Some issues with new horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 35 Old 07-05-2020, 03:36 PM Thread Starter
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Some issues with new horse

Hi there! This is my first time posting on this forum, but I have friends who have asked questions using this site, and everyone was very nice and helpful. So, I've decided to come forward with my own little problem.

I am a moderately experienced horseback rider (21 years old, and have been working with horses for a few years), and I recently purchased a little draft-mix named Rosie. I am very fond of her -- she is dapple grey with some feathering on her lower legs, and she has a great temperament for the most part. No biting, kicking, or bucking/rearing.

However, she is deeply, deeply stubborn, and I have cycled through a series of worsening behavioral issues. Like most horses, she wants to get back to the barn & her herdmates as soon as possible. So, she'll act up at the start of the ride and act like an angel on the way back.

At first, her rebellions were pretty mild and easy to handle, but she's gradually increased the severity of her misbehaviors. At first, she would try and walk me into tree branches or scrape my leg against fenceposts, or just balk and zig-zag when I asked her to move forward.

I had a more experienced friend ride her the other day. She had some problems at first, but she had a firm hand and straightened things out quickly.

I got on today, and followed her advice to stop the balking problem, but Rosie escalated after that. She took off at a canter multiple times, tried to spin around and dump me, and took off in the other direction. I didn't feel frightened or overwhelmed at any point, but she refused to listen to me and completely ignored my attempts to turn her around in a circle/stop her.

This culminated when she finally ran under a tree branch she's scraped me off on before. I grabbed the branch and swung off, but by this point I had been fighting her for a while and she was only getting worse. I didn't feel I could continue productively or safely, so I decided it's best to call it quits and ask for some advice.

Someone I know immediately suggested a harsher bit (I am using a soft bit, which was recommended to me by the man that trained her.) However, I'm hesitant to switch, since I've always heard that the bit is rarely the problem.

Here is a SIMILAR bit to the one I'm using. Mine is similar to a Pelham bit, with the optional lever action. Forgive me if I'm not SUPER knowledgeable about bits, I've always used very simple ones:



It's also worth mentioning that Rosie is 5 years old. I'm well aware that a number of these issues are linked to her age and green-ness, along with a lack of respect for me as her rider. I just want to make sure I'm taking the right approach to handling these problems.

While I'm a fairly confident rider, I know I have a lot to learn about training horses. Thank you in advance for all of your advice, kindness, and understanding.
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post #2 of 35 Old 07-05-2020, 04:02 PM
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I think you might do some searches on this site, and on YT about the 'make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult' concept. In your case, it would be allowing your mare to return to the barn area, but having her work hard there, then inviting her to leave that area toward the 'ride out' direction, and if she goes that way, allowing her to rest or stop, or go slowly. When/if she turns back to barn, you LET her. but, as you get closer , you turn in circles and make her trot briskly. You can even use your legs to slap her sides a bit during this work, so that it's less easy for her, and the instant she leaves that area, your legs get all nice and quiet.


the idea being that eventually she will cue in that returning to the barn means choosing (yes, SHE chooses) more work, while heading out gets her less work.
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post #3 of 35 Old 07-05-2020, 04:40 PM
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Welcome to the forum!
While I’m not a fan of all of his training, I have used Clinton Anderson techniques for things like trailer loading successfully. He has a bunch of videos on youtube and herd bound issue is one of them. Like tinyliny mentioned, more work at the barn and less work away from it. Horses don’t like to work more than they have to. Also since she’s new to you, it’s prob a good idea to establish a relationship on the ground first. So round pen and just developing mutual communication.

You can also try to bringIng a few carrots with you On rides or otherwise. And when she is attentive and listens, you can cue her with a word of your choice like treat, and then give a piece of carrot. I did that and still do with my horse. She’s just a baby so it’ll take time to bring her along.
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post #4 of 35 Old 07-05-2020, 05:53 PM
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Just for laughs . . . .. I used to treat my lease horse, from the saddle, when he was just being a good boy. I had no place to carry carrot bits, so stuffed then down my bra. It got to the point that all I had to do was reach up to pull on a bras strap, adjust my helmet , rub an eye or even wave to someone and my horse would see me reaching toward what he thought was the 'boob carrots', and he'd come to an abrupt stop! I had to quit that . But I always treated just after mounting up, and at end of ride, before walking down the driveway to the barn.
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post #5 of 35 Old 07-05-2020, 06:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
Just for laughs . . . .. I used to treat my lease horse, from the saddle, when he was just being a good boy. I had no place to carry carrot bits, so stuffed then down my bra. It got to the point that all I had to do was reach up to pull on a bras strap, adjust my helmet , rub an eye or even wave to someone and my horse would see me reaching toward what he thought was the 'boob carrots', and he'd come to an abrupt stop! I had to quit that . But I always treated just after mounting up, and at end of ride, before walking down the driveway to the barn.

That's so funny tinyliny! I love it!

Sorry this is going astray a bit, but..........

When I trained my youngster, out trail riding, if the phone rang I would stop him and answer the phone. And give him a piece of carrot for standing patiently, then resume our ride. It got so he would stop and look back at me if the phone rang......like, "Are you going to get that?"

I carry treats in a horn bag and one time I was riding a neighbor's mule and I was rather shocked to realize the mule was so flexible with her neck, she could reach around and touch the saddle bags hanging on the saddle horn. I was like WOW, I never had a horse that could do that.
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post #6 of 35 Old 07-05-2020, 07:46 PM
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I can't find that clip now, but Warwick Schiller had a video where he would ride a few meters out of the gate and turn around before the horse decided that he doesn't want to go further. Get back to the gate and turn around for a few more meters. He would repeat the process many times, only adding a meter or two on each trip. Eventually, at the furthest point he planned to go, he would let the horse graze (on command). It looked peaceful and easy but I haven't tried it (my mare isn't barn sour).
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post #7 of 35 Old 07-06-2020, 03:08 AM
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To me the biggest issue that stands out and makes the situation unsafe is your lack of ability to steer the horse.

I firmly believe that stopping or slowing a horse come secondary to your ability to steer the horse and control where they go. Any horse can bolt in the wrong circumstances, and if you cannot then steer them toward safer footing or away from a busy road, you are in much worse shape than if they are bolting with you but you can head them up a steep hill, or away from barbed wire.

I wouldn't even concern yourself with the balking issue until you had worked quite a bit with the horse on becoming easy to steer in any circumstance. Draft horses can have strong necks and I've worked with a couple that needed work learning to turn lightly before they were safe to ride.

In order for steering to be safe, the horse must know how to follow their head and neck with the rest of their body with the degree of turn you are requesting. In other words, you don't want the horse to learn to have a rubbery neck you can pull around to your leg, but the rest of the horse keeps going straight. You have to show the horse that at any speed, the degree of turn relates to the amount of bend you are asking for. It should feel like the horse is following his head with his body around the curve.

I believe a horse needs to be able to follow the rein around circles in a variety of sizes, in both directions, at the walk and trot before being ridden out in the open. The horse needs to respond softly, not stiffly. I would practice this a whole lot with the horse before riding out.

If you cannot get the horse to turn in the bit you are using, even after lots of practice, then I might consider using a different bit. However, I've never known a bit to be the issue with turning. Slowing or stopping, yes, but turning is something the horse can learn to do in any bit. It just takes practice.

Once you have good steering with the horse and can direct her movement, you can address the balking. If your friend was successful by just being firm, you could go that route. My usual way with a horse that is very persistent even if I am firm is to just calmly show the horse that they are going to have to do what I am asking. Since that is impossible from the saddle, every time they begin to slow and stop I hop off, lead them for a while, then get back on. If they balk again, I do it again. Usually I carry a crop and when I am leading, I make them trot. After several rides they learn that they can either walk nicely while I am riding, and I won't bug them, or else they can balk and I'll jump off and make them trot forward, which is harder.
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post #8 of 35 Old 07-06-2020, 04:00 AM
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Hi & welcome to the forum!

First, have you got a trainer or instructor, or very experienced friend who can help? With only a bit of written info, no eyes there to see what's actually going on, can only give general sort of advice here, which may or may not be relevant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mitsy View Post
However, she is deeply, deeply stubborn, ... horses, she wants to get back to the barn & her herdmates as soon as possible. So, she'll act up at the start of the ride
Stubborn means the horse has learned to outpersist it's human. So, whether it's you, who have inadvertently 'trained' this by perhaps being inconsistent, ineffective, or previous owners, to teach a horse not to be 'stubborn' means ensuring the 'tantrum' or braciness or whatever, NEVER works for the horse, and what you're asking does work - it is easy, clear and is rewarded instantly.

'Herdbound or barnsour' are a couple of lables for this first behaviour. Yeah, unfortunately common. Means the horse doesn't want to go out with you, be ridden, leave his mates, whatever.

First thing first I think it's important to analyse *why* before working out a solution. Try to address the reason, change the attitude, not just the behavioural 'symptom'. Eg is the horse new to you, new to going out, not been out much alone? Eg. Is there any fear, lack of trust involved? Or is the horse hurting - saddle fit, back, mouth, etc? So that she's trying to tell you it hurts, until she is resigned to it. Or her previous or current association with going out/being ridden is not pleasant, so she 'tries it on'...

So you can hopefully see there's a lot more to it than just 'correcting'/punishing 'bad' behaviour, and sometimes punishment is not appropriate & will only make matters worse.

Quote:
At first, her rebellions were pretty mild and easy to handle, but she's gradually increased the severity of her misbehaviors.
What's causing her to get worse? How are you dealing with it?
Quote:
She had some problems at first, but she had a firm hand and straightened things out quickly.
Sounds like she has learned that this behaviour is working with you, or you're doing something that causes Rosie to 'shout' at you about... & It's working so she will do it more & harder!
Quote:
before. I grabbed the branch and swung off, but by this point I had been fighting her for a while and she was only getting worse. I didn't feel I could continue productively or safely, so I decided it's best to call it quits and ask for some advice.
Good job I reckon. People will say 'always get straight back on if you're bucked off' and 'never bail/let the horse win' but my feeling is safety first - if you aren't in control, aren't able to be effective, then it's only a matter of time before the excrement hits the turbine and you get hurt.

From a training perspective though, her 'tantrums' are working, so she will get worse & worse. Of course, depends why she's doing it too - pay to check/treat physical probs etc first. But I'd honestly consider whether she really is the horse for you, and if so, I'd really suggest giving her to a good trainer for a time, to evaluate & hopefully get her safer, before you attempt to ride her again
Quote:
Someone I know immediately suggested a harsher bit (I
Nope. It's not the bit and depending on... Lots, it could just make matters worse. In fact, if she came to me like that, I'd 'restart' her from scratch in a halter first, to ensure she learned to 'follow a feel' from reins without fear of pain from the bit.
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post #9 of 35 Old 07-06-2020, 04:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
would see me reaching toward what he thought was the 'boob carrots', and he'd come to an abrupt stop!
Hehe! Yes a lot of people do/get that sort of thing!

Horses learn to do what works & quit doing what never works. But the clincher - same psychology to why people get addicted to gambling - is that if it works sometimes, even occasionally, the horse will be more likely to try harder/longer when it doesn't work. Enter 'stubborn' habits! So always be aware of what you might be reinforcing/rewarding, which may not be a behaviour you want!

I treat train my horses, as you know, and often from the saddle. I ensure the horse learns to keep doing what they're doing until specifically requested to stop & turn. It NEVER works for them to choose that option of their own volition.
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post #10 of 35 Old 07-06-2020, 04:22 AM
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@gottatrot I agree that the horse must know how to steer. However, there is a difference between ďI donít know what you want me to doĒ and ďI know perfectly well what you want me to do but I donít want to do itĒ. Iíve met plenty of horses of the second ilk. Some of those horses even have their little preemptive maneuvers to make it difficult for the rider to even ask. Seeing that OPs horse used to be fine, and that it actively tries to scrape the rider off on branches - I would guess the horse isnít confused about aids.

I rode a trail horse which was a bit balky at a certain spot. She would stop and anything the rider did was interpreted as ďwalk backĒ. I tried reaching down for her bit in an effort to turn her, as soon as I shifted my weight, she would reverse. Give leg - reverse. Nudge with my seat - reverse. I had to get off and lead her a little bit past that spot and she would be perfect for the next 15km. The horse obviously knew her job very well since she did wonderfully everywhere else on the trail and sheís been doing it for ten years. She just didnít want to - at that particular spot.

I could be mistaken about OPs horse but the overall story paints a picture of a horse whoís perfectly capable of understanding what the rider wants - itís just giving them a finger and asserting their own will on the rider.
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