I got a 4yo TB mare a month ago, but she has been off the track for a year. She behaves great in the indoor (attached to the barn) and the small outdoor (right outside of the barn), but when I try to take her on trails or in the large outdoor arena where you cant see the barn, she gets tense and really scared. In the large outdoor, she is usually really tense in her back and might try to gallop a bit. After an hour I can get her to calm down and go nicely though.
When I take her on a "trail ride" (we just hack around a hilly hay field), she gets scared when she can't see the barn or other horses. She freezes and her heart starts to beat SO fast- I can feel it moving my legs. Then she starts trying to run back to the barn. I try to stop her and make her go forwards, but then she rears and spins at the same time. Last time she did this was a week ago and I just got off and walked her on the path back to the barn.
I have tried taking her out with 3 other horses but she threw a fit about being in back- she wanted to be in front the whole time. I took her out with just one other horse, but she still got so scared and had to go back.
What should I do? I really want to do eventing with her, so she is going to have to be away from the barn and by herself. I have thought about just taking her for a walk on a lead rope around the field, but I'm afraid she will pull the rope out of my hands and run back to the barn. I have asked my trainer about lunging her out there, but she doesn't want the ground to get messed up as we only haclk around the outer edge of the field.
You have to know why shes uncomfortable going away from the barn.
1. All of her friends are there.
2. Safety in numbers
The reason why your horse is afraid to go out on trails (alone) is because she doesn't have anybody with her. You have to think of her being a prey animal. If there was 100 horses with her and if a cougar attacks there is 1/100th chance that the cougar will get her.
I would start on getting some trust and respect from her. Once you've gotten that start working on her separation anxiety.
Teach her that the barn means work and that the trail means rest.
Go on the trail, if she gets nervous and turns around and goes back to the barn. Let her, but when she goes to the barn stop her and work her.
What I mean by work is that you need to trot her in circles switch directions and do it again.
Once shes a little tired go on the trail and let her relax. Don't work her just let her stop and calm down. If she wants to go back to the barn, again let her go back to the barn. But when shes at the barn, again, work her.
Go out on the trail. If she relaxes and doesn't want to go home then say 'good girl!'
Your teaching her that the barn means work and trail is rest.
Once you get that established start walking from the barn and back to the barn on little trails. First 1 minute rides, then 2 minute rides, then 3, 4, 5 and so on. Going back and fourth teaches her that shes going to come back and she is going to see her friend, etc.
Well here's the good news. While she make be a chicken out in the hay fields, she's likely to be very different bordering on brave when eventing. My TB also has moments when we attempt to trail ride or ride in fields alone, but he's a machine when we are eventing. I guess it's because there are other horses around... and it's fun.
Now what to do about it? Having also been on that snorting, rigid monster who heart you can feel beating through your legs, my first step would be getting her used to it without you being in danger. This being a mare and not a gelding, she's not going to back down out of her funk as quickly as a gelding would and there are only so many one rein stops and bolts you can prevent before finally landing on the ground. I would take her out there on a longe line first with the goal of her working calmly in circles around you. Expect a dizzying gallop at first, but let it play out until she figures out she's going nowhere fast and starts to relax. The goal is relaxation. You know her best, so figure out whether you need to just walk her to not get her worked up, or use the upper gaits to keep her mind focused on working and not the monsters. Only do this when you have tons of time. You cannot stop until she is calm or else you've accomplished nothing.
Once she's listening to you on the ground, try it under saddle. If you can feel her "moments" coming, before she gets too rigid and don't want to move, put her to work so she focuses on you instead of the monsters. Also, if you can figure out what part of it is bluff versus real fear, try to call her bluff when you think she is faking by making her work. If there are any objects on the ground out there, walk or trot her over them. Keep her as engaged as possible. Make it fun for her.
Stay safe and good luck!
Thank you! I took her cross country schooling before we bought her and she was great. I tried to take her out with one other horse today, but she just got upset and ended up kicking him (by accident I'm pretty sure). I brought her back to the ring and worked for an hour and a half more. Everytime a horse would walk by, she would start bucking. I am having a lesson tomorrow and we are working out in the fields. I don't want to keep trying and failing when we go out in the field because I don't want it to become a bad habit. I've tried riding through it, but she just doesn't calm down-no matter how much work we do.
Yeah, I know how frustrating that is when they turn into solid rocks. If you think you can sit her out, another suggestion I have is, when she does decide to freeze and not go further, keep her turned in the direction you want to go, no matter what she does, and wait her out. Don't ask for forward until she abandons backwards. Just establish that first step with her that she needs to at least stay headed in the direction you want to go. From there ask from forward. Young TBs need things broken down into very simple steps. It might simply just be too much for her at her current age and stage of training. Luckily most are very smart. Once she understands the ground rules, she should get better quickly.
Have you tried getting off and leading her?
Finish the trail, even if you're not mounted.
Thank you MyBoyPuck!
gunslinger- I would, but I'm afraid that she would start kicking or rearing and pull away from me and run back to the barn
Once you get, either put her to work or make the goal a calm relaxing walk depending on which you think will benefit her personality.
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