Disrespect or inexperience?
I'll get right to the point and try to keep this as short as possible:
My mare is 7 now, and when we bought her she was an AWESOME trail horse. For the last two years, I've rode her sparingly (for a number of different reasons that may take another whole post to explain), so now we come to this year, when I'm actually trying to get her into a good work ethic, and I'm finding a bit of a problem.
Her trail training is really...not all there anymore. On the ground, she is quiet, respectful, and never gives me a problem. When I get on her, however, she's...different. Around home she's not bad, and is quiet and listening, but most of our property is pasture and around here if you don't have a horse that can trail ride...well, have fun riding around the yard day after day. Out on the trail in "unfamiliar" environments, she is a completely different horse.
Even if we stay sort of near home, if we're off the property and on the trail, her head and ears are up and she's: "What's that? This is so EXCITING!" When you make her circle and do shapes and WORK, she'll usually do it, but she won't be listening to you, no matter how hard the work seems to be, and if you really push her she just gets excited and wants to go forwards instead of hunkering down and listening.
When we are actually trail riding, same thing-she goes with her head and ears up, at times will walk fast (she'll slow down if I stay relaxed), and just generally does not even acknowledge that I'm on her back. Out on the trail, if I do make her circle or anything, she just gets so anxious and tries to run through everything.
She is safe to ride and she doesn't have a problem with going forwards (at all-if anything her problem is NOT stopping). She's not spooky, alright to go out alone; doesn't need to be babysat by other horses. She's just an excitable, reactive type of horse that I don't know what to do. I feel like she's being disrespectful, but I don't know how to get her to respect me. Hit her? For what, walking fast and ignoring me? Seems like a good way to just put her into a completely reactive, frightened mode. There isn't enough rough ground around here to take her over and make her concentrate-it's flat fields on all four sides of us, so it's easy for her to just go along and run (or fastwalk) through any work I make her do. It seems like, if she's fast on circles, I should just make her keep doing them until she relaxes, but it usually doesn't work that way and she just gets more excited.
Or, is she just acting like this because she's inexperienced? Each time we go out she gets a TINY bit better, but really not very much and not enough to lead me to conclude that this is the problem.
I just don't know what to think or do. Everyone thinks I'm insane for having a problem with her because she's usually so quiet, but I hate what she's like and I do not know how to get her slow and listening on the trail.
When you say she's fine on the ground, does that mean leading to pasture, or that you've done considerable groundwork with her? If it means groundwork, then have you tried leading her out fom the ground? Ie going for walks on the trail? How is she then?
Yes, a lot of groundwork (I had to do something while I wasn't riding her all this time). Yes, I have led her out on the trail (as far as I can stand walking, LOL). She is a fair bit quieter, but still mostly the same...just a bit more mellow about it.
How often do you get to ride her out like this?
So what I hear you saying is that she isn't really doing anything bad per say, but she is mentally not "with" you and overly focussed on moving forward without regard for you . It can be really discomfitting to ride a horse that is not giving you any space in its' head. You feel like a fly on their back, and that's not a good feeling. So, I can understand why you are aware of this .
Your task is to get her to give you at least part of her mind, and as much as possible. You have tried circling her and find that it only actually ramps her up more, and I agree that hitting her will not reduce the tension, but make it worse.
What I might try is rahter than circleing her, actually taking her all the way down to a disengagement of the hind quarters. There is just something about that total stepping under of the inside hind leg and the derailment of the forward energy, even if only temporary, and the full around bend of the neck and poll that breaks a horse out of a rigid thought pattern. It is mental and physical.
so I would find a place where she is steamrolling along and pick up one rein, leaving the other quite loose. see if she listens and bends in that direction . if she doesnt', lift the rein higher and in a bit more (start with your first rein lift being more out to the side, then more inner and more straigt up lift) It's almost like the spiral of a nautilus shell.
Eventually she will come around far enough that she should disengage her hind end. You can lightly encourage this with your inside leg and keep YOUR inside hip lifted up to make a nice space for her to step into. And you stay seated real upright. Dont' bend into the circle as if you are trying to help her. Just stay centered, upright, inside hip lifted a tad and wait for her to follow the rein around and disengage the hind end. Once she does, just drop the rein contact and see what she does. She will undoubtedly turn back toward the direction she was travelling in and start back up to the steamrolling, but the break in the energy may slow this rigid forward feeling and soften her. Do it every minute or so. And if you feel her softening, try a few experiments to see if you can't get her to put an ear back and "check in " with you mentally by you only brushing her on one side with your ankle , or just picking up one rein. or speaking softely to her.
You want her to "check back to you" frequently, but you have to initiate.
This use of disengagements will break her out and make her more accessible to lighter check ins from you.
It's LIKE a one rein stop, but NOT. you don't actually stop at all. You should bend her neck out and around, then more up and address her hind end, via the rein and a light inside leg pressure from you. you don't want her to bend her neck around and just stop facing forward , leaning forward, thinking forward but standing still. That won't help at all, in fact, as you said, it will likely only ramp her up more.
she NEEDS to move, so you will let her move, the whole time. But you do ask her to bend around AND step under with the inside hind, then over with the other hind (the outside), then she may continue around this sort of slow motion "spin", by reaching her front legs around in the same direction. Or not. Once she has really disengaged her hind legs , you can let her decide if she wants to complete the 360 or if she wants to change directions and go back to the direction she was going originally. It doesn't matter becuase your objective is only to get a full disengagement of the hind end. The horse's front legs must stop moving for a bit, long enough for the hind to be able to swing under and around. The front legs must stop stepping so that the hind can "come around the corner" as my trainer calls it. But wait until you feel the hind end really step under and sideways., then release rein pressure.
If she steams on, so be it. Just do it again, and again and agina, and stay super calm. You are only asking for this disenagement, nothing else. Eventually she will slow on her own, I am almost certain.
And YES , do practice it in the arena and around home.
With my family's horses, we've found that they listen better and are easier to train when they're tired. Have you tried lunging her until she's a little worn out and THEN taking her out? Getting the fresh out of her may help and she may be a bit more responsive. Also, as long as she won't buck or take out like a crazy horse, I either trot her or lope her for a looong time undersaddle away from your pasture. Trot her over a long distance at a fast pace and do this every day that you can, just start the ride with her trotting, eventually she will learn to "conserve" her energy and may be less likely to want to be so fast at the walk. Try really tiring her out and then try to teach her. Works for all of mine! :) Good luck!
this is just one video on disengaging. It's pretty easy to understand . There are probably better videos , I just did an el quicko search.
I do not think she needs more ground work. I do not think she needs to be stopped or disengaged or put in a lot of circles unless they are done loping.
I think she needs you to show her that you have more confidence.
I think you need to give her job.
I think you need to ride harder and faster with a purpose.
One of you needs to be the bold leader here and you need to step up to the plate and be the one. If you only have open field, it is more difficult. Are there trees around the edge? If there are, weave between them (like pole bending) at a strong trot. Circle around every 3rd or 4th one -- a different direction each time. Use inside leg to get nice 'open' round circles. Then stop every now and then and do a 'rollback' to the outside and reverse that circle.
I have found that horses that lack confidence have usually been ridden by riders that lack confidence. You cannot get more from a horse if you do not ask for more. They do not just 'jump up' and make themselves into 'broke' horses. If she was a nice trail horse before you got her, I am sure she had a confident and not a tentative rider. She will go right back to being that nice trail horse when you give her a chance.
I hope this makes sense. I am not trying to be critical. I would like to see you become that confident rider that can go out and have a LOT more fun and a lot fewer worries.
In answer to your original question -- neither disrespect or inexperience.
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