Sam's got an "Old Man" 'tude
Yeah, I hate to admit it, but Sammo's got a tude!
It's not a real surprise, but when his owner's first got him, he was half dead. I started working with him Spring of '08, and he didn't have any real issues, exept for being extremely lazy and not at all sensitive to my legs.
He's gotten better about responding to my leg, but even with a dressage whip, he pins his ears and swishes his tail when I tap him with it. In the round pen, he drifts to the center, so I apply my inside leg and shorten the inside rein, to keep the bend, but sometimes all he does is bend his neck inside and keep drifting. I suppose he thinks the center means he's done working. My mom suggested spurs, but the one time I used them on him, he stood there. I've also never used them before, and I feel like I have to use my leg alot on Sam if I don't carry a dressage whip.
Also, he does this thing where, when I put on the saddle, he drops his head and starts to buckle his front legs. At first, he wouldn't start until I cinched up the girth. My friend thinks he's got a sore spot on his back from my saddle(I can't afford a new one!), but he doesn't do it when I put on my mom's dressage saddle (my friend says it's because that saddle doesn't hit the sore spot:?). Does that sound behavioral? Or like his back is actually sore? I curry pretty vigorously along his spine, and he lifts his head and moves into the pressure. He's confusing me!!
He could very well be sore. I suggest getting a vet or horse masseuse to come out and check his back.
As for the slowness; an Oldenburg gelding I work with really isn't fond of the dressage whip either, and will also swish his tail and pin his ears occasionally. The best thing I've found for it is to keep on using it and not let his attitude get in the way of making him work. As soon as he realized that I wasn't going to just stop using a whip because he didn't like it, he stopped responding negatively to it and began to move forward more on his own. One exercise that may help you is some transition work. Use your leg and ask for the upward transition, and if he doesn't responded, use more pressure and a quick tap with the whip. As soon as he picks up the trot, tell him he's a good boy, and bring him back to a balanced, forward walk. Repeat the exercise several times. You may not see improvement right away, but he should start getting a little better the more you work at it.
Definitely get the saddle fit checked out. Sounds to me that your saddle is hurting him. I would ride in your mom's dressage saddle for now if he seems to like it. You will get nowhere in training if the horse is hurting.
If you rule out unsoundness check that your saddle fits properly and some older horses need special saddle pads such as bounce pads, sometimes just a thicker pad will help. When horses get older their back starts to change a lot and can become swayed and their spines begin to stick out more, making most saddles fit akwardly. It may also be that he doesn't like his back pulled on so if you have been mounting from the ground then you should probably use a mounting block from now on. You mentioned he has been ridden in a round pen? Chances are good he's bored out of his mind. Go for some trail rides with him. If you ride him in a roundpen or arena then it helps to keep the extra aid you use, whether whip or crop, it helps to have it on the side opposite of the fence so it acts as a barrier, so the fence is to one side and the whip/crop is to the other of him. Maybe you should switch to a shorter unnatural aid, such as a crop or bat just to keep him in line and keep his front shoulder in line?
Most old horses have some arthritis in their joints. My old guy Rooster (pictured here) started developing an old horse tude and I had the vet check him over for creakiness. We found that injecting his hocks has made him more comfortable.
You might want to have your vet evaluate his hocks and other joints (fetlocks, for example) to see if he needs some help in that department.
Pain and discomfort is probably the main reason for his resistance.
He isn't my horse, just to let you know. Our neighbor lives two minutes away and they let us do whatever we want with these two TB's.
I'll see if my mom will agree to using my english saddle on William while I use her saddle on Sam. (She already stated she would, but not without grumbling) I do know of something I can use as a mounting block, but it's not a block!! It's a little, 3 ft high thing that I think covers some sort of a pump. I'l still have to be gentle, though, because it's a bit high.
I hope to get a book on equine medicine (I want to be an equine vet) and see if I can learn anything. Other than that, I don't think his owners are really willing to have a vet come out to look at a horse if there isn't anything prominently wrong ("if it ain't broke, don't fix it" seems to be their mindset).
I did think about having his saddle fit checked, but again, his owners I don't think will pay for it, and I definitely can't! (I LOVE my mom's saddle, though :)
I have started taking him out and riding him around their property(they have a trail that's about an hor long round-trip) while mom does round-pen work, but even when we work in the round pen, I do do transisitons, switch directions, and I've started Clinton Anderson methods with him. I would like to see if we can talk their owners into having a vet check him out. I also got a seat riser pad that may help some, I don't know.
I did do a lungeing lesson last time, and I left the girth on my saddle (I lunged him tacked up) loose, because I wasn't planning on riding, and as you would expect he didn't get all cinchy when I tightened the girth, though. He anticipates, I think, and buckles before I tighten anything, which makes me suspicious. If I were to leave it loose, he wold probably not do anything if I walked him around/lunged him for a bit THEN tightened it. He's so confusing. Aggh! :)
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