Just got a green mare and- surprise- am having some trouble! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 11-26-2015, 10:15 PM Thread Starter
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Just got a green mare and- surprise- am having some trouble!

I'm not sure if this is the correct place to ask this question or seek advice (it's definitely needed!), but I figured this thread was the closest to what I'm having trouble with.

So, I'm not a new rider, but I am a new owner. I was very careful when looking at the horses I did look at, especially since I adopted (though, the rescue was absolutely amazing- mostly OTTB centered- and very well run. The woman who ran it expected the best for her horses and their future homes)

The mare I ended up adopting was honestly one of the sweetest mares I have ever met (at the time...~) Not a mean bone in her body- she was eager to please, interested in all of us, and amazingly relaxed. Nothing like the others I looked at, who were very detached and nonchalant about everything I was doing- no interest in connecting. Juliet, however, was very curious and very happy the second my riding instructor and I walked up. She's eight, soon to be nine, but very green. She was previously adopted, and her former owner wanted her back, but didn't at the time of having her actually have time to ride or work with her. The fact that she was wanted back and her previous owner loved her so much was something that really backed this mare up- she's obviously got something good going on if she's wanted back so badly.

I didn't meet this mare once, either. I went several times, and rode her a few times after the initial meet and greet. For a horse that hadn't been ridden in nine months, I was amazed. She didn't kick up, buck, pin her ears, stomp, she wasn't rushing through anything- she rode better after nine months than horses I've ridden after two weeks. Another plus.

But the horse I have now is absolutely NOTHING like this anymore.

She was stalled at the rescue, but now we have her on 24/7 turnout, which she loves and handles well for a TB. She keeps weight easy on grass and grain (She's actually GAINED weight!)- however, this new turn in her attitude has resulted in the inability to catch her.

The longest I've spent trying- and failing- to get her has been 4 hours. I've tried treat bribing, getting her into a nice scratch than stopping and turning away from her (she REALLY hates that! She gets so huffy when I stop scratching her neck! At first it got her still long enough for me to at least get a lead over her neck, but she's not one to fall for the same trick twice.) Now, if she sees a lead, we can't get close enough to even touch. She looks at us like she'd LIKE to come to us for a treat and some attention, BUT there's that "I also see that halter, and the cons outweigh the pros" look, too.

With the lead and halter, you'd swear she'd think I was out to kill her. WITHOUT the lead and halter, she's a total lovebug. She'll meet me halfway in the field, respect my space, and is just an all around pleasant horse to be around. But if she sees that halter it's like a switch has been flipped. She kicks her heels up, turns her back to me (which is such a no-no in my book), and picks fights with her pasture buddy to keep me at a "safe distance"

The first month we brought her back, she wasn't like this at all. She was so easy to get from the field. She was anxious, of course, which I totally expected and worked very hard to get her through. I only rode her a few times in the first month, deciding groundwork would probably be the best (and safest) option. She wasn't accustomed to riding in groups or being around multiple horses (even in her field there's only one other horse), so she was very high during those times, and handling her could be a challenge. That led to solo work and riding, which I had no problem with (she was a bit of a kicker during the beginning, now she only really gives dirty looks, and it's hard for most people to grasp the concept "a horse's length apart" apparently) Consequently, on the ground she's totally fine. But there's a definite "lost in translation" factor the second I'm in the saddle.

The catching problem started directly after I lounged her, so it wasn't hard to make that connection. Or assume at least- after her first lounging session she was very weird about lead ropes, so I worked on getting that positive association back, and I still occasionally (when I CAN get her from the field) do a little lounging and lead work to make sure she knows it's not going to hurt her and she's totally fine.

It's really just recently the getting her has been a real problem, though, since she discovered how to rub her halter off within three weeks of leaving it on her.

But she's totally unwilling. I thought it was confusion at first, my thought process more of a "well, she is green, and she IS an ex racer, she's never had much consistency outside of a stall, so just be as consistent as possible" but I'm more than certain she's just plain uninterested in anything to do with me if it comes to riding or work now. Everything I've been doing with her, the consistency I've been trying to maintain, any other horse would get at most within a couple of riding sessions, and if not at least show some improvement. Juliet, however, prefers to ignore what she doesn't like if it involves a saddle.

And I can't figure out what to do about this. Mounted and riding wise, I've done everything as lightly and as gently as possible, from just walk sessions, to w/t/c, serpentines and figure eights to make it interesting, maybe a small crossrail, and even just trying to get a slow relaxed trot (she's not smooth enough for a sitting trot, which was done in an ATTEMPT to get her used to my seat. My back attests to that mistake x3). Lots of praise, but definite attempts at correction when she got out of hand.

I can't figure out what I've done and am doing wrong or if this is just something going on with her- because what I'm working with now isn't what I worked with at the rescue. I'd go as far as to say this is a completely different horse, in attitude and energy. Being around her in the beginning was was like a sedative, honestly She felt like a lazy QH, not a high strung TB xD We were all amazed at how easily she took to travelling, and how smoothly she settled in. Now, however, it's like being around a ticking time bomb.

Our plan at the moment is to put her back in a stall, with individual turnout in a paddock (as hardcore the woman who ran the rescue was about stalls and rotating turnouts- though she did have around 80 horses- I honestly just can't bring myself to like them.) This will also give her pasture buddy a break, because she is a very bossy young lady xD

Right now, I feel like she associates me as someone who's taking away her "freedom" (the field and her friend), and with the whole "whoever controls the resources gets the respect" theory, I figured putting her in a stall and turning her out myself MIGHT help. Instead of taking her from what she likes to something she doesn't, I'll be taking her from something she's tired of, to something stimulating. Be it going in the paddock to graze and run, or a riding session. Positive association with me and that halter (or this could come back to bite me in the butt, I'm not sure but at this point I'm desperate to try anything)

If anyone has ever worked with a horse like this or ANYTHING, and has any advice it'd be greatly appreciated! I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong and what I can do to help her, because as it is now it's just exhausting and frustrating for the both of us, and it's not healthy either If I can't get her to be happy about riding or working, I at least want her to be okay with it and happy about everything else xD
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post #2 of 21 Old 11-26-2015, 10:55 PM
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You are way, way overthinking this mare. Almost any horse treated as sensitively and gingerly and thoughtfully as you have this mare will eventually turn into a total a-hole. Because you pretty much are inviting her to be. Happiness comes AFTER obedience. Sorry, but it does. This is not a relationship of equals.

My best advice is to get a good trainer to work with you and show you how to be the leader in this relationship. You are creating a monster here.

Every second you spend with your horse, you are the BOSS. If you aren't the boss, you are the underling. The underling of a thousand pound herbivore incapable of abstract thought, but perfectly capable of emphasizing their position with a well aimed kick that could send you flying into an immovable object. Without the slightest malice.

I am a bit tipsy after Thanksgiving indulging so if this is incoherent just ignore it.
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post #3 of 21 Old 11-26-2015, 11:23 PM Thread Starter
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That's what I'm trying to figure out- because on the ground, without the tack, I feel like that basis is there. I have her attention, there's no... I guess the way I use respect is the way everyone uses "leader" xD- But it doesn't feel like there's a lack of respect, I guess is what I'm trying to say? I don't give her the option to take the lead, she never tries to take the lead. So, on the ground everything is okay (as long as I can get her out of that field). She's very attentive and very compliant. But the second the equipment comes out she acts like a horse that has genuinely been hurt by it.

And I don't know what I can do to get her to give me what she does on the ground while I'm on her back. She gets the idea that she can do what she wants, so I spend most of my time on her fighting her, and that's not something that's going to work.

Would this be something that would just require more groundwork or heavy riding? I'm definitely not one to think happiness should come before respect or anything, it's just exhausting to go out and spend most of my time with her fighting a battle I can't win with force.
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post #4 of 21 Old 11-26-2015, 11:51 PM
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You need more help than an internet forum can give you, is my deep suspicion.
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post #5 of 21 Old 11-26-2015, 11:53 PM
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If she has the idea she can do what she wants, and you can't convince her otherwise, you need big help.
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post #6 of 21 Old 11-27-2015, 12:11 AM
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She has figured out that if she doesn't want to do something, you cannot make her.

I, too, recommend getting assistance for someone who can work with you both. You KNOW she can be a good citizen. Find out how she will with you.
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post #7 of 21 Old 11-27-2015, 01:51 AM
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I would suggest some changes immediately.
  1. Unless she is badly under weight I would reduce or eliminate grain from her diet.
  2. Never go out to see her without the halter and lead rope.
  3. When she runs away, walk her down. It might take 15 minutes, or it might take four hours, but eventually she will get sick of trying to avoid you, especially if you are smart enough to make her do most of the work. You must outlast her.
  4. If that doesn't work, put her water inside a barrier so she can't drink unless you put the halter on her and lead her to it.
  5. When you finally catch her, put the halter on, pet her, and take the halter off and leave. You need to break the association of the halter with unpleasant work. My horses never know what will happen when I go out to the pasture with the halters. It might be feet trimming time or moving to another pasture or going for a ride or just getting an apple. They come when I call, and I want to keep it that way.
Your horse is just enjoying being free. She doesn't have a conscience. She doesn't know she's supposed to stand and wait for you to drag her off and make her run in circles, and she certainly can't think of any reason why she would want to.
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post #8 of 21 Old 11-27-2015, 02:05 AM
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With respect to the catching problem, I suspect you need to up your end of the action a bit. You say you've tried the kind and gentle approach and it doesn't work if she sees the lead. She's giving you the finger, and she's doing it when you're riding too. You say she even picks fights with the other horse to keep you away - see? She reads you perfectly and knows that if she's kicking out biting her unfortunate companion you'll leave her alone.

You must turn the situation around so it's YOU who decides where SHE moves in the pasture, not the other way round. And to do that you'll need to get tough. I suggest a lunge whip and keep your eyes about you. When you go into the pasture, make her move instead of trying to go up to her. Is the pasture very big? You should decide where to send her, and use your body language backed up by the lunge whip to do so. Depending on how rebellious she is and how much energy you need to use to make her comply, she'll either wander off or take off bucking and farting lol. When she comes to a halt, you need to read her body language carefully. Is she receptive to you approaching? Is she wary? Or is she just playing her game, waiting until you pass her critical distance to take off again? If you suspect she's going to move off, send her off before she moves. Make it your decision.

At some point, leave your lunge whip on the ground and go into neutral. Wait and see if she approaches you. (Hope and pray). If she does, great, reward her with her favourite neck scratch and a treat. Don't try and halter her. After hanging out with her for a while, send her off again. Take care with this one as you'll be sending her off from close beside you. I don't know if she's got mean or not but as you are challenging her leadership position by sending her away from you, she might aim her back end at you.

Spend time in the pasture establishing yourself as the decision maker. You decide where she goes and how long she rests for. You need well-honed skills of observation and to be able to read your horse accurately to do it well, but it sounds like you're up to the challenge.

I don't claim that this is the best or the only way to tackle this problem, but this is what I would try. Good luck!
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post #9 of 21 Old 11-27-2015, 04:44 AM
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The social environment can make a huge difference for horses - I know it does for mine. My horse has never been stalled, but depending on what facility I boarded him at, what situation he is turned out in (large pasture, smaller pasture, dry lot, free fed, fed several times a day) and especially what other horses he is turned out with, he is anything from "stand-offish a-hole and hard to catch" to "standing at the gate whinnying when I come".

The worst was when he was turned out in a large grassy area with mares, the best is now that he is turned out in a dry lot with one other horse (mare or gelding, doesn't matter) and is fed by a human three times a day.

I have to say that I have absolutely no desire or patience for chasing after a horse, let alone for hours at a time. The moment he did that, pasture privileges got revoked.
It took a little effort and a few changes of barns, but now I have found a living arrangement for him that we both seem to be happy with.

For us, that also translated to all other aspects of handling and riding. Everything is more relaxed and successful now.

I know that ideally the human should be the leader, the horse should be the same disciplined animal no matter what the situation is, and you should be able to work through any difficult situation no matter what, blah blah blah. But neither horses nor humans are robots, and for my own situation, I know that I will never run into this issue again (cause my horse will never be turned out on grass again for health reasons), so the arrangement we have now suits me perfectly fine.
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post #10 of 21 Old 11-27-2015, 07:04 AM
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I agree that it sounds you are being to soft with her.

My first thought when you said that with grass and grain she is gaining weight, my forst thought was that she is getting way to much feed.

Also if she is being fed hard food, bring her in for her grain.

What happens if you catch the other horse and take it in and then go back to catch her?

I was taught that any horse being brought in for work should come into a stable where there is something for them to eat. This might be an apple or carrot in the manger or a feed.

Also have you had your saddle checked that it does fit her?
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