Need help with a bad mannered horse!
I've been riding an ex-racehorse for a good half a year now for some friends. Fiddles is 16.3 and a gentle giant, he's a very good horse to ride, and wouldn't set a foot wrong. I've been building my confidence up on him and we went for a gallop up a hill with his owner on the other horse, everything went brilliant until he got to the gate before the stuble field we also gallop up, he started getting very very excited and stomping his foot, he refused to go through the gate for me and was backing me into all sorts like fences and walls, he started to come of the ground a little and lowering his head to get some rein to take off. I swapped horses as we didn't want me to get a fright on him for the first time out on him. He started to do the exact same with his owner that he knows he cannot get away with anything whilst she is on him, however he carried on his antics and ended up backing into a bush. She eventually got him through and he still persisted on stomping his foot and coming off the ground. He had never ever done this before and was absolutely fine until then, he did try it the previous time someone else was on him but not to the extent he was with me and the owner but that time he was made to walk up the track instead. He is never that bad mannered and we were very shocked with his behaviour. Is there any advice or tips anyone could give me to help me with controlling him and putting his*manners back in place??
Would be much appreciated, thank you:)
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In his mind the gate may have triggered track memories. He wanted to run his race as he'd be originally trained and you were stopping him. This is one of the issues with ex race horses. I witnessed a particular OTTB in an English hack class do this in an English hack class when canter was called. The horse jumped forward and he was back in the race. The judge, being familiar with OTTBs called the other riders into the middle of the ring and told the rider to let him run his race. When he figured he'd crossed the finish line he slowed to the walk and he headed for the exit. The class resumed without him. He'd run until he was 3, had had great training after that and this ring episode occurred when he was 7. It was the first time he'd done it in 4 years.
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So, do you mostly gallop up this hill? Gallop...race horse...there you are.
If it were me, I'd do a lot of work at a slower pace until he will travel on a soft rein and respond to a cue to slow, stop, and back without issue. My experience has been if you put pressure on by pulling back and trying to hold that you create the opposite of what you want, including a rear. I'd work on getting him soft and supple so he will willingly flex and disengage the hindquarters.
Look up info on teaching the one-rein-stop. It has saved my skin a time or two.
You need a way to lower the energy level so he will listen and respond and not fall back on his former career.
Just my suggestion, for what it's worth. Stay safe.
you never know how well mannered or trained a horse is until you are in a challengeing situation. Any horse can behave pretty well and go along with the program when the program is pretty much to his liking anyway. The rider can think that they have a well trained horse. This is probably the place that 90% of us riders are in, most of the time. But, when the horse's desire to do something is really openned up, then his program and your program aren't the same any more and you can see the real strength of the training or your own riding skills. Don't take offense, I have a limited amount of training on the hrose I ride. When something really upsetting happens, he is not the gentle giant anymore, and my own riding skills seem inadequate, when just a minute ago they seemed to be enough.
I guess my point is that he hasnt' suddenly become a monster. those feelings that he is expressing by backing up and half-rearing have always been part of who he is. Don't be surprised or dissappointed. instead , understand that if you gallop him up a hill, you open that door, so be prepared.
I never forget that once I rode a rejected ex race horse which a friend of mine had brought cheaply at the sales. She was a beautiful horse who had been trained early in her life to run fast amongst a group of other similarly trained animals. My friend asked me to ride the animal on a public path which had a 3ft high wood and wire fence as a boundary.
I mounted close up by the fence and turned along it at the walk.
Then I made a mistake by tucking my calves against the horse's flanks at which point we instantly took off. We went from a calm walk to an extended gallop.
I tried slowing the animal down but the horse wasn't listening - it was doing what it had been bred for - racing. Somehow I stayed on. Then in the distance I espied a woman walking her dog along the path by the fence. She was a long way away, but she was getting closer by the minute.
Then I saw the dog lead between the woman and her pooch.
I realised suddenly that I had a problem. The horse was full going full speed ahead. I started to panic. I called out. The woman ignored my call, so I called again. We were running out of path. Somehow the woman suddenly heard what was by then a plaintiff cry. She moved over, pulling the dog with her but Oh it was only just in time.
The horse eventually slowed. Finally it came to a halt by which time it was breathing hard and her neck was steaming wet, almost white, with sweat.
Me, well I was shaking like a leaf. My so called 'friend' was almost choking as she laughed.
In the racing world horses are led to the starting gate by a handler. The jockey is perched up on a tiny saddle, not much bigger than a man's cap. He doesn't sit astride the horse he perches on it. Horse and rider do everything at the gallop.
A horse race is in reality a charge at top speed. And horses have a long memory.
Thorobreds can make excellent competition horses but my advice is that you buy your chosen steed from a breeder before it has been schooled to run and not cheaply off a racing yard as a failed racer.
PS If you do ever climb aboard a TB , then keep your legs off its flanks.
One thing I learned very clearly when cantering or galloping OTTBs in open spaces, you have to be able to rate their speed. I don't know about other horses, but mine has so many gears between easy canter and flat out death gallop, I stopped counting them. They listen to seat and/or your upper body position much much more than rein pressure where speed is concerned. You need to practice changing from normal canter, to "going somewhere" canter, to hand gallop, and back again in open spaces. The ironic part here is, (and it's probably where you got into trouble) when you are about to downshift, you need to sit taller and soften your reins, not restrict the head or worse pull on the reins. Teach him to listen to your body position. Most TBs are wicked smart and he should start to understand what you are asking of him quickly. Whether he will decide to listen to you next time it comes up in a field remains to be seen. I do know, the same field I can gallop across and easily pull up in the heat of the summer, is very much a different story in the cooler weather. I have to be much more definite in my intentions. If you're going up a steep hill, and already given him his head, you've comitted to the trip! Don't worry. Most stop at the top. :wink:
A question (since I know little about racing): how does the jockey tell the horse that the race is over, and it's time to stop running? Seems as though anyone with an ex-racehorse might want to learn that :-)
Thank you everyone for their advice! He'd been out of racing for a good 10 years so he has been used to the schooling and normal horse yard way of life, he's been ill a lot and hasn't been abler to compete with the little Conemmara she also owns. Now he is fitter we think he's just getting full of himself as he can make it up the hill leaving only a trail for the other pony. Took him out yesterday and everything went brilliant!! I took on board some of the tips and they really did help! He had a brilliant run and is starting to learn who is boss again. Thank you all so much for your responses:)
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