Tips needed, no area to work in
If you look up marish in the dictionary, you will find my new horse Milly's picture. Shes the most exhausting and aspirating, yet fun and exhilarating horse I've ever rode. She's spicy and full of snot, and yet the most lovable horse in the world. She keeps me on my toes and makes every ride an adventure and a new experience.
When she's focused and we're working as a team, shes amazingly responsive and I can make her w/t/c, turn, and stop off slight leg pressures alone.
Yet when we're riding and she becomes jumpy and nervous, she won't respond to anything but the most forceful commands and acts like the greenest horse ever.
Its obvious that I need to do some serious confidence boosting, for both her and I, before we can safely ride out alone. She's incredibly barn sour, worse then any horse I've ridden before, and we need to build some serious trust in each other. If you make her go faster then she wants to at that moment, she starts bucking; you pop her head up so she stops bucking she'll rear. Its also amazing how she can go from a slow pace easy walk, to screaming at a snapped twig, pivoting on a dime, and trying to bolt back home before you even know what happened. Yet at other times a car alarm can go off right next to her and she doesnt even flinch.
She stubborn as all get out, and spoiled. She not a spooky horse, she's just smart enough to know that the more she freaks, the more likely it is that she's gonna get her way, and her riders gonna get scared and go home. To date, I think she's managed to scare everyone into letting her get her way.
I am determined to end this cycle and make her into the excellent horse she can be. I need to build her confidence in me. I know she wants to ride and wants to learn. The entire farm is fenced for the horses, their pasture is 100 plus acres. All I have to do is walk to the gate, call her and say were going for a ride, and she comes running with the herd following (shes the lead mare). She'll walk up to the gate and stick her head into the halter.
I think training her in western pleasure, or something like that, would help her discipline. There's no round pen, arena, no flat open area to work in, besides the horse pasture itself. Seeing that theres a herd of horses in there, including 2 two year olds and a 4 year old, who would bug us the entire time makes it impossible to work in there. Any ideas/advice? What can I do to build our confidence and how without an arena?
Confidence building is tough work, especially when she's been winning at this "I do what I want" attitude and getting her riders to stop asking. You're very brave for wanting to snap her out of her cycle.. but do it with caution.
She wants to be lead mare.. and so you need to get her to be more respectful towards you.. she needs to know when you ask of something, under saddle.. on the ground, while grooming her, with her horsey friends.. she complies without throwing a fit. You say she comes when you call.. that's good, how does she act when you are saddling her up or when you are about to get on or when you lead her?
As for space, you can turn any open space into an arena by controlling the space in which you work. You could even mark the area off with poles or cones or something like that.
But I wouldn't get on her back until you've established a lot more respect. Get her to stop bucking and whatnot.. check her saddle fit.. maybe the saddle is hurting her or she's got some tight spots on her back or there is rubbing/pinching. Definitely check that out..
Also you could buy a lunge line.. before you even hook it on your horse, practice using it yourself.. wrapping it up, unwrapping it, WITHOUT getting your fingers caught into it. And BEFORE you hook it on your horse, make sure she leads well and respects your space. Working with her on the ground, then building up to lunging her (even if it isn't perfect.. will help to reinforce everything you are asking and will give you a different view on how she acts. When you're on her back, you see her ears and sometimes and side of her face.. you can't see what her body is telling you as well as you can from the ground. Lunging her has that advantage, as well as providing direction without having extra weight on her back.
But again.. don't use a lungeline until you have confidence you can use one safely.
Also when you do mount up, have someone nearby that can check on you and help you when you need it.. don't ride alone in 100 acres ever ever ever!!!!
Also, being a herd leader may prove tough since she is lead mare.. she thinks she is the top horse "fight" you for that spot. When you ask her to do something, she needs to do it right away and you NEED to reinforce that right away. She may strike out and you HAVE to discipline her accordingly. And then of course when she does good (and I mean REALLY good.. something you truly like.. as in no bucking during he transition or at ALL) then you praise her.
But the idea is.. you need to be a leader, you will NOT tolerate her being a tantrum thrower (but please rule out pain/fitting issues), and then things will get a lot better.
To build confidence.. you need to "expose" her to everything slowly. Once she masters leading well, give her lots of praise. When she does wrong, correct it right away. Sack her out to things in a space large enough for her not to feel trapped, but small enough so she can't just run to the other end and freak herself out. Go slowly... be kind :) most things she may be ok with but there may be a few things that she is very convinced will eat her so you need to spend extra time patiently letting her get used to things.
YOUR confidence will grow as she continues to respect you more. Under saddle.. it's about miles and having courage. Don't anticipate.. but be prepared. Think "forward" and don't be afraid to discipline her with a slap on the shoulder with reins or a tap with a whip.
Riding with others is a band aid fix.. your horse will feel more comfortable but it doesn't solve the root problem. So do your best and if you need help, definitely consult an experienced trainer and do your research.
That's all I can think of at 1am so good luck and be safe!
She is using spookiness to get her way and head home. I'll bet she wouldn't flick an ear if it happened in the yard or pasture. You can lunge her in the pasture by just driving the others away with your lunge whip. Just wave it in their direction at waist height and after a few minutes they'll lose interest and leave.
I agree with previous posts. It is AMAZING to me how WAAYYYY too many horses are sold, but not finished, shown, but not fully broken. I heard a former USET ride/trainer mention recently (on an RFD progam) that he sees Eventing horses who won't stand tied, or other basic obediences bc they show promise and are rushed to the show ring.
YOUR mare needs to learn that you are alpha is ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. I see that you live north of me--I live in East Central Illinois. I'm feeling winter today, and I know it's cold and probably snowy where you are--our best riding weather is ahead of us, in 2012. Take your mare back and start her over in basic training. She MUST be obedient when you groom her, tack her up, feed her, etc. You must win every battle. Make your battles attainable and expect obedience, and train for perfection in the little things. Train her to move everywhere at your command, then praise her for any attempts. In the spring and summer we're too busy riding to fix the behaviors that we don't like. THIS is the best time to teach her to move her body, head and feet on your commands. I teach mine with English. My 13yo mare knows enough English that I got her to follow me from gate to gate yesterday--I was home--so it IS possible. You need to be the safe and sane leader that she really wants. Let us know how this turns out for you. =D
You guys touched on the thing that confuses me most with this horse. Her ground manners are PERFECT completely beyond reproach. I've lounged her a few times already, my friend (who owns the farm) will ride with me to the neighbors so I can use their round pen. Its a couple miles away and I cant get there myself with Milly, and my friend can only ride with me once or twice a week with our work schedules, so its not something I can train in often.
The first time was a nightmare, I admit. She was perfect till in came to canter, then she'd start bucking or would put on the brakes and stand there. When I would move at her with the lounge whip she would rear and toss her head. It took a week, but she'll w/t/c with the lounge line just fine now.
I can lead her anywhere, I could take her for a 5 mile walk and she would follow like a puppy dog. If I tried to ride her on said route, she would throw a fit like I mentioned in my first post.
I got her fitted for a saddle at the local tack shop, and the owner is amazing and will personally help me find all my horse stuff. I learn a lot just from talking with her about the different types of bits and what not. Right now we're riding in a nice Big Horn synthetic/leather gaited saddle which fits her perfect, but I am looking for something different right now, all leather. In case you were wondering, no, she's not gaited, she just has a funny back. I'm also using the softest bit I can control her in, and a well padded cinch.
Her bucking went down slightly when we got the new saddle, so I know it was part from people using bad fitting saddles in the past. However I think she does it now as a behavioral problem from getting away with it so much in the past. I started popping her head up sharply whenever she would start to buck, and the correction worked for a few rides. Now she knows what I'll do when she bucks, and she'll rear when I try to pull her head up.
As for sacking her out, thats a term for desensitizing her for trails right? Yup, done that too. Plastic bags, tarps, riding through the barn filled with pigeons, kids running around shooting water rockets off right in front of her, the 8 dogs barking and running through her legs, not a single thing bothers her. Unless were out on the trails, then a pile off wood around a bend will spook her.
As for saddling, farrier, loading; she'll fall asleep saddling, she loads perfect, and doesnt fuss at all with the farrier. She'll stand tied all day if you made her.
She's fine with anything and submissive as can be until I'm up on her back.
Then the attitude comes out. I've noticed that if you try to kick her into a canter, she'll give you a good buck, but if you "kiss" or whatever you want to call in, she goes into a perfect canter. She's very sensitive to pressure, which is half the problem when she spooks. When you have to apply a lot of pressure to make her move forward when she plants her feet, or make her circle to get her out of a bolt, she gets even more panicked.
*sigh* I feel like this is my fault because I’m not confident enough, but when she spooks so bad, screaming, rearing, tossing her head, its spooks me too, I cant help in. It seems like when I finally get my nerves calm and get back into the “We can do this!” mindset, shes already spooking again.
The only areas I have to rope off an arena, or set cones, is in the open 100 acre part of the pasture, or in the 50 acre cornfield. There’s no other area on the farm that is open enough and flat enough to work on.
Okay.. you need to try a more experienced trainer on her back to see if it's just with you or if she has just learned this is how she gets what she wants..
As for rearing when you pull her head up.. you could be pulling too hard and are you pulling with your hands up in the air or down by your tummy/hips ? That has a direct affect on what the horse feels in their mouth and if you pull when your hands are high, you'll cause them to rear or you will knock them off of balance and can seriously hurt them..
Bucking and rearing sounds like she's trying to tell you something is hurting, especially if she's fine with everything else NOT RELATING TO BEING ON HER BACK. So triple.. quadruple check it. Get a chiropractor and check her back. Find another saddle fitter that has a good reputation and recheck the saddle.
I'd advise getting an experienced rider on her back.. not your friend, not their dad or anyone like that... find someone that can sit a buck and get your horse behaving.
I agree that you should pay for a trainer to help you, maybe move her to the trainer's barn for help. I don't know why I'm suggesting this, but I "adopted" my 5 yo QH from a local rescue who also offers breaking/training--do you have a rescue like this close to you? If not, call and visit and watch prospective trainers before you hire. I really think a women would be better for you bc I believe that women handle horses differently--not superior, but she would be training for you, and the transfer might be easier.
BTW, my QH doesn't have any of these problems, and just needs more hours under saddle to finish him. It is NOT an age issue.
Here's what I know about Milly's past:
She was trained as a trail horse, professionally I believe, and was used as a mountian guide horse for a couple years. However she was too small to carry the man and the gear for such a long ways. She's a big horse, but he was a big guy. She was then sold to a family who wanted horse for their daughters to start showing and she was trained as a jumper. However after having a strong male rider, then going to young girls, she just was too much horse. They then gave her away for free to my friend saying she was too scary for the kids and they wouldn't ride her, even the mom.
My friend is a horse trainer, she's started and trained all the horses they have, and all her horses are awesome. She can ride Milly with no problems. I've seen my friend ride some truely scary horses like it was nothing, leaving me watching with an open mouth. Her mother owned an Arabian breeding stable in another state before she divorced and moved here. My friend grew up training horses with her mother. She's a truely fearless rider and I try to learn as much as I can from her. But like I said, we work different shifts and when we do ride together, she never really feels like training, or giving me a lesson, we just wanna RIDE.
We've had the vet check Milly out and he says its nothing pysical, and I agree. They only time she bucks or rears is when she doesn't want to do something. Its behavioral, and my fault as well.
When I ride with my friend, my entire deminor changes. I know that when I'm with her, no matter what happens she's there to guide me through it. I'm super relaxed and confident, and me and Milly ride amazing together. I guess I need to figure out how to bring that mind set into our solo rides. Funny how when I was a kid riding was so easy, and I was so fearless, but as I get older I've become more and more nervous.
Spirit11, I've posted on your thread bc I am concerned for your safety. I can tell you that whatEVER your mare's training was she was NOT finished, and she isn't safe for you--probably not safe for your friend, either. It doesn't make you a hero to stay on a dangerous horse. When I taught lessons, I kept the best horses and sold the ones that weren't safe. Safe horses, including my older string (1985-2009, when the last one passed away) did NOT buck, did NOT rear, and did not stop without cues. I have been thrown and hurt by horses who do not understand that I, the rider, was in charge and took their energy upwards (rearing), and up and down (bucking). If I'm on a horse that just stops and won't move forward again from my leg, I get off immediately bc I know (from > 25 years of horse ownership) that horse is going to explode. It is bad if it's fear and maybe, worse, if it is intentionally avoiding work.
Perhaps your friend wants to buy your mare and you can purchase one that is rideable. I think I'm done with this thread. =(
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