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Equilove 03-25-2011 11:47 PM

Afraid of being saddled
 
This has been an issue since I've had Savanna, and keep in mind I've only had her since Feb 19th of this year.

Here's a description of how Sav and I tack up:

Our trailer is our tack room and tacking station. It's kept in the field where I ride. I tie her to the trailer and brush her. She's very calm and accepts everything. I pull out the saddle pad, and she snorts, but doesn't jump or move when I place it on her back. Then when I pull the saddle out, she gets very very anxious and nervous. If I hold it up to her nose, she'll reach her head out and even take a few steps forward to smell it and examine it. I can touch her chest and neck with it, even rub it on her face (English saddle). Once I approach her side, she starts pacing and will hit the end of the lead and immediately change directions, often barreling through me.

It seems to be genuine fear, not her being naughty. I haven't given her any reason to be fearful of the saddle since I've had her. I know the man who broke her out (over a year ago, with no riding in the past 6-8 months) and he is reputable and a great trainer, so I find it unlikely that he did something "stupid" that may have made her afraid.

When I first encountered this problem (the first time I saddled her), I thought a fine fix would be to get her used to the saddle and just keep saddling and unsaddling her until she got used to it and realized it wouldn't hurt her. I would put the saddle on but not girth it up, just let it set there, and then take it off. Gave her a minute, then tried again. She's not afraid of the saddle unless it's approaching her back.

It's strange too, because once I can manage to get the saddle on her back (sometimes she will give up and stand still, but still be very cautious and jumpy) she lets me adjust it and girth her up like it's nothing. But if the saddle squeaks, or something makes a noise on the saddle like something hitting the seat or the irons bouncing, she will jump. She's jumpy, but not spooky, if that makes sense...

What I'd like to have some advice on is what may have caused this, which will ultimately help me find a cure for it. It doesn't seem to be improving at all with the idea that "Once she realizes it won't hurt her, she'll be fine with it". I don't always work her when I saddle her. Sometimes I'll girth her up loose and let her eat hay in the barn, letting the saddle "soak" in. Also, there are no problems when I ride her. She stands still to mount, doesn't care if my leg bounces on her side when I swing my leg over, etc. I considered maybe it was a pain issue, but it isn't. Her back is fine (vet checked) and so is her girth area. Oh and, it's MUCH worse when I try to saddle her western.

tinyliny 03-26-2011 12:27 AM

I wonder if you did this saddleing work with her not being tied but allowed to move (circle) around you while it was on her if she could work through her anxiety better. You might need anothe person to help you, or maybe you could do it yourself. I don't know if I can explain it, and I dont' know if I could do it myself, so take this idea for just an thought.
I think for a horse that is anxious, being tied and unable to move makes it even harder. When she moved around with the saddle on, if it made noises, she could move more if she needed to and might realize that she can move and nothing bad will happen.

Equilove 03-26-2011 01:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tinyliny (Post 975283)
I wonder if you did this saddleing work with her not being tied but allowed to move (circle) around you while it was on her if she could work through her anxiety better. You might need anothe person to help you, or maybe you could do it yourself. I don't know if I can explain it, and I dont' know if I could do it myself, so take this idea for just an thought.
I think for a horse that is anxious, being tied and unable to move makes it even harder. When she moved around with the saddle on, if it made noises, she could move more if she needed to and might realize that she can move and nothing bad will happen.

I have done that, because I also thought it would help, but it only gave her more room to move away from me. I put a shipping halter on her and let the lead part dangle to the ground. We were in a small paneled area about the size of a foaling stall, maybe a little bigger. She ran in circles around me and eventually away from me. I didn't want to chase her, because that only makes it worse, so I caught her and tied her back outside.

I've held my saddle and had her walk toward me/it, like she's "chasing" it, and she seems perfectly comfortable.

I just thought of this... every time I am saddling her and she is pacing and barreling through me, and I continue to approach her with the saddle, I AM chasing her, and every time I get the saddle on her, it's like "Gotcha!" Maybe I do need to find a way to MAKE her stay still (cross-ties) and have a couple days where I saddle her and she has no choice but to stand there and accept it. I think she thinks she can get away from it if she tries hard enough (not that she has ever gotten out of it). This could be very right, or very wrong. I'm just very confused as to why she's so afraid in the first place.

Cherie 03-26-2011 07:52 AM

She does not need a reason. Horses are creature of habit and now the only reason she needs is that she has done it before so will continue to do it until you give her a reason NOT to do it. I am sure she has long since forgotten the actual connection to why she did it originally.

The worst thing you are doing is letting her run past you. That is a really bad habit. It is not only very disrespectful but a horse can knock you down and step on you.

I would attach a second lead-rope and hold it in your left hand. Then, when she tries to go forward, you can give it a good jerk and say "Whoa!" and approach again. Do this repeatedly until she stands still. It may take a good while the first time or two, but she will soon figure out that standing is her best option.

candandy49 03-26-2011 09:16 AM

Since you've had Savanna only about 6 weeks or so have you given her some time to get settled into her new enviroment before starting right away to saddling and riding her? A horse in new surroundings needs some time to get familiar/habituated with a new routine, new handler, new sights and sounds. Your Savanna is maybe acting as she is because she feels insecure. Taking her back to the basics will hopefully help a lot and doing just some time hanging out with her. One of the best bits of advice I ever got was when getting/having a new horse was to assume that horse didn't know anything and do basic ground work before ever thinking about saddling and riding. In doing basic ground work the horse learns to trust and the handler/owner learns just how much the horse knows.

Since some issues have already been pesented with the difficulty in saddling Savanna take some "steps back" and help her become more secure. Best Wishes coming your way.

monkeyleap 03-26-2011 09:36 AM

i lease a horse and when I approach him with an English saddle he starts to run away.... Believe me, it really gnaws at my nerves when he does that. The only way we can finally get him to accept it is another person standing at his head and petting him or holding his halter. I know this is most likely a very different problem than what you have, but it may be worth a shot. Oh by the way is she a mustang? If so, that might have something to do with it.

Good luck!!

Equilove 03-26-2011 10:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by monkeyleap (Post 975474)
i lease a horse and when I approach him with an English saddle he starts to run away.... Believe me, it really gnaws at my nerves when he does that. The only way we can finally get him to accept it is another person standing at his head and petting him or holding his halter. I know this is most likely a very different problem than what you have, but it may be worth a shot. Oh by the way is she a mustang? If so, that might have something to do with it.

Good luck!!

I've had someone hold her while I try to saddle her and vice versa. She just ends up pulling the person around! Yes, she is a mustang. It shouldn't have anything to do with it in my opinion, though. ;)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cherie (Post 975424)
I would attach a second lead-rope and hold it in your left hand. Then, when she tries to go forward, you can give it a good jerk and say "Whoa!" and approach again. Do this repeatedly until she stands still. It may take a good while the first time or two, but she will soon figure out that standing is her best option.

I like this idea, and I will try it. Thank you! The problem was that I could stand in front of her and approach her at an angle with the saddle, and she wouldn't run into me or past me, but at some point I have to move past her head and to her side, and that's when she has the hole open to dart past me, often pushing me out of the way as she does.

Quote:

Originally Posted by candandy49 (Post 975458)
Since you've had Savanna only about 6 weeks or so have you given her some time to get settled into her new enviroment before starting right away to saddling and riding her? A horse in new surroundings needs some time to get familiar/habituated with a new routine, new handler, new sights and sounds. Your Savanna is maybe acting as she is because she feels insecure. Taking her back to the basics will hopefully help a lot and doing just some time hanging out with her. One of the best bits of advice I ever got was when getting/having a new horse was to assume that horse didn't know anything and do basic ground work before ever thinking about saddling and riding. In doing basic ground work the horse learns to trust and the handler/owner learns just how much the horse knows.

Since some issues have already been pesented with the difficulty in saddling Savanna take some "steps back" and help her become more secure. Best Wishes coming your way.

Yes she has had time to settle in. Like I said this is our only problem that isn't improving, and I have done plenty of desensitizing anything that would prepare her for the saddle, and I would consider simply putting the saddle on as very basic itself. The first week I trained her was us getting to know each other and me finding out how much she knows. She certainly knows what a saddle is, and that's where our problem surfaces. I've done lots of groundwork with her and she has excelled with everything I've worked on with her. Thank you for the input!

Darla719 03-26-2011 01:17 PM

Oh my gosh! I just got a new horse (about 2 weeks ago) and I have the EXACT (and I mean EXACT) same problem with him! He is just great in every other way, but when I go to put the saddle on him (western), he paces back and forth and will run right over me. Once it's on, its on, and there are no problems after that, but I have to "chase" him with it while he moves away and then towards me and then away from me and when he is moving towards me (he is tied) he just barrels right through me like I'm not even there. Then when its on, he stands there and lets me cinch it up and do whatever.

I'll be anxious to see what the solutions are because I have no idea how to approach this issue. I'm alone, so I have no one to help, so I hope there is something I can do to fix it myself.

Horse Dreamer 03-27-2011 11:14 AM

Have you checked that the saddle fits her properly? I had an ill fitting saddle and it is really amazing how it impacted the horses behavior in a very negative way. Thankfully I met a trainer certified in tack and saddle fitting, learned the saddle fit was the problem. Long story short, new well fitting saddle makes my mare happy.

Darla719 03-27-2011 02:36 PM

I'm not sure about the OP, but in my case, yes, the saddle fits. I tried several saddles before I found one that fit and he did this same behavior no matter what I put on him. I also tried just a bareback pad and got the same results (in fact, even worse). Once the saddle is on, he is totally fine and he rides like a dream so I don't think saddle fit is a problem in my case. I'm not sure how to approach this issue, but if this is the worst problem he has, then I feel I really shouldn't complain.


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