I have been working for about a year with a seven year old Arabian mare and she was coming along nicely. However, all of a sudden, she has started acting up while I have been leading her either in the pasture or outside of it. She throws her head against the rope, plants her feet and refuses to move, especially when she can't see her buddies. It takes a lot of coaxing and patience to get her to move, but every step is a battle and she braces herself against my attempts to lead. Even when we end on a good note with her walking willingly, every time I go to lead her again, we seem to always be back at the beginning. What should I do? I really need help. I don't want to make her fear me or force her to do what I am asking, I want her to trust and respect me. Please help.
She's getting herdbound. She doesnt wanna be away from her friends. When mine act even the slightest bit herdbound i sperate them. I also move my horses around a lot so that they cant get too attatched to a herd.
If you train your horse to respect you, there's absolutely no reason to cause them constant stress by mixing up their herds all the time. That's kind of ridiculous.
Sounds like Arab just needs work with pressure and release. I'd start by training her to longe.
From your post it does not sound like she respects you at all. Patients and coaxing are not going to be what overcome this problem.
I understand you don't want to force her, or make her fear you, but not addressing this could escalate into further problems with her not respecting you.
It's simple. You need to move her feet, and you need to be more firm in how you are asking her to do so. You can start off soft but if she isn't responding you do need to be firm with her.
I have come across this issue a couple times now. The first was a gelding I leased before I bought my horse and it did escalate into a more serious issue because that horse ended up hurting me, I broke my arm. He would not lead. He would not lunge. He would kick out if you tried to make him. This is the horse that taught me sometimes you do have to be very firm because coaxing is just not going to work. He wasn't afraid, he just had no respect for me. I brought in professional help to work past this - an excellent natural horseman that I had been working with for many years.
He asked nicely - using his voice and softer body language to ask the horse to move forward. When the horse did not respond, he encouraged with a lunge whip. When the horse did not respond he became more active with his body language. Snapping the lungewhip on the ground did not make this horse move. He snapped the lungewhip on his rump - that made the horse jump and move. The horse did not show fearful body language at all. This horseman did not stay "aggressive" because he brought the body language back down when the horse did respond. He only had to do that twice before the horse responded to lighter cues and body language.
The second is my own gelding, he likes to get "stuck" when he is unsure about something. I don't immediatly go to suck extremes. I will more either to his left or right side - looking at his flank, moving toward his backend and clucking or twirling the leadrope to encourage him forward. He normally moves on as soon as I step further out from his shoulder and focus on his flank with just a little voice encouragement.
I'm not saying either of these examples will be your solution, nor should you immedidatly start with aggressive body language. But you do need to do what you have to do to move the feet but then go quieter again with the body language. I have spent many hours watching my horse put the run on others in the pasture, especially the young ones, he will use body language to make a horse move away from him first, but he will not hesitate add a sqeual or even nip them to make them move.
Do you have a round pen, securely enclosed arena? You can try free-lunging the horse and making her move her feet in an enclosed area. You can also do this in the pasture (with or without other horses) but its more work for you because the space will be larger, making you move more to be able to keep her moving forward.
Look into different "methods" of doing this. They are all based off the same building blocks. There is a method by Dan Sumerel that is a slight variation is a little bit different - its more about letting the horse decide to come in vs. moving his feet until he does. There is a youtube video or two available as an example. I prefer to use either a lunge whip or a plastic bag on a stick. It's all the same basics - getting them to change directions, getting them to move forward, moving off your body language.
I am also a big fan of lots of direction changes when doing this.
Do not be afraid to seek outside help of a more experienced individual either, more then just over the internet, I mean someone that is there to help show you and guide you through the process. It becomes a learning experience, a chance to grow. I am an experienced rider and owner but I still ask for help on occassion with situations: what I may know may not be working for that horse, or maybe it's something I haven't encountered.
Grab a good horse and take a nice ride on a quiet trail and PONY the horse along.
My mare sometimes pretends she doesn't know how to lead if I'm trying to walk her past something scary, like a new car or the manure spreader. I let her look for a few seconds and then repeat the 'walk on' command, followed by a cluck and a gentle tug on the line. If she walks, awesome. If she doesn't, she gets turned around and made to back in the direction I want. After a few steps, I'll turn her around and attempt to walk her forward. If she goes, she gets praise. If she doesn't, we back the rest of the way. Eventually she figures out that it's a lot easier to walk forward then it is to back into something, and she follows along.
So far, I've only had to use this method with her once, when she decided the barn entrance was a horse-eating monster. She didn't spook - she just decided she would much rather stand outside. I backed her in, shut the door and then let her reason through it. Within a few seconds, she calmed down and we never had the issue again.
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