New horse and problems!
We just bought my son (14) a horse after a 6 month long search. We thought that we found the perfect horse. He is an Arabian cross gelding who is 14 years old and he was used as a therapy horse up until a year ago. Well, he rode wonderfully at his previous owners house. They ran him through all sorts of tests to show us how nothing spooks him and said that they would go on trail rides every weekend and he was a great trailriding horse. They were getting rid of him because the horse wouldn't go faster than a slow walk and their daughter was ready to move up and wanted to barrel race and this horse was not going to make a good barrel racer. That was fine with us because we were wanting something to build my son's confidence since he is a beginner. I have ridden off and on my entire life, but still consider myself a beginner also. So, we get him home and everything goes great for a couple of days. Then, the horse just decides that he isn't going to move anymore while my son is on him. He would just stand there and NOTHING would get him to move. I told him that getting off was what the horse wanted and would be like a reward to him, so he would just sit on him for a long time, but even that wouldn't get him to move. So, we got a trainer to come out today.The first thing he said was that the horse needed a bit and to get rid of the bitless bridle that the previous owners had said to use. Then, the trainer gave him a whip and told him to use that to get the horse moving. My son didn't want to hit his horse (and he was scared to death), but he did tap him and he did start walking. But, he was throwing his head wildly! The trainer wanted him to get the horse away from the barn and had him go down a trail behind the barn. Well, we found out that the horse doesn't always just walk. He took off and my son couldn't get him to stop. When it would seem like he would get control over him, he would take off again. My son was trying to turn his head (like the trainer had told him to do if he wasn't cooperating), but that wasn't working. My son finally jumped off when he had the chance (even though my husband was encouraging him not to let the horse win and for him to get back on) and walked the horse back to the barn and has been crying ever since. This was his dream horse and he is heartbroken. The trainer did tell us that he wouldn't get a therapy horse because all they do is get walked around and he would need to be retrained. We have been working on ground work that another trainer had told us to do (after we told him about the problem with him refusing to move), but he just won't lunge. We are going to see this other trainer next week (we weren't too happy with the trainer today for reasons that I'm not going to mention) and hopefully that will help. My son wants to know (I won't let him get on forums by himself) if anyone has any suggestions and could this horse go back to what he was before or are these problems more than what a beginner should take on?
Personally, sounds like the horse just needs a tune up. How would you feel if you got to just lazy is up all the time and then suddenly, someone told you to move and get working? You'd probably be a little annoyed and out of shape; just like this guy. I'd also say that he probably knows he can get away with it because you are both beginner riders. I would suggest you do one of two things:
A) Drop this horse and start searching again. Search for one that is cool with simple walk trot canter and doesn't have an itch to do anything different. A been there, done that horse.
B) Send this gelding off to a trainer that you trust and let them have the horse for a week or so. And I would suggest NOT using a whip. Clearly the horse has either had bad experiences with them or they have been used to get the horse MOVING (hence the taking off). If you want this horse for good, go with this option and get some lessons yourself on a more bombproof horse while your horse is in training. It'll be costly but if you are sure you want THIS horse, go with this option.
And if anything, get a trainer that you trust and get lessons at the very least twice a week for a while so both horse and rider can learn. That could be a little more tricky but could work as well.
Coming from someone who owns an Arabian gelding, give him a chance. Under all that nut sauce is a wonderful, loyal creature. You just have to get there. Good luck! Keep us updated!
He needs a trainer to tune him up via schooling rides. With a good trainer, your son will be able to learn to ride this horse again.. if this horse is in good health (Did you do a pre-purchase vet exam aka a PPE?)
I will agree with a couple things. Since the horse was a therapy horse, all it had to do was plod along. He was never push to do things. Giving him a tune up will help.
Getting off a horse is not always a reward. Getting off and putting the horse away is. Getting off and putting the horse through some ground work isn't. There is nothing wrong if you need to get off for safety sake.
I think the horse acted up after a couple days because he was testing you. Do you understand herd dynamics? You need to be able to show him that you are the lead "horse". That is done with ground work. That will also get him to respect you. When you have someone do a tune up on him, have them show you how to work him. If you don't keep up with it, he will go back to the way he is.
It may take some time and effort but that will benefit you, your son, and the horse. It would be the same if you got a different horse. If the horse tries to test you, you need to know how to handle it.
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The trainer should have gotten on the horse himself for a minute or kept your son in a safer situation that wouldnt overface the kid. You are wise to find a new one.
From the sounds of things it's not as much the whip the horse is afraid of, but the trails. So using one shouldn't be a problem.
For now though I would suggest a refresher course with a more experienced rider for the horse and lessons for your son.
Although a professional trainer would be best for the horse it may not even need one. I'm leasing a horse that needs some retraining. The owner gets free training, she only has to pay for the horses basic needs. I get a free horse for the summer and good experience. Do you have any reputable stables nearby? Perhaps an instructor can recommend a talented student that is looking for a project to lease.
I definitely think both the horse and your son need a bit more experience before they meet again though.
This horse isn't afraid of anything, except maybe work. The horse knows you all do not have a clue as to what you are doing and has decided to run the show.
The problem isn't that your kid used a whip, the problem is that he doesn't know how to ride. Or how to handle a horse.
And I don't know that a refresher course is needed, as if this horse was used as therapy only? Horse might not know much at all.
But a week at trainer's is not going to do anything, except maybe convince the horse to behave at trainers. Does not mean it will do a thing you want it to.
I'd send horse off to trainer for a couple of months, a REAL trainer, that is, someone who really knows what they are doing, not just someone who "rides a lot, and has horses" as so many people think that is a "real trainer."
You need someone that also will give all of you lessons in horse handling both from ground, and in the saddle.
There is not a horse alive that won't do this, but there are horses out there that won't take as much of an advantage as this one seems ready to, IF this horse is even trained well to begin with.
did you do a prepurchase vet check with a flexion test? I would be very concerned over this horses soundness. A horse who is pain will try to get away from it. A horse who has learned that if he walks he is comfortable but trotting or above is painful is going to walk instead. Many, many horses that have chronic issues are used for therapy because it gives them a job that they can still do! if he was cleared by a vet then I agree with the above on a tuneup please let your son know that it is not his fault!
Get a more experienced trainer or a very experienced to school this horse. Odds are he was allowed to get away with things like this in the past and he is testing you. Honesty, it sounds like he needs a few good smacks and a firm hand to tell him enough with the BS. If a few weeks or a month with a good trainer don't yield results then this isn't his dream horse. Explain to him that horseback riding should be fun and that relationships can't be based on looks alone.
Ps..... Not all therapy horses are half dead pony ride horses. They deal with more crap then your average horse (seizures, screaming, hitting, unbalanced riders). All our therapy horses have other jobs. We have several barrel racers, some broke to drive, jumpers, dressage horses and even a few reiners. Most of them can be ridden by students with disabilities independently! All can be ridden by trainers and perform well in their discipline. It's pretty neat to go a a schooling show at a friends barn and watch them take the kids around all day. They have a gymkhana show and the same horses are taking first to seasoned barrel horses.
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My first reaction reading your post was that there's something off about a 14 y/o Arabian who doesn't "want" to do anything more than a slow walk; the story doesn't add up. The barn where I ride has a therapy program, and with the exception of the older horses, all the therapy horses MUST be ridden by non-therapy riders and given a more challenging job or they get mean and cranky and otherwise unsuitable for therapy. It sounds like the seller's daughter had been riding him, and I doubt she would have been happy just walking if she's old enough to start barrel racing. Arabians are also stereotypically a 'hot' breed and I've never met one yet who was content to plod around at the walk. Did you have a pre-purchase exam where the vet verified the horse's age (might be older than stated) and body score (might be skinny/undernourished)?
I think the horse is doing his best to test your son. He found that simply not moving worked for a while, and then when he found that he HAD to get moving, he tried bolting. It sounds like he probably just needs a tune up from a good trainer- a trainer who will actually ride the horse first and find out how he responds to a bit, whip, etc.
I don't understand why the trainer you worked with insisted on having the horse bitted. Beginners aren't as aware of what they're doing with their hands and what is a proper amount of pressure, etc. so I firmly believe they should ride bitless until they can demonstrate that they know how to properly handle the reins. The seller said the horse went well in a bitless bridle- did s/he say if the horse had ever even used a bit? If the horse was always ridden bitless, or had been a very long time since being bitted, or the bit the trainer used was too harsh or ill-fitting, then that would explain the head tossing and bolting.
Do you have an enclosed area to ride (arena or round pen)? I'd stick to this area when your son is riding for now. If you know how to lunge with a rider, that can help build his confidence back up. Otherwise, I'd stick with him riding during lessons only until the horse is sorted out.
I'd also either send the horse to a trainer, or have one that can come to you a few times a week to work with the horse. Be sure to get references, ask questions and think about whether the answers really make sense or not. I don't think this horse needs any strong training aids or gadgets- just some miles under an experienced and sensitive rider.
A beginner can't just be put on top of a horse and told "Have fun, see you later!". Your son needs lessons, in both riding and handling horses. He needs to be in a controlled environment when he rides with an experienced eye on him.
Putting a horse in a new environment, with a beginner, timid rider, and trying to send him away from the barn is a bad idea. The trainer NEVER should have done that. If the horse really did go trail riding every weekend, it was probably not alone - but with a group of other horses he knew along paths that he knew.
I think the horse should be sent off for professional training/retuning for 30-60 days. In the meantime, I think your son should try to get one lesson a week with that horse, and preferably another lesson a week on another horse.
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