Mare Won't Budge--R+ Suggestions? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 27 Old 11-11-2019, 09:38 PM Thread Starter
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Mare Won't Budge--R+ Suggestions?

I've come across a new issue for my horse and myself, and I'm wondering how to train this behavior out of her, preferably using positive reinforcement!

My mare likes to test from time to time. Her newest game is stopping dead and refusing to go forward. I have ruled out pain for a couple of reasons: 1. she does this most often when there is another horse/person in the arena, especially if they are just standing around.. 2. as soon as we work out of her stopping, she will trot off happily and moves comfortably under saddle. I've checked her saddle fit,. I've even experimented without the saddle, seeing if she does it bareback (she does) so I don't feel like it's a tack issue at all. 3. She also does it more often to the left (her more difficult side).

The typical scenario looks like this. We will be walking around the arena at a comfortable, marching pace. As soon as I apply leg pressure to ask for the trot, she will just stop and refuse to go forward. It isn't all the time, it is mainly when there is another horse in the arena that she wants to socialize with. She is happy to walk forward, but as soon as I ask for the trot it's game over. I pull her sideways so she has to take a couple steps to balance, then praise for the steps, but she will often just stop again. Sometimes she stops right off the bat, other times we will be working at the trot happily for 15, 30 minutes before this nonsense begins. Eventually, she sort of just snaps out of this stubbornness, and goes back to trotting like nothing happened.


I've tried getting angry and asserting myself, cropping, etc. etc. This isn't how my mare works. If I push, she pushes back, and it's putting a really negative tone on what would otherwise be a great ride. That is why I'm trying to move away from traditional training methods and go with something more along the lines of R+ training. She has responded really well to positive reinforcement tactics (such as clicker) in the past, so I have hope! I'm just not sure what it should look like/how I should be responding when she does this. I wasn't brought up riding with R+ training, so I won't pretend for a moment that I'm any kind of expert/purist...but I would really like to learn more about it if that is what works best for my mare!

What can I do on the ground and under saddle that will help us both to move forward (literally and figuratively, lol!) in a positive manner?

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post #2 of 27 Old 11-11-2019, 10:55 PM
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Well this won't be +R, but I've trained a fair amount with it and it has its place and can be incredible for potential training issues. Essentially your horse has trained you not to trot. She stops, you respond by pulling her sideways and petting her. She has you quite "broke". In this case I highly doubt she's going to be much put out (sounds like just a bit of lazy nappy attitude that knows she can get away with it) if you boot her or tap her with a crop behind your leg, so you get a sharp response (don't nag, insist and then release). Once she jumps up into that enthusiastic forward trot then stop and reward with a pet.




Edit: somehow I missed the last paragraph, I would still say that while I don't doubt that she takes a tactful ride, that kind of misbehavior is not something I'd reward that small half step sideways with. If she wants to be near another horse I'd do the Warwick Schiller method of causing that proximity to involve a lot of work, long trotting at a good clip, and then away from the other horses, allow her to rest, with your pet and maybe a cookie.



Last edited by lostastirrup; 11-11-2019 at 11:02 PM.
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post #3 of 27 Old 11-11-2019, 11:04 PM
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Work her when she's stopped. Have her bend her neck, walk in circles (if she'll do that), and any other exercises you can think of doing at a standstill. Then when you do get a trot out of her, stop and reward like previous person said. Good luck!

edit: I missed that last paragraph too, haha. Again, I agree with lostastirrup.
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post #4 of 27 Old 11-11-2019, 11:14 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lostastirrup View Post
Well this won't be +R, but I've trained a fair amount with it and it has its place and can be incredible for potential training issues. Essentially your horse has trained you not to trot. She stops, you respond by pulling her sideways and petting her. She has you quite "broke". In this case I highly doubt she's going to be much put out (sounds like just a bit of lazy nappy attitude that knows she can get away with it) if you boot her or tap her with a crop behind your leg, so you get a sharp response (don't nag, insist and then release). Once she jumps up into that enthusiastic forward trot then stop and reward with a pet.




Edit: somehow I missed the last paragraph, I would still say that while I don't doubt that she takes a tactful ride, that kind of misbehavior is not something I'd reward that small half step sideways with. If she wants to be near another horse I'd do the Warwick Schiller method of causing that proximity to involve a lot of work, long trotting at a good clip, and then away from the other horses, allow her to rest, with your pet and maybe a cookie.
I do wish it were that easy...but often there is no response to cropping/booting. That’s exactly how I was brought up riding, so that was the most obvious tactic to me as well! But it just turns into me essentially cropping and booting her for no reason, which is making a really negative space for both she and I. I won’t keep cropping/booting if it isn’t earning a reaction, because it just feels like I’m taking out my frustration for no actual positive end result for either of us. At the end of the day, I’m up for the challenge of working through it in a different way than what I’ve been traditionally taught. It’s frustrating but incredibly humbling to work with a horse that requires you to think outside the box for sure! Maybe I will try to get a video of her doing it so you guys can tell me if you’re noticing anything I’m not. It’s also worth mentioning that it isn’t all the time she is doing this. Sometimes we have a completely normal ride without this behavior at all, and I’ll think we’ve kicked it...but then it’s back!

I’ll check out this Warwick Schiller method, I’ve never heard of it! Although we might have to get past this hurdle first if it requires long trotting, lol!😂

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post #5 of 27 Old 11-11-2019, 11:20 PM
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post #6 of 27 Old 11-11-2019, 11:22 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by akihba View Post
Work her when she's stopped. Have her bend her neck, walk in circles (if she'll do that), and any other exercises you can think of doing at a standstill. Then when you do get a trot out of her, stop and reward like previous person said. Good luck!
This is a great perspective, perhaps focusing more on what we CAN do instead of what we can’t in the moment will garner a better result here:) thank you!

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post #7 of 27 Old 11-12-2019, 07:47 AM
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One other possible thing to try is backing. I had a mare who would decide she’d done enough and that going forward was continuing to work but she’d back.

Eventually she’d decide she’d do just as well going forward and we’d be off again with no problems.

I’d turn her so she was backing the direction I wanted her moving originally so she wasn’t evading anything or going back to something/ some place.

I will add this was done without me having to pull or fight her. She was calm and still listening and steering just going in reverse.

It was funny on trail rides chatting face to face though.
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post #8 of 27 Old 11-12-2019, 10:59 AM
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I was going to suggest the backing as well. We have a mare that will do this. She does it leading or riding at times. The backing seems to be working her out of it as she is doing it less and less because it is more work backing than simply doing what is asked the first time.
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post #9 of 27 Old 11-12-2019, 11:52 AM
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When I rode a half-Arab show horse that did this, a crop would not work. What did work was carrying a lunge line that only had a short string on the end, and was very flexible. The moment she gave any indication that she would be stopping, I would wrap the lunge line around her butt, hard. The key was to not allow her to even consider stopping, and when she even thought about it, the lunge line got her. If she was able to stop, she won.

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post #10 of 27 Old 11-12-2019, 12:04 PM
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I'm a fan of positive encouragement, but there ARE times when punishment is appropriate. When she IS willing to trot, you can ask for stops and reward her...and then ask her to go again. You can try to make a game out of things, and mixing things up a lot (horses bore easily) helps.

But a horse won't look for a mutually acceptable compromise if they believe they are calling the shots.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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