Frustrated with new horse. Please help! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 09:56 AM Thread Starter
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Frustrated with new horse. Please help!

Hi, everyone!

I recently fulfilled my lifelong dream of buying my own horse. I did so with plenty of riding/leasing experience under my belt, although it had been a year or so since I had been riding due to finishing college. I found a horse I loved, and was lucky that he was the first one I looked at. No health problems, rode beautifully. He was still a little green which didn't bother me, as I've worked with green horses in the past.

The problems began when I brought the horse to his new boarding stable. This horse hadn't been in a stall before, but the boarding stable was daily turnout with the horses being stalled at night. This doesn't bother him at all; I'm told by the barn staff that he settled right in and adjusted to the stable routine very quickly.

My problem is that I haven't been able to ride him at all (save for once, and that was with two of the barn staff holding him; He threw me the first time I tried to get on by myself) in the month following his purchase!

He's a sweet and easy-going horse on the ground, but won't stand to be mounted from the ground, won't stand at a mounting block, and walks off whenever I so much as put my foot in the stirrup, behavior he definitely did not display whenever I went to see him before I purchased. We've been practicing standing at the mounting block for two weeks, and he's made little progress. He hates being bitted, and getting him to accept a bit usually takes anywhere from five to ten minutes.

I know he wasn't drugged when I visited.

I've texted his old owner with my concerns, and she's mildly helpful. I usually get a response along the lines of "Wow, he never did that with me, it must be something you're doing!" Which is frustrating because I fail to see how my simply approaching my horse with a bit can be something different than she did, unless she cartwheeled over, flipped off of his back, and bitted him during the landing. She has had some good suggestions which have worked, and she's been very open to communication. She's a good owner, and I trust her. In no way do I think that she tried to sell me a bad horse.

I like this horse a lot, and once I'm on him he acts like an old pro (horses cantering around him and jumping in the arena on his first ride, and he didn't blink an eye). Does anyone have any suggestions? His old owner lives three hours away, so having her come over to have a look at how we interact together isn't the most viable option.
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post #2 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 10:09 AM
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Sorry I can't help you much - I'll be buying horses again for the first time in 20 years and this is something I'd like to avoid at all cost! Do you mean that when you visited him prior to the purchase, you got to bridle and mount him without a problem? You mention that you knew he was green but that once you are on him, he is quiet, but then you also say he threw you. I'm just trying to understand how things are different now compared to when you went to see him. Are you using a different type of bit or saddle? Did you try the horse out more than once in different places (indoor/outdoor) and at different times of day? Or did the previous owner just cover up those flaws?

I will be interested to hear how this turns out. Thank you for sharing!

Now I have to add 'bridle the horse myself' to the list of things to test for when I look at horses!
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post #3 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 10:15 AM Thread Starter
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I didn't bridle him myself when I went to visit, but I watched the owner bit him up, and he practically bitted himself. The first time he threw me was likely due to his saddle pinching him a bit when I mounted, and I fixed that with a new saddle which now fits him very well.

And yes, the horse is green (He was saddle broke about half a year ago), but he's definitely an old soul type of horse. He'll do anything you ask on trail (through water, under bridges), and once you're actually on him, nothing phases him at all. It's just the mounting process that has him completely unglued, which is strange because he was fine when I went to try him out.

The barn staff suggested that, since his trainer was the first person to ride him (and only person to ride him before I got him), that a little change in cues between me and her are a big deal to him, which I understand. I'm hoping a few rounds of lessons for the two of us will see this fixed, but I'm still curious how other people handle a horse changing hands/mounting issues.

Edit: And to be clear, I don't think his owner was trying to hide his flaws. I honestly think this is just the horse adjusting to a new owner/new circumstances, but I'm confused as to why he's perfectly fine with me being on him, but not okay with me GETTING on him, if that makes sense!

Last edited by Gusbun; 05-23-2015 at 10:23 AM.
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post #4 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 02:47 PM
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I have seen "green" horses ride rather well in familiar surroundings with a rider they know well, but taken out of that situation act entirely different with another rider, and I believe it is because they are not really trained but are responding to the one person they know. If a horse KNOWS how to be bridled anyone can do it, even a child who might be fumbling the procedure. A green horse might just be cooperating with someone he knows and trusts. I would just assume that he doesn't know how to be bridled or mounted and go back to the basics of teaching him. It is good to hear that you have had experience with green horses before and are satisfied with the other aspects of your new horse.
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post #5 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 03:41 PM
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Am I getting this right-you tried him out a home where he was on 24/7 turnout. You move him to a new place (major stress) and put him in a trap (that's how he sees it). Thing aren't going well for him. He did not have time to settle in, some horses give that appearance but they are zoned out instead because they can't deal with the stress. It can take a horse 6 weeks to settle in. When in with others, he knew his place in the hierarchy. At the new barn he has no idea of how or where he's to fit in. I suspect he's undergone a considerable change in diet, much richer than he needs for a horse spending 12 hrs day or night in a stall. He is also with unfamiliar people and doesn't have a sense of them either. Why not give him a little more time to settle in, and just be with him, making no demands but making sure he's respectful. No need to bring him in for that if he's happier outside.



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post #6 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 04:35 PM
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You're not alone in this situation. It happens all the time. Where a rider with some experience buys a green horse, takes it home, and then finds they have bitten off more than they can chew. I don't mean to be offensive/rude/condescending, I hope this comes across as constructive. I'm not there so I can't say for sure what's going on, but this sounds like a situation I've seen a LOT. What it comes down to is you are too green for this horse, and this horse is too green for you, right now. He may have been good at home, in his comfort zone, regularly handled by someone he knows and has confidence in. But you have taken him out of that place, out of the routine, and is now being handled differently. You may not even notice you're handling him differently. There are tons of subtleties that happen even on the ground that effect the horse's opinion of you, and what he understands as acceptable/unacceptable. Many that can be very easily overlooked by a greener rider. (Not saying you are a novice green rider, just that there are areas in handling, particularly with young horses that you are likely inexperienced in.)

The best solution to this problem is to seek help of a trainer. Most ideally, it would be one at or that will come to your barn, will let you watch and eventually participate in the training. Each situation is different, but I've seen it work best when the horse gets a solid months training with the trainer, and then another month of training/lessons with the owner/rider where the trainer trains the rider what she has taught the horse, and can in essence train through the rider owner. From there ideally once or twice a week lessons for the next few months, and a couple weeks of straight training/lessons after any extended periods off (i.e. over the winter).

This sounds like a lot, maybe over kill, but honestly this is a recipe for success, and will save you a TON of head ache, body ache, and in the long run, money on correcting truly bad habits. I have seen over and over again people do some of this, and have it end poorly. Like they will send it for training for a month, take 2 or 3 lessons at the end of it, and then take the horse home. Who will be good for a couple weeks, and then start up old or new bad habits. Maybe they will take a lesson once a month, which will help a little, but eventually the horse figures a way around it until it gets to the point where the rider isn't able to handle the horse properly anyone. So it comes back for another month of training. Repeat.

It also isn't really fair to frequently ask the old owner for riding/handling advice. A little here and there (i.e. has the horse even ridden through water? Have you ever put side reins on him?), but things that he did fine when you tried him out are your responsibility now. I wish you the best of luck with your horse!
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post #7 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 05:37 PM
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Seems to me that a more experienced rider on this hors would likely do wonders for him. Perhaps, looking into lessons or, finding a trainer to work with him would be useful? Horse seems to have your number and/or as suggested above isn't proving himself to be as trained as you suspected upon purchase. I'm curious though, what makes you so sure he wasn't drugged prior to purchase?
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post #8 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 07:18 PM
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Did you get bloodwork during the pre-purchase exam? It is very likely that the horse could have been drugged when you came to see him to make it seem as if the horse was calm. Its crazy to think people will do this, but I have seen it happen.
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post #9 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 07:31 PM
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Unfortunately this sort of thing happens a lot with new horses. While likely you didn't do things very "differently" its likely you did little things or let things pass that indicated to your horse that you were not the boss.

He tested you and found that he was not checked and he became the boss. His behaviors are likely simple evasions.

While this horse may have a decent temperament and basic training, he doesn't have the years of experience that teach a horse to be a good novice. The years of reinforcement to ingrain trained behaviors, training is only part of the equation when finding the right horse.

Sometimes green horses can work out okay, but what they need is a confident rider.

The first step is to start having regular lessons with a decent trainer/instructor. This is a must for a free horse green rider scenario. Perhaps split your lesson into half an hour groundwork and half an our under saddle and start working with it.

Be aware that with each unsuccessful mounting you are reinforcing the effectiveness of your horses evasion.

This does happen fairly often with riders. Their horse changes after purchase. You're not alone in facing this and many riders have overcome issues to be a stronger and more effective handler and owner.
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post #10 of 14 Old 05-23-2015, 10:46 PM
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There can be little things that affect bridling. Are you opening his mouth for him then lifting the bit into his mouth with the headstall & not hitting teeth? Do you have his ears facing forward when putting on the headstall? Do you do the reverse when removing the bridle? These are little things to us but may make a difference to the horse.

For trouble mounting teach him the word 'stand' (or whatever word you like) & mean it. Even if he's only being groomed don't let him move a foot unless asked. If he moves a foot reposition him back & say stand.
Do the same with mounting except keep his head tipped slightly towards you. If he walks off when you lift your leg bring his head to you & spank his butt around, say stand, try again. Do the same when mounted if he walks off.
When you are successful getting on him have him stand a few minutes before moving. Mounting & dismounting are the 2 times that I think it's essential the horse stands. I don't blame you for being concerned but if he is generally nice he should be an easy fix.
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