Stubborn Mare - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 12:57 PM Thread Starter
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Stubborn Mare

I am in need of some advice for my 15 year old Morgan/Frisian Mare! She is a western pleasure horse who I have ambitions to train to be a cutting horse. Problem is, she refuses to lope/canter/gallop. I give her light leg cues, then increase the pressure. If after a few steps she ignores the cue, I take my spur and apply very light pressure, and if she ignores it then I kick her very lightly with them. I take care not to be violent with my cues and to not be frustrated. When I do see myself getting frustrated. I stop her, I take a few deep breaths, do lateral flexations for a few minutes, and then try again. I ride in a mecate headstall as you can tell by the profile picture, and with it is a lead rope with a leather popper on the end. This weekend I asked her to go into a trot using only vocal commands, and she listened. But as soon as I ask for a lope/canter, she ignores all cues. I lightly used the popper after trying verbal and leg cues, and she crow hopped. Being that she is a draft mix, it felt abrupt and more than a crow hop. She throws her head down and basically gives me the middle finger. I watch Clinton Anderson videos, my boss is Scott Depaolo.
My fellow wranglers tell me that if she crow hops, that I should keep driving her forward and keep her head up when she tries to lower it, but so far the most I have been able to do is keep her head up when she lowers it, but she still manages to throw her feet up in some way. I understand she is trying to tell me she doesn´t want to, but I am trying to tell her I want her to. It is not asking too much of her, and I know she is more than capable of doing it.

I have also taken into consideration that someone might say to have a vet examine her. There are multiple vets who are wranglers on the ranch, and they each have said that she is perfectly sound and has excellent confirmation, she also just had new shoes put on, no signs of thrush or arthritis either.

What can I do ease into the transition that I am not doing, and what might she be trying to tell me/ what am I doing wrong?
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Last edited by QtrBel; 03-25-2020 at 02:59 PM. Reason: Removed disallowed phrase
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post #2 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:01 PM
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Have they checked her back and teeth though? She sounds sore and like she's saying no for a reason.
Does she gallop out in the pasture with her friends alright?

What about saddle fit?

Another question - has someone else gotten on her and been able to make her do it? If so, then there's something wrong with your cues or her respect with you. If not, I'd say have one of them sit on her and see if they can get it.
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post #3 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:19 PM Thread Starter
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Her back and teeth are perfectly sound, they each spent about an hour looking over everything that might be the cause of her saying no. I always do groundwork with her before getting on, and she is always tight and needs reminding that I am directing her and she needs to listen. I have semi-quarter horse bars on my 1970ś Circle Y cutting saddle, and I double up on my saddle pad to prevent any sort of rubbing, and after I re-tighten the front and rear cinch I asked the vets to check to see if the fit was right and they said it was perfect for her.

I asked my trainer to get on her, and after about a half hour or so of crow hopping and tumbling around, he was able to get her to lope, but he was having the same issues I was, only he used the popper sooner and was less asking, more commanding. Not in an abusive way, but more of a ¨I am not here to play, I am here to get stuff done and you are being lazy and stubborn because you are refusing to do as asked¨. I am her main rider, there has only been two other riders in the past that have worked with her, but not at the extent I have been for the past 3 years or so.

I think it is a respect issue, she respects me on the ground, but as soon as I get in the saddle and ask for more than a trot, she immediately gets attitude and throws teenage sass like I sometimes do to my parents. I relate to it, which is why I understand what is happening, I just don´t know how to work with it and tell her that we are working, not being lazy. How do I get her respect in the saddle to move past this obstacle?

Last edited by QtrBel; 03-25-2020 at 03:00 PM. Reason: Bring into line with policy
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post #4 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:21 PM
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Just like the person who got her loping before did. Demanding it. It may take 30 minutes the first few times, but you have to be persistent and mean about it. Dig your spur in, pop her with the leather popper or even an English bat could help. Make. Her. Go. Forward.
There isn't a nice way to say it if she isn't responding to nice.
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post #5 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:31 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, no more mr. niceguy, keep it humane, keep it reasonable, but demand it. No more asking nicely. I can do that. Also, when I back her up, she throws her head up and tries to resist the bit and leans forward to get away from it. I am using a plain loose ring snaffle and applying little pressure and moving the reins back and forth instead of pulling back with both reins at the same time. I spend about 30 minutes or more on lateral flexation to try and loosen her up as well as to get her to lower her head naturally, but when I go to back her up, she just wants to make it hard on herself. Do I start out with flexing her all the way to the stirrup on each side and then over time as she loosens up move to just flexing her to her shoulder then her chest muscle then a few inches from the starting point to try and have her bend her head so that when I ask her to back up, all I do is slowly go back and forth until she backs up with little pressure? Or am I making it seem easier than it actually is inside my head? I have heard that a training fork is a great aid in this process, and I learned English with a German martingale before I transferred to western in the past 4 years, so I know how to use one, I am wondering if it would help her learn better by limiting how high she can raise her head?
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post #6 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:34 PM
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Semi-quarter horse bars sounds really narrow for a Morgan/Friesian. (Are Friesians that narrow?)

It wouldn't hurt to try a few rides in a wider saddle just to see if that helps. I'm not saying to go out and buy a new saddle, but just see if you can borrow something wider to see if she moves better for a ride or two.

I know from experience that I can make my horse trippy if the saddle doesn't fit her right. So it can definitely effect how they move and feel.

Just something cheap and easy to try. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that's all it was? She might just need a differently fitting saddle.
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post #7 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:36 PM
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I wouldn't put something on her to make her lower her head at this point, because I'd be worried she'd throw her head and go over backwards (had it happen to me when I tried that move as a teenager, so I'm speaking from experience).

What I do with my current hunter who used to like to pull through the halt transition is to halt from the trot, and when he leans down on my hands in the halt, make him stand. Just having him stand was step one. Once he stood nicely, I'd get his jaw soft. At first this looked like nothing and was a feeling in my reins, but little by little it turned into flexion and now total softness in his poll.

Then go for one step of backing. Just one step. If she does that well, reward and keep it light for the day. The next time you work on it, ask for two steps. Do this until she does it without throwing her head. So on and so forth.

Don't go into training situations asking for everything all at once. You have to take small victories to build the big ones into.
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post #8 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:43 PM
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Can you get her to canter on a lunge line? With and without the saddle?
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post #9 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:48 PM Thread Starter
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I tried a slightly wider saddle to see if it was tight, and I had the same results, I even tried a neoprene cinch that was specially cut out to avoid the armpits to see if it was rubbing her too much, same results. It is not necessarily throwing her head, more like raising it as the pressure increases to resist it, it is gradual, not all at once. I am only considering a training fork because I have never had her violently throw her head up, she has only spooked once but in that instance all she did was run. For me, the training fork is different than a traditional martingale because it allows the rider to control how high they can raise their head by using the reins. The tighter the reins, the less they can raise their head. In an emergency, I can give her slack, and she has full access to her head.
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post #10 of 20 Old 03-09-2020, 01:52 PM Thread Starter
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I can get her to lope/canter/gallop on the ground with not too much resistance. I have to get her going and remind her that I am in charge, but she will do it after a few reminders and turns. She will give me two eyes when I ask for it, it is only in the saddle that I have issues. Another thing I should mention is that she will trot fast to avoid the lope and will direct herself towards other horses in the arena (two or three at most in a corner practicing roping) to avoid going straight because she knows it will let her slow down and I have to re-gather the loose rein to re-direct her. Bad habits have developed, and it is not helping my case at all. I think I should go back to the basics, trot in a straight line, around cones, break the bad habits before trying to ask for more. I think I am going too fast and not fixing what is the fundamentals to a lope.
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