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BrendaKayeo 10-21-2013 11:53 AM

Horse wanting to buck
My steady trail horse is having an issue I'm not sure how to deal with, what hole was missed.

She is willing and ready to go on any trail ride, but she HATES working in the arena. She'll make it maybe 2 times around, stop, and refuses to go. Any encouragement she receives, she gets mad, and starts kicking out her back feet as if she plans on launching me if I make her go. She NEVER shows this on the trail. She's been my steady trail horse, and has done 25 mile CTR's with her. I've never come off her.

When she did this again yesterday, I had help and had her lead around the arena until she relaxed and then got off a a good point.

I'm not sure how to deal with this issue. I'm 55 and not interested in pushing her to a point to get launched. I've owned her since she was 4 months old, she is now 14.


beau159 10-21-2013 12:12 PM

It's odd that it occurs on in the arena, and not out on the trail, but just in case its a factor, have you had her checked for pain? Dentist? Chiro? Saddle fit? Vet?

If pain is not a factor, it is true that some horses don't like arena work. I don't blame them; I get bored with arena work myself. However, just because she doesn't like arena work, doesn't mean she should be allowed to buck in protest.

One option, as you already brought up, is to simply NOT ride her in the arena. If that is the only place she acts up, you can absolutely avoid it to avoid the problem.

However, I myself am the type of person where it would personally bother me if I didn't fix it. If you want to fix her of this arena-sour issue, and you don't feel comfortable riding her out, then find someone you trust to ride her through it. You need to make her WORK when she is acting up and refusing, and let her REST when she accepts and moves willingly. If you keep her feet moving enough, she shouldn't have the opportunity to buck.

So I guess it depends what your goals are with her (do you want to be able to ride in an arena?) and if you want to fix the problem or just avoid it.

Dustbunny 10-21-2013 12:14 PM

Hmmmm. I would think that when you are working in an arena you are more focused on specific tasks...working on a training issue. Out on the open trail you still need to be in control of your horse but for me it is more relaxed. Maybe she feels more pressure in the arena and objects to that.
Maybe there is some discomfort she feels circling the arena that isn't a problem out on the trail.
Might be worth a check by an equine chiropractor. At 14 maybe something is a bit out of alignment. At least that would let you know if there is something physical or just a grumpy attitude about being in an arena.
And I don't blame you for not wanting to get launched! That abrupt splat is never fun.
Welcome to the forum!!!!!

BlueSpark 10-21-2013 01:04 PM

horse is spoiled. Likes trails, does not like arena work, so she acts out until you stop making her. A horse should go where you point it, in an arena or out on a trail. I bet this horse has a few other quirks. How are her ground manners?

You have two choices. Get someone to work her through the issue in the arena for you, or don't work her in the arena again.

greentree 10-21-2013 03:05 PM

^^This is EXACTLY how I wound up doing endurance! My pinto mare always told you how she felt, and she did not care for working in an arena. She would do everything I asked, but with ears pinned, or she would shake her head, or wrinkle her nose. Never bucked, though. Once I got her out on the trail, she was perfectly happy.

She also did trot-outs at vet checks with her ears pinned, because that was her eating time!


usandpets 10-21-2013 03:18 PM

Have you work with her in the arena before? How frequently? If she is used to the openess of trails, being in an arena is very claustrophobic to her. Same happens with horses that are worked only in an arena. Take them outside and they have a meltdown.

My wife's horse hates arenas and another of ours was trained in an arena, never outside before we got him. The first time we took him outside, he exploded.

A well trained horse should do as you ask but its training should include exposure to different situations or stimulus.
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Saddlebag 10-21-2013 08:00 PM

Let her feel the sting of a riding drop just behind your leg. Usually once is enough and then just the threat of your using it should work. If you don't assert your authority, this will worsen, I can promise you.

Cherie 10-22-2013 07:55 AM

Hi, Welcome to the Horse Forum.

This, again, is not all that unusual. Blue Spark has already told you what your options are. My choice would be to get some local trainer or very aggressive rider to ride her through it -- first in THEIR arena and then in yours. Then, you should put one or two rides on her right after she has ridden well for them.

I would do it this way because she has been allowed to get 'arena sour' with you and she knows it. If you ever hit some small issue on the trail, this behavior of 'bluffing you out' will reappear over that issue and your trail horse will do the same thing she has learned to do in the arena.

As I have said many times "Horses are creatures of habit!" At some point, in an arena, she bluffed you out, stalled out and and refused to work for you and you let her get by with it. It taught her that she is in charge in the arena. This happens so easily, that we do most of our training out in big pastures and out on the trail. That way, if someone is working on a problem, am arena does not become a 'place of conflict' in a horse's mind.

No matter what we are training or working on, we frequently go into the arena at the end of a long ride and finish there. We lope two or three circles, ride to the far end or corner, stop and rest there for a few minutes, dismount there, loosen the girth and lead the horse out. It keeps horses attitudes good about arenas.

If you get someone to 'fix' your horse, then I would start doing the same thing with her. Always end on your terms. Be very careful that she does not give you a signal and you obey her. They learn very quickly when and where they are in charge. Always end a ride with you firmly in charge. Always quit while you are ahead. NEVER, NEVER let her determine what you do. Many horses get really good at 'training people'. Yours has mastered it in the arena.

Bottom line -- This is NOT due to a hole in her training (although she could have several); This is strictly the result of a hole in your riding. Your lack of confidence and assertiveness the very first time she threatened you is what started this. Then, she capitalized on it. That very first time you should have MADE her work a few round in the arena before leaving. Now, I would not suggest that you use whip or spurs because she may put up a lot bigger fight than you are able to ride through. Let someone younger and used to doing this tackle the job. When I was able, I used to help a lot of people through problems just like this. Once someone gets her 'ironed out' for you, it is the psychology of horse thinking that you need to address. They are not unpredictable. They are the most predictable animal I have ever been around. People just need to learn how they 'think' -- how they react and how they respond.

Boo Walker 10-22-2013 10:26 AM

Try making the arena as fun and mentally stimulating as out on the trails. Poles on the ground to walk over, back through, etc. Trotting spirals in and out, anything you can think of that puts the fun back in it for her.

BrendaKayeo 10-23-2013 12:35 PM

Thanks for all the ideas.

I'm thinking that I may have to send her somewhere with someone a little younger and more agile than I. Unfortunatly that means bringing her quite a ways away from home, as no local trainers.

I haven't done much arena work over the last year, mainly because I don't know what to do with the problem, and don't want it worse! She's a smart horse, and yes, knows she can get away with things by doing this. I've tried to always end with a positive on my part, but usually ends up being pretty easy for her. Maybe working her in the round pen from the ground after she balks would be good?

My arena is outdoor, in a spot that is used as part of their paddock, 120 x 66.

I'm thinking it is probably an attitude thing, as it doesn't happen when she is doing what she wants, on the trail.

I have some interest in Western Dressage, which is why we tried the arena work again, but I do have another horse I could use that with.

It just bothers me, as I know it means other problems are probably hiding. I would like to get it fixed and not avoid the problem.

What type of ground work exercises would help work thru this?

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