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Sorry in advance for the novel, lol, but I've been thinking about this a lot the past few days.......

Okay so, I have an OTTB. He is 11 years old, and was on the track as recently as April of 2008. Thats a long time to race for any horse. When I bought him (from an interim owner) she had never been on his back. He basically had no training on how to be a riding horse, so it was going to be completely up to me. I read up a LOT before I finally decided to buy him, and everything that I'd read said that they were relatively easy to re-train, and very willing. So I bought him, and the re-training began. We worked on some minor ground issues, and I basically taught him everything he knows. Voice cues, leg cues, neck reining, backing up, how to respond to a hackamore, etc...basically everything I would need to ride him. Well, its been six months, and until the beginning of December, we were doing FABULOUS. We were walking and trotting and I was almost ready to get him to canter....keep in mind, at a trot, after the first couple of times keeping him on a tight rein, I could let my reins out and he wouldn't speed up. We had worked out his issue of being gate sour, and he was actually getting better about being saddled up (when I first bought him, he was very girthy)

Until the one day I decided to try something new. I know that he does not do well on a single tie. He is very fidgety, likes to get as close to other horses as possible, unties the knots in his lead rope and is generally just a silly horse. Well, on this day I decided to just try him out, since someone else was using the cross ties, and I didn't want to wait twenty minutes to tack up. Big mistake. In all of his fidgeting, in between tightening his girth (I do it twice while he's tied and once before I mount up) his saddle slipped back, and because the girth stayed in place I didn't notice. When I went to mount up, he was fine, and after a few minutes of walking around the ring I asked for a trot. He bucked, and then took off into a very nice and smooth canter. I managed to get him under control, dismounted, fixed his saddle, and got back on. I was nervous, he was nervous, so we just did some more walking and I let him slip into a trot for a few strides before walking him again and getting off. I realize that blow up is my fault.

Then we got a sudden onset of winter rain, so the arena was a complete mud pit and I didn't ride for almost two weeks. I went out and we lunged just to keep him working, which he likes, but I did not saddle up. A few days ago, it was dry enough that I could finally ride in the arena again, so I saddled him up. There was a breeze blowing and a cool front was due in over the weekend, but we've ridden in similar weather just fine. I managed to get one decent trot transition out of him before he blew up, took off into a fast canter/gallop, and over his shoulder and onto the ground I went.

There are a lot of problems in this. One being that everything I read was based on re-training a four or five year old with not very many starts to their racing career. Ice has 95 starts, 42 of those being ones that he either placed or won....so he knows how to run, and that's essentially all he knows how to do. Two, he is naturally a very stubborn/dominant horse. The problem is also not going from a walk to a trot....its coming back down to a walk from trotting. The problem did not start until after he bucked/took off on me.

I have a feeling that I could stick his fits (that's essentially what they are) if I knew that they were coming. The dilemma with that is that expecting something to happen might cause it to happen, versus him just being a brat. At the same time, I don't want to get cocky, try and fix it, and then end up hurting myself. Also, I have no idea how to correct that behavior. One rein stops/circling him only keep him from moving his feet, they don't stop his brain from telling him to do so. So does anyone have any tips? I plan on going out to the barn and talking with our western trainer tomorrow about pricing (she's previously spent three or four years breaking babies, and also has experience with problem horses) for a month or two of training, but I do want some opinions on how I can fix this myself.

Soooo, any suggestions? I ride Western, and would consider myself a pretty decent rider. A few people have already told me I should sell him, which just doesn't seem fair (at any rate, I'd have to get him formally trained to even think of selling him for more than a dollar, and if I do that then I might as well keep him). Oh, and if you've gotten this far thanks in advance!
 

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Personally, I think you DO need to teach him a proper one rein stop, so that when you pick up a rein, he will stop, even if he does turn first. You have to teach this from a walk, then trot, etc... One rein stops are a really useful tool, especially for horses that tend to bolt. My project Appy this summer, was a bolter; if you even 'thought' canter, he would try too, even if I might have only been signaling for a trot; having taught him one rein stops, I was able to shut him down quickly, and we'd try again. I also did alot of circles, figure 8s, and serpentines with him, because simply going around an arena, can be boring for some horses; for him, it really helped him learn how to focus on me, because he never knew what was coming next!

I think you've done well, so far, and unfortunately, you probably may actually have to ride his fits out; maybe longe him first, prior to each ride, so you know what kind of mood he is, and also so you know he is focused on you first. I do this, everytime prior to mounting up, especially with green horses. You set a much better stage for a good ride, if you have mentally prepared the horse for 'work', rather than simply mounting up and hoping for the best.
 

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Do you have a round pen? I would say start back there... Do ALOT of ground work and then cool him out on his back.. remind him that its to his advantage to keep you on his back. Also put in a few good rides in the round pen before you go back into the arena.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
When we first started riding, I did take him out and free lunge him in our round pen. However, since I ride three or four times a week, that quickly turned him round pen sour, and since I have a feeling he's developing arthritis, I don't want to stress his joints out further. He knows how to bend in order to one rein stop, but the problem is getting him to do it....when he took off on me the second time, I was actually trying to one rein stop him, or at the very least turn him into the fence. His response was to jerk his head in the opposite direction, stick his nose in the air, and go. He also does not like "weaving" or anything like that....we have poles for bending set up, and barrels also. He gets very ****y turning in full circles more than once or repetitively going left and right. He's not a fan of ground poles either. Basically, nice flat ground and straight lines are where he's best at.

Prior to this, I was trying to assemble a group at my barn to go out trail riding with, but now that's not an option. There are places on the trail that are long, wide open spaces, and I don't want him to take off on one of those spots, lol. But regardless, he's not the type of horse who likes new things....he's very set in his routine and he knows whats expected of him.

I have however considered going back to the round pen and re-teaching him trot/walk transitions, where he doesn't have to room to get up a good speed. Still, my concern is that he's not a baby anymore. He's got a great head on him for learning, but he's also very set in his ways. I have a feeling that when ever we re-approach the cantering gait, regardless of how well his mind is "on me", he'll have the same problem. So how can I change his thinking?
 

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When we first started riding, I did take him out and free lunge him in our round pen. However, since I ride three or four times a week, that quickly turned him round pen sour, and since I have a feeling he's developing arthritis, I don't want to stress his joints out further.
This part of your post brings up two points for me. First why do you think he is "round pen sour"? And two, if you "have a feeling he's developing arthritis" I'd recommend having him looked at by a vet to determine his status.

You also stated "He gets very ****y turning in full circles more than once or repetitively going left and right. He's not a fan of ground poles either. Basically, nice flat ground and straight lines are where he's best at."

Sounds to me like he only wants to do the 'easy' stuff. I'll bet that if things continue he will start to balk at that, too. I always think that if a horse is resistant in one area, he needs to do that thing more- until he does it willingly with a degree of competence. So-- If he gets ****y turning in circles, I'd turn him until he was good at it and all resistance was gone. Depending on the horse it could take anywhere from minutes to weeks to get it done. No one says horse training is easy (except those who don't know better). I admire you wanting to retrain a raced TB. I've trained some myself. Keep up the good work.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
This part of your post brings up two points for me. First why do you think he is "round pen sour"? And two, if you "have a feeling he's developing arthritis" I'd recommend having him looked at by a vet to determine his status.
I'm working on getting the money to get him x-rayed (500 dollars plus exam fee) to officially diagnose arthritis.

To answer the first question, when we started out lunging, he knew exactly what I wanted from him without me really having to teach him. The only thing he didn't do was turn to the inside, so we taught him that. Towards the end of his round pen lunging sessions, I could only get two or three good circles out of him before he would periodically start throwing his chest up against portions of the rails, and then it became he wouldn't move from the round pen gate. He would just stand there, butting his head up against it. I could crack the whip right behind his butt and he would just turn one way and actually back up, not turn and go forward. He's the type of horse who doesn't like overly repetive things or he gets belligerant (but he doesn't like super new things either, they scare the crap out of him) I gave him a four month break, and when it started getting rainy I went back to round pen work and he was amazing.

My only problem with getting him to do the things he gets angry at is he's not the kind of horse to just stand there and swish his tail...he'll buck, rear, bolt, whatever....basically explode.I want to work with him and have as much hand in re-training him as I can, but if I'm just going to end up in a rodeo show, thats not good for either of us because I'll end up getting hurt, which will in turn mean he will get less riding time. We can circle barrels, and we can weave poles....but doing them four times in a row is when he starts making a fuss.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Double post,woops.....

So I talked to the trainer today and found out that its 25 dollars a session, and the session can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the horse. The evaluation ride is free, and then from there we discuss what she (the trainer) sees, what my goals are, etc, etc. This makes me excited, I would much rather spend that 500 dollars on training him, if 500 dollars is needed, then on xrays that may be indeterminate.
 

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well that much rather spend else where $500 may be an answer to some pain issues that could be causing him to bolt.. my mare did that and it was a saddle fitting issue. i think you need to check out all your options before saying its a behavior issue. my mare rode fine in that saddle for 3 months till i guess one day she had had enough of being pinched. i didnt know untill i had a fitter come look at it. same with the bit she had. she'd toss her head constantly she was in a dee ring.. put her in a french link loose ring and a fitting saddle and viola ! shes a great moving horse now. so i think you should have his bit, saddle and authritus checked. for racing that long i woulden't doubt it. and honestly theres no such think as round pen sour. he just dosent respect you or he just dosent want to do it . who ever told you re training a OTT tb was easy lied. ive worked with over 20 of them . . one is personally mine. not one of them was close to easy.

i wish you the best of luck though.


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just looked at your photos of him and saw your riding him western. I think you should have the saddle checked relitivaley soon as most western saddles DON'T fit tb's . You have to find a good fit. its more than possible it could be pinching him.
 

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Sound like that horse has your number. If it where physically possible he would be riding you around the arena. Don't make excuses and I wouldn't bother with the X-rays. Just spend some money on a good trainer that will teach you to ride and teach him to be ridden. Hopefully you have learned an important lesson about the kind of deal you get when you buy a "cheap" horse. I agree with Rod that your problems with him are only going to get worse. Contrary to popular belief most racehorses can change leads and gaits and are not unbroke dinks that can only run in a straight line. The horses are exercised every day by little men in tiny saddles, they can't be too rough or they certainly don't race very long. This horse has enough experience to call your bluff and you have let him get away with it. It doesn't sound to me like there is anything wrong that can't be solved with a some time with a GOOD trainer.
 

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The horses are exercised every day by little men in tiny saddles, they can't be too rough or they certainly don't race very long.
dont want to get off topic here but i have to disagree.... OTTT's are pretty high stung 90% of the time and only want to run . re-training them, esp one whos been on the track 9 years is going to be a very hard task as he's never done ANYTHING else but run an oval.... i've got 3 relatives who train and jockey at belmont and my best friend jockeys and we've trained a few who came off the track with bow's , chips after rehab of up to 7 months off.. EVERY horse is diffrent some come off the track sane but thats about 1 in every 100 maybe higher.. it's not easy. oh and a lot of those 'little men' just hang on believe it or not. not the same jockey always trains that rides the race. most of the time yes. not always though. just keep in mind its not a day in the park re training an ottt.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
the 500 dollars is for xrays for arthritis....they, if anything, would cause him to move slower, not suddenly decide to start running. We've checked his saddle fit before, its fine for him....again, that would cause him to explode moving into the trot, not going back down to a walk. I'm also going to call the chiro out, as I said in the OP, as soon as the holiday is over to see if she can diagnose anything. However, I doubt that's the problem. But to bp, I don't think his sanity is the problem, its his general attitude of a donkey.

Kevins, if he really had my number, I wouldn't be talking about getting back on him, I'd be talking about the quickest way to sell him. If people hadn't suggested I go to the ER, I would have taken him to the round pen and gotten back on him. He knows I'm just as stubborn as he is, and this is actually the first time I have come off of him in all of our fighting. I would like to know what excuses I'm making--I'm only going off of my experience with him. I admitted in the OP that I had planned on getting lessons with him, and I also admitted that I planned on talking to the resident Western trainer about rates, both of which I would think are completely responsible things to do. However, I don't think he needs anything specific, he just needs more real saddle time, and that was my point in the post--helpful suggestions, not criticisms.
 

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It sounds like you've covered a lot of bases, but I think there are still alot of holes in your basic training here. You are giving him an awful lot of excuses that would suit a human for disrepectful behavior. I would probably fall back to groundwork, like someone else mentioned. If someone brought me this horse for training, I definately wouldn't jump on his back till I found out what was making him tick and eventually explode. There are many little things jumping out here, from his behavior in the round pen to how he reacts to being tied up and his inability to adapt. Sure, physical issues could contribute to his intensified defensive behaviors. I don't think its a matter of "teaching him a lesson". Horses tell you exactly whats wrong before you get on their back. You are interpreting everything that he's doing in your language. It says something completely different if you look at it in his.
 

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Discussion Starter #13 (Edited)
It sounds like you've covered a lot of bases, but I think there are still alot of holes in your basic training here. You are giving him an awful lot of excuses that would suit a human for disrepectful behavior. I would probably fall back to groundwork, like someone else mentioned. If someone brought me this horse for training, I definately wouldn't jump on his back till I found out what was making him tick and eventually explode. There are many little things jumping out here, from his behavior in the round pen to how he reacts to being tied up and his inability to adapt. Sure, physical issues could contribute to his intensified defensive behaviors. I don't think its a matter of "teaching him a lesson". Horses tell you exactly whats wrong before you get on their back. You are interpreting everything that he's doing in your language. It says something completely different if you look at it in his.

Just to cover my bases, lol he does cross tie perfectly. He just doesn't single tie very well, as he is very fidgety, and smart enough to let himself loose, lol. I'd imagine that he was never single tied on the track, he was always either held or cross tied.

I totally agree--he's basically telling me that he's never done this (i.e. regular riding with a person sitting on his back) before, and he doesn't like it anymore. I know that he knows how to walk, trot, canter, and gallop and transition to those gaits in a relatively smooth fashion, he knows how to lead, yield his hindquarters, and forequarters, back, turn left and right, etc. etc.....the problem is not the groundwork, as he does these things perfectly when asked...its getting him to re-associate these things with his new life, not his old one on the track. Thats his problem and essentially why he explodes, because that's exactly what he was trained to do, so he thinks its right. Like I said in the OP, I need to change his thinking, not just change his actions.

Ironically, its his actions that are right, but his motivation is wrong. For the last six months, instead of wiping his slate clean, which is what I need to do, I've been trying to build his new skills on top of the old ones....basically like putting an American plug into a European socket. You can jam it in there and it might work, but in this case you're probably just going to get electrocuted.
 

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Kevins, if he really had my number, I wouldn't be talking about getting back on him, I'd be talking about the quickest way to sell him. If people hadn't suggested I go to the ER, I would have taken him to the round pen and gotten back on him. He knows I'm just as stubborn as he is, and this is actually the first time I have come off of him in all of our fighting. I would like to know what excuses I'm making.
First I don't have a dog in this fight so I am not trying to start a fight or run you down. It's not a matter of how stubborn you are, it's a matter of how well you present what you want your horse to do. I think it's fair to say that you are not doing that very well from your horses point of view.

As far as the excuses you are making, you have suggested that it may be arthritis. You have tried saddle fit as an excuse and you mentioned in your last post that you will be having the chiro out ASAP. Those are the excuses that I was refering to. The problem, in my opinion, is a training issue and that is where I would spend my time and money. If you would like to spend your money elsewhere then I wish you luck.
 

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I agree with Kevin. If training a horse was easy then most horses would be well trained. Unfortunately most are not.

It is a passion with long hours low pay and a high chance for injury.

Find a good one and give them at least 90 days.
 

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^Well then thats my bad. I do think he may be developing arthritis, but that has noting to do with this incident here--that has to do with how I approach his training as far as excessive lunging/round penning goes, but there's more than one way to skin a cat. As for the chiro, I have one visit left in the package I purchased, so why not use it now and cover all of my bases. I think I said it somewhere up there, but I'm 99% sure he's just being himself and it has nothing to do with pain. I did not mention the saddle fit as an excuse, someone else mentioned it since they saw I ride Western....I think it was barnprincess. I know for a fact that his saddle fits him fine, other wise his exploding would have happened long before now.

My trouble seems to be is that you were quick to rip me apart, but offered no suggestion as to how to fix it. Traditional fixes like one-rein stops are just going to be a band-aid in this case, since he doesn't know that he's doing wrong. I want to know how I can basically re-train him from something he's done his whole life.
 

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So what you are asking for is " How to fix a horse in 500 words or less".
 

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Yes and no...obviously I know there's no black and white concrete way to re-train a horse, but I figure why not ask here? There are plenty of people more skilled than me who might have some insight on the situation. The trainer I'm going with has experience breaking and starting babies and fixing problem horses, but not with re-training one, or at least not to this degree. So essentially, she can ride out his fits, but we kind of have to just guess at how to get him to think differently.
 

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I know for a fact that his saddle fits him fine, other wise his exploding would have happened long before now.
if you read what i said thats not true. . . my hrose rode in an ill fitting saddle for THREE MONTHS without incident. untill she had enough of being pinched and exploded into a bronco. three times she did this untill i realized hey idiot somethings wrong. and sure enough her saddle was sqeezing and pinching her shoulder movment as most ill fitting saddles do. look up on you tube how to make sure. and unless you had a fitter look you cant be 'know for a fact' because i said that too untill i had a professional come.

My trouble seems to be is that you were quick to rip me apart, but offered no suggestion as to how to fix it. Traditional fixes like one-rein stops are just going to be a band-aid in this case, since he doesn't know that he's doing wrong. I want to know how I can basically re-train him from something he's done his whole life.

as ive worked with over 20 OTT tbs i dont suggest them to people who have not the slightest clue in re training them and starting over. most ott tbs need a down time to be a horse. we turned ours out for 2 - 6 months THEN started from ground work up. thats how you do it the right way. if you dont know how to fix it i suggest you get off the board and call a REAL trainer or some one who actually knows what they are doing.
 

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Chances are that he is reverting to old behavior because he doesn't understand what you are doing. When a horse reaches a point in confusion, they revert to what they know will work to get the pressure to go away. This is how serious buckers continue their habit and serious bolters continue theirs. I am a firm believer that a truely "caught" horse doesn't need to be wearing a halter and a truely "tied" horse doesn't actually need to be tied to anything. I do halter and tie my horses, but what you are missing is the frame of mind behind the exercises as we see them. Without the mind, everything else will be that more challenging. Its not a matter of riding out his fits, but figuring out what triggers them and how to fix that. At the same time, you would need to reshape his coping mechanism so that he could make his confusion known without putting you in danger. Everyone is telling you to go back to the ground because that is where you establish the leadership and respect that you need to re-train this horse. Holes in foundation training can go unseen for quite some time to the average person before they literally knock you on your butt. Thats what this is, its a hole, to fix what you are seeing, you have to fill the hole.
I personally don't understand how someone can start horses and fix problem horses without knowing how to re-train a horse. I know plenty of people that can start them from scratch, but can't undo something that has already been screwed up. But if someone is claiming to fix problems, I personally would want someone with more than a velcro butt.
 
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