My mare doesn't want to go out alone - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 08-13-2019, 03:27 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy My mare doesn't want to go out alone

Hi all,

I am new to this but I really need help.

I have my mare since 5 years, a stubborn paint horse but very clever. I have been living with her in Italy for 2 years then i moved to another Country (I was going back to visit her every second month) and then I finally moved her with me September last year. That's where the problem started.

Before she always wanted to go out for outrides, even alone. Never had 1 single problem with it. She is amazing outside, strong legs and she used to do a lot of trekking on the mountains too. But now, if we are not at least in 3 riders outside she doesn't want to go. When we ride in 2 she is ok in staying outside for 45 mins but then she always stops, starts kicking and turning back and there is no way on the saddle to continue...if I walk with her it is fine though. To go out completely alone it is impossible, she doesn't even want to go out of the gate of the stable where the other horses are.

I think we have a good bond, she likes to spend time with me as she is always looking for me, but when it comes to go outside I cannot control o help her anyway, and I am afraid I am the problem cause she can feel I am warried about something could happen.

Do you have any suggestions?

thanks

VV
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post #2 of 13 Old 08-13-2019, 07:17 AM
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You are the problem in that you let her get away with it (even once -- getting to go back to the barn is a powerful reward) and now it is a confirmed habit.

She needs to find out that it is easier to obey than to disobey. But you might not be the right person to teach her this, if you are tense and afraid. Still, I will relate what I did with my horse, who resisted going out alone when she was very green to riding. There are other methods but this worked for me and others did not.

First principle: any step forward is rewarded by a complete release of pressure, wither scritches, and verbal praise. Even one. Be alert for anything you can reward. Let her stand for a few breaths before asking for anything else.

Point her in the direction you want to go, and then ask her to go forward with a light squeeze. No reaction? Kick with both heels, lightly. No reaction? Just keep doing it. Lightly. Don't escalate. You are being annoying, not punitive. Kick kick kick kick and as soon as she makes one single step, stop. Praise! If she stops again, start right back at the beginning.

If she backs up, or does anything other than stand there or go forward, swat her rump lightly with a crop, the kind that makes a smacking noise. You are saying, 'forward is the only good choice." If she kicks out, ignore her kicking (make sure no one is behind you). Correct one problem at a time.

Be armed with a ton of patience, the first time will be the worst. Do NOT give up. Stay absolutely calm and absolutely determined. Set very small goals. Like five forward steps in a row. When she does this, GET OFF and put her away. This is her reward. Once she will do five steps ask for more, but do not start out first day with the goal of going for a big ride. Your goal is simply "forward when I ask".

If you don't think you can do this -- and this is all you will be doing for awhile -- get experienced help. You will need to ride alone every day until she is completely over this.

Short horse lover
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post #3 of 13 Old 08-13-2019, 08:29 AM
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Since this sounds like an experienced horse who has been ridden out on trails, I'd say you are facing a situation where you need to do a little reprogramming that even in this new environment, riding out with you (even if it's alone) is an interesting experience that your horse wants to do. I agree with the advice above- it will be a slow, patient process to get back to riding her out alone. You are worried about her reaction, that's part of the equation. As you have more positive experiences together again, your worry will decrease as she becomes more cooperative.

Since you say she is good being led, I'd start by tacking her up but just leading her from the ground. Walk out the gate and a little farther, then come back and call it a day. Gradually increase the distance you go leading. If it's going well, you might end up walking her from the ground for a km or two, the goal is that she is calm and willing, and like @Avna said, keeps moving forward when you ask. You can even strategically place little "rewards" along the road/trail where you're walking so she becomes more eager to "explore." I don't know how long you'll have to do that, it will depend on how you perceive her willingness- maybe a couple of days, maybe a week, who knows. If music keeps you calm, bring something with you in your pocket to play music that makes you feel happy and confident, and really focus on your breathing and letting go of tension if things aren't going well. The stakes are really low- you are taking your horse for a short walk, and when she walks nicely, that's it. The goals are small at first.

After I could go for a nice handwalk, I'd get on and go. She might ride right out without resistance. She might resist, and then I'd just start the process over again- mount up, go past the gate calmly and turn around the first day, work up to going farther from the barn with her being calm and willing. Don't get greedy at the beginning; if she's improving, let that be enough and keep building from there.
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post #4 of 13 Old 08-13-2019, 08:47 AM
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The first two yards my horse was kept (before buying her and then after) she was also a great solo hacker. I moved to a new yard closer to home a year later and I am also facing similar issues. Definitely because it's a new environment among other things I have to contend with (such as some staff being nervous and not wanting to force the issue - which doesn't help when I get on). When I first hacked her out she was mostly reallllllllly good and really brave. These days I have been lucky to get her to walk a mile away from the yard. Once we reached a stopping point it took me 20 minutes of her backing up, trying to spin and just planting her feet before I finally convinced her that YES we are going this way. Once I got her past that invisible barrier she returned to being forward but boy was it a test. 20 minutes feels like FOREVER but in the grand scheme of things it's not really. No big fighting just simply keeping things safe and not accepting no for an answer. I was very prepared to stand there for an hour if that's what it took because I have handwalked her down that hour+ trail for 2x a week months on end and she's trying to tell me she doesn't want to be ridden for 10minutes on it? Nope. What also sometimes helped was sitting real deep and leaning back a bit excessively and then asking for a walk with a strong cue. It seemed to really push her on.

I'm planning on starting back at square one with 10mins at a time after some arena work so hacking out becomes extra appealing. I agree with not being greedy. If my horse manages 10mins without stopping that's great. Then I'll try 15 and 20. If you find something different that works for you please share as I feel this is a common issue. Heck, plenty people at my yard can't even get their horse past the gate!
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post #5 of 13 Old 08-13-2019, 09:56 AM
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I think you just need to continuously get her out, & get used to it. Don't allow her to 'turn around' just because she wants to. If she tries to turn around, then decides ok, I'll take a few steps forward...stop right there & praise her. Bit by bit. It's a new environment & it will take her some time.

For example, my mare has never been out by herself like completely out of the property at her NEW place (except when being hauled for trails, it's no problem). Last week I took her out along the trails near my barn (no hauling) & when we got further & further away from the barn, she started getting anxious.

I've learned I just have to keep calm, but also keep her mind busy when she gets like this. If I get anxious or frustrated, it won't do us any good.
I also talk to her a lot to encourage her, praise praise praise. I didn't push it, we ended up turning around not too far off. Wanted to end on a positive note.

Then, the next time I took her out, she did even BETTER! We went further & further, and she was fine. Just have to keep at it. :) It can take some horses longer, of course, so just be patient. Stay calm, breathe, & try not to feed off of her worried energy.

Ride more, worry less.
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post #6 of 13 Old 08-13-2019, 10:24 AM
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I got nothing to add to the recommendations, except to say that you're not alone. I rode my horse on the trails for a year last year, and after we moved to a barn literally on the other side of the forest I rode him in, I started hand walking him in the outdoor arena next to his pasture - and he still had trouble going to the far end of the arena.

Now we're tearing up the fields again, but it did require a good mixture of patience and leaning on him on my part. There are two things I did not compromise on: "Jigging" is not a gait, and "whipping around (180)" is not an option. Here is where I did compromise: If you show you can listen to me, you can speed up - yes, also on the way home. Give me good down transitions first and stop arguing about it for just a few paces, and I'll ask you for the up transition you desire: It is I who will take you home faster. You acknowledge I'm the one calling the shots; I'll acknowledge your being nervous and needing to move/wanting to go home. It's been a few weeks now that I'm rather satisfied with the results, though I dread potentially ever having to switch barns again. :)
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post #7 of 13 Old 08-13-2019, 11:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVolpe View Post

I have my mare since 5 years, a stubborn paint horse but very clever. I have been living with her in Italy for 2 years then i moved to another Country (I was going back to visit her every second month) and then I finally moved her with me September last year. That's where the problem started.

Before she always wanted to go out for outrides, even alone. Never had 1 single problem with it. She is amazing outside, strong legs and she used to do a lot of trekking on the mountains too. But now, if we are not at least in 3 riders outside she doesn't want to go. When we ride in 2 she is ok in staying outside for 45 mins but then she always stops, starts kicking and turning back and there is no way on the saddle to continue...if I walk with her it is fine though. To go out completely alone it is impossible, she doesn't even want to go out of the gate of the stable where the other horses are.

I think we have a good bond, she likes to spend time with me as she is always looking for me, but when it comes to go outside I cannot control o help her anyway, and I am afraid I am the problem cause she can feel I am warried about something could happen.

Do you have any suggestions?
She's developed a barn sour problem and she's got you pegged.


You are correct that YOU are the problem! You don't need to be mean or harsh with her, but you do need to prove to her that YOU are the boss and if YOU say that you are going out for a ride, than that is what is going to happen. (Not her deciding she wants to go back to the barn.) You need to be confident and firm and more persistent than her.



Do you have access to a trainer in your area that can help you the first few times?


If she is kicking out, I would carry a crop for that, and SMACK her a good one when she kicks out. Kicking is dangerous and unacceptable and she needs to learn that. If you are not comfortable doing that, then it's even more important that you find a trainer to help you.



You need to find a way to get her feet to move in the direction you want to move. When she correctly responds to your leg and seat, then stop asking her to move (That's her praise). However, if she keeps trying to turn back to the barn, you cannot let her and keep cueing her to go in the direction you want to go until she gives you the slightest bit of a correct answer. Rinse and repeat. It might take you half an hour to get 20 feet down the road, but as long as you are getting her to LISTEN to you, then you are "winning". Never allow her to turn to go back to the barn unless YOU have cued her and decided to go back to the barn.
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post #8 of 13 Old 08-14-2019, 05:32 AM
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I agree with all of the above suggestions. When I first started taking my mare out she would walk incredible slow but slow and forward was okay as long as the was moving. When she would get to a scary point, which was right about the time she could no longer see the barn, she would swing to the right at a 180 degrees so she could face the barn/pasture. I would swing her back and walk two/three steps and rinse and repeat for close to 45 minutes. Even the steps she took would get us father along. I was the one to decide when we had enough for the day and always left facing the down the trial but it was me that would cue her to turn and walk back. Sometimes that was a challenge in itself but if I was ready to stop for the day, even if she stood looking down the trail for three seconds straight then I cued to turn home. It was my decision, not hers.

Each time we got a little farther along before she would balk. Took me quite a while to get her past that certain scary spot to find new scary spots and again, rinse and repeat.

Now four months later we go out with no issues unless she sees something that was not there before. Last time it was a kids small plastic pink bike the property owners kid left at the end of their driveway but she has learned that I will not let her go back. It is forward or nothing. Sometimes we just have to sit in the direction I want to go until she gives in, she does not like to stand still, she is more go than whoa so this works to my advantage.

She is new to trails but she gets better and better each time as her confidence in me and herself grows. When I feel her tense up at something new I always tell her sheis a good girl and I can feel her relax because she is going forward and that is the correct answer and I have told her it is. After we are through whatever the new scary situation is I always give pets and lots of praise. She really works off trying to please me.

It will take a while but if you are consistent in your direction/correction and her praise it will happen. The best advice is not to get frustrated or angry. Take deep breathes and never say this is the day we will get passed a point or this is the day we will get to the trail because that just adds stress to you and your horse. Take even the slightest move forward as a victory and end on a good note.
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post #9 of 13 Old Yesterday, 05:20 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone for the suggestions. I have to be honest, right now I do not feel comfortable in going out ON the saddle with her alone. I tried on Tuesday after writing the post, just to see how far I could go on the saddle and after few mt I couldn't control her and she managed to just turn back and go back to the stable.

After that episode I decided to follow what you suggested and I am walking with her from the ground. We are now walking every day outside and every day a little bit more far. She is still nervous but from the ground I am more relaxed my self so I can bring her more far every day :) I am planning to do so until when we are not completely relaxed and then slowly start to try on the saddle.

Do you think it is anyway a good idea from time to time to go out with more riders as I am used to? She is completely fine when we are in at least 3 riders. And if should ever happen that she stops I will do what you suggest, make her stop, few steps forward and then when I decide it is ok to go back I will turn her myself. Fortunately a good rider from my stable agreed in helping me next time we are going out, so this also makes me feel more safe :)

Do you think it is a good plan?
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post #10 of 13 Old Yesterday, 06:23 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VVolpe View Post
Thank you everyone for the suggestions. I have to be honest, right now I do not feel comfortable in going out ON the saddle with her alone. I tried on Tuesday after writing the post, just to see how far I could go on the saddle and after few mt I couldn't control her and she managed to just turn back and go back to the stable.

After that episode I decided to follow what you suggested and I am walking with her from the ground. We are now walking every day outside and every day a little bit more far. She is still nervous but from the ground I am more relaxed my self so I can bring her more far every day :) I am planning to do so until when we are not completely relaxed and then slowly start to try on the saddle.

Do you think it is anyway a good idea from time to time to go out with more riders as I am used to? She is completely fine when we are in at least 3 riders. And if should ever happen that she stops I will do what you suggest, make her stop, few steps forward and then when I decide it is ok to go back I will turn her myself. Fortunately a good rider from my stable agreed in helping me next time we are going out, so this also makes me feel more safe :)

Do you think it is a good plan?
and also, while doing all that can I keep going with our normal training program? I am right now alternating liberty training and normal train on the saddle. Can I keep doing that while walking out every day with her?

thanks
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