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Discussion Starter #1
Hello - I've been riding most of my life and have shown regionally he last three years in Western Pleasure, and have taken lessons in western pleasure/riding and reining the last four. Recently I've been getting into training, or starting to learn, and my boss/friend has given me two "project horses" to start with. They are two aged mares 8+ years old, well broke and good minded. They are not well versed in neck reining, leg cues, head set and slowing down. One is progressing nicely - the other I just started with and have come across and issue.

The one mare is a lovely little girl, however I was informed she had been in training in the past with an excellent trainer (I know him personally, very good trainer). She didn't respond especially well to his more "aggressive" and assertive training, in fact after a week she refused to let him catch her. I rode her for the first time today, just to see her pace, how well she gave her face, her buttons and her starting ability. When I asked for the lope, I pressed with a spur and she just about jumped through the arena wall. (I don't jab, roll or repeatedly poke, just pressure and release). She started twisting, throwing her head, speeding up and just generally displaying a lot of displeasure. I removed my spurs after calming her down and we finished working at a walk and trot.

I am wondering how I can teach this mare that spurs are not something to wig out at. I plan on keeping them off for a bit so she doesn't associate past training with me so I can access her without her shutting down. But in the future I'd love to use them to fine tune cues. Also she lopes VERY fast. Slowing her down is hard. This could all be from my mistake with the spur and she got nervous, but if there's a way to help her get over that fear/help her slow down - I'd love to hear about it!!
 

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If you have never trained a horse before, then I strongly suggest that you find an older, more experienced trainer to work with you and teach you. Training horses isn't really something that you can just figure out for yourself or from asking questions on an internet forum. You really need someone who is there, someone who can be hands on and tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong the instant you do it. You'll learn faster and the horses will be better for it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I have a few more experienced trainers around that I can talk to and help me, however, being in university, our times do not always work to be at the ranch at the same time. The trainer that worked with this mare is at the ranch, and I am definitely going to talk to him.
 

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I would ride her for awhile with no spurs and when she's more comfortable try some bumper spurs. If she responds well to them then you can gradually build up to the type you wear.
You know it sounds like she may be really sensitive to them and may not even need spurs.
 

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Here's a tip for training horses: Use as little pressure as possible but as much as necessary.

With that said, when you used the spur, was that your first cue for her to lope? Or did you first ask with your calves and she didn't respond? Using your spurs first can and will cause her to become dead on her sides. Maybe that's how you learned to ride, but that's not the correct way to use spurs.

IMO You want to first ask, squeeze your legs on her sides. If no response you want to suggest, squeeze and kiss/cluck. Finally, if she still doesn't respond, go from squeezing to bringing the spurs to her sides and roll them if needed.

She probably is soft enough on her sides that the spurs were too much pressure to start with. That would be like your parents taking a belt after you to ask you to go wash your hands instead of just asking.
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I have a unique horse that went threw 5 trainers before we found the right person for him.
This is going to sound odd but if you think of it it makes sense. When she gets upset stop and make her put her head down as fare as it will go. All the way to the grown if you can. The reasoning behind saying that is in the wild if a horses head is down grazing they are not scared they are calm.
I know this sounds nuts but it works when their head goes down it like triggers that natural response that everything is ok.
The last trainer that had my boy explained this to me I thought that she was nuts and why would I want my horse to put his head down that fair till one day.
My boy got upset and I tried it it was amazing it was like putting a pacifier in a baby's mouth.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Here's a tip for training horses: Use as little pressure as possible but as much as necessary.

With that said, when you used the spur, was that your first cue for her to lope? Or did you first ask with your calves and she didn't respond? Using your spurs first can and will cause her to become dead on her sides. Maybe that's how you learned to ride, but that's not the correct way to use spurs.

IMO You want to first ask, squeeze your legs on her sides. If no response you want to suggest, squeeze and kiss/cluck. Finally, if she still doesn't respond, go from squeezing to bringing the spurs to her sides and roll them if needed.

She probably is soft enough on her sides that the spurs were too much pressure to start with. That would be like your parents taking a belt after you to ask you to go wash your hands instead of just asking.
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I should amend my above statement about how I cued her. I have only been allowed to use spurs as a reinforcement aid in the last year and a half by my instructor/boss and I always use leg pressure cues to steer or direct the horses I ride lol. This horse in particular is so small, I'm talking 14hands at most and I'm 5'9", that when I went to pit leg pressure on her I must've got her with my spur as I was reaching for her side. Lol I'm not used to riding such a little horse :) but thank you for the advice! I appreciate any and all help!!
 

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I've had lots of horses come in like this; this mare more than likely had some emotional trauma connected to the spurs.
She may have been a very sensitive mare that was actually "ruined" to speak do to the old trainers methods. A good horseman knows to alter their program to each and every horse.

My most recent was a mare who had such emotional trauma from one trainer, that every time she stepped foot into the arena she had diahrrea instantly, had a nervous, shaking, sweating panic attack and couldn't breathe, and before I got there would become a witch and strike at anyone or anything. If you let her go, she would roundpen herself at a gallop, ears pinned, teeth gritting. -- She had been LONG under a program that was too intense for her in the wrong ways. After a month, in a new program, she turned completely around. The next month, she was a whole different horse and was taken to shows. I might add that the stallion from the same barn who was trained by the same man was a lazy fart and needed the push. And another horse from the same barn was just worried about every little thing you did to him, I had to undo his training and reassure him, and start him from the ground up, like the mare but with more sacking out. You have to alter the program and your methods to each horse--they're all different and respond to things differently, like people.


Keep the spurs off of her. You will have to undo everything, and reteach her, giving her confidence and to help her realize that work isn't something to hate--which she probably does.
I'm not much of a spur person at all, I do not believe in spur training my pleasure horses. Some horses I've trained do need them though, but they are "push" horses--those who do well and listen when pushed.
She may be sensitive enough that a little leg should be fine. If you feel it is neccesary to finish her with spurs, after she's comfortable with a walk/jog/lope and all of her lateral work for a few weeks, put on BLUNT english spurs faced downward. Make sure you give her a warning before you use spurs, if its just a little tap or tightening of your calf muscle. Then gradually work her into western spurs.
 

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Also, when in the lope:

If she's going to fast, check her down with a half halt. roll your knees in, sit deep. Use slow, even flexes of your elbows to check her down with give and release. If she blows through the bit, then unarm her--get her mind off of whatever she's thinking. Do patterns, get her thinking. Slide your hand down one rein, and slowly turn her into the arena. Half circles first. Make slow S turns. If you think slow, and slow your body, she will feel it.
Then take her back on the rail. If she speeds up, continue this process. It may take her a few days until she gives in, but she will be way more willing to listen than taking short cuts.
If she gets rude however, and blows through the bit and gets more defensive when you suggest the slow easy turns, then turn her around real quick, get after her with a "AH!" or "NO!" and send her back off to give it another go. She's not allowed to be a witch. it's think slow and easy, or she's going to get in trouble.

Hope this helps, good luck on your project mares :)
 
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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you so much for this advice. I only use spurs on push horses and honestly touched her with them on accident, however it uncovered her issue with trauma associated with that tool so now I know to stay away from them until she is ready. She displays a hair of nerves when its not "mom" (her owner) riding her or kids. But she is highly responsive to rein pressure, giving her head and turning. So I think all of this advice is excellent :) I'll be getting back on her tomorrow and I'll be keeping the spurs OFF, use these techniques to slow her down and build her confidence back up. Im a tough person but seeing her nerves after my mistake with the spurs made me sad/angry that someone would have scarred a horse so. The trainer that worked with her before is excellent at adapting his methods for push horses or super sensitive ones, but she must have had a rough go of it!!

Thanks for the advice! I'm looking forward to increasing my skill, getting on her and helping her over her fear/fine tuning her and using this.advice! Thanks again!!
 

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Just a thought

I've seen alot of good advice here. Another thing I might mention, as far as the spurs go, if someday you are looking to use on her someday as a form of refinement, you could easily reprogram her to the spur pressure so that she doesn't overreact. Teach her that the spur isn't a big deal. Keep one handy in your pocket. When you catch her you can scratch her withers or any other sweet spots with it. Teach her to move off of spur pressure from the ground with a spur in your hand. Make it a pressure release game and you could even reward her with peices of carrots now and then. The crabby ear pinning will take care of itself if she knows that #1 it's not frightening, #2 that it doesn't mean that you personally are attacking or starting a fight with her, because the spur is just an extension of your body, and #3 that it's rewarding and fun to be responsive to the pressure. You can teach her to pivot her hindquarters and forequarters from the ground which would transfer to the saddle, and she would less likely to associate any negative past experiences with you on the ground. Then when you get into the saddle, don't even practice forward movement with the spurs at first, just practice pivots and whatever else she learned while you were on the ground. That should help build her confidence and the problem solving will keep her tuned into you.

Also, did she ever have spurs used on her by her last trainer? It may not be the trainer's fault at all. Maybe he never used spurs on her at all and when you accidentily bumped her it scared her because she had never experienced it before.
 

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another thing I was going to say was- good for you! It's great for someone with alot of horse experience to finally get their hands dirty with some training! especially under a watchful eye as you're doing. I hope that you have fun, that everything works out well for you, and that your horses teach you just as much and even more than you teach them!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
The last trainer did use spurs, and the owner, her "mom" uses them too. I think I most likely scared her with them as I'd been asking her to move off my leg, then towards the end of the ride I overestimated where her sides were and poked her with them on accident. I also think that her owner uses ball spurs or English spurs on here, whereas I and the other trainer ride in western spurs. It may have had something to do with that negative association of "moms" spurs and trainers spurs.

But the groundwork advice is a good place to start. I am heading out to the ranch in an hour to get back in the saddle, and ill try some groundwork!
 

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Gotcha. ^^ I'm trying to picture a 5'9 chick on a 14 hand horse. lol have fun at the ranch!
I'm 5'11 and I ride our 14.1 hh TWH. I don't think I'm oversized for our mare. But she's fun to ride. Always go, go, go.
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This particular mare is super fun to ride too! I just feel silly riding her the first moment I get on just because I'm used to riding a 16hand paint mare haha. But the little one is a blast! She sure can go!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
And for those who helped me - here's an awesome update - todays ride on the little mare went awesome! Keeping the spurs off and using your tips for slowing down and so on worker wonders. She was easy, responsive and MUCH less nervous :) thanks everyone!
 

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lol

Yeah let's just say I look goofy but she's a great little horse!!
Hey, I love the shortys! I own a halflinger! He's 13.3 and I'm 5'4. I think I look awkward, too, they they are a blast. Plus, if you fall off, it's not a far trip to the ground! :wink:
 

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If you have never trained a horse before, then I strongly suggest that you find an older, more experienced trainer to work with you and teach you. Training horses isn't really something that you can just figure out for yourself or from asking questions on an internet forum. You really need someone who is there, someone who can be hands on and tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong the instant you do it. You'll learn faster and the horses will be better for it.
I completely agree with this statement. Training horses is not something you can just figure out. You pick up bad habits and your horse suffers because of it. You end up teaching your horses nasty habits that will take forever to correct with someone who actually knows what they are doing. An you wont even know what your doing wrong because their isnt anyone there to tell you.

I strongly suggest working with someone who knows what they are doing. If you dont have the time, make time.
 
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