Stubborn Old(ish) Arab...is he worth it? (long)
Right out of the gate I want you to know that I'm a noob. Just started riding seriously this year. I don't pretend to know much.
The first horse I bought (about two months ago) is a 17-year-old grade Arabian gelding. He's a mutt. If his skin color is any indication, he has some pinto/paint in him.
I bought him in hopes of making him a good all-around family horse for my daughters - ages 10, 11, and 15. Truth be told, at around 14.2 hh, he's a bit small for me.
The horse was vetted by someone I trust. I was told he is calm and takes cues well. He was previously ridden and shown in club events by an 11-year-old boy. When I first met the horse, that same boy caught him, saddled, him, and rode him around the pasture while I looked on. I saw nothing that disturbed me.
From the time we got him home, he and I have had trouble seeing eye-to-eye.
At a minimum, he's barn sour. He showed that tendency on just my second ride, where he managed to dump me on my a-- and break my rib.
I kept riding him, and under the ideal circumstances, he's a lot of fun. The ideal circumstances being that the mare he pastures with is along for the ride. My wife and I have enjoyed a number of really nice trail rides with her on the mare and me on the Arabian-mutt-child-of-satan.
Last night, encouraged by my recent success with him, I decided to take him out solo. It ended quickly, but without harm to me or the horse.
We had managed to cover less than 1/4 mile from the barn, when he started backing, side stepping, turning, and head bobbing. I believe he even attempted a buck with me in the saddle, but found lifting my weight to be too much effort.
At this point, I considered the ride unsafe and dismounted. Without me on his back, he immediately bucked twice, reared once, and gave me that head-up, crazy-eye thing.
Once he calmed down, I started walking him...away from the barn, pasture, and mare. He walked pretty well.
When he appeared to have mellowed sufficiently, I tried to get back in the saddle. He wasn't onboard with that plan and started turning and head butting me. More walking.
Finally managed to get back on him, but he was going nowhere but home.
Short version is: I lost.
His resistance to me was so violent and so long-lived, I felt the only safe thing to do was get away from him.
Now I'm unsure what to do with him. I believe we can trail ride him safely as long as the mare is along. But I don't see much value in a horse that can only be ridden when he's completely satisfied with the terms of the ride.
Even under his ideal conditions, I don't feel it would be safe to let my younger daughters ride him. The 15-year-old can handle him. She's the one member of our family who has extensive training and experience. But, quite frankly, she's not all that interested in him. She wants one of those SUV-sized horses you dressage folks favor.
So now what? I struggle with the thought of spending a lot of money getting this unreliable little spitfire trained when the money might be better spent on a calm QH that anyone in the family can ride safely, confidently, and comfortably.
On the other hand, I hate giving up on this guy. I think I feel that way partially because of my own pride - I don't want to get p'owned by a horse - and partially because I'm still naive enough to believe that any horse can be a good horse if properly schooled.
The necessary training is beyond the skills of me or anyone in my family. That means a professional trainer. That means money.
Or I could give him away. Don't have that much into him right now.
Who among you has "been there, done that?" How did you work it out?
If you have read any of my threads, I got a 'problem' horse, too. She was just to much horse for me, so we sold her to a more experienced family that can ride her confidently.
You can agree to disagree with him on the solo rides but ride him with your wife.
Have the younger kids handled him? How does he react?
Thank you mls!
I was afraid I might be paranoid or feeling persecuted.
The horse does not like me. At least when I'm on him. When it's grain or apple biscuit time, I'm the man!
My girls have all ridden him, and he his headstrong and stubborn, but not dangerous and confrontational the way he is with me. Nonetheless, I'm going to want the girls to be stronger, more confident riders before I'm going to feel real good about that match.
We may just keep him around as a "spare." Everyone in the family has their personal horse picked out, so I'll be writing those checks soon enough. And as long as he is with his herd, he's reasonable.
How long have you had him?
I've had the same issue with my mare, very herd bound, but now she is pretty good!
It takes time in the saddle, bonding with you, if he wants to go back, do the opposite, he wants to go right, you go left.
If you aren't already, wear a helmet, it might get messy, but don't let him win, it's teaching him that it's okay to act his way.
Patience, and confidence, and experience are what you need to deal with your little spawn of satan. I would rule out any pain problems, like arthritis, saddle problems, or even weight problems.
Then, this is what I would do... I would work to build a relationship with him. I would not put yourself and him in situations where it is a struggle for dominance, lets face it. He's small for a horse, but he's still a lot to handle, and for some reason... I just can't see you laying a smack down like Mike Tyson. :P
But I would work on getting his attention, and focus on you. Once he respects you it will be wayyyy easier to work with him. Do you have a round-pen? Or an enclosed area where you could do join up, and work on the long line with him? Basically I would do lots of "Alone work" if you feel he's herd bound, or buddy sour and get him working with you, and in respect of you. :) Hope I helped.
Well sir I'm sorry to say it but you are experiencing a problem many first time Arab owners also experience: your horse has outsmarted you.
I was 12 and weighed in at 90 pounds soaking wet with rocks in my pockets when my dad bought me an Arab which, for the first six months, became known as the 'stupid jerk'. While I tried him out in the company of others, he was mild mannered, wonderful, responsive and affectionate. I begged my dad to buy him and he obliged. I got him home, saddled him up, and the first thing he did was pull a rear that would have put the Black Stallion to shame. Result? I shook like a leaf while I untacked him, put him out in his pasture, stomped away and told my dad I wanted a four wheeler. He was more poisonous then my other two horses combined.
Well I stuck with him, and the first year was hell and a half. Literally, I had to drag a lawn chair into his pasture and sit there and read books for an entire summer. The first three weeks were terrible - he did not give a care in the world about me. But slowly he came around and by the end of the summer I had three very comfortable gaits and felt fairly safe on him.
I spend a lot of time with that little horse (that was 7 years ago..) and he thoroughly enjoys my company. He comes when called (in pasture or the times he's been loose), he screams his Arab neigh at me when I get home from school after 4 months of not seeing him, and he also "hugs" me with his head, and I'm the only person he hugs. How he learned this human display of affection is beyond me. I'm proud to say that I have won numerous jumper trophies, coolers, prizes, and recognition on him, because he never ever quits and has the heart of a lion. He'll jump drops into water on the cross country course, receive comments like "brilliance!" on dressage tests, and once ran an arena record barrel racing time when we entered as a joke.
Arabs are notorious one-person horses. If you aren't his person, he isn't going to bond with you. However, they are also not really fighters with "their" people. When mine gets scared or upset, he comes as close to me as he can for reassurance. He certainly doesn't rear or act aggressive. If we're doing something uncomfortable for him, he lets me know by acting apprehensive. Not aggressive.
You also might want to tell your daughter that I've beaten the pants off of many SUV sized horses in both dressage and jumpers in my day.. ;-)
(My gelding, whilst once aggressive because he was unsure, now scoots right up next to me when we encounter something scary...or quickly gets RIGHT behind me if I am walking him. Lol, I don't allow him to stay there, but it is rather funny).
Anyway...to me, it sounds like this horse has got your number. He knows exactly how to get you to do what he wants -- which is to quit the ride and bring him back home. He probably senses you are a greener rider and is likely taking advantage of that as well.
With this horse, it's going to take a lot of effort on your part to get him to respect you -- which is something that is missing here. You describe him as "confrontational" -- that is an apt word for it, he is confronting you over your leadership skills and winning. In his mind, when you get on his back, *he* is the leader, not you...which is indeed very dangerous.
You want to keep him around as a spare? If that is the case, you should continue working with him to make him a good citizen or get a trainer to help you (I know you said you don't have the money for that now). Being herd bound, whilst annoying and dangerous, is by no means a permanent problem and can be overcome. There are a few threads on here which go into this issue in detail...
If you personally feel up to keeping him around and working with him, then much kudos to you! But like I said, it's going to take some dedication and consistency on your part. He sounds like an energetic, highly intelligent horse who can very easily figure out his riders...and if you are set on keeping him, you have to raise yourself up to his level, be firm, and be the leader (also have him checked out for teeth and back problems, etc..) You are also going to have to spend some genuine one-on-one time with this guy.
May I ask what you are feeding him? Sometimes diet can lend a helping hand with these issues. How much exercise/turnout does he get?
I can sympathise with you a bit...seven months ago I rescued a registered 13 year-old arab gelding who turned into a nightmare on hooves. Not only was he a scruffy bag of bones with bad feet, he had NO manners and had long ago learned how to buffalo people into doing things his way. Up to this point I had had no experience dealing with "project" horses but I resigned myself to sticking with him and working with him consistently, garnering help and advice wherever and however I could. I can not tell you how many times people have told me to "get rid of him and find a nice quiet quarter horse".
Well, I never did and still have no plans to. I literally had to "raise myself up" and become a Lead Mare which is not exactly in my personality description. I spent and continue to spend a lot of time with him and today, he is almost a completely different animal and has just begun refresher training under saddle. He has an amazing, youthful mind...is doing wonderfully and I am looking forward to many long, adventurous years with this guy. Let me tell you...he was WAY worse than your little gelding, at the peak of his horrible behaviour.
Now, my story is turning out well...but I recognise that I am "one of those people" who don't mind a more energetic, SMART horse who likes to test his riders...and I am also aware that I oddly enjoy working out his issues and having a slightly more challenging mount.
There is nothing wrong with just wanting to enjoy a quiet, uneventful ride on something more placid...and if that is all you want, then there is nothing wrong in finding this gelding another home with more experienced riders who would be able to focus his energy in a positive direction. It is smart to know "when to quit" when you come across a horse who is beyond your ability to safely ride. Many of us have done this. BUT if you honestly feel obligated toward this horse, then I just want to tell you it CAN be done...
Hope I haven't rambled too much.
If he is Arab you need to remember they are a very proud and SMART horse breed. Many people call it crazy but the truth is they can't handle a horse that is possibly smarter than them. Many times an Arab is thinking 5 steps ahead of you and that is the reason you must always be thinking 10 steps ahead of them. You need to do a lot of work with this guy but he is far from a lost cause. Yes you might get bucked off a few times so always wear a helmet but that isn't a huge deal. Just as mentioned before you stay insistent (but not aggressive or frustrated or confrontational) stay patient and work through this. If he wants to do one thing you do the other. If he wants to go you make him stop. I have been working with a trainer doing lessons every week with my full bred Polish Mare and because even though dealing with them all my life I needed some help with her. Sounds like a lot of what she has needed yours needs too. He has figured out how to get his way. If he does a and b then he gets c which is what he wants. Just work on keeping it calm with him even if it means you do nothing but walk for 2 weeks straight and just keep everything calm and quiet. If he looks in one direction turn his head the other way, if he screams to his friends make him do something like leg yield or flex his neck from one side to the other. If he bucks turn him in circles and keep him in that circle till he slows it down and he ends it slower than he started it. Just always keep him thinking about what you are going to do next and don't let him anticipate what might happen next.
No offence but some horses dislike men. Not sure if it is because they are more brash, have a deeper voice or they just smell bad :wink: Bear in mind an 11 year old boy is very different to a fully grown man in the eyes of a horse. So it might be worthwhile seeing how he goes with your daughter/wife.
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