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Nya 05-06-2013 04:27 PM

First problems... I'm quite discouraged..
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Hi everyone! Unfortunately, I'm having the first problems with my new (and first) horse, a 9 yrs old paint gelding. When I brought him home, 3 weeks ago, he was perfect. I rode him without spurs, he would listen to every slight leg impulse.
Anyway, the owners said that they had been riding him with spurs in the past seven years, so I tried and everything was great, he only responded easily to the spur.

After little time, he started getting lazy, after riding for a while it would be a little harder to get the canter. Then the trot. Then he would only walk.
With spurs, it's better in the beginning, then he starts doing the same, and since I don't feel like hurting him at all, I just go back to the leg only.

I had an experienced rider to ride him (with ball spurs), and the horse has been just fine, perfect, he only said the horse has a hard mouth, but listens well to the leg. He said it's up to me to learn, and that he is a diamond in the rough.

I was having a bad day once, and I couldn't get him to move more than just walk, so I tried to get out for a 2 mins trail in a new place. As soon as we got away from the arena, he started trotting with only leg pressure. We happily trotted up to the end of the road, but when going back to the barn, he just stopped in the grass and started pawing with strenght. I was so scared I got off, walked him on the road (3 steps) and got on again. Then he wouldn't trot, he walked turning his head to one side until we got to the barn.

Then, my friend came over to give me help and everything was fine, (he was standing in the centre and I was cantering in circle around him), until the horse started to slow down and at the end STOPPED.
The horse stops and paws at the ground.
This man then tried to ride the horse, and it was fine, until the horse tried to do that again, then he put spurs on, and after some stopping, backing and bucking "in place" the horse listened and cantered again. After he did, we stopped the work and let him rest and eat grass.

Yesterday, I had a bad fall on him, but I guess it's just my fault and has nothing to do with the problem. I always lunge him before riding, but since the day before yesterday the horse had worked, and usually it takes some effort to get the horse to canter even at the lunge, and since my problem is the lack of impulse, I tought I could try to ride him without lungeing. As soon as I got my foot in the stirrup, he started moving (he never does), so I accidentally sit on his back (not the saddle) and probably (by accident) touched his butt with the spur (english spur). He obviously took off and bucked, and I fell. I got on straight away and he was perfectly calm, as always really laid back. Too laid back, as he didn't want to do anything. Up to the point he starts pawing again.

Another rider tried to ride him after that in the circle pen(no spurs) and what she got was just him bucking.

My heart is torn to pieces, because he is the sweetest horse evern seen on the ground. Fears nothing. Follows me (I never give him food by hand), lets you do anything. He behaves really well, he's so laid back. But under the saddle... when I got him he was perfect.. now he's being awful...
I'm sorry for having written this poem here, but I'm really sad... I'll list here what my doubts are, what the problem could be:

-he has been living outside for 7 years, now he's in stall (I let him out often for work or lungeing or I let him free in the pen)

-Right (and only)after work, his back slightly contracts if you press a certain point on his back. Could it be the Crates barrel saddle we're using? Past owners said that was the saddle the had been using with him. Would a reining saddle be better?

-In the past two years, he was left in a paddock without being ridden. Something related to this?

-I noticed the problem is much worse in the outdoor arena that in the indoor. Maybe he should be turned out 24/7? If kept in stall he feels unhappy and then gets really distracted and unwilling when ridden?

I'm having the vet checking him again tomorrow.. my friend said that that "stopping and pawing" thing can be extremely dangerous... I'm not a great rider, and I don't feel like I can correct a "really dangerous behavioural problem"... he's my first horse.. I'm devasted, I just hope I don't have to sell him...

tinyliny 05-06-2013 04:56 PM

your horse has gone from being fundamentally a pasture pet to a horse living stalled, ridden more regularly, and ridden by an owner who is perhaps not as firm and clear as he needs. I am sure he IS a sweet guy, but horses are horses. They don't want to work, or leave the barn or their buddies . they may not want to go the same speed you do. they may be super focussed on getting back to the barn, or evading work.

or, the saddle is a part in this and creating a sore back, so he hates being under saddle. That is the easiest thing to assertain; the saddle fit. you say he flinches when you press where the saddle goes, after a ride. That does sound like a fit issue. Get you more experienced friends to check the fit. Take some photos of the saddle on the horse, without a blanket, at various angles , horse on flat ground, and she them here for us to see.

As for riding, spurs are not really for getting "forward" motion from a horse. they are more for refining movement, and doing more things like lateral movements. If I have a hrose that is balking, like yours, I will use a whip, or the long end of the reins, if they are long, to spank the horse if he won't go forward. He might buck, true, so you have to be able to ride through them. Usually , it's not a big buck , especially if you have convinced the horse , through the ground work that you've done previously, and through the firmness of your body language in the saddle, that you ARE the boss, and he WILL go forward, now!

If you do have a round pen, then you need to work with him there, and stopping the work only when he has really gone forward, sharply , quickly and without a bad attitude about it. Again, it takes a firmness from the handler that lets the hrose know you WILL get him moving. there is no question about it.

If you have never been taught how to do this, you need someone with more experience to help you. These problems can all be worked through. Don't be too discouraged, but realize you will need outside help. Get on it!

Nya 05-06-2013 05:11 PM

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Thank you so much! I used the reins once, and he would easily trot and work, but when I was asking for the canter, I probably hit his butt, and he bucked and cantered (not high, he never goes high with his bucking). Then my friend told me to quit the rein thing, he said that with this kind of horse, which is not used to the rein, I could have gotten really hurt. So, I stopped, and I'm really confused at the moment.

Anyway, I have four things to try: first, to put him in the turnout and have him checked by the vet. Then, the previous owners told me they'll come over this weekend to see the horse, since he has never done that with them.
Finally, there's a famous trainer in the area I live who said he will "test" the horse to see if he's potentially dangerous with his stopping, pawing and backing. He fears it could lead to rearing, and if it does, there's no way I can deal with it. I know he's going to bring the horse to face his difficulties..I don't know how.. I'm quite worried.. he's the most experienced person I could get to see the horse...

tinyliny 05-06-2013 05:23 PM

you see, rearing happens when a horse thinks/feels that it has no way to move, EXCEPT up. It thinks it cannot move forward, or backward, so it goes up. your horse , of course CAN move forward, but for some reason, he is balking, so he gets to thinking he cannot move forward. He gets "stuck". He might rear, but I doubt it. I think hitting him with the rein or a whip is more likely to cause him to buck than rear, unless you hit him on the rump and also hold him from moving forward with the rein.

Try this:
when he balks and stops to paw, his mind is going off of you and he is becoming too emotional. you lift up one rein and get him to move in a small circle. Often, a horse that is balking and refusing to move forward, will move in a circle. Once he goes around in a circle, you kind of take that forward momentum and using your reins, you kind of open them toward the direction you want to go, and he will come off of the circle and walk forward. He may balk again, and you go into circling him , then offering him to go forward. This is one way to handle a balk if you fear the horse will rear; keep allowing him a direction to move (in a small circle) so he will not think he is stuck and must go UP.

waresbear 05-06-2013 06:24 PM

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He does sound body sore, that could come from lazing around for 2 years, then put into work, I get that way when I take a couple weeks off from working out, then get back into it, I would have mega body soreness if I took a few years off, but I push past it and the body gets stronger. There is spring maintenance to do on a horse that is going back to full work, at least I do with my horses, they get a chiro treatment or two, a few massages from a RMT and trip to the vet for evaluations and see what needs to be done to help alleviate or prevent any soreness/lameness. After that, I know the horse has to get into a better work ethic, your boy has gotten away with stopping when something bugs him, body soreness or not, he can't get away with that. Sounds like you need some hands on help. It also helps if you have an equine vet familiar with performance horses.

franknbeans 05-06-2013 07:02 PM

I think this horse has the OP's number. Seems he is just fine for everyone else. That makes me think that OP needs to ask, tell, demand with every command. Squeeze him to go forward, then squeeze harder, then spank his butt. I have one of these horses who do this. You DO have to be a little careful and make sure they know they can go forward and you have no contact on his mouth. Leave that door open, and he will most likely go through it. At this point, I would suggest that you do a couple of sessions of walking-turning, etc....always end on a positive note. After he gets ok with that-put some trot in there.

It is pretty typical that he likes it better outside than in the arena and has more forward there, but he does have to learn to do both at some point. At this point-your only goal should be to have a good ride for both of you. And yes-I would strongly suggest you get some help. These guys can quickly learn how to intimidate and you have to nip this in the bud. Mine tests every single rider that gets on him.

I would also suggest that perhaps the previous owners had something else they did to make him go. Mine is better when he does this is I put my hand up his neck, look and sit with intention. We are GOING! NOW! And look where you want to go. I also have subtle cues for trot and lope, and he will not do it readily without them-like relax, look up and deep breathe in to lope. Just the way he is. They can be a bit quirky.

Some horses will also stop if they feel you are off balance-my old guy will do that if someone is in danger of coming off in HIS mind. These stops are only at a walk, and he also stops if you drop your stirrups-just to check in, then will go again. Probably why he is such a good therapy horse.

Palomine 05-06-2013 08:32 PM

Horses also rear because they know it will scare a rider and keep them off of their backs.

And usually works too.

I agree with FB. Horse has your number and the fact that you say you "don't want to hurt him" tells me that it is not likely to get any better either.

Horse will end up hurting you, if you don't get over that mindset.

Nya 05-08-2013 02:05 PM

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I'm going with him to a trainer this saturday, since I think the first thing to fix is ME, not him. He's going to test the horse, and tell me how to behave. I hope everything goes fine, I feel like I am quite unexperienced on this kind of "let's see who is stronger". I am used to hot spooky horses, not cold, laid-back stubborn ones... it's sometimes scarier!

Anyway, just to tell you, I rode him yesterday, and after noticing that in the round pen he would NOT listen to nothing except the reins on the butt, I went out for a 45 minutes walk in totally new places. As soon as we stepped out the barn, he became another horse. He would listen to every leg pressure, do anything when asked, and afraid of nothing. We went on the road with cars, bikes, people, across a field with very high grass, right next to places with huge parrots screaming and dogs barking. He looked really interested and involved, ready to go as soon as I asked, never stopped and pawed on his own.
I was sooo happy, and after getting back to the barn, I decided to walk some more around the place.
My second try went wrong... right out the barn, he moved into a field and stopped, pawing and won't go. Then started walking and won't stop easily. I had to get him back on the road by HAND, then get on and walk into the barn.
I need to be able to handle this.. or make him stop. I can't understand how he did great at first in the fields and then went crazy for the grass... :(

jaydee 05-08-2013 03:06 PM

He thought he was on a permanent holiday and he resents the change. He cant see any reason to enjoy being ridden and is making that perfectly clear.
You've had some great advice from tinyliny, a long schooling whip is better than using spurs or your reins and keeping his feet moving, forcing him to change direction even if that means just going round and round on the spot will distract his mind from the pawing and possible threat to rear.
Horses like this often benefit from being out on a proper turnout area where they can have a run around and let off steam if they want too, standing in a stall or just in a small pen with not enough work causes stiffness and reduction in muscle power on top of the mental problems that can affect some horses.
I know you love him on the ground but consider why you have him and if he is really the right horse for you to ride. I'm not sure that he is without the help of a really good trainer

franknbeans 05-08-2013 03:09 PM

To me a large part of riding and training is knowing when to quit. You definitely should have quit after the first time out went so well, an ended it on a positive note. Now you know.

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