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darextoxdream 09-25-2011 08:12 AM

Advice needed on horse problems. [Long post.]
I purchased an 11yr old thoroughbred gelding in February from a lady who does eventing, she used him for dressage and the lady she got him off used him for showjumping. Before that he was a racehorse and was somewhat successful.

When I went to meet him he was pretty skinny. He was very friendly and came straight up to me, then stood calmly beside me (with no halter/lead on) while I chatted with the owner for a good 20-30 minutes.

I turned him out when he arrived so he could put on some weight.
I haven't done a lot with him over the winter. (grooming, spending time in the paddock with him, pretty much just letting him be a horse.)
His attitude and ground manners where fine until he started gaining weight.

Now he's quite pushy and doesn't respect my space, he's mouthy (chews on his lead rope but hasn't bitten anyone. Yet.) He's very fidgety when tied and doesn't stand still. And more seriously the other day he spooked (I've got no idea what at as nothing out of the ordinary happened) I was grooming his rump at the time and was standing at his side, he managed to spin his back end towards me, hitting my foot and damaging it before I managed to throw myself out of his way. I managed to calm him down a bit then turned him out but he pranced off looking quite tense.

I don't consider him dangerous, he's usually not a spooky horse (so far he's been fine with dogs,chickens,chainsaws,motorbikes,tractors,lawn mowers. He even comes over for a look when we burn anything in our incinerator) This is the first time he has ever spooked and I'm positive I was stood on simply because I was by his hind legs and wasn't expecting it.

I was planning on bringing him into work for the summer for hacking/trekking but now my parents are insisting on selling him because he's "dangerous". In my opinion calling a horse dangerous because he's spooked once is bullocks but both my parents scared of horses and don't know much about them.

I would love to take him to a good trainer/instructor however I live in a remote area and we only have 2 trainers available. I have been to both in the past, one for riding lesson which we're an absolute waste of money (that instructor thinks is a good idea to teach all students to drop their reins and grab the saddle when they feel nervous/unbalanced. Which is plausible in a confined arena on a push button lesson horse. But it quickly becomes a very dangerous habit.)

The other is an older fellow who I went to privately with my last horse when I wanted to start show jumping, he was so set in his ways that after a month with him I was to intimidated to ask him anything because he would accuse me of "questioning him". Even if it was something as simple as "was my position okay over the last cross rails." I stopped going to him and ended up selling that horse because it was refusing jumps, bucking, striking out and had starting biting. (I'm not blaming him but it started a few weeks after being at his stables and i'd owned the horse for 2 years before then and never had a problem.)

I'm looking for some advice/opinions from people with more experience and who can look at this from an unbiased view.
Should I sell him and find another horse or should I go with my original plan and start groundwork then reassess how we're going?

P.S. I have read the "Playing the Hero" -- when to 'stick with it' & when to realize it's time to move on-- Thread but it hasn't helped my decision.

Saddlebag 09-25-2011 09:43 AM

Other than hay or grass what else are you feeding him? By his gaining weight he is healthier and likely "feeling his oats". I think you need to do lots of groundwork with him to establish who's running the show. If you don't, then he will. By groundwork use a knotted halter and teach him to drop his head. Get him moving his feet, forward, backward, sideways (both sides). A more dominant horse does this to lesser horses so your horse will understand what is going on. He may be a bit claustrophobic when tied. I had one that couldn't get over that so when grooming I laid my lead on his back and discovered he'd stand there as long as I wanted. Knowing he could leave if the enemy showed up, he opted to stay.

Deschutes 09-25-2011 12:55 PM

I don't think that he's enough of a 'problem' to be sold. If he was anything like your last horse, then I would say yes.

however, you are noticing the signs and you have an opportunity to correct these signs, habits, and behaviors.

As Saddlebag stated before me, groundwork will help you to establish yourself as the herd leader.

One spook, and the start of pushiness is not enough to warrant a horse as dangerous, as you said. But if you are willing to, then I would say keep the horse and work with him. If you are not willing to, then sell him to a person who you feel is capable of helping him through.

Courtney 09-25-2011 01:19 PM

If this was my horse, I'd go right back to basics. Pretend he doesn't know anything and start fresh. There may be some holes in his ground work and now that he's well fed and feeling good, he has more energy to test you. Show him that you're the boss and his life will be easy if he respects you. If he doesn't respect you, show him that you can make his life a living hell. I know it sounds mean and cruel, but that's how it works in a herd and that's what horses understand.

Take him into a round pen and lunge him. I prefer free lunging myself, just because it gives the horse the total choice. Jog him around and around, burn off some energy and let him make the decision to accept you as his herd. You'll be able to see him thinking about it by the flicking ears. When he turns an ear to you and begins licking, you'll know he's really, truly considering your offer. When his head drops, he's completely focused on you, he's licking and you can feel him asking to come in, turn your body 45 degrees away from him and look at the ground. Wait and he'll come to you. If he begins coming your way, but stops part ways, send him away again. Keep doing this until he touches his nose to your shoulder. This is when he's accepted you as his herd, and the learning can begin.

I know it seems hokey, but I did this with my young gelding and it worked extremely well. We'd reached a wall with training and I could see that he was always thinking about testing me and trying to step into a dominant role. He stopped listening, started pretending to spook at silly things and was generally a brat to be around. All it took was 20 minutes in the round pen, with me driving him around in circles at a medium jog, and he was asking to come to me. After that, he followed me around and showed signs that he trusted me to keep him safe. He accepted ground training easily after that, stopped attempting to nip and was a dream to work around. He had developed a high level of respect for me, and all his vices just went away.

terry6970 09-25-2011 03:06 PM

Great advice Courtney!! I agree 100%, and I have a mustang who needs to be reminded who is the herd leader every 6 mos or so. She's wonderful after being reminded though and round pen work like you describe is usually what works great, and also lunging her in unfenced areas.

atomic 09-25-2011 03:17 PM

Thanks for that Courtney, I am feeling how you did before you tried that with your horse. My horse is young but I feel a lot of it is nonsense (irrational spooking, nibbly, short focus, etc.) And I think I will try the suggested advice here. I do have a question though... Do you have to do this every day before training or is it pretty much you do it once and it sticks? Oh and how long should you wait for them to approach you?

darextoxdream 09-26-2011 04:26 AM

I feel a lot better after reading this and after mum had a read she's starting to understand what I'm talking about.
He's had nothing but hay, grass and the off bit of molasses free chaff which was recommended by the feed store. (I live on a large property with plenty of grazing).
Although now it's spring in New Zealand I'm fully expecting him to turn into a bit of a fruit loop and I want to avoid any chance of laminitis so I was thinking of restricting his grazing and making sure he has a good supply of hay/chaff OR keeping him in a smaller, grazed down paddock during the day and turning him out at night. (I was told sugar content in grass is lower at night.) Any thoughts on these ideas?

A huge thank you to Saddlebag and Courtney! I am defiantly going back to basics with him and get the groundwork down packed.
I'll be experimenting with both your ideas.

How old is your horse atomic? I've heard that it's quite common for younger horses to be mouthy and have shorter attention spans because they are still learning patience. Just a thought :-) Good luck with your horse anyway. :D

jody111 09-26-2011 04:41 AM

Sounds like you could do with some work on the ground with him to pick up his respect there...

Im in NZ too - If you are worried about the grasses - get him on a good toxin binder (Flexwell is good and cheap), make sure he has salt in his dinner and mag as a back up (Again flexwell is great see trademe)

from an instructor perspective - what area are you in there may be someone close willing to help out... if you ask on some nz type forums they may be able to help ( or

Unless hes prone to lamintis or really over weight I wouldnt take him right off the graa myself...

atomic 09-26-2011 10:10 AM

He's 3 (since June). I expect some sort of goofiness from a horse his age but Courtney's description of what her young (though not sure what exact age) horse had been doing sounded spot on. He's not bad but he can be annoying sometimes, and if this could only help then I figure it would be worth a try. He does get better all the time so at the very least it'll be just something to change it up and potentially help. Thanks for the well wishes and good luck to you!
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