Horse pulls, leans on me and fights me..help please!
hi all..this is my first post after many months of lurking and just reading. i am a fairly new rider, maybe been riding for a year now after taking a 20 year break. Riding as an adult is much different than riding as a kid in the pony club. i pretty much forgot everything.
i have a 16yo TB that i've spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out/get to know. he came to me with several bad habits..walking away when mounting, snapping at me when girthing, running through the bit, turning in while lunging-sometimes kicking out at me, poor ground manners, generally a lot of bullying behaviors. i am still trying to find my alpha spot; i know that when he is convinced i am the boss, he will know his place..it's just getting me there. over time he's gotten better and better and more in shape, more willing. currently i am having issues with him pulling on me. at a walk, he pulls his head forward and rips the reigns out of my hands even when i have a loose reign. sometimes he throws his head. at a trot he speeds up and requires half halting and a lot of contact to get him to listen. I am constantly using leg aids to ask him to drop his head, stay on a straight line, work off his butt etc..and he fights me then too. i want to get him to the point that i am not always on him and he's not fighting me and pulling the reigns out of my hands to avoid me. he's really heavy on his forehand, has issues dumping his shoulder and working off his back. we are a work in progess, i gather that but i just get so discouraged.
i've made sure that his saddle has been professionally fitted so i know that's not the reason. i've had him adjusted a few times and there wasn't anything other than a rib or two out so i know that's not the reason. he's in a frenchlink eggbutt snaffle with a drop nose band. i lunge him at least 2x per week with side reigns and he does that without issue. so it must be me. what am i doing wrong and what can i do better? sometimes i just want to give up.
Ma'am, it sounds to me like your horse has an overall lack of respect. There can be a lot of reasons. When the situation gets like you're describing it can be because of things we did, and things we didn't do. Sometimes our timing isn't just right and we miss opportunities to communicate effectively so the wires get crossed between us and the horse, or problems will come up and we're not aware of them so we aren't able to fix them. It's totally normal for someone still learning to be in this situation with their horse. It seems to be as common as morning coffee.
The good news is that it's totally fixable, so long as the human is motivated to fix it. So don't sweat it too much! If it seems overwhelming now, just get some help from a more experienced person and/or trainer. A good horseman or horsewoman can identify problem areas, help you overcome learning plateaus, and jump-start your confidence.
I think that people underestimate how much time it takes to learn horsemanship, especially with "quick fixes" being so in-style nowadays. It can be done though if a person has the desire.
As for a solution to your specific problem, I think that the solution is that your entire relationship with your animal has to fundamentally change. If he respects you, he will trust you, listen to you, and take care of you when you're around him or on his back. The only way I know to go about effecting that change is to learn to become a better communicator in 'horse language'.
Too many issues here beyond the realm of an online forum advise post. Best money you'll ever spend is getting a trainer to work with both you & the horse. Ask around for recommendations and go from there. It will make horse ownership pleasureable & rewarding.
I don't remember all the details of what you described, but my first impression is one of a horse in pain or discomfort. I know you had the saddle fitted and you said you had him adjusted and that a rib or two was out. Interesting, because that was one thing that came to mind; that he might have a rib out. this would accoiunt for grumpiness at girthing , stiffness going one direction more over the other, leaning in, bracing the back and running through the bit.
I agree that you may not have the "alpha" position with the hrose, but if he has a rib out or an ulcer or other sources of chronic pain, it makes for this kind of defensive attitude. When the horse is in a defensive attitude, and you feel that you must be in a position of dominance, it makes for two beings who really don't like being with each other very much. Would you say you enjoy being around him? or he you?
Do you enjoy his company on the ground, when not riding? what's it like then?
I am sure that you will benefit from becoming more of a consistant leader with him but if he has either real or a remembered habit of pain, then it's going to make progress stall.
Is he like this with anyone who rides him? Does he get enough turn out? Are you feeding him too much grain, perhaps?
I am curious to hear more about your relationship with him.
But great job!
When he figures out he isn't getting the reins, teach him to give. Start on the ground.. put a finger on the side of his mouth like when you ask him to open to put the bit in. Then, work on him giving by alternating each side of the rein until he opens his mouth and DOESN'T PULL (this is on the ground btw, with his bridle on) If he lowers his head respectfully, that's a plus. Then when he's got that down, ask under saddle.. "play" (that's what I call it) with that bit in his mouth until he lowers he stops pulling and "gives". Praise him.. eventually he'll go from up and pulling to down and giving. It's a process.. but start in small steps.
As for using your legs.. well that has green written all over it. Horse riding is a lot of work, and some horses require a lot of leg, especially when they have been nagged on their sides and have become dull. You may not be using your leg to it's best advantage. Your calves need to be strong and contracted.. your legs should not wrap around your horse. His stride will get better if you get into his rhythm. This will take practice.. start from the ground.
At the walk, the horse's back left is the first beat, then the front left, then the back right, then the front right (or starting with right and ending with left) so if your horse is tracking to the right (walking clockwise) then you will apply incentive when his back right is coming forward. So if you had a lunge whip, you'd click and push the whip near him encouraging him to walk on and increasing his stride and speed. Same under saddle.. you tap with your leg when his back leg is coming forward.. or if you prefer looking at the front leg, when it's ABOUT to come forward. This is known as "walking a horse out of the shoulder" or the "marching walk" "working walk" etc.
Make sure your hips are loose and your seat moves in rhythm.
Don't be discouraged :) You're doing great.. he'll get there! Be confident in yourself and your horse!
DO seek more resources like trained riding instructors to help YOU master the techniques like asking for give, using your legs, sitting on your seat bones properly, how to use your hands, etc.. it definitely helps your horse! Read books, research online.. talk to other trainers and other horse owners. Be an active owner, as I like to call it :)
You got this!
He pulls because you let him to. :wink: The moment my qh tries that trick on me (and she does from time to time), she gets my leg on (or tap of the whip if she ignores the leg) requesting her to move forward immediately backed up by the half halt (strong enough if she's trying to run through) asking her to re-balance.
20 m circles (serpantines, figure 8, etc.) and transitions (walk/trot/halt) would be your best friend in this situation.
I fully enjoy being around/with him. he is my escape from a hectic work life. I am down at the barn every night after work and every afternoon on the weekends. Sometimes to ride, sometimes just to work on some carrots stretches (what the chiro ordered) and give him some love, sometimes we go on walks and explore (with me on foot..there are miles of trails and hills). There are some days when I love riding; those are the days when he is cooperating, focused, and calm...Then there are the days when he is a wingnut, distracted by just about everything and we spend most of the time arguing with each other. Him grinding his bit, throwing his head, pulling on my hands..It's like he has two different personalities. And throughout this, his feed regimine doesn't change and his exercise doesn't change. Those are the days when I want to bang my head against a wall.
I know I need to be the alpha. And I make it a goal when we are both scared to be the alpha. But sometimes he takes me by suprise and I don't know what to do...He's a big boy...16.1..so there is an intimidation factor..but I am constantly working on this. I think he has my number. I wonder how hard that is to change??
He does act like this with others that ride him. His previous owner rode him a few months ago and decided to gallop him on the trails and he wouldn't stop so she had to jump off him. He is in an outdoor stall that is huge. he has a lot of room to meander around. Plus I lunge him 2x a week and ride him in the arena 2x a week and if weather permits, we go out on the trails 1x a week. And like I said, his grain doesn't change. He gets the same amount on good days and on bad days. The girthy-ness has always been consistent. When I first got him he was girthy. Thought it was pain, got him adjusted, and still girthy. Thought it may be the girth (it was neoprene), so I bought him a fleece one with elastic and he's still girthy. I am suspecting it's in his head; maybe he had a mean owner who girthed him up too fast, too tight. He is a stiff horse. We are working on flexion and we do a lot of carrot stretches. He can only reach back to his girth area. Sigh. I just want to know more of how to help him and I am so green that I am sure I am not helping him.
Honestly I think its time to either get the horse any you both to a good trainer and coach or put the horse up for sale. Clearly there is a personality mismatch.
Personally, I like dominant horses. I have a type a, dominant personality myself and I enjoy people and horses around me who challenge my way of thinking and doing. However, it is easy for these kinds of horses to become aggressive or develop bad habits if not handled correctly. I have experienced this first hand with some of my horses and so I make sure that myself, or someone competent with these types of horses is the only one handling them.
You would likely be better suited to a horse that is more of a follower rather than a leader. Remember it costs just as much every month to own a horse that is easy and fun to be around as it does to own a horse you're intimidated and scared by.
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It is possible, as Annabel said, that you would be happier with a different personality type horse. I do NOT like the aggresiive, type A horse, but that's me. I dont' mind being a bit firm , if necessary, on the ground or saddle to make my point and remind the hrose who is the leader. But I dont' like to have to continually revisit that.
Anyway, your description tells me that you are not as green as you think, in that you are doing all kinds of good things with the horse. It is possible that some ground work with an instructor might help you change your fundamental relastionship with the horse, if it currently is one where he goes along only when things are basically of his liking anyway. It is sometimes hard to see how a horse/human pair relate without actually "seeing" them together, and a fair amount. An experience trainer could see where you might be able to clear up communication on the ground so that your horse looks more to you for direction.
But , you know, some Thoroughbreds are like how you describe, and they just ARE that way from time to time. I mean, more so than other breeds of horses, in general. Part of their amazing spirit.
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