I Don't Know What To Do.....
My 10 year old 15 hand Quarter Horse mare has been very bad lately while I've been riding her. She loves to run, so I let her gallop in the field. But when I tell her it's time to slow down by using 'press and release' on the reins, she simply ignores me and barely slows down at all!! Also, after I finally get her stopped, she's very antsy and wants to run again, so I pull back a little on the reins and tell her to whoa or at least slow down but when I do that, she pulls her head forward and takes the reins out of my hands or she just won't stand still. She listens to me very well at the walk and trot, but when I ask her to canter she just takes off into a gallop and I feel bad because I'm constantly pulling back on her mouth but I don't know how to make her listen to me. Do I need a stronger bit?
I was thinking that maybe I should lunge her before I ride her and maybe she'll listen to me better after that, but I just don't have time to lunge her and ride her and also exercise my other horses when I get home from school in the wintertime. What should I do?? I mean I want my horse to have some speed because I want her to be a gaming horse, but I want to be able to control her!
I would say not to gallop her for a while, and then when you do gallop her again make sure that you do a lot of w/t/c work beforehand.
My Arab will listen to me perfectly w/t/c, but once we start galloping he doesn't want to slow down and he gets antsy and dances back and forth (like what you were describing with your mare). So I would just walk him around in large circles until her calmed down. I don't do gaming or anything so I'm not sure how much this helps, but that's just my experiences =]
I would say that she needs to learn not to waste all of her energy. When she starts to run fast bring her back down to a trot and very lightly urge her into a canter, if she goes in to a fast gallop do the same thing. She will figure out that she cant always go fast nor does she need to
If you want her to completely stop- When she stops but doesn't stop on a dime... back her up and hard. She will learn VERY fast is she does not stop when you say woah she will be backing up and hard. This usually takes a whopping 3 times to figure out
Work her feet. Do serpentines, small circles, patterns. Anything that makes it harder for her to just take off because her brain is focused on the million things you are having her do. I do this with Chance, who immediately when mounted just wants to go. I found by doing exercises instead of putting him in a hamster wheel, he relaxes enormously. So much so, that once I accidentally dropped the lead rope as he spooked at a stool, he took off immediately. Another day after being ridden, I dismounted and I lost my balance in the snow and he just looked at me like "whatcha doing on the ground?"
IF she bolts on you again, do a one reign stop. Be sure to sit deep, and sit back or else you will go flying. Start with a large circle then get smaller. If you need to, grab a chunk of mane as that is a hell of a lot better than relying on the reigns.
Just remember: move her feet leftwards, backwards, forwards, rightwards. Where YOU want her to go, at whatever gait.
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Thanks so much for the advice! But do you think that I need to use a stronger bit on her?
No, you should not need a stronger bit. Stronger bits only account for what is missing in the training. Plus, if you put her up a level into a stronger bit, you will eventually feel the need to put her up another level when she decides she isn't going to stop with this one either.
Other than that, I think everyone has summed it up nicely :)
Sometimes (especially with Arabs) letting them "get the sillies out" only makes them want to act sillier! Start by going off of the assumption that you cannot tire out your energetic horse; rather, you need to convert that physical energy into "mental energy" or attentiveness and curiosity. Then, I think a few things might help:
- Instead of letting her gallop out her energy, let her expend energy constructively. When I've had a bad day with Jax, the next day I will take him out on the lunge line and ask him to listen to my every cue, and normally pair treats with good behavior. We will do transitions (walk to trot, trot to walk, walk to canter, canter to ho, frequent changes in direction, etc) and every time he listens to a "ho" I'll walk up to him, give him a treat, step back and keep the lesson going.
If we have lunged successfully (which we normally have since he is VERY food-motivated, haha!) we will tack up and spend the first bit of our ride walking all sorts of maneuvers-- serpentines, zig zag across the arena, anything but plodding around in a big oval. The key is to keep your cues as quiet and minimal as possible. It's a game to see how little of a cue I can give and still receive a response (eg. barely neck reining or legs-only cues, or trying to get him so sensitive to my body language that I can make him stop with a huge exhale).
- Another thing that helped me is to establish lots of respect on the ground. When she is walking beside you, she should walk at your side, stop when you stop, back when you back, yield the fore or hind based on how you move, etc. At first, you can teach this by pairing verbal cues with hand pressure. I also like to teach that "ho means ho" so that when I say "ho"and hold my hand up, I can wiggle the lead, walk a full circle around my horse, dance around him-- and he won't move.
Basically, channel that physical energy into mental energy--ie. attention!
PS if your horse *is* food-motivated, mannapro apple treats are great and nutritious for training! The trick is, however, never to give a treat that isn't reward for a behavior.
Hope this helps. :)
Edit - Don't switch to a stronger bit! What are you riding in now? The only possible change I would recommend is if you are in a snaffle, try a french link snaffle as your horse might respond better. They are both very mild, and sometimes a french link/two-joint snaffle is considered less harsh than a single-joint snaffle (especially if the "link" is rounded on the edges).
Well I don't really have time to lunge and ride after school during the winter and have time to exercise my other horses. So is it okay if I don't lunge her before I ride, or will that just make her not listen to me even more?
Well I don't have time to lunge her and ride and exercise my other horses after school during the winter. So is it okay if I don't lunge her before I ride, or will that just make her not listen to me even more?
Lunging is a tool to be used to gain respect, such as doing a lot of change of directions and controlling their feet that way on the ground. I don't think you need to start it off every day with lunging, but it is helpful.
I would probably also try doing more ground work to help set yourself up for success.
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