My horse is bad with hills- what do I do? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 05:34 AM Thread Starter
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Unhappy My horse is bad with hills- what do I do?

My pony isn't very good at going down hills. She was great on the flat ground and UP hills (worked with her today, got her going nicely) but near the end of our ride, I tried walking her down a quite steep grass hill. She was reluctant but I was persistent in making her walk on. Anyway, she started veering off the mown track away from the fence line and into the long grass. I would not have minded had she stayed near the track, but she kept walking sideways. Each time I put my leg on and tightened the right rein, she would toss her head heaps and keep walking sideways again. So I kept trying to get her back on the track. She kept ignoring my cues and tossing her head lots. Then the cattle ran down the other side of the fence, and she tried to canter down the hill. So I stopped her, talked to her, and tried circling her to get back on track. She stopped and repeatedly tossed her head, then had a bit of a jump in the air (no bucking, just a bit of a hump) then turned and cantered off with me to the top of another hill that was diagonal to the hill I was trying to ride her down. I am not a great rider, so was a bit nervous then. I got off and told Dad to ride her down once to let her know she wasn't getting away with that. He did, but she was tossing her head and veering left for him too. He got her down and back up with repeated stopping and heaps of persistent cues to go right, but wasn't real pleased with her behaviour.

Please help me and tell me some ideas of what to do. Also, she should be used to hills as she has done XC before. She is veering into the long grass, not away from it, which is strange.


Last edited by Delta Dawn is my girl; 09-07-2014 at 05:37 AM. Reason: forgot to mention something-sorry!
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post #2 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 09:46 AM
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It is much easier on horses and cattle to zig zag back and forth going about 20' or more in each direction, while descending the hill. I think she was trying to tell you it hurts to go straight down.

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post #3 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 11:10 AM
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She could be in pain, but it's entirely possible that she's just not had enough experience doing steep hills. They have to learn to get their balance and find their feet. Make sure you give her some rein so she can put her head down, horses use their neck for balance.

Think of when you walk down a steep hill. It's easier to a) go down real fast or b) go down sideways. It's really hard to slowly walk down in a straight line.
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post #4 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 03:01 PM
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Just a thought, but she also may have felt insecure going straight down on the short grass. Depending on how short it was, it could be slippery. Going down on an angle in longer grass probably gave her better footing. Think of her as creating her own switchback?
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post #5 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 04:03 PM
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I totally agree with the other posters.

Another thought is that her saddle might pinch when she goes downhill. If the saddle is too wide or too narrow, it could be pinching somewhere and causing her pain which she's come to associate with going downhill.
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post #6 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 04:58 PM
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Horses will typically find it easier to crab-walk down a hill. If you want to train her, walk her down on foot yourself but make sure that she understands her boundaries clearly before you try this.
She has to understand and respect the fact that she cannot run into you or go past you. If she tries, keep correcting her with a few hard jerks on the halter.
Also, make her walk at least 5-6 feet back so that there is no risk of her stepping on your heels or knocking you over if she does spook or jump.
Safety first!
Another tactic would be to have a friend ride in front or else lead her so that she has no choice but to walk down straight.
This of course after you've ruled out pain ;)

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post #7 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 05:04 PM
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yep. there is either a bit of discomfort, or a fear of losing her balance. or both.

if you want to build her confidence, do not force her into something that will compromise her balance. this is very disturbing to horses. let her work her way down, side to side. she may have cantered down in part becuase the cows got her excited, and in part becuase she does not need to hold herself back, which is much harder.

start small, and work up to the steeper hills. also, get her to back up a few steps on hills that you go down, ones that are not so steep. this gets her to be able to stop, hold herself, and even balance while stepping backward. builds muscle.
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post #8 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 08:19 PM
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Another vote for discomfort/pain. I imagine the track went straight down & she was trying to tell you it hurt. Puts a LOT of pressure on the horse's forehand carrying our big rumps downhill, particularly shoulders & elbows, & that's discounting any hoof problems or such, which can make it harder. I no longer ride down steep hills. I get off & walk down.
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post #9 of 16 Old 09-07-2014, 09:58 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your replies everyone! I will look into letting her zig zag down the hill more than going straight. I'm pretty sure the saddle fits her well (stock saddle) I would like to give her more rein to do it, but she tries to trot off, so I hae to hold her back all the time when going down it. Can I give her more rein or do you think she would take advantage?
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post #10 of 16 Old 09-08-2014, 11:08 AM
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It depends. If you're angling her, she should feel more comfortable and you might try giving her more rein. Horses NEED to control their heads going down hill to improve their balance. On the other hand, I had a horse that INSISTED on running downhill and it took a long time to break him of the habit. (He was gaited and his previous owner had WANTED him to speed downhill.) Frankly, it scared me because I can't watch Man From Snowy River without imagining the dreadful pileups that could occur. My imagination works all too well.

I would take her down on an angle and TRY giving her more rein. She may be happy with that since you aren't going straight downhill. It should only increase her confidence to have better footing , perhaps less pain, and a free head to use to balance. Be very aware so you can slow her down if she begins to get TOO confident and speeds up. I can't imagine much that's more dangerous than having a horse go *** over teakettle over you while running downhill!
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