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JackieM 04-09-2013 10:57 AM

Sour Horse?
Hi All,
I need some tips. I have been leasing my now 10 year old Paint Mare for about 4.5 months now. She boards at a very nice barn about 5 minutes away from my home, so it is really easy for me to go see her. She is really well broke and is a "baby-sitter." She is great with my almost 7 year old daughter. She is my first experience with a horse beside trail rides (which is why I'm leasing her). I am on a lease to own, so June is the buy month...she is almost ours. She will continue to board at the barn she is at as they have an indoor arena, its owned by a very nice knowledgeable family, and her buddy is there, I could never take her away from Diva! I am a 15 year certified vet tech - only small animal though, so no horse experience, but I am comfortable around any animals, I can read them pretty well.

So when I started leasing her I came to see her daily, just ground worked her, bonded with her etc., plus my weekly lessons and my daughter's weekly lessons. I probably brought the visits down to 4-5 times a week because, lets face it, I have a full time job, I have a 6 year old (with Leukemia), and life in general.

This month I have been a pretty bad horse mom. I work from home, but my clinics that I work for are 4 hours away and I had to spend a week at those. My daughter's oncologist is also 4 hours away, and we had two visits this month, plus that is where my family is, so we usually stay for 2-3 days instead of driving back and forth. Work has been insane, the weather has been aweful, and I have been out to see my horse may 4 or 5 times this whole she is pretty sour and definitely testing me...rearing when I'm on her, bucking when I'm lunging her, just plain out sassy.

Today I went to work with her, I usually go around 1pm, well I went at 8am, on the way home from taking my daughter to school. I decided that 8am is just going to work better for me, but she doesn't get turned out til about 8:30/9am. So...not only did she not get her morning hay with her friends, I haven't seen her in over a week, and I changed my normal visit time. She was bad, mad, and fully ready to tell me. She did fine for the grooming, but when I brought her up to lunge her (which I decided is all I was going to do considering I had taken her away from her grazing and she was ANGRY) while she was on the lunge line she would pull her face, (fine I can work with that), rear at me, and kick with her front feet at me. She wasn't charging me and was a good 6 feet from me, but all in all was making sure I knew that she was not having it. Each time she did this I stopped her, then stated her again. I made sure she did 1 full circle without a tantrum then took her the other direction and repeated. I then took her off of her lunge line, back on her lead, did about 2 minutes of showmanship stuff and brought her back to her pasture.

A. I didn't want her to win, but
B. I do not know enough to keep working with her when she is like's too dangerous.

So...what do I do? I would like to keep going at 8am otherwise my visits will continue to be few and far between. Should I give her hay when I'm grooming her? Is there a really yummy, special hay that I can get her that she ONLY gets at that time? Is she going to get too used to that and then if I groom her minus the hay in the future will that make her sour? Should I just continue to go at 8 am, and do what I'm doing, groom her, lunge her, ground work her, and eventually ride her again? When she acts like that she usually wins because I am so green I can not tell if she is bluffing or really going to do something, so I stop what I'm asking her to do...I try to ask her again once I gain my composure, but she knows that she can get away with this stuff with minimal consequence...What is the consequence? If I had a dog try to attack me I would know exactly what to do, but when my horse acts as if she wants to kick me, I have no clue what the "punishment" is.

Right now my plan is to continue the 8am visits and work up to her behaving for me again.

Also, because I am again at the end of this month going to have to be gone for 2 weeks, how to I prevent this sour attitude? Is it appropriate to ask the BO if she knows of anyone that would like to work with her? Can I offer her as a lesson horse? She is just so good, I do not want to ruin her.

Thank you sooo much for all of your help all of the time! I am so grateful that I found this site!

Coltysheart 04-10-2013 02:31 PM

Sounds like a respect issue which just means that you need to stand firm (not mean or angry). With consistency she will come around.

Can you feed her a bit after done working with her but before turning her out? A reward not a bribe that she gets after her work. When I am done working a horse, I take them to the yard where they get a 15 minute graze on grass. (They think it is the best grass in the world I guess because it is off limits to them). This seems to help with the sourness in my horses.

During the time that you are gone for extended periods, can your barn manager or someone you trust work her a bit to keep the consistency going?

kenda 04-10-2013 02:50 PM

1 Attachment(s)
You said she doesn't get her morning hay with her buddies when you want to work her early. Does that mean you are asking her to work on a totally empty stomach? Or does she have hay in her stall/paddock all night and just a top up in the morning with her buddies? My concern would be an empty stomach filled with acid sloshing around and nothing to buffer it. If that is the case, while I would not suggest feeding her 'special' hay before your workout, I would maybe see if you could hang a hay net in front of her while your grooming and tacking up, just to give her a chance to have something in her belly.

That said, there is no excuse for such bad behaviour. Rearing and turning in to you to rear on the lunge is extremely dangerous and needs to be dealt with promptly and assertively. If you don't have the confidence/experience to do so, you need to seek professional help. Barring that, I would avoid the work that ellicits the really dangerous behaviour until you have gained more confidence and worked on more initial ground training. IE, if lungeing brings out the worst behaviour, work on getting her respect through yielding to pressure, ground driving, etc. Build up with baby steps. If you get back to the point where you want to try lungeing again, and the behaviour comes back, instead of quitting work all together, go back to something thats more consistent but still makes her work and respond to you.

I would personally not get anyone other then a paid professional to work with her while you are gone for the two weeks, given the dangerous behaviour she is exhibiting. Just asking to get sued. I would just accept that she will take a few steps backwards while you are gone or get a trainer.

JackieM 04-10-2013 03:12 PM

Should I not have my daughter ride her during lessons? I am really concerned about this behavior as I am totally green and I do not always know what to do to correct it. What kind of ground work should I do and how? All I've been shown is how to square her up. I can only square her up so many times before we both get bored. I am on a lease to buy, with the deadline in June, and if this continues or gets worse I am not going to buy her, but that would break all of our hears as we do love her, I just can not have a horse that is dangerous. She was our lesson horse and marketed as a great beginner horse and great with kids, but even though it is my fault, things are not going so well.
I changed my daughter's lesson today from riding to ground work so I do not have to lunge her, I do not want to scare my daughter if the horse does this again. I am frustrated and disappointed. I wish I had a little more direction from my trainer as I know that once she is bought I will have even less direction. I wanted to lease because I didn't want to get in over my head if this happened and I want to board because I want the help of experienced horseman, but unfortunately everyone looks at me as the dumb city girl...I find very little help. My daughter has cancer and having a horse has helped her therapeutically, but it also causes us to not always be able to go to the barn, if she would loose the horse due to behavioral issues I fear what that would happen to my daughter's progress.
Thanks again for all of your help!

kenda 04-10-2013 03:23 PM

1 Attachment(s)
I would grab a few books about ground work exercises to work on and work on being consistent and firm, I've read this one and it's good, excellent pictures, pretty basic manouevers.
Check them out from your library if you can.

Also, make sure that in your everyday handling of her, that you are asking for and getting respect. When leading she needs to walk when you walk, stop when you stop, match your pace, turn when you turn, keep a respectful distance, not try to graze, etc. Grooming or handling in stall, she needs to be still, not lean on you when your picking hooves, no barging into you with her shoulder, swinging her quarters into you. When you ask her to move over, she needs to do so promptly and from a light touch.

albertaeventer 04-10-2013 03:41 PM

Definitely a respect issue. She was fresh and decided to press your buttons! I think you need to able to pull a horse out of its stall or pasture at any time, regardless of what time of the day it is or what's going on, and have it respect and pay attention to you. There shouldn't be any negotiation on this imo. Yes, it may suck a little in her world that she didn't get her morning turnout and hay, but tough luck for your horse, she's got to learn to get the heck over it. And she may have been a bit fresh after not having been worked like usual, but that's not an excuse for her bad behavior on the lunge, and few bucks and a fart, sure. Rearing and striking at you? Frankly if it were my horse they would have thought the whole world was ending as soon as they stood up the first time!

It doesn't sound like you are equipped to deal with her behavior by yourself when she's like that, so I would enlist in the help of the trainer at the barn or maybe the horse's owner to help work with her if she's going to have more than a day or two off. If they can work with her a few times when she's like that, you can watch and ask questions and they can explain exactly what you should do to address it and prevent it from happening again, and then have them there just as back up and to make sure you're doing everything correctly at the time, I think that would be extremely helpful. It's going to be far more effective for someone to be there hands on vs strangers suggesting things based on a short description on the internet.

Good for you for realizing you were in a bit over your head that day and just ending on a good note. And major points for asking for help right away, you'll be able to address this and nip this in the bud quickly since you wouldn't have let it escalate over the course of few days/rides, etc. It certainly wouldn't hurt to see if there's someone who wants to hop on her for a short ride on those days you can't make it out either, to try prevent this situation from happening again in the future. And if she's good for lessons, why not? Provided you do up a contract and everything is crystal clear about when and what she is used for etc etc. Horses do need the odd day off as well, one here and there is not a big deal and they do need it for their mental well being, but allowing her to have several days or a week off it what you want to avoid.

Cherie 04-11-2013 08:24 AM

Jackie -- I do not know if you read my reply on the other thread you posted on. I will copy it here in case you did not see it.


Every rider IS a trainer -- every time you interact with a horse

Hi Jackie, Welcome to the Horse Forum. I wish it were under better circumstances --- but you can 'fix' this.

I also read your other post. If this mare started out being a nice 'babysitter', she can go right back to being that horse. You need to get a handle on this quickly because it is fast downhill from where you are now.

First of all, let me tell you my stock saying that people hear from me ad nauseum but you probably have not heard it before so here it is:

The worst thing you let any horse do is the very best thing (or performance or behavior) that you can expect from that horse!

Just keep telling yourself this every time you interact with your mare. When you handle her, you are teaching her to respect and behave or you are telling her she can do as she pleases and does not have to behave. I believe you have mostly done the latter.

Do not worry whether you are working her in the morning or at lunchtime or at night. Don't ask her opinion about anything. She should be respecting YOUR opinion.

You are waaaaay too worried about what she thinks and what she likes and what she wants. Don't worry about a 'bond'. Horses do not need you to be a friend. A horse needs you to be a strong and worthy leader that they can trust to make good decisions. They should not have to make any decisions. Their decisions would all be to go back to their friends or go to food. They don't obey you or respect you because they like you. You cannot bribe or buy their respect. They bond with the person that demands respect and leaves them alone when they are doing the right thing. They trust those that they respect.

Now, to analyze who is in charge of who -- it is usually the one who moves their feet first that is the loser. In other words, any time you 'give' ground to a horse, the horse KNOWS it has won -- many times when a novice does not even think a stand-off has happened, much less been lost. When you step purposefully toward a horse and 'smooch', that horse should back up or move away from you immediately with its ears up and not shaking its head or showing displeasure in any way. It should look like a very simple "Yes Mam!"

You said you could read animals well. I think you do not know how to read horses at all. You have simply capitulated every time you should have corrected the behavior and advanced toward the horse. You have backed off every time the horse has demanded it instead of the other way around. This inmate is in charge of the asylum and she knows it. She is getting more bold and more obnoxious every day and it will keep getting worse until she is outright dangerous.

THE INSTANT a horse shows disrespect, they should be corrected. In her case, she has shown you so much disrespect that you are going to have to harshly correct her now. She lays back an ear or stops and stiffens up and acts like she is even thinking about rearing up or striking at you (front feet pawing at you is called 'striking' and not kicking), you need to start jerking her lead-rope HARD with a stiff rope-halter and need to make her back up briskly about 40 or 50 feet. I never have to use a chain shank or a whip, but you may need one or may need someone with more experience to help you get rough enough on her the first time you two that you take charge.

If she does not want longe out on the end of the longe line like you ask, you should get after her hard with a whip. Don't be afraid to hit her hard, and what ever you do, do not just peck at her or threaten her with the whip. She is not going to break and you are not going to hurt her. If you do have to hit her hard, then, when are are done longeing her, make her stand and face you and rub her with the whip and hit the ground with it all around her. This is to reinforce that she does not need to fear the whip, but needs to respect your commands. Don't just longe her 2 or 3 laps. Make her go several more and only stop her when she is doing it right and willingly.

If she turns her butt to you, snatch and jerk her around hard and keep jerking her until she backs up another 40 or 50 feet. Then, go back to what you are doing.

You can fix this in 2 or 3 sessions. If it takes longer than that, you are not getting after her hard enough to make it work. You do not have a green horse; You are not trying to teach her these things; You have a spoiled horse and she needs to be corrected. The more quickly you get her respect, the more quickly she will go back to being the horse she was.

I hope I have not been too blunt or too harsh with you. If you want more exact details, PM me and I will try to help you with specifics. You can do this.
You said "I am comfortable around any animals, I can read them pretty well"
Horses read MUCH differently than small animals. They are herd animals and they do not 'like' or 'love' people in the same way that small animals do. They do not ever 'punish' you for not being a good horse mom and visiting them. They really could care less whether you visit them or not. They should be mannerly and behave if you interact with them once a day, once a month or once a year. They will 'pick up' right where your relationship ended with them the last time you interacted with them.

I know horses well enough that I KNOW this horse started doing little things you should have picked up on from the first time you interacted with her. Her behavior started going downhill very quickly after you took charge of her handling.

I think you should be very disappointed with your instructor in that she abandoned you and did not guide you through the process of learning how to keep a horse's manners where they absolutely need to be. They are big and become aggressive very easily when they have a handler 'give them ground'. This is how a 'herd animal' differs from a pack animal or a solitary animal. Their life and actions revolve around their herd and their place in that herd (the 'pecking order').

'Backing off' of a horse that shows the tiniest tendency toward bad manners is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. That tiny wrong move will become a more blatant show of disrespect that will become a dangerous show of aggression. It is never 'she suddenly changed'. It will always be a gradual escalation of bad manners and bad responses to an owner until it can no longer be ignored or explained away or excused away. I would be just plain mad at an instructor that hung you out to dry in this whole thing like yours has.

Again, I hope I have not been too tough on you, but I just have to 'tell it like it is'. Cherie

Golden Horse 04-15-2013 11:55 AM

WOW, only just found this thread, linked from another one and again WOW.

Jackie, I haven't read any other threads but seriously, the response here from Cherie is awesome, everyone is trying to help but this post is so spot on and helpful, as well a detailed. It makes me very very sad that you appear to condemn the whole board because possible someone said something off key. I think you should read Cherie's thoughts again and again, and then say a BIG thank you to someone who obviously put a lot of time and effort into giving you very sane sensible advice.

Farmchic 04-15-2013 12:19 PM

Jackie- It seems to me you have a lot going on in your life right now and trying to work with a horse that is not push button is not what you are looking for or need. You and your daughters time spent with horses should be fun and relaxing, not frustrating. Either seek help from someone that can help you enjoy the horse you are leasing or look for a different way to be around horses that will be fulfilling to you both.

equitate 04-15-2013 01:01 PM

Read and re-read what cherie wrote.

Horses are NOT calculating, evil, have trantrums, trying to hurt you, or etc and their previous training is still there, but body language with a horse is necessary. This is something that your teacher should be showing you. A mare is always looking to 'move up in the herd', so if you don't create respect and guidance and clarity the mare will become alpha.

Work in hand is great (stop/go/back) and should take 5 minutes to (re)establish IF the person teaching you knows anything. It is not the time of day you are going, but how you are asking. Again, as a newbie you need GUIDANCE.

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