Horse afraid of being ridden - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 09-20-2020, 12:54 PM Thread Starter
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Horse afraid of being ridden

Hi Everyone,
I'm working on training a horse who has a fear of being ridden. She's pretty much bombproof except when you swing that second leg over she becomes a bucking bronco. I did try to ride her a little soon before receiving more information from the previous owner/trainer which had withheld from us. The horse threw me after flailing around for a while which I'm sure did add to her baggage.

Basically what I've been able to piece together is she was first trained by a traditional western horse breaker. He spent a lot of time jumping next to her making noises, etc. Apparently there was some sort of incident with the saddle slipping and tangling around her which her pervious owner neglected to tell me but I found from her second trainer who worked with her more recently. That trainer apparently was able to ride her walk, trot, canter.

Since my first unsuccessful attempts I've been working with her on the ground for about 3 months. I've desensitized her to my jumping next to her and gotten her comfortable at the mounting block. I put all of my weight in the one stirrup and leaned on her for a few weeks, she was fine with that. I then put all of my weight on her and my opposite knee half over her on her rump for a few days to a week, still completely calm. Today I put my leg over with the hope of not even riding, just getting on and off and she went full bronco again right after I got my leg over. I'm really out of incremental steps for her and am at a loss. Any thoughts?
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post #2 of 18 Old 09-20-2020, 01:07 PM
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I don't know if this would work at all or is just a crazy idea.
Could you restart her and do all your work from the right side, just like starting a young horse but concentrate on the off side. She may not feel this is as threatening as from the near as she already has her mind made up about what could happen to her.

I would approach this carefully as she may still be upset about the mounting procedure no matter which side is used.

Also some horses are what they call Cold backed, don't know if this applies to her
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post #3 of 18 Old 09-20-2020, 01:26 PM
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OK this is just a weird thought. What if you got a large towel (like a bath sheet or beach towel) and brought it with you. Then get him to the mounting block standing still. Then do a motion between draping and tossing the towel over the saddle, so it's hanging off both sides. I wonder if this might tell you if he's reacting more to the weight or to the movement. Then maybe you could plan your next step.

I think re-training him from the right is a neat idea, too.
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post #4 of 18 Old 09-20-2020, 01:37 PM
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What makes you think that she is "afraid" of being ridden? My saddle was once completely tangled around my horse when she did a hard spook and my girth was not up enough. She did not then become fearful of being ridden. How was the second trainer supposedly able to walk, trot, and canter her? Has she figured out that she does not need to get ridden if she bucks?

What makes you think that she is "completely calm" when you going through the steps of mounting? Horses sometimes freeze in response to unpleasant stimuli. That freezing can be misinterpreted as acceptance.

When riding problems occurs, the saddle is one of the first things to come to my mind. How does the saddle fit? Could there be a problem with the association with the saddle? Have you tried riding bareback?
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post #5 of 18 Old 09-20-2020, 01:42 PM
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Has anyone physically checked this horse out that it does not have a physical problem that they can tolerate till weight transfer occurs to their back and spine differently...
Something is happening...a pinch, a stabbing pain.

Just seems all this occurs after all the desensitizing was done as you would actually be twisting your weight to settle on the saddle, explosion....
I would be looking for a hidden fistula at the withers, along the spine...kissing spine immediately crossed my mind...nerve pain.

When the explosion occurs is the key...there is torque to the back at that moment of mounting..
In your information seeking has it ever been mentioned this horse flipped over??

I would not go any further till a very competent vet in lameness issues did a thorough exam and look-see...
The horse is trusting you that you can even get astride that far, then they just can't tolerate and explode to me is a scream of pain from them.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #6 of 18 Old 09-20-2020, 05:39 PM
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I would try just leaning across her bareback and allowing her to wander around without any direction from you.
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post #7 of 18 Old 09-20-2020, 08:12 PM
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I would rule out any pain or injury. If the other trainer was able to ride her at the walk trot and canter then I would think something is wrong. I kind of doubt it's a fear. It could be that she is really cold backed or the saddle doesn't fit and yes - it could be that she has a mental issue but... I think there may be something more..
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post #8 of 18 Old 09-21-2020, 02:43 AM
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Really don't have anything to add that hasn't been said - Woodhaven's & AC's suggestions are FAR from 'crazy' IMO. I too would start bareback, from the right, and be it a towel, feedbag, jeans with a boot... I'd do all that, *after* ruling out pain. I also would be NOT standing in one stirrup when you first 'throw a leg over', but remain on the mounting block, so you're not dragging on one side & you're not 'committing yourself' - you can stay balanced & remove that leg before she explodes. Also think Shyshy's questions pertinent too - careful you're not assuming too much. I've made the mistake of mistaking holding their breath & freezing for 'perfectly calm' before. But just because someone's had their saddle slip & horse not frightened doesn't mean to say any horse, particularly a greenie would not be terrified about that.
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post #9 of 18 Old 09-21-2020, 06:26 AM
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I could definitely consider pain also.
But my first thought is that the horse was frightened about the saddle slipping or getting tangled, and now either a sound or movement is triggering her that this is going to happen again.

Do you have a helper? I think it is something during the first step the horse takes that is the trigger. For safety I would lay over the horse and have someone lead me around to see if movement with a rider stimulates the fear. If the horse bucks, slide off, wait for calm and go again.

The horse would need multiple calm leading sessions before I would commit to sitting astride again.

When I did ride the horse I would use a six ring martingale so I could control the head in case bucking came up again. This is what I did with a fear bucker I had, until she broke the cycle. They have to get scared but be able to find a less severe reaction to the fear.
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post #10 of 18 Old 09-21-2020, 11:42 AM
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Have you been doing all this at the standstill? Moving vs standing is a big difference in their brains. When they tolerate something standing, they are often just internalizing the stress and freezing. Once you get them moving you find out if they actually are handling it.

I also suggest laying across and letting them wander. You can use your left arm to brace yourself and the right can be free to move and simulate a leg or whatever is needed.

Is there a difference in reaction if they are lunged or handwalked first?
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