Six plus weeks in...give up or start over?
I've had my Paint for about seven weeks now and just when I thought things were getting better, they seem to now be getting worse.
When I rode Saturday morning, I got up at the back of one of the barns since there was a mounting block already there. I always use that one and then walk him to the round pen or arena. This time, he took off trotting very fast (my trainer's told me this is an unsafe trot for him) and tried to run back to his barn.
I slowed him down to a walk and turned him around, did a few circles and started to go back to where we started to head to the round pen from there. Thought, "ha, I got you under control" and all seemed well. When we rounded the corner into a long straight length, he took off. Like full-on gallop.
I lost one of my stirrups so had trouble shifting my weight back into the saddle. I couldn't get into his rhythm in that position, so after unsuccessfully trying to stop him for about 200 feet, I decided I needed to just do whatever I needed to do to stay on...and I had to lean forward, grab mane in one hand and horn in the other...reins loosened.
Instead of taking me back to his stall (which really I wanted since then at least he'd have STOPPED) he did a number of laps around and between the buildings. I had to stay down to avoid the eaves of the buildings, the fans...parts of the hot walker that he ran through, etc.
Finally he slowed down enough for me to get upright again and I pulled back with all my might and he slowed enough for one of my neighbors to grab his halter. He would have dragged her but a second later my dh grabbed the other side and he finally completely stopped.
I was so terrified, not only of falling off but that if I did fall off he'd hurt someone else around the barn...plus I figured if I fell off onto that surface (it's compacted dirt/sand and gravel) it'd probably kill me. I'm almost 40 and have only been back to riding for 3-4 months.
I went into this thinking I was buying a dead-broke, anyone-can-ride trail horse...and knowing he needed to gain weight and muscle, that we'd get in shape together. I didn't personally ride him until a couple weeks ago since I'm heavy and we wanted to give him a bit of rehab time first--but I did do ground work every other day with him, fed him, groomed him, etc. For a while he was getting rinsed 4x daily because he stopped sweating. We spent a lot of time together and I thought we'd built a lot of trust.
I've led my kids on him and both my teens have ridden him and he's always been an angel, but only in the arena or round pen. My trainer was planning on having him ready for trail rides after one more month...but he became barn sour and even she couldn't keep him at a walk after her last attempt at a trail ride...he dragged through almost a mile in our sandy wash and wouldn't go below a trot. He was only wearing a halter though so we thought adding a bit (snaffle cause he's terrified of the curb bit that was "his") would do the trick. It did for a few rides and then he got over it.
When he bolted with me, he had it in his teeth, I'm pretty sure.
Some of the witnesses say I need a stronger bit. Some say I need to do a one-rein stop or run him into small circles. Well, he's 22 and while he's been declared sound to ride, he's got mild arthritis and is still stiff...I was pretty sure we'd have tumbled if I'd done that while he was galloping on slippery footing.
I realize that leaning forward probably did not do a lot to encourage him to stop. He was a barrel horse. But it was that or fall off. His canter (which I've only sat when he's being naughty) is pretty smooth but that gallop or whatever he was doing was tough!
My neighbor lunged him till he was quite tired and then I lunged him a little bit more. We made sure he was submitting...eyes softening and licking his lips, etc. He was obeying commands and yielding well. Of course I had lunged him before the ride too.
I haven't ridden him again and while I'm being encouraged to ride him in the round pen since he's never acted up there, I am not sure I should or that I can. The vet said I can lunge him all I want but that if I really want to recondition him, he needs to be ridden daily, even if it's just 15-20 minutes at a walk.
There are some concerns "down at the barn" that this horse is gonna hurt me, no matter what...that he'll always be unpredictable. One trainer's opinion is that he needs to "go back to square one." My husband isn't really keen on months and months of training. We're into him for too much already, especially for what he his. I know that's my fault...and live and learn...but where do we go from here?