Ideas for a 20yr old Morgan that won't lope? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 05-15-2019, 03:01 AM Thread Starter
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Ideas for a 20yr old Morgan that won't lope?

I've been working with my mom's horse because I had to sell my own horse a few years ago due to being broke.

She bought this sweet little mare about 8 years ago because she was lazy as all hell and my mom is afraid to even trot most of the time so she was a good fit for her because she was perfectly behaved but we couldn't even convince her to lope when I test rode her. She's a complete angel at a walk and trot, and I'd put anybody on her for that.

But, well, fast forward to now and... Sure would be nice if this horse would lope.

I've been riding most of the time I've been alive, but I've never encountered a horse like this before. When you signal her to lope, she tries everything she can think of to avoid it. First she'll trot faster, then start crow hopping, then trot freakishly fast, then full on buck, then somehow trot even faster, then act like there's no other option and continue almost indefinitely despite getting whupt, then try bucking again. If you survive all of that, she'll lope, but after getting her to do it she bucks a whole lot more when I ask again and it gets to where I can't ride through it anymore and have to give up.

Now this horse isn't out of shape. She canters freely on the lunge and I've been working with her for a couple months now making sure she was (and I was) conditioned enough for this. She's not lame, and her back and saddle fit have been checked. I can lope any other horse without issue so I doubt it's me. I just know that she knows she can get out of it, and maybe for all we know she was even punished for it in the past, so she will do what it takes to get out of it. I'm not a bronc rider and I don't really want to risk teaching her even worse habits, so I'm at a bit of a loss. Until I have a better idea, I'm not pushing it anymore.

What would you do with this horse? Can this old dog learn a new trick?

Thank you

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post #2 of 10 Old 05-15-2019, 04:02 AM
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Do you have any video of her loping on the lunge line? Does she have trouble going in one direction more than the other? Even though she can lope on the lunge, she might have a physical issue at her age that makes it difficult to lope when carrying a rider.

Another issue might be size and balance, depending on how big of a horse she is and how big you are as a rider, or how balanced you are.
She might not feel she can balance well when loping with a rider, especially if she is out of practice. Or the saddle might be placed too far forward and be interfering with her shoulder blades - some horses just can't seem to lope without a completely free shoulder.

Since she hasn't loped under saddle in years, I'd treat her like a horse just being started. I'd take her up a hill, with another experienced horse. If you don't have another horse on the property, maybe you could convince a friend to trailer over or pick you up. On a long uphill slope, where it is much more difficult to buck, have the other horse pick up the canter in front of you, after trotting together so the horses feel like they are traveling together. That's usually the easiest way to teach a horse.

Another option is to use a six-ring martingale. Horses need to put their heads up and down in order to buck effectively, so if you put your reins through whichever ring makes the reins go in a straight line from the bit to your hand, the martingale will stop the horse from lowering and raising the head well. If you can "give" with your hands while using this tool, and push the horse forward, it can teach them to lope forward without bucking.

It is important if a horse is having difficulty with not picking up the lope and wanting to buck to make sure you allow the forward movement and don't give conflicting cues by holding the horse back because it's too fast/rough or you are worried they will buck. That is one way that a hill comes in handy, because it is easier to give the horse the freedom they need since the hill is inhibiting the bucking.
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post #3 of 10 Old 05-15-2019, 09:49 AM
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I think the horse has in the past before you got her. She learned bucking crow hopping when asked to lope works so she doesn't have to lope.

It's more then likely a well established behavior that has worked quite well for her....getting out of cantering. She probably can be taught to canter ,but will take someone with experience dealing with this kind of behavior.

I don't blame you for not wanting to continue on with it an possibly teach her more bad habits.
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post #4 of 10 Old 05-15-2019, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by rocky pony View Post
I ask again and it gets to where I can't ride through it anymore and have to give up. ...
I just know that she knows she can get out of it, and maybe for all we know she was even punished for it in the past,
I appreciate you've tried to rule out physical issues, but I'd keep looking there. And yes, whether intentionally, or 'punished' with a painful saddle or with fear of the feeling, she will have past feelings having a bearing still, even if not current.

Now, assuming it's 'just behavioural', yes, 'old dogs' can learn new tricks, and in this case she could UNlearn this 'trick' - it's 'just' a matter of teaching her it will never work. Which, given her past experience, will take some... persistence for her to change her prior 'training'. If people give up because of her behaviour, EVERY SINGLE TIME this happens it strengthens, confirms her knowledge that this behaviour does indeed work for her, so she's likely to 'try' it harder next time, if it doesn't initially work. And she will keep trying for a fair while, in all likelihood. That means if you want her to 'get over it', you need to ensure that no matter how hard she goes, it NEVER EVER works for her again. So... I don't blame you in the least for quitting, but if you want her to learn otherwise, not giving up(or coming off!) is the biggest factor.

So... on that note, these days I'm well over bronc riding, so... I'd just accept a walk & trot personally!

Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]
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post #5 of 10 Old 05-15-2019, 08:35 PM
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There is a way to teach this from the ground with an extra soft rope with a metal hondo on it but it would take forever to explain it properly and I would probably still mess it up. The horse has to know some other groundwork first so it knows how to look for answers etc. when you are putting pressure on it. It takes quite a while with the basic ground work to get the timing down with the pressure, look for an answer, try different things, find the answer release the pressure etc. and once the horse is really good at that dance with you, then you can move on to the rope trick to teach them not to buck under saddle through the different gaits.

I have seen more than a few trainers do it but the best one is probably Warwick Schiller. He has a couple of really detailed videos on his website of teaching horses not to buck using this method. I will warn you that the first few sessions of this the horse will often go absolutely bonkers when you hit a gait it doesn't like or once you get the rope worked back onto its flank area. They do settle down and learn but have a really sturdy round pen to do it in as I have seen a horse kick steel bars off their welds doing this method but it is hands down the safest way to get the buck out for both you and the horse when done correctly.

I would advise you to get a subscription to Warwick's Video site for a month and you can probably get this trained out of the horse in that time if you work at it daily. Normally I wouldn't suggest joining somebodies web site, but in this case that is where I know the best examples of dealing with this very type of learned buck behavior are at.

The other alternative is to just only walk and trot and hope for your mother's sake that the horse never decides to try it at the trot or walk to get out of work since it works so well for it at the canter/lope.

Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own. - Bruce Lee

Last edited by AndyTheCornbread; 05-15-2019 at 08:53 PM.
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post #6 of 10 Old 05-15-2019, 08:39 PM
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Everyone else has a good hold on things, but I would like to mention (because I haven't seen it mentioned yet) that there is a possibility this horse was used as a carriage horse once. Morgans are a popular breed to carriage drive with, and sometimes carriage driving horses are taught to never break out of the trot. Some trainers might have been rather aggressive about it. Just a thought that perhaps she isn't comfortable cantering because in the past she's been punished for doing exactly that. If you know the horse's full history, then you can completely disregard this comment, but I figured it's worth a shot if it helps you understand where she might be coming from.
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post #7 of 10 Old 05-15-2019, 08:55 PM
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Agreed with @gottatrot ís suggestion to get her moving when youíre going up hills and it makes sense to her to transition up.

Could you use some ground poles and cross rails to encourage her moving forward, again encouraging a canter when it makes natural sense to her when she has forward momentum.

Would also give an extra look at the saddle as those Morganís have extra wide shoulders even if they look small, and can feel really restricted with the saddle squeezing them there.
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post #8 of 10 Old Yesterday, 11:20 AM
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If she lopes in the pasture and longe but not under saddle, I'm thinking she's hurting somewhere when ridden. Teeth, saddle fit, etc.

Put a canter on a voice cue on the longe/round pen. I use a kissing/smooch noise. Once I can ask for the canter with that alone, it's time to work on it under saddle. Take her out for a ride with 2-3 other horses. Go for a trot and then have those riders move up into a lope and off they go. Any reasonable horse will be easy to kiss up into a canter to go with them and not be left behind. I've trained ex-western pleasure horses to move out in a 'real' lope using this method a lot. Unless the horse is sore, it works every time. The first ride out like this, we'll go into a canter about a dozen times over the course of a few miles. Do it for a few rides, then have your horse lope off the same time they do, then eventually instigate the canter.
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post #9 of 10 Old Yesterday, 12:25 PM
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If she can canter/lope when loose in a field or ring then there is something happening under saddle that's impeding her from being able to pick up that gait...

Is she gaited?
Older Morgans, many blood lines were gaited and she may be one...
Does she feel like a washing machine, all mixed up? That is how my neighbors Paso look when they go to canter/lope and they are gaited.. they can canter/lope but it is short, choppy, jarring and looks terrible to try to sit...

Did she have a slip and fall since you've owned her that maybe she put something out of whack...
Are you balanced a rider you are out of her way so she can transfer her weight to her hind end for the strike off since lope/canter starts in the back-end...
Have you tried asking for the start when she is on a arc like riding into or out of a ring end...helping her to transition?

Are you sure she has no physical problems in her hind-end that would make her cantering difficult if not impossible for her to accomplish carrying any weight?

Does her saddle fit her properly so she is able to use her back, her shoulder and her butt correctly to engage and push off?

That is where I would be looking to start...and if unsure...
"Hello Dr. "??"...can you come check my horse out. I am experiencing a problem and need to rule out...."
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post #10 of 10 Old Yesterday, 12:53 PM
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Sounds like pain issues.
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