is amazing. I have ridden at ONE show where he pottered around like a kid's pony all day. Last weekend we went to another show. He did his shooting back and buck trick on me when I went to get on, and I stayed on, so he bucked in circles for a good five minutes til he nearly fell over and had to stop bucking to save himself. In our classes, he bucked everytime I asked him to canter. I never fall off him, but my problem is, I don't think there is any chance of turning him into a nice and quiet horse, at the age he is. Surely by 15 they have either settled down or are locked into their ways for the rest of their days?
Andy could be the best horse, but he refuses to be a good boy. He CAN be good, I know he can, but why won't he? The saddle is correctly fitted, it was custom made for him, the bridle and bit are fine, he rides in a snaffle, I don't use a whip or spur on him because from what I hear, he'll kill us both if I do, and I don't hang off his mouth or aggravate him. He is just a naughty boy. Another thing: if he is naughty at something, e.g if he pulls back when you try to put on his bridle, and we say 'ok, we will take his bridle on and off til he's ok', it makes it worse. His owner won't even put a rug on him after his last tantrum. I feel sorry for the poor bloke. He has the ability to be good, but he just won't!
Has he been chiropractored? Teeth done, have you ruled out if this is a pain issue?
I agree with rookiereiner . Is everything fitting correctly, saddle, cinch, feet done right, teeth floated. Are you using spurs are you asking him properly? all the right things? I hate to revert to a quote but I love this one.
If your horse says no, you either asked the wrong question, or asked the question wrong. - Pat Parelli.
I'll just reiterate what the two posters above me said - get him thoroughly checked out for a pain issue. A horse doesn't get that nasty for no reason unless he's a true head case.
Bucking when asked to go forward, particularly in an upwards transition to canter is a very common symptom of a soundness issue, often in the back or hindquarters.
I would not be riding him at the moment, until you have him worked out on the ground. A horse will often mirror it's behaviour on the ground to undersaddle - thats why I NEVER let my horses buck on the lunge, work time is work time, not play time.
Work him in hand for as long as it takes. Go right back to the beginning - work him simply in a halter, run your hand over him until he's happy to be touched all over. Then move to rubbing him down with saddle cloths, rugs etc.
get him moving his feet where you want them. As a rider and trainer you need to be in control of each of his feet at all times when you are working with him. So start by asking him to yield his quarters each way, to back up from pressure on his chest, to yield his shoulders, and to drop his head from light pressure on his poll. Teaching him to drop his head to poll pressure will help immensely with the bridling issues you are having.
I was working with a warmblood gelding with similar issues under saddle earlier this year, he broke his owners leg (who was an FEI dressage rider - had ridden to GP) and as a result, he was left in a stable for 12 months. The first time I went to get on him, he started bucking as soon as my foot was in the stirrup. I'm not silly enough to get on when they start doing that - I'm no bronc rider!! Brains over brawn ;)
I put him into 'ground work boot camp' for nearly a full month. Initially just working him in hand up and down the arena, moving him away from pressure, backing etc as I described above.
He, like your horse, would run backwards and rear to bridle, and a number of times he pulled back and took off bucking from the girth being done up - very slowly!
Instead of hard tying him when I taked up, I clipped a lunge rein to his halter so that if he did try to run backwards, I could keep a hold of him without him snapping the lead or twine. Gradually he improved and I was able to take him up like any other horse.
Then we moved to lunging, starting out on a fairly small circle so that I could maintain control of him, and teaching voice aids. I lunged with the lunge rein passed through the bit ring on the inside of the circle, over the poll and clipped to the outside ring.
On the lunge, I worked hugely on transitions between gaits, never allowing him to stay at the same gait for more than one circle. If you let them get bored - they think of ways to evade the work!
If he bucked, I'd run at him and drive him forward like I was going to kill him - he very quickly learnt not to buck on the lunge.
After a month I started getting on- I would work in hand first until he settled, then lunged until I had his back, and then get on. Following to same program as in hand and on the lunge, I would ask him to yield from each leg, to go forward from both legs, to stop from the rein only and turn with a direct rein. Essentially, I had to re-break him.
Horses like that are not a 5 minute fix, you can stick draw reins on them and expect a result. There is no 'miracle cure' other than hard work, patience and impeccable timing with your release of pressure.
Pat is right, AND there are 4 different basic types of horses who say no in 4 different ways! (also taught by Pat): your bucking & backing horse is a classic Left-brain Introvert, which means he's always seeking to dominate, to have his way, & his slogan, if he could verbalize, is "MAKE me!" or "What's in it for ME?"
I highly recommend your getting the horsenality info on how to deal with this type, before you get hurt/killed, & a potentially great horse becomes unmanageable.
Please don't GET on, with him in his present condition! He needs the relationship with YOU as leader far more developed (can you say groundwork?) before you even think about getting on!
You'll learn in PNH horse psychology that no horse is being naughty, he's just got his horsenality. Please don't lay on him that it's naughty of him, if you're frustrated/angry, he'll see that you aren't therefore emotionally fit enough to be his leader!
Annnnddd that the above is why I don't buy into PP. Some of his methods are GREAT, but a naughty horse has to be corrected, he has to know that the behaviour is wrong. Don't beat him, LBI horses take that VERY personally and behave worse, but there has to be a consequence for bad behaviour. Your horse can't learn the right way to do things if he doesn't understand that what he is doing is wrong.
Do not get frustrated or angry with him, but DO figure out a consequence for bad behaviour. If they back up incessantly then I like to make them back up fast and farther than they want to go. So they learn that it's too much like hard work and they may as well stand up and behave themselves.
Avoiding triggers for tanties is exactly the way to make the horse WORSE... he will learn that having a tantrum gets him out of doing things he doesn't want to do, and he will just get worse and worse and worse until you have a horse that nobody can get near or he will kill them. Start with little things like catching and bridling and make sure that he is 100% on the ground before you get back in the saddle. And from there, continue to TAKE IT SLOWLY.
It sounds to me like this horse has been allowed to get away with too much for far too long.
If this was my horse, I'd be working the snot out of him on the lunge. When I work with horses, I tend to fall back on herd mentality - I'm the boss and if you choose to disobey, I'm going to make your life hell. If your horse chooses to back up at warp speed, fine. Let him... but don't let him stop backing up until YOU say it's okay. Teach him that obeying IS the easy way to do things, and that acting like a brat won't get him anything but a hard sweat.
When I used to ride, the instructor had this tried-and-true bucking horse. If he didn't want to be ridden that day, he would buck as high as he could in an attempt to unseat the rider. A few good bucks and he managed to unnerve even the calmest rider. He had his saddle properly fitted, his teeth checked and rechecked, a chiro out, his hooves checked... basically everything we could think of, we checked. What this instructor did was something I've never seen before and I can't believe it worked, but I can understand WHY it worked. She put the horse on a lunge and used a second line to make a flank strap for the horse. Now, most horses are ticklish in this area and bucking demon was no different. As soon as that flank strap went on, he commenced to bucking. She let him buck around in circles until he quit. Then, she gently pulled the flank strap a bit tighter so he began to buck again. Over and over she did this, until he just refused to buck any more. He was exhausted. She could tighten that strap, but he just flicked an ear and stood with a leg cocked. No buck. When she got on him a few days later, he offered to buck again, but thought better of it when she told him "no" sharply. After that, he never bucked with a rider on his back. As soon as the saddle went on, he was all business. Now, I don't recommend doing something like this because it seems absolutely cruel to me, but it cured a confirmed bucking case quite handily. If he had refused to stop bucking, they were going to send him to an auction and everyone knows where dangerous horses end up.
OP described this horse as naughty several times, & I was concerned about that; many people haven't learned horse psychology sufficiently, to see that the horse is not aware of humans' "naughty" judgments, but is just testing/dominating according to his nature/horsenality. Once a person sees this, he won't take it personally & will appreciate that horses are hardwired to test for dominance/leadership, for survival in their herds.
One of the 4 responsibilities of a horseman, in PNH, is to think like a horse: this means to use psychology, & the example of backing the horse up even further than he wanted to back is a good one. There's much more care taken to not "make the horse wrong", in saying, ok, I'll flow with your idea, & shape it into my idea, rather than directly oppose your idea. That's quite different than dealing with your dog, who understands direct-line consequences for "wrong" behaviour.
The dangerous thing is the rearing. That is really dangerous.
Yes to having him checked out for any sort of pain issues. At 15 he may have some serious back arthritis (I have it.. and there are days when it does not hurt and other days when OWWWEEEEE I can hardly walk). Horse may have the same issue.
IF he has no pain issue, then IME, the thing to do is keep him doing ANY naughty behavior for a lot longer than the horse wants to.. so the naughty behavior becomes WORK and a JOB and not an evasion.
I had a horse that pulled. He would turn for home and gallop there.. and as a kid I could not stop him (not skilled enough). My skills got better and one day I was quite aways from home and he decided to turn for home and run. I was riding bareback, it was winter and he was not in the best shape. I let him run. I had the skills to stop him but I decided he wasn't doing this again. Pretty soon he was laboring and wanted to stop. NOT happening.. I kicked him on. Every time he slowed I kicked him on for 3-4 times. Finally I stopped him and then turned him AWAY from home and walked him and walked him until he was cool and dry before going home (a different way). He NEVER pulled again.
Had another horse I bought at age 16. He did not want to be caught. He was out on about 100 acres and one day I went to catch him (not to ride BTW) and he took off. I followed on foot and kept following. Each gate he went thru I shut behind me. Two of the gates were at each end of a long narrow 'chute' between pasture lots. I did not shut the last of those gates. I kept following on foot and he kept taking off.. but I kept showing up. When he reached the end of the land he went ROARING past me BACK where we had come from. I walked following behind. Sure enough he went into the Chute (about 50 feet wide at its widest place) and when I went into that area I shut that gate.. and I had him in a smaller area. He was notably shocked to find all the gates shut and I just kept walking at him.. he kept running.. and finally HE chose to stop. I did not.. and kept chasing him around. When he was fully sweated up and panting I walked up and caught him.. gave him some grain.. haltered him and moved him to another pasture (which was the original intent a few hours before all this silliness started). I turned him loose and he was never hard to catch again (of course I would catch him from time to time, halter him, give him grain and then turn him loose.. he did not always get ridden). That horse lived to be useful until he was 38 years old!!
The flank strap for bucking is similar. You want to buck? FINE. Lets get you bucking and make it hard WORK. It is NOT terribly cruel. It is just taking an evasion and making it a job.
What IS terribly cruel is NOT fixing bad behavior and someone getting hurt or killed and the horse being put down as a result.
Check for pain and then start working on his bad behavior. At 15 he can learn.
This horse needs 'The Tap'! I did it to my horse - fixed in one day. Look for Hydrid-horsemanship, look up Endospink on youtube. Also, look at a video on horseproblems.com.au regarding 'horse out of his box'. I can not believe what a difference i had in the saddle when I changed the dynamic at feeding time. Worked for me.
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