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Hi,
I am a 19 year old college student who has owned my mare for about 5-6 years. Over that time frame I feel like she has gotten worse and worse. She started out great a little speedy but she could do all three gaits well! I took lessons and we seemed to be doing well. We showed great for the first two years, then we started having issues. We always have had small fights, battle of wills I guess where I would have to show her she couldn't bully me, but she would soon get over whatever it was and go back to normal. Then one year I moved her to a boarding barn for the winter, that's when it really went downhill. She would rear, and throw fits! I didn't change how I was riding at all and we work on it constantly. I still took lessons and when I moved her back to my parent's house that summer she was back to normal. Well mostly normal, she still would fight with me and she really had issues just being calm. She would get a choppy gait, her strides would shorten up and she wouldn't slow down. It took allot of time to just get her to calm down after cantering. She wouldn't even go to a walk sometimes, but we still worked through it. Then we joined 4-h, we began showing at a different fair and it seemed like things were going downhill, she couldn't be calm in the show ring, she wouldn't even walk sometimes again. We still did fairly well, we even won a horsemanship reserve champion award this year, twice. Then I moved out and had to move my horse as well. She moved back to the boarding barn and from there things went downhill again. She choked this year before the move so she was off riding for a bit till her throat could heal from having to be tubed. When I got back on she was ok but had a slight cough. It went away with time, but then things got worse. She started to put her head up, like a freaking giraffe.. I couldn't get her to put her head down and her gates got all choppy. She didn't rear, but anytime I moved her to a trot she would just put her head up and try to speed trot. My trainer has me just walking her right now, to try and establish a calm. We have but still anytime we move to a trot the head goes back up. She looses her cool, works to a sweat sometimes. I am so frustrated, we used to be great, we had our problems but I could deal with them, now we can't even trot. I am frustrated and feel like just letting her stop trotting every time let's her win and is teaching her all she has to do is put her head up and she doesn't have to do the work. I want to be able to ride my horse.. she is being trimmed regularly, her teeth were just floated, and she has no health issues. What could be causing this and how do I deal with it?
 

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She could be in pain somewhere in her back? Have an Equine Chiropractor take a look at her and see if she's out of place or in pain.

If she's not in pain, she could just be trying to be the boss and say, "No, we're doing what I want, not what you want." Lots of groundwork can help establish the fact that you are the leader in the relationship and you make the decisions, not her. My gelding used to do the same thing, but my trainer had me get him to give to the bit and pretty soon, he didn't throw up his head as often. You could try that, as well. Every time she throws up her head, just place your hands so you have light contact with the bit and squeeze gently with the reins. If she speeds up, add a tiny bit more pressure to the reins (if you pull, she'll get anxious and speed up even more) and squeeze with your calves. Once you feel her give even the tiniest bit, release your reins and reward her.
Good luck with your mare! :)
 

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She could be in pain somewhere in her back? Have an Equine Chiropractor take a look at her and see if she's out of place or in pain.

If she's not in pain, she could just be trying to be the boss and say, "No, we're doing what I want, not what you want." Lots of groundwork can help establish the fact that you are the leader in the relationship and you make the decisions, not her. My gelding used to do the same thing, but my trainer had me get him to give to the bit and pretty soon, he didn't throw up his head as often. You could try that, as well. Every time she throws up her head, just place your hands so you have light contact with the bit and squeeze gently with the reins. If she speeds up, add a tiny bit more pressure to the reins (if you pull, she'll get anxious and speed up even more) and squeeze with your calves. Once you feel her give even the tiniest bit, release your reins and reward her.
Good luck with your mare! :)
I asked my trainer if I should call in a chiropractor.. she said she wasn't out of place, and that she wouldn't need it. What type of groundwork would you suggest? I can lunge her just fine, if she is feeling fresh she will be a little bossy, but it's just a matter of repetition, but even after lunging she still puts her head up.
 

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I'm inclined to think pain as well either from being out of alignment in her body, or possibly from saddle fit. Her body is going to change as her fitness changes and a saddle that fit 6 months ago, may not fit now. As for the chiro, how does your trainer know if a chiro would help or not? I'd say give it a shot and worse thing that happens is you are out $80 and it does nothing, but at least you can rule that out. ($80 is what it costs typically in my area, your mileage may vary)

If pain is ruled out, I would try almost-trotting or not-trotting. Basically get a nice walk, then rebalance, gather your reins, prepare for a trot transition and then just don't trot. Go back to a nice forward walk. Do this over and over and over and over again and try to take her just to the point where you feel her about to get tense and then bring her back down. Spend whole riding sessions doing it. Do it on a circle, on a serpentine, across the diagonal, etc. Keep doing it until you feel her not get tense, and then try a nice balanced trot transition, get maybe two strides and bring her back quietly. That's probably where I would start anyway.
 

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horess usually giraffe like that to avoid something, either the saddle or the bit, or both

will this horse do this with any rider on her? have you tried just trotting her out, for a long time, without worrying about her head position?
 

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There's tons of groundwork videos on Youtube that you can watch, it's much easier to watch than explain ;)

But I'd recommend calling an equine chiropractor even if your trainer told you it wouldn't help. Some horses can get out of alignment and need re-adjusting, just like people. They can tell you if your horse is sore or if they are out of place somewhere. They aren't terribly expensive, either.
 

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Sometimes horses get jittery the more tense you are. It could be shes reacting to you, at least in the saddle. Some horses are very zippy but most I've seen respond well when controlling the speed with my seat and giving them long reins to encourage them to stretch down and out. who care if she pokes her nose out for now work on down and out until you can do that at the buckle. Try just easing the reins through your hands at both gaits and then see how the transition gets. Knew an appy who rode like a duck but she benefited greatly from this kind of thing.
 

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I would like to see a video of you riding her. You can try all of the things so far suggested, but a video would tell us what your skill level is. It would also show us the horse's conformation. A horse with a 'ewe neck' is much more prone to do this. When a horse raises its head and neck, it automatically travels with a hollow back. This is terribly uncomfortable to a horse and makes them want to speed up. Speeding up and fighting the rider's hands is just part of the whole problem.

A 'good' trainer uses timing and feel in their hands, legs and seat to push a horse into the bit (sometimes with a very firm hold) and 'makes' the horse drop its head and tuck its chin in order to find release. When a horse drops its head and tucks its chin, it also rounds its back and uses its hind end more AS LONG AS THE RIDER KEEPS PUSHING THE HORSE INTO THE BRIDLE.

The better the rider is at doing this, the more quickly the horse gets the idea and finds that 'sweet spot' where it is not having that kind of pressure put on its face. The more it travels this way, the more it finds comfort in it. This, in tern, allows the horse relax and find even more comfort in the trot and canter.

This is a very advanced technique but absolutely the most effective one at getting a horse to lower its head and relax its jaw and lower neck muscles.

If the rider does not have that much skill in their hands and seat, the next best thing is to use a crutch like a German Martingale. A skilled rider can use draw-reins and only put as much pressure on them as necessary or use draw-reins in a 4 rein set-up. But most novice riders lack the skill in their hands or they would not have the problem to begin with. While a German Martingale is a crutch, it is better than having a horse frantically trying to speed up with its head up in the air and its back hollow and miserable.

Again, a video would sure help.
 

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I'd be inclined to see a video as well.

Sounds like this mare just isn't suited to a boarding barn, and it sounds like that's where most of your issues happen is boarding barn or shows. Is she getting the same amount of turnout at the boarding barn? Same feed?

If it were me, I don't give a rats behind if the trainer says the horse doesn't need a chiro - your horse, your business. Is the trainer a chiro? If not, they have no business saying the horse doesn't need one. I'd also get a good saddle fitter out just in case the issue is with tack.

edit: old posts seem to be popping up a lot for me? weird glitch on my computer maybe?? Sorry, really didn't mean to bump this up, but when an old post pops up I assume it's new and fail to check the dates =(
 

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I play the horse's game. If it wants to go, fine, that's what we'll do. Except now, when the horse wants to slow down, too bad, it has to keep going at the same speed. When it's puffing and beginning to feel like it's dragging an anchor, only then do I quit riding. By that I'll lean back a little and slump my back and shoulders. I do not pick up the reins. The horse will stop altho you have to keep it walking to prevent lactic acid buildup. When the horse seems rested ask again for the gait and repeat the exercise. The second time never lasts anywhere near the first time. Some learn after the first time.
 

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I am going to be the devil's advocate and say this might not be pain. I see a horse who has gotten progressively worse, slowly, over the years -- probably due to the handler or rider not expecting enough of the horse. The "working up a sweat" and giraffe neck could be coming from being ridden by someone the horse doesn't respect and trust. She is going to ignore cues of any rider she feel she isn't safe with. She could be saying "Don't tell me to calm down! What do you know?"

How are her manners on the ground? Does she tie well? Does she have some attitude? Becoming harder to catch? If there are any differences at all in attitude on the ground, this can tell us a lot about any problems you are having under saddle.
 

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I wouldn't want to take a trainers advice re. back problems - get a qualified Chiro out and let them be the judge of that. Its not always a question of the back 'being out', the horse could have kissing spines, sacroiliac trouble or some other thing that's causing pain that a chiro will detect and at least advise you on
Is your saddle a good fit - tightness and pressure on the shoulders can cause the giraffe thing
What sort of bit are you using? Quite often people think the answer to a jiggy forward going horse is to put a sharper bit on it and all that happens is the horse is afraid to go forwards into the bridle so becomes even more jiggy and tense
Letting this horse 'do as it wants - race around - and then making it race around even more will not work - it will make a bad situation a lot worse
 
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