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Refreshing a mare's memory

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My barn has acquired a 13yo QH mare that at one time was supposedly a rock star in the horsemanship, pleasure, etc. When working with her under saddle, she is extremely predisposed to rear, but is fine in hand. We had her teeth floated, back adjusted, feet done, and everything you can imagine to see if she was in pain. After multiple vet trips, it was basically determined that she went crazy from being out to pasture and had developed some sort of herd mentality where she would go nuts when removed from her pasture-mates. We've recently started her on a calming supplement that seems to be working as she is at least catchable now, I have yet to have her under saddle.

My question is, what would be the best way to re-introduce this mare into her pleasure days of old? When she's not out at pasture, she was used to just hack around on and has done some contesting, however she's so slow legged she looks like a fool :lol:

She's currently being ridden in a twisted wire wonderbit, but this isn't doing anything for her headset. I'm actually convinced she's part giraffe.
What bit would you recommend to help her flex, but still keep her mouth soft? I've considered trying a full cheek snaffle, but am looking at other options.

Also, what are your opinions about using side reins for a western horse?
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· Registered
22,319 Posts
Chuck the twisted wonder bit forever and forget about headset for the time being. She is nowhere near ready for anything much past the bare basics of riding. I would start her over as if she had never been ridden and go back to groundwork. Get her bending and listening to you on the ground and work your way back up into the saddle. I can't say for certain, but I am willing to bet there is more going on in her mind than just being herd bound because for a supposedly well trained horse her age to suddenly develop such a serious issue as rearing (if it was sudden and she wasn't doing it before), there has been something wrong with the way she was handled before being turned out.

I really like your idea of going back to a regular snaffle and that's what this horse needs. Depending on her temperament and how long she's been turned out, you may not be able to expect her to just get right back into the swing of things. She'll need time to build up her stamina and her muscles again as if she had never been ridden.

Just start back at 1 and take your time. Work with her one day at a time and go at her pace, don't make a plan or a timeline because those never work. She'll progress as quickly as she is ready to progress and no more.

I won't say anything about side reins because I don't use them and never have.

Welcome to the forum :D.

· Premium Member
51,769 Posts
Dear Jordin,
If you have spent any time on this forum you will find that there are many threads which are quite similar to yours; horse holds head like giraff , very uptight and wanting to know best bit or side rein/martingale to get head down.
Then you'll read that very few persons on the forum approve of the use of martingales in any form They are a stopgap measure that untilmately will create misdeveloped muscleing on the horse's neck and may teach them to come behind the bit, which is an even worse habit to overcome than when a horse comes over the bit.

I think your idea of the full cheek snaffle might be a good choice for her. working with her in a round pen to build her responsiveness to YOU, and to get her to let go of her mental obsession with the herd will help you a lot.
Little by little. As she lets go of that mental link and becomes more linked to you, it will become easier to get her to move forward without her giraffing.

Also, if the saddle causes any pain or discomfort, she will try to "run out from under it", so that should be carefully analysed (fit, back shape/strength).

When you are working with her and she giraffes up, pick up ONE rein and ask for her to give a little in her jaw while also asking her to move forward and put a bit more Umph! into her hind end. This will naturally encourage her to lower her head. when she does, let her coast for a bit and praise and keep hands and legs still for a bit of a reward.
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