Recently, I've been asked to flat a rather stubborn, somewhat unpredictable mare several times a week. The time that I have been asked to ride her coincides with a beginner lesson, and, as there is only one ring at my barn, we share the ring. However, the mare has the attention span of a rather energetic puppy; trotting around the ring will simply not do in her mind. Instead, she enjoys spooking at the cat that's been sleeping by the gate for the past twenty minutes, kicking the horse that's been riding up her tail, or bucking when asked to travel at a speed faster than a walk.
What are some exercises I can do with her to keep her attention focused on me, while not simultaneously disrupting the beginner lesson? Please keep in mind that not all of the students in that lesson have mastered the art of steering, and I would like to, if possible, avoid the possibility of the mare kicking another horse.
You need to get her mind thinking, So lots of leg yields. Transitions, stops, circles, trotting circles.... Anything that does not involve going straight for more then a few feet. The more you keep her guessing the more she will start waiting for her cues.
What freemare said. It may be hard with a beginner lesson but just always allow them to have the right of way and if you move out of their way it should be ok. As she gets better start making your exercises harder. Shoulder in, haunches in, etc etc.
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Also if it is allowed, see if you can put poles on the ground and trot/canter a few poles. It doesn't have to be a jump, but I know with my attention-lacking horses, poles and serpentines really help. (Serps might be hard with beginners but maybe you can make it work.) Good luck!
I agree with freemare.
I'm in a similar situation as you. I've been asked to help rehab a mare who is a quick thinker and really needs direction and focus, or else she decides that she'd much rather imitate the Lipizzaner stallions and perform airs above the ground (nothing malicious, she just has a lot of energy). Since she's rehabbing form an injury, it's even more challenging to find things to keep her mind engaged because she can't do lateral work and no smaller, sharp turns. Instead we do a LOT of shallow serpentines all around the arena, large figure eights, etc. I work on getting her to shift her shoulders to the left or right, then come straight again, etc. It's a lot of little things but it keeps her focused on what I'm going to ask her to do next, instead of how she can get her feet off the ground.
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