Old Habits Die Hard?! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 09-22-2013, 02:21 AM Thread Starter
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Question Old Habits Die Hard?!

So for the past year I've been living in a house right next to my uncle, and as a result, I've been riding his horses. I feel I'm mostly competent around horses, but I know I'm inexperienced.

The horse I ride mostly is a blue roan quarter horse in his early 30's. He was a team roping horse while in his prime, and has YEARS of riding in him. But, he is a bit sour about being ridden now. At first I thought it was because he was old and tired, but my Uncle informed me that riding him regularly was the only way to keep him in shape.

First off, I have to basically trick him into letting me catch him in the pasture. I give him something to catch his attention (generally a carrot or some hay) and then swing the lead rope around his neck. If he sees it before I'm close enough to get it around his neck he wont come near me. After I've caught him, though, he is a perfect gentlemen. He lowers his neck for me to put the halter on, and follows me out to where we tack up.

He is fine when getting tacked up, and he even sits through me messing up when I throw the saddle on his back (he is extremely tall, and his saddle happens to be extremely heavy). He is even very nice while taking the bit. But when I lead him back through the stall out to where we ride, he wont budge. He just stands there, with me urging him out. He can be so stubborn! I don't know what I'm doing wrong, either. I usually just lead him in a little circle around the stall and use that momentum to trick him into going outside XD

Another thing, he walks when I try to get on him. I've read/watched countless things about how it's the riders fault when a horse walks during mounting. It has something to do with weight and hanging on their side, right? But he doesn't walk when I'm getting on him. He walks away whenever I approach his side. Or when I first put my foot in the stirrup. He turns and walks backwards until he's facing me. (this poses a problem as it sometimes leads to me hanging with one foot in the stirrup). Is it the same problem as with the weight, or is it something else?

Lastly, when riding him, if I give him even a little bit of freedom, he gravitates towards the gate. No matter where we are. I have to constantly battle him to go in a straight line. It's really frustrating.

I know that its probably mostly my fault that he acts like this, but I need to know what I'm doing wrong so I can correct it! If you guys could help me at all with this problem, I'd love you forever!!!
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post #2 of 7 Old 09-22-2013, 02:33 AM
Green Broke
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Could you get your Uncle to come out and give you a lesson or two, or ride another horse with you?

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post #3 of 7 Old 09-22-2013, 03:53 AM
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that is an old horse , who is very smart and knows how to avoid work, or at least try to avoid it. He is also, it sounds like, a very kind horse, since he does nothing mean to you, such as nip or pin his ears or try to scrape you off on a fence, etc.

You know he is old, and probably sore, and though being ridden and asked to keep moving around may be the best for him, he isn't going to like it. You'll have to understand his attitude, and cut him some slack in the sense of not blaming him for it, and not expecting him to be any different, But, you can still insist that he do as you ask, and from your description, you are using some creative ways to deal with his evasions.
I think, all in all, you are doing a good job dealing with this on your own and I think you can work these things out, in time. the sooner you can get in and interrupt him or "trick" him , as you called it, the easier it wil be to deal with it.

For example, if you know that he will try to draw you over the gait when you pass by it, start getting him focussed more on going forward at a place that is a bit sooner than the the gait magnet problem starts in. kind of anticipate his problem and move him on to something else before he gets stuck in his old habitual evasions.
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post #4 of 7 Old 09-22-2013, 05:35 AM
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He sounds very similar to my old QH!

My boy pulls all the tricks to get out of work - gravitates toward gates, backs up, fidgets at the mounting block, walks sideways rather than forwards, and he even throws in some limping every now and then because he's learned that limping means time off (I know he's playing because he'll limp at the top of the paddock where we usually finish riding, but once I push him past there he moves fine).

The biggest thing is to not give in to him and show him that it's not necessarily a bad thing for him to do what you want. One day, try tacking him up, lead him outside, then lead him back in and untack, without any riding. When he backs up when you go to get on, walk him in quick, small circles to teach him that standing still is a lot easier. Work him hard near the gate and let him stand and rest well away from it. He should catch on fairly quickly, I usually only have to do something a couple of times before my boy catches on.

As for the catching thing, I'm no help. I've tried again and again to get my old boy to walk down the paddock to meet me, but he makes me trek all the way up to get him, even if he doesn't get a treat until we reach the gate.
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post #5 of 7 Old 09-22-2013, 11:17 AM
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If he's in his 30's and not interested in being ridden anymore why not retire him? Sounds like he's lived a long useful life, return the favor and let him live out his days peacefully with maybe the occasional ride.
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post #6 of 7 Old 09-22-2013, 12:12 PM
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MyBoySi, in my experience, the longer you can keep a horse going with a rider, the longer their life will be. Horses are about like people in that respect, so long as they can work and do work, they stay in shape and they stay healthier. However, once they are retired and stop working, they lose condition quickly and their overall health goes downhill in a hurry.

OP, I suspect that you're not doing anything wrong to cause the behaviors. He's an old horse and has probably had those habits for years, you are just unsure how to correct them due to your inexperience.

One thing you really need to learn, not just for this horse but for any horse in the future too, is to hop along if they move when you've already got your foot in the stirrup. Ideally, for mounting, you should have your reins in your left hand and that hand on the mane. Your right hand should be on the saddle horn. That way, if the horse begins to move or walk off when you're in that precarious position, you can pick up your left hand to control them and still be secure in your position.

When he moves as you walk up to his side or when you put your foot in the stirrup, I would put him to work. Make him lunge at a trot in little small circles around you. Or, you can back him up fast for a long way until he's wanting to stop. Then, when you let him stop, immediately go back to his side and start to mount. If he moves again, then put him to work again. Wash, rinse, repeat until he stands stock still for you to walk up and mount. If he does stand well, then let him stand for a couple of minutes and give him a scratch or two on the neck before continuing.

The catching thing, well, that's something that most horses do if they are actually worked for a living. Most of my horses are that way, but I've learned how to keep it from getting too bad. Sometimes, instead of just catching them to ride, I'll catch them and not ride at all. After I catch them, I'll spend time grooming all their favorite spots, letting them graze on fresh green grass, or giving them a few handfuls of their favorite feed in a bucket before turning them back out. That way, they don't associate being caught with having to work.

With the problem you're having getting him to lead well out of the stall, he's just being stubborn about having to work. You're not doing anything wrong by turning him in a circle to get him to move on. That is exactly how most folks would tell you to deal with it because it "unsticks" his feet and gets him moving again. I've found that using a butt-rope is a little easier and more effective though. When I have this situation (usually on fairly young horses), I'll take a long piece of the heavy orange baling twine and put a loop in one end of it. Then, I put the loop over the horse's hindquarters like this

Then, as you're leading him, if he balks, just give a gentle bump with that rope. Some horses will jump forward so you need to be prepared for that, but so long as he's moving forward, just go with him and don't get after him for jumping. I've found that it only takes a few times of this before they stop balking completely and you can do away with the rope.

As for the gate-sour problem, that's not uncommon for former performance horses like him. They are taken into the arena where they work hard for a couple of minutes, then they are taken out and the cinches are loosened and they get to relax tied to a fence or a trailer so they associate leaving the arena with being comfortable.

Do you ever ride outside the arena on trails or anything? If not, you might start. Take him out for a long trail ride or school him in a flat place near but outside the arena gate then, when he's hot and tired, bring him home and take him into the arena. Take him to the middle, facing away from the gate, get off, unsaddle, and turn him loose to roll and relax inside the arena.

With him being as old as he is, that may or may not fix the issue, but it should help to minimize it.

Last edited by smrobs; 09-22-2013 at 12:14 PM.
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post #7 of 7 Old 09-22-2013, 12:35 PM
Green Broke
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With respect to his age, I might try using a mounting block to get on. He still will probably try and avoid the process but it will be easier on his old bones. A two-step plastic step stool also works well.
He sounds like a nice old veteran...and a smart one.
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If you ever find yourself in a fair fight, it's because your tactics suck. ~ Marine 1SGT J. Reifinger
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