Working with a fairly broke horse that hasn't been ridden in over a year
Hello, I'm looking for some advice about a 10 year old Paint horse that I have been working with for about 2 weeks now. She was trained and worked with a lot, but then she hadn't been ridden in over a year. Her owner asked me to work with her and see if I like her enough to buy her. I fell in love, and we have been working a lot, but still have some places for improvement.
I've been doing ground work for most of our time together, and we did go on one trail ride. For the most part she is doing awesome. Our main issues are, moving around when trying to mount, and tossing head with rein cues. I've been reading a lot and watching a lot of youtube videos about working with green horses, and I'm looking for some more specific advice, I guess. I know sometimes horses will move out of the way when they are in pain from ill fitting tack, but I use a bitless bridle, and she moves out of the way when using a saddle, or bareback. I've done some massage on her, and there is a spot on her back that seems to be a little tender, so I've been rubbing that and trying to focus on ground work that trains her to hold her head in a nice flexion. I think her back may be sore because 1) she hasn't been worked with in a year and is out of shape, and 2) she sticks her neck out, and doesn't round her back for support. As for the issue with head tossing, I think she's just being a butt, because she doesn't toss her head during ground driving, only when riding with her. What I have been setting goals (Before we're done working, you'll weave through 5 poles each way with no head tossing) The last time I rode her, we worked on turns and stopping for about 30 minutes before she stopped tossing her head. This is why I don't think that it is pain, is because after working with her, she stops doing it.
My main questions are:
1.Does anyone have any advice for getting her to hold still why I mount?
-I have been making her move in which ever way she moves when she avoids my mount. If she backs, I back her up 10 steps and try again. If she goes forward, then I make her lunge for 5 circles in each direction. If she steps out of the way, I diengage her hindquarters for a circle in each direction, and then try again. Also, once I get on her, I make her stand still for 30-60 minutes before we move, so she knows that being on doesn't mean moving immediately. It has been taking me about 15 minutes of doing these things to get her to eventually hold still, but I don't want to fight her forever... Any other tips?
2. Any tips for teaching her to keep her head flexed aside from ground driving and riding?
3. Any tips for ways to stop her from tossing her head with rein cues? I am very light on the reins as she is very sensitive. I use my legs as much as possible for cues, but sometimes her turn isn't tight enough, and I need to cue with the reins, so I pull very lightly, because she is so sensitive.
4. She hates the arena, but in my mind, that's too bad for her. Any games or mindful exercises we could do to make things a little more interesting for her?
I'm thinking she's probably still in a little bit of denial about having to be worked with, since she went so long without exercising.
Any other tips about getting a horse that hasn't been ridden in a while back into shape would also be greatly appreciated.
Thank you everyone :-)
Head tossing could be related to dental issues. When was her last dental?
At this point in time, asking her to collect will be difficult for her. She is out of shape. The other stuff is more putzy and will come back if the mare has a work ethic.
I would suggest long slow miles to start building her body and mind.
Why did she sit for a year?
Face her into a corner and get on and off her 57,000 times, praising her when she stands still. She eventually will.
Then go to the middle of the pen, or where ever you are and do it 57,000 times more.
Then go out in the open and do it 5...... You get the idea.
There's a lot to be said for rote learning. Repeating, repeating, re...
For a horse that has been off work for a year, I think you are getting ahead of yourself. She needs to build up her abdominals and drive from behind before she can stretch out/relax her topline enough to round up and lift from the shoulders. This will ultimately lead to proper head position/flexion.
I agree that there is pain/discomfort going on somewhere. Head tossing suggests that or that she needs some dental work done. I would bet she has some sharp points hurting her cheeks and the bridle is rubbing on them from the outside in.
I have no idea when her last dental was to be honest. The vet is coming out to do a pre-purchase exam for me on Thursday, so I'll be sure to ask about her dental along with my other bazillion questions.
I'm confident that if the other things are just her being in denial about work, that they will go away with time. She is a quick learner, and each time I work with her I see little improvements.
I actually just got back from working with her a little, and she was very good today. We did more ground work, and my goal was to get on her and let her stand. It took me about half the time and effort to finally get her to hold still, but I had a friend with me who was having a lesson, and needed to go, so I didn't get to get on and of a million times. When I see her on Friday or Saturday, our game plan will be, on and off a million times in the round pen, arena, and in the grass.
I've been working with her between 3 and 6 days a week, and I'm trying to keep it interesting so she doesn't get bored, and learns to never expect the same thing from me.
Thank you everyone for your responses. This is my first time using this site, and I appreciate the kind and constructive feedback.
Thank you so much for the advice!
Has she been retrained to be ridden in a bitless bridle?
Most horses aren't, and using such a lunging system will be pretty pointless I think, if she's not used to nose pressure. In fact I've never known a bitless horse to collect at all - not saying it doesn't happen, just that it doesn't really often happen. Many bitless people just do trails and such because, at least here, you can't compete in dressage bitless (where collection is usually valued).
As for standing still, I'd just spend a few sessions working just on that. Get her standing still on the ground then just put a foot in the stirrup, and when she moves make her stand and do it again and again.
I don't know how well moving them when they move works. Like horses learn from release of pressure, so I'd do something that stops putting pressure when she stands. Like if you where to teach her a ground version of the one rein stop and then when she moves let her spin tightly until she stops - then release the pressure.
2- If she has been out of work for some time you can't expect a headset just yet. That will come from becoming more fit and then collection. A headset starts at the hind end. Once she is fit and can work up under herself then you can start to think about the front end following the hind.
3- I would start with dental work. As long as she was tossed out to pasture there's a good chance that was overlooked. If teeth aren't the issue I would look to see what her mouth looks like (thick tongue, low palette, etc) and make sure to be using a bit that works with what you've got. If then it is still happening and comes from a place of resistance, she needs to start at square one and learn to give her nose.
4- Change things up constantly. Don't give her a chance to lose focus. My non horsey hubby when watching me work youngsters says that sometimes I look like I'm "riding drunk". Lots of yielding, transitions, change of direction, etc. Add in some ground poles, cones to turn around, etc. A favorite for me is to put out several cones, 2 or 3 rows of them and just work through them randomly changing it up. It doesn't leave opportunity for anticipation as there is no true pattern and your horse will have to seek guidance from you.
I would also suggest getting her out of the arena part of the time as well. Being out of the arena doesn't mean training stops and she gets to slack & have a poke around relax ride, make her work outside the arena as well. Then after you work her outside of the arena, take her back to the arena to relax and cool down. She'll like going there eventually if she gets a chance to rest there sometimes too. When done loosen her girth and let her hang out tied in the arena. Mine get "wall time" (if I'm in the indoor) or post in outdoor after every ride, usually about 15 minutes or so, I go check water buckets or find something to do while they hang out and relax. I take them off the wall when they are standing relaxed & quiet with a hip cocked.
Getting her back in shape, trotting - lots & lots of long trotting but not without breaks. Nothing tucks up a belly and strengthens a back like good trot work. If you have access to hills to ride up & down, hill work is fantastic for conditioning as well.
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