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School horse turned nightmare

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I want to clarify that I’m really just looking to build my knowledge rather than looking for actionable tips, as the horse isn’t mine and the BO isn’t taking suggestions.
I wrote about this guy in the past. He’s a rather older horse, forever used in lessons, I know nothing about his background, other than the fact that he’s the beginner horse n.2, after the even older pony mare. He used to be used in a class for blind riders, too. Cool headed, sure footed and calm, slow and steady, the real school master.
Well since a few months, he’s a bit of a terror. He’s quiet and compliant and same old - until he is not. I’ve fallen off twice, both times because of an unannounced and unplanned change of direction with a little jump sideways and a buck. I’ve seen him bolt and buck, I’ve seen him canter and go down with his front legs pulling his rider to the ground like a catapult. Last night, he nearly tossed me for the third time, same procedure. I won the argument by staying on and repeating the exercise until he complied, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant. I also have to admit that I stayed on because I was kind of expecting him to throw a number sooner or later but still, it’s not fun to ride anticipating disaster. I had him for hacks outside and he’s very quiet. I have a hunch that it isn’t really pain - the reaction timing is inconsistent, he’s not exactly giving an explosive response, and this has been going on for a while now - various riders, various conditions. I can only describe this as he’s bored. Bored of beginners, to be precise and he’s learnt that if he suddenly stops or squirts sideways or bucks lightly,
they (we) fall off. He’s not mean, but could it be that he is just saying “I had enough”? I can’t really request another horse at the moment and I am hoping that learning to deal with him will teach me some skills, but is there anything I can try to do with him specifically? He shows no sign of tension, just randomly accelerates on one side stumbling and jumping and trying to buck while you’re merrily posting trot.
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I don't know, maybe I don't know enough about horses, but to me a horse that is stumbling isn't acting up, it's having some kind of serious issue. I say that because in my mind a horse's first thought it always its survival, and falling down is antithical (OK I can't spell that LOL) to surviving. It's the one thing no horse ever wants to do. IMO.

I wonder if he has a neurological condition.
 

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How old is he? My youngest daughter’s main horse she grew up on was named Pete. He was the coolest horse. One day he kind of lost it. I thought it was because there was a wreck at work and he just thought it overwhelming.

After that day he always acted like a young ill mannered horse. He’d throw himself to his belly and strike the ground, threatening to buck, but never really bucking. She got scared and didn’t want to ride him anymore.

One day my main horse was out, and I thought “fine you old fart, we’ll see how you like working for me.” Actually I was really impressed with him. Who knew the old guy had all the moves? Well, we finish the ride, I untack him, and he has a seizure.

We guess he had brain cancer. He was much older than we thought, at 26! So, he was being ridden too hard for that age anyways. We put him down one day when it seemed he was too far gone. My youngest was devistated. We’ll always miss old Pete.
 

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That really sounds like pain. It takes a lot of energy to do what he does.

Older horses generally protest in less energetic manner - refusing to move, going towards the gate or arena center, walking sideways, trying to bite when saddled or mounting - that sort of thing.

And falling down is almost never an evasive move of choice. I know some horses do it but I’ve never met such a horse or someone who had such a horse in ten years since I got into horses - not a huge sample but still.

My mare had two months of similar behavior (minus the falling) and it was behavioral - but she was 9 at that time and full of beans.
 

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There are so many reasons this could be happening. The sudden change in behavior is much more likely to be due to pain.
However there are also diseases that can contribute and cause horses to act out, as well as ulcers, general old horse body pain, saddles not fitting, needing an chiropractic adjustment, ticks in the ears, lyme, EPM has been known to cause behavior changes and the list goes on. The starting point with one who has a sudden behavioral change is always to check overall health ( bloodwork, soundness, teeth) the fit of your equipment and then once any health related reasons have been ruled out and/or addressed properly and rechecked to be sure they are being managed, a refresher of manners would be the next step.
Boredom would actually be the last thing on my list, is it possible? Sure but this seems much more than just that.
 

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"Cool headed, sure footed and calm, slow and steady, the real school master."

This to me says the behavior is out of character for the horse. A horse that has always been reliable will not suddenly change in older age just due to feeling bored. He's having physical issues. Whether that is from pain, weakness, a disease process, etc. The unpredictability of it makes it more likely that it also hits him unexpectedly, whether it is a sudden pain or his limbs aren't working the way he wants them to.

My advice would be to not ride this horse, because it's quite likely he does have something neurological going on. He could easily collapse and cause a rider to fall onto their head or get trapped underneath him.
 

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I think the main thing here is that the horse shouldn’t be in a lesson program any more, the reasons for the new behavior are rather secondary to the fact that people don’t pay to get that challenged in a lesson

Maybe he is bored with it all - that does happen. I knew a young girl who had a wonderful pony that had been sold out of a riding school because the mare would go on strike and lie down when she decided she’d had enough.
I worked in a riding school that had a great pony who would have bucking fits if he was asked to do more than two rides a day (one hour sessions) but he’d hunt all day and love every minute of it.

It could be a health issue that’s affecting his cognitive abilities - I’ve seen two cases of brain tumors that started with the horse displaying uncharacteristic behaviors.
Lyme disease will cause some really odd behavior because it can affect the brain,
Vitamin E deficiency can also cause a horse to behave erratically
 

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I want to clarify that I’m really just looking to build my knowledge rather than looking for actionable tips, as the horse isn’t mine and the BO isn’t taking suggestions.

but is there anything I can try to do with him specifically?
That's really sad the BO isn't taking care of this horse.

When horse's do things that are out of character for them, something is WRONG with its health and/or something HURTS.

Likely, there isn't anything that you can do, if the BO isn't willing to be a responsible horse owner. That's sad.
 

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How old is he? My youngest daughter’s main horse she grew up on was named Pete. He was the coolest horse. One day he kind of lost it. I thought it was because there was a wreck at work and he just thought it overwhelming.

After that day he always acted like a young ill mannered horse. He’d throw himself to his belly and strike the ground, threatening to buck, but never really bucking. She got scared and didn’t want to ride him anymore.

One day my main horse was out, and I thought “fine you old fart, we’ll see how you like working for me.” Actually I was really impressed with him. Who knew the old guy had all the moves? Well, we finish the ride, I untack him, and he has a seizure.

We guess he had brain cancer. He was much older than we thought, at 26! So, he was being ridden too hard for that age anyways. We put him down one day when it seemed he was too far gone. My youngest was devistated. We’ll always miss old Pete.
Well heck, ive got an older horse (18) named pete that got rattlesnake bit on a gather this past summer. He aint been right in the head since. Been thinking of puttin him down before he gets worse. Always a tough deal.
 

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I’m sorry @Hot Nail. This Pete’s first bad day happened when literally 75 baby calves all broke at a run on someone else’s place (they tried to move fresh branded). I didn’t judge him his panic. It made perfect sense. The girl was crying a lot, and I was on a colt so I couldn’t trade her, and I was trying to deal with the problem!

I was super impressed with this cowboy thought who quit working and just went and rode with her. It kind of showed me something I was doing wrong. They weren’t even our cows, and I put the job over my kid.

I wish Pete came back to himself. The miles those two put in running up and down the side of a herd were really something! Lol. He was quite the animal.
 
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From your description it seems there's something else happening with the horse, but as @jaydee has pointed out, lesson horses can get bored and burn out, @newtrailriders , I don't agree with you on this.

At my old barn the BO had a couple of mares that he would give vacations for some months when they began giving problems on lessons. He usually leased the mares to someone looking for a beginner horse and after a couple of years the mares where back as lesson horses when the leaser moved on. Just having less work and only a rider worked for them, when they were back as lesson horses they would be perfect for some time, until they burned again.

A good BO will recognize the signs and plan accordingly, but maybe circumstances won't permit retiring a horse immediately, the horse business isn't for people looking to getting rich, and finding substitutes appropriate for lessons takes time also. Just an example, at my actual barn this year two lesson horses had died or had to be euthanized, there are other three retired or practically retired, and only a new horse entered last month that seems to work for classes, past months there's been another horse that didn't work out and had to be passed on to a dealer (probably in exchange for the new horse, the BO has contacts with a couple of dealers precisely for this).

There are also a couple of horses that are been used occasionally for lessons, especially during weekends when the bulk of the lessons takes place and sometimes there are people coming unexpectedly for lessons or trail walks, these horses work well with certain riders, but don't work with everybody, offering them in lessons is a good way for them to find a new owner or a leaser. Sometimes they are used in lessons with people that don't work, but until you try for some classes you don't know, and sometimes that is the only horse you have left.

So it could be the BO is aware and doesn't care, or it could be that it hasn't found a substitute for the horse.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Thank you all, as always. I raised it again with another instructor, he is known for doing this when winter comes (?). She also thinks it was dark and he got spooked by something. The thing is he only does this in the arena, when you take him out (I hack out with him often) he’s totally ok. I just think he has learnt that when he does that, people come off and he gets to stop working. But hey. If he was mine, vet would have been on the way to the barn. And then, a training refresher.
 
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