Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What does it take for you to throw in the towel?

A couple of recent incidents with people I know have prompted me to ask this question, as I'm interested in your perspectives and experiences. When do you give up and pass along a horse (green OR trained) to someone more talented than yourself for that horse's own good? What sorts of behaviors cause you to throw in the towel and stop trying to get back on?

Or are you the person who says, hell no, I AM going to ride this horse - whether or not that means more than one trip to the E.R.?

For me, I
know I am no bronc rider. I will get back on if I get bucked off and am not hurt, but I will probably do some longeing first and try to wear down the horse to the point where the incident will not be repeated. If something got me off twice in a day, I'm pretty sure I'd be done getting back on and would absolutely pass that horse along to a trainer that I know has more of a velcro butt than I do. I think it's extremely bad news for a horse to succeed in offloading riders on a regular basis...every time your butt hits the dirt, they win and the behavior is reinforced. To me, it's really smart to just pay the money to stick someone on the horse that the horse cannot throw. Most horses will respond to that by giving up, and usually in surprisingly short order. The few that don't may really have a screw loose (or undiscovered pain - always, always, always look for pain first.)

There are other behaviors I'd be more likely to keep working with myself. Spooking, not usually a big deal. Bolting, hey, go back to the round pen and go back to basics and make sure you have a working whoa - bolting is often a sign of missed basic training - like with track horses who were never really broke, just learned to carry a rider and run. (Not true of all OTTB's - all trainers differ! Some trainers have them pretty well broke and transitioning them is a snap. I applaud those trainers!) Rearing is not something I like to deal with and if I can't find a source of pain (back, teeth?) that explains it, I'm likely to pass that horse along to someone else.

I will throw in the towel quicker at a public event like a show than I would at home. Let's face it, a crowded warm up ring is no place to resolve a serious problem. You're likely to interfere with other riders (which is rude and can cause someone else to have an accident) and you can't concentrate on your horse when there are other riders everywhere and you have to worry about not running into little kids on ponies.

I know horsepeople are split on this. Some will tell you that if you don't work through the problem AT the show, the horse learns he can misbehave at shows and get away with it. I
don't know if that's completely true. I do think that when you fail to punish misbehavior in the show ring the same way you would at home, they do figure that out, but I also think that you don't have the right to screw up everybody else's ride bronc-busting in a flat class (or getting tossed and having a loose, bolting horse getting other people tossed) and that the polite thing to do is come to the center and wait to be excused.

If you're in a dressage ring by yourself or jumping a course and you want to do your best to fix the behavior, knowing that the ribbons are already out of your reach, go for it and I applaud your guts! I don't know who the rider is in the picture, but they are doing a fabulous job on a hard bucker - their position is just exemplary. They may not win a ribbon, but they are going to win that round with their horse.

I can watch that halfpassgal video all day and just go, OMG, I wish I could stick like that and wish I had her courage. (If you've never seen it before, beautiful example of a rider sticking and then NOT freaking out and NOT changing their riding and NOT having a temper. She proceeds as though nothing bad happened. Ah, youth...)

Do you look down on a trainer for deciding to pass along a horse? I don't at all. I think that if you train professionally and that's what pays your bills, it's only intelligent to draw some lines about what you will and won't get on. After all, if you get seriously hurt, you are out of business. Also, I don't think the most talented trainer is necessarily the person who can stick like glue, and most horses don't need the person who can stick like glue. Those people do exist, for those horses who need it, and often it just takes a few weeks or a month before they can be passed back to the regular trainer or the owner with the problem resolved.

Have you sent a horse off to fix a specific problem that was a bit too much for you, whether that was a misbehavior or a "fine tuning" issue? Did it work? Was the problem cured or did the horse still display the problem with you even though the trainer did not have the problem? Were you able to regain your confidence with a horse who had scared you off by seeing the trainer succeed with him and then working with the trainer to learn how to ride through the problem? Or did you simply learn that the horse had your number and it was not going to be the right horse for you?


Michelle said...

I try to fix most things on my own, but I'm no trainer, and yes, I have been known to send my horse(s) out, for further fine-tuning, and to fix problems. I know when I don't have the skills to deal with something, and have no problem employing those who do. I'm currently saving up the dough to send my mare out, yet again. Hopefully the third time is the charm and I'll get a trainer that actually works with her.

And yep, I got dumped about a month ago, it wasn't attitude, it was fear (she got shocked and wigged out). I got back on that day, barely I was in too much pain. But I haven't been back on yet. Not due to fear, but pain and muscle spasms that keep coming back. It might be fear too, I'll know when I put my foot in the stirrup the next time, I s'pose.

Anonymous said...

Any horse can buck or spook - usually it's best just to keep riding and ignore the behavior. I think punishing horses (negative reinforcement) is rarely very effective - the horse may know what not to do but doesn't know what to do instead. Also, any persistent "bad" behavior is more likely than not to be due to a physical problem - pain, saddle fit, ulcers, dental issues, diet, just plain bad riding or a hole in training where the horse just doesn't know what else to do. Punishing the horse, or just using a stronger bit or gadgets in these cases can lead either to a dull, resentful horse or an angry, explosive horse - I've seen plenty of both.

No one should ride a horse they are afraid to ride, nor should you feel guilty for having someone else deal with a problem you can't solve.

Three cases in my recent experience. First, my younger daughter's horse used to have a rearing problem - one of the most dangerous behaviors, in my experience. It turned out once we taught her to give to pressure, and to back, she knew what to do with her feet and didn't have to go up to deal with the pressure. That said, you need to be a very skillful rider to deal with a problem like this in a safe way.

Second, my mare used to try to buck me off every time I rode her. It turned out that she had serious pain and dental issues that have been completely resolved, and she no longer needs to buck to tell me (loudly since I wasn't listening) that she hurt and couldn't do what I was asking.

Third, my older daughter has recently gotten a mare for free because of very dangerous aggressive behavior. The horse's owners were going to euthanize her. I recently posted about this - you can read the details if you are interested - the horse had severe ulcers and this was the root cause of the problems.

Are there a (very few) horses who are out to deliberately get people? Yes, and they were made that way by people and sometimes cannot be fixed.

I could come up with even more examples of problems that could be fixed - these horses weren't being "bad", they were troubled or hurting and could be helped - but only by someone with the necessary skill and confidence.

FD said...

I haven't had to ask myself this question in a while, not since I started working in an office instead of riding for a living.
H'mmm. I've always passed on horses that throw themselves over backwards, and I guess these days I'd pass along persistent rearers too.
I don't think shows are any place to school your horse. Sure, ride 'em through a minor tension fit, or a paddy, but major hissy fits you need to deal with at home.
There have been horses I've passed on because I didn't feel I was doing them justice, and there has also been the occasional horse where I've had to admit to myself: I don't know how to fix this, and I've passed those on too. If you're taking money for riding, you have to (imo) give value for money and be ethical about it. Part of a rider-for-hire's stock in trade has got to be consistency, so if I didn't feel I could produce it I said so.

LizB said...

Michelle - try a chiropractor. I got bucked off a few months ago and knew something wasn't right - was very sore. Turned out I jammed my sacro-iliac joint crooked. I feel so much better now that I have been "adjusted" regularly.

Sadly, it was a foster horse (for a rescue) that I had been working for the last year to earn her trust. We sent her to a trainer - who has done great things with other of our rescues - and I went to test ride with the knowledge that she had jumped/bolted unprovoked once (as well as had other behavioral issues, like striking and running over people when scared instead of away). Yes, I knew she was sensitive about her ears and sent her with that information, but no, she had never struck at me - except once when a vet was attempting to give her a shot. Otherwise, I thought we got along pretty well - I'm pretty calm by nature, and she learned the routine well.

We were only in a roundpen, and I should have had on stickier britches in that slippery western saddle (where the stirrups were too long for me). I don't think I gave myself a chance to stay on, but at the same time, I was sitting quietly and used the smallest of aids to ask her to go forward when it happened. The trainer had just ridden her for me and she had been fine.

Anyways, the incident caused me to "throw in the towel" (combined with behavioral issues like striking when being bridled over the ears - which I could put a halter on behind her ears and avoid them) And the fact that she seemed to barely recognize me after spending only 2 weeks at the trainers (and the last 1.5 years at my barn) I immediately knew I would never ride her at home, and the trainer did not want to work with her anymore (although she did get on right after I fell to make sure the mare did not learn to throw people - but the trainer did not trust her and said she didn't want her daughter around her - I also have two youngsters).

We have had her physically checked by a vet and found no reason for her behavior. The decision was made by the rescue to adopt her out as a companion only due to her behaviors (which sadly may keep her in the rescue for a long time). I have moved on to an OTTB for my foster horse - lovely 14.2hh mare - cute mover. I know I can help retrain this one, and I feel like my riding skills will be used for a good purpose.

Thankfully, we have a wonderful network of foster homes with people with different talents, some that don't ride, and we found a good place for her be.

I guess I will always feel guilty about "giving up", but at the same time I feel my kids are safer without that mare around. The kiddos made the decision a No-duh. (They are always supervised, wear helmets, etc., but I always worry about the freak chance one of them gets out of our fenced yard (funny to have no-climb fence to keep the kids IN. :) )

Sue L said...

Wow. Good question. I trained part time for most of my life and I did send some horses home. I won't ride one that rears purposefully, I sent one home for that. I also sent one home, after I'd been riding successfully (trail and arena) for about three months because he made a conscious decision he didn't want me on his back. He bucked and I stuck and worked him through it. He worked for a few minutes and escalated the situation and then again until he finally got me off. He was mad and drawing the line and I'm 'man' enough to know when I'm in over my head. But once he got home, they were pretty happy with his level of training and are doing a lot of performance with him. So I'm confident - however difficult it was at the time - that it was the right decision for me and him.

Another one I sent home was a rank stallion that I'd had for training before, fixed and sent home and he came back worse. That's not a horse problem, and not something I could fix.

I did have an extremely fearful horse that I worked through his issues and rode him for the owner for about a year. He wasn't a usual kind of spook and bolt. His brain truly disconnected (imagine him running full speed into the arena fence and flipping upside down when he bounced off it and his legs still running because he didn't figure out he was upside down). I wouldn't ride a horse like that again.

I had one other one, an auction horse that seemed to me to be a soured ranch horse or western performance horse that had been sold to a family for their kids. She was sullen and dangerous and would work for a bit and then give me a 'make my day' kind of dead eye. She seemed to me that she'd been pushed/forced past her limit too many times. I was able to open some lines of communication with her. She was shocked and surprised that I would listen to her and try to work within her limits, but she started shutting down again even with minimal work and I think she was having some pain in her hocks or elsewhere and I sent her home for vet eval and treatment before I'd work her any more. I'm not sure what they ended up doing with her, but I doubt she ever was a kid horse.

Otherwise, I enjoy young horses and don't mind some silliness. I like to take my time with them and work through stuff so we don't usually have any real badness like you can see in re-training situations.

Accendora said...

I told the owner of a horse yesterday that I was not comfortable walking the horse. What it amounted to was that I could not read the horse's body-language, and the horse did not respond to my body language, and it made me uncomfortable.

The mare would walk a little farther back behind me than was polite, with her ears tilted back, nearly pinned. This is how everyone walked her, apparently. Occasionally she grabbed for grass, but didn't do anything worse than that. I swatted at her haunches with the lead rope to get her moving forward. She walked out a little more, but the ears stayed threatening. When she drifted into my space, I could move her out of it, and she moved back pretty crisply when I insisted, but the ears went right back when I lead her off again.

This mare was the boss of a herd in the "wild" for a year or two. I swear she meant something by her ears, but I don't know what. That's why I said I didn't want to walk her: if I can't predict the horse's reaction or response, I'm not safe.

Londoner said...

First time posting here - this is a question that I'm finally beginning to understand. I'm twenty, and when adults, on a forum or at a yard, talked about instinct, 'knowing' something's not right, my first reaction was to scoff, dismiss them.

When I was a teenager the only mouths these words came out of were older women, who bought expensive horses ostensibly for competition, to essentially retire them a few months later, only coming down to the stables to groom and lord it over others (bitter? me?)

Then I started paid work with a trainer, riding out four youngsters a day. I've had rearers and buckers, but thankfully nothing that has ever bolted. We had a broodmare in for breaking, a 15yrold lusitano. Although she never did anything, we never gave her a chance to. We got a saddle and about a months work on her, but the gap from the (very small) arena to the great outdoors..never happened.

There were just something about her. She accepted the saddle and bridle fairly willingly. When lungeing, she would never look at you. Actually, she would never look at you at all. She was so incredibly tense when I got on her, her favourite pace a nervous, flat-out trot. We gave up, and she had another baby before becoming another useless old mare. Finally I got it when someone said there was something 'off' about a horse.
I still think those women were just lame, though.

Deer Run Stables said...

Kate: loved your post!

Me, I pass on a lot of stuff these days. I will tackle any problem with any horse on the ground, as long as there's not an artificial time limit imposed.

In the saddle, I will tackle "naughty" left-brained introverts (yep, here come the dreaded Parelli horseanalities again!), because that's the kind of horse I click with. LBI's tend to resist doing work by balking, bucking, and charging, usually sideways or backwards. They resist out of laziness and/or dominance, but not fear. They will either fight or shut down completely if you try to make rehabilitation a physical game, but they're complete pushovers if you turn it into a mental game. That works great for me, since I'm creaky and busted and can't make it a physical game anyway; but my mental game is just fine, thanks very much.

I have no interest in riding extroverts (horses whose default setting is "Go!") or right-brained horses (horses whose innate tendency is to react from fear and instinct, without thought).

That's why I didn't even attempt to train left-brained extrovert Capri myself (and hasn't Tori done an amazing job with her?), and why Tori will also be starting my two right-brained extroverts and my right-brain introvert.

On the other hand, I didn't think twice about starting Lightning myself last summer, and no way is anyone but me going to be the first one to climb on Bella next summer when she's three.

In tangentially related news, could everyone send me some positive vibes on Sunday? I have a woman coming from Florida (!?) to look at Capri, and I'm nervous as hell. I haven't successfully sold a horse in over two years (and no, before everyone asks, I haven't bred any more during that time). I'm in a hopeless place, mentally, believing that no one will ever buy a horse from me again, even though, intellectually, I know that she's an awesome horse for an awesome price.

Anyway, supportive thoughts would be appreciated.

Ponyice said...

We went to our first show (me old chicken re rider and my 6 year old QH with about 90 days prof training so pretty green) We threw in the towel at the show and I ditched my riding class because the covered arena with all the kids in bleachers freaked him out during the halter class (and I not wearing gloves got lovely blisters from the leather lead) but I think it was mostly operator error on my part. We did have a lovely ride in the crazy warm up arena so I chalk that up to a learning experience.

We did in hand trail also and he freaked and refused the bridge and the jacket spooked him also, and he would not back thru cones until I ditched the stud chain ran thru and just hooked it on like a normal lead, the pressure freaked him out. So yay more blisters.
Luckily the judge at the trail class is his trainer, so we hung out till the trail class ended and his trainer got on him to try the bridge out (which he had done several times at her place). He gave her a load of crap (nothing scary just refusing to step up) for about 10 minutes, which actually made me feel better about our day. She has worked wonders with him and has a nice quiet way about her when dealing with him which works, so I was glad to see it was not me only. After she worked him about 20 minutes the bridge was nothing and I even rode him over it too.

I ditched the riding class because the waiting area to ride in was all rocks(and in the sun and it was 100 degrees that day I am still rocking my awesome farmer tan )and he was getting ouchy (he is barefoot). However I heard later that they let people wait in the arena and shortened the show area, but I missed that part I would have gone in for that just for experience.

I would say I threw in the towel somewhat this first show as I don't want to ruin someone else's show so I wanted to stay out of the way. That being said I am going to take him more places now for exposure.

Drillrider said...

I passed along a horse that was not "consistent". One day he was good as gold and the next day he would spook, whirl around, buck and be a total idiot. He needed to be ridden daily to overcome it and I just didn't have the time to commit to it, not the desire.

I also passed along a horse that I just didn't "click" with. There was nothing I could put my finger on, but we just didn't like each other.

Drillrider said...

Should have been "nor the desire".

Drillrider said...

My daughter gave a beautiful saddlebred away because at a previous owner's he went to a trainer as a 2 year old and came back meaner than HELL. He bit her hip and lifted her off the ground at one point. She made good progress with him and he was no longer mean to her, but he would attack anyone else.

Amy said...

Deer Run Stables:

First of all, if I needed a horse, I would be all over Capri. I saw that video before, and she looks amazing.

Second of all- not to hijack- I am curious when you say you make it into a mental game. My mare is very much the left-brain, balky type. On the ground, she is great, but under saddle, if she doesn't want to do it, I get a total balky, bucking, turn the head and try to bite me shit fit. If we get to this point, the harder I push, the harder she pushes back. Incidentally, she's a doll on the ground.

I am working with a trainer (a Parelli-based trainer, actually, as that is how Lic was started)but I am always looking for input. (blog about her is So how do you turn this into a mental game?

And no, I am not throwing in the towel yet... on the plus side, I have learned to ride a buck very well. I've only come off twice- bucked off once, and a fall I totally deserved- not her fault.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>Second, my mare used to try to buck me off every time I rode her. It turned out that she had serious pain and dental issues that have been completely resolved, and she no longer needs to buck to tell me (loudly since I wasn't listening) that she hurt and couldn't do what I was asking.<<

That's why I mentioned checking for pain - it's such a common story. Fix the pain and the behavior goes away and everybody is happy. Glad you found out what was going on with yours!

Ponyice - I think you made good decisions. There is always another show. Better to go home after making it as good as experience as you can for the horse.

Deer Run - See, I like the go-ey ones and it's only in recent years I've had to learn to deal with the lazy type. I'm getting better with them but I can't say I prefer them. My dream horse is that pony sized OTTB that LizB is retraining!

Drillrider - You really wonder what someone did to a two year old to cause that kind of aggression. Sad!

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Amy - Before you try anything else, if you haven't already, try Regumate. It may fix all of your problems. Those crabby mare behaviors really ARE often hormonal!

Deer Run Stables said...


You can certainly try the Regumate; it may make a real difference. I'm a little skeptical in this case, only because you said she's a doll on the ground. But you never know!

Mental game: hoo-boy, I could write a treatise on this. I'm gonna make a huge leap here, and guess that your mare is highly food-motivated.

So, rather than write that treatise, I'll just say that if she were my horse, and I was confident there were no physical issues, I'd be playing the point-to-point game A LOT.

Put a pan of something that she loves, like carrots or bran mash or whatever at one end of the arena, and another pan at the other end. Bring her in. Get on, and ride her to one of the pans. Let her eat for awhile. Ride to the other pan. Let her eat for awhile at that one. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. See if you can do it at a faster gait. When she's inhaled the last crumb, get off, love on her, and put her away. Do that for 5-7 days.

Then put several pans in the arena, but only put food in some of them. Make sure that you are the one choosing which pan you check out, but if it's a pan with food, she gets to eat for awhile. If it doesn't have food, don't let her immediately go to the next one; stand there for a bit (at least a minute... several minutes is better), scratch her neck, and let her relax. Then go to a different pan. Vary the gaits that you use between the pans.

When that gets old (for you; it will *never* get old for her!), start riding around outside the arena. Stash some pans of food where she can't immediately see them, before you bring her out. Ride around, and "accidentally" find the pans while you're riding. Start asking her for faster gaits before she actually realizes that she's heading toward "hidden" food. Then, start leaving empty "dummy" feed pans out, with only a few containing feed. Remember to let her stand and be petted and scratched next to the empty ones. (Eventually, you are going to replace food with a moment's rest and some friendly scratching as her motivational reward.)

To show you how serious I was about this program with the ridiculously barn-sour Tucker, I actually walked out and stashed grain 1/2 mile down a winding forest trail for us to "stumble upon" during a trail ride. You should have seen him light up when he saw that pan. He stayed that way for the rest of the ride, too... 'cause you never know; there *might* have been more pans out there somewhere! Let's just say, barn sour is not an issue for us anymore.

Anyway, before long, your lazy, LBI mare will start to think that you're the Smartest Creature on the Entire Planet, because you always know where the food is hidden, and you show her where it is, and let her eat it. Don't try to mix the point-to-point program with normal riding. Just take a couple weeks out of your riding life and devote yourself to it fully. When your status as a wise and benevolent leader is in place, then you can start to ask for things and have your request met with something other than resentment and resistance. Fair warning, though: LBI's are inherently allergic to work. They like "play" just fine, but if they ever get a hint that you're intending for them to do hard labour, they'll shut down in an instant. It's not that they won't do things that are physically hard for you... it's all about the attitude. I find myself laughing *a lot* when I'm playing with my LBI's.

And, hey... me... I'm not too fond of "work" either, so perhaps that's why I get along so well with them. ;-)

(Oh, crap... that was a treatise after all. Sorry, Fugs.)

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Not a problem. It's actually a good example of how you can fix a problem by out-thinking the horse as opposed to trying to out-muscle them. I keep joking that I need a carrot on a fishing pole for the Cute Spotted Stallion but it turns out he's just lazy in the round pen...I rode him in the arena today and he wanted to go. It's just a shame to ride indoors now that we finally have sunshine!

Amy said...

Hah! She loves food... That sounds like an awesome idea! Is it easier to just ride in a halter so she can eat easier, or does it matter?

Fugs, I actually just quit giving her Mare Magic- had her on it for months, never seemed to make a difference. And she's actually really lovey when she's in heat... but her heat cycle doesn't seem bad... compared to a neighbor's mare, anyway.

BTW- I love the Tucker video. I am definitely going to try this. Thanks a lot for helping a newbie!

OutRiding01 said...

I will get on anything once. And usually a second and third time, and probably a fourth just for kicks ;) I've been riding for 16 years and have actually never been bucked off (and I've ridden some nasty ones). I've fallen off more times than I can count jumping (I owned a pony mare as a kid...) but never bucking.
I actually got a job starting 3 year old warmbloods at a small breeding farm recently. I'm working with 4 right now, 2 mares and 2 geldings. They're all very different to work with. Echo is a lazy bum. We've been having issues with him kicking in my direction when asking for a canter on the lungeline but we're getting apst it. Still can't pick up a canter undersaddle without him crowhopping for a bit, but it's getting better too. Endora is a thinker. If she doesn't understand something, she stops and thinks until she firgures it out. She's very level-headed, I love it. Enero is huge and gorgeous but a little unsire of himself. I know he's going to explode with me one of these days. I can just tell he needs to get it out of his system, the sooner the better. After that I'm sure he'll be ready to settle down for some more challenging work because he's not stupid by any means.
And then there's Emagine. She's just an unpredictable handful. She's a sweet heart one day and a firecracker the next. They had a photographer come out a few days after I started working to get updated website pics and I got on all the horses to get undersaddle pics. The plan for Emagine was just to hop on and take some standing pics. She needed her teeth done and was having issues with contact with the bit because of it. They had scheduled an appointment to get them done but it was a few days later. So I was just going to sit, not touch her face, snap some pics and get off. Got on and the photographer was chatting so while we were standing, Emagine just lost it and took off bucking down the rail. She stopped and I got my feet out of the stirrups. Then she reared and started back the other way so I jumped off. In any other case I would have rodden it out and got her head up and her moving forward, but I couldn't touch her face for fear she'd go over backwards on me. I proved to myself that day that I was smart enough to draw a line and know when to take a loss. I'll fight tat battle another day, when I'm on even ground.
Other than that, it's been a fun time. The horses are all Popeye K and Escudo lines so they're beautiful and move great. Echo is already trotting ccrossrails like a pro so hopefully he'll be ready for the baby greens in August and I'll get to show him. When he was a yearling they did the Hunter Breeding classes and he was Champion at several largfe shows (HITS, Central FL, Fox Lea). They have another pro rider out there who rides all the older jumper mares that I'm kind of comepteing with, but Echo is smaller and I'm only 5'2 and the owners always comment on how I fit him so well. But if they do pass him or any of the others onto the pro guy, I won't be upset. I'm far from the best so for me it's just nice getting paid to do something I love and learn some new stuff while doing it. I don't really ever throw in the towel or pass on a horse, but I don't hold a grudge if someone gives it to someone else. I just look to the next thing and focus on doing the best I can there.

Deer Run Stables said...

I keep joking that I need a carrot on a fishing pole for the Cute Spotted StallionAhahaha! I'm *so* going to market that as the next $99 natural horsemanship gadget...

Is it easier to just ride in a halter so she can eat easier, or does it matter? Amy: It depends. Are you safe if you ride her in a halter? Can you do a one-rein stop, even if she's upset? If the answer is "sure, I ride her in a halter all the time", then by all means, go for it. Otherwise, don't. Just use a nice medium-weight snaffle, and no noseband (which might make it uncomfortable to chew).

Trust me, a LBI can find a way to eat during the middle of a nuclear war. A snaffle won't slow her down at all.

Have fun, and let us know how it goes!

Allyson said...

I generally start my own, as you know. But I sent my mare to training after I lightly backed her. I sent her for a couple of reasons: #1 fear of strangers- she needs to learn to cope in the hands of others. #2 I felt like i was pussyfooting around her, and there were times i could feel her ball up. She never did explode with me, and that, frankly, scared me because I know she may one day. So that psyched me out. i do not work with her consistently enough to feel prepared to handle that, or to let it dissipate. I was her problem so off she went to school.

I knew that type of issue scares me, and I knew i didn't want to deal with it. I prefer horses that wear their hearts on their sleeves-if they are scared, just spook and get it out there. don't internalize, please, cuz that just psyches me out! i know its in there somewhere, and what i dont know is what will trigger the ever mounting explosion.

she hasn't exploded with the trainer- but the trainer can feel it, though it is dissipating with each ride- she relaxes quickly now and goes to work. So, sweaty pads and consistent rides are working for her. So really, i was right to fear her. my riding schedule could've gotten me landed in the hospital.

I personally believe that once you think you are in danger- you are. Your brain and body start working differently in that mode- and it does effect the horse. And at that point, its time to seek help- whether it be from a trainer, some time off for re-evaluation, re-gaining confidence from a source. Sometimes all i need is to talk it out with someone and I go back prepared.

Amy said...

Deer Run- thanks for all your help! I think I am going to start today- I formulated a plan before bed last night. I am going to ride in a halter, just on my property- she's good in a halter unless she gets seriously scared, and that's usually only out-and-about. Even then I can stop her, it just takes some muscle.

But, if I go to ride her down the driveway, she is so freakin lazy. Like, walk two steps, stop. And then I have to move up my phases until she's getting popped with the over-under, to get her to move two more steps. Everytime. It seriously takes like 10 mins to get down the driveway. So, two bowls of food and driveway, here we come! My trainer has suggested food as well for the driveway problem, and I think this is the perfect way to do it!

Thanks again!

Shadow Rider said...

I don't train for other people, just mine, but I have gotten in a couple of horses that would do their best to nail you when you go to pick up their feet. Not the usual 'don't want to pick them up' or a green horse not knowing what you want, or a mare just being 'marish', No, a horse turning themselves into a C or going backwards just to get you with no warning. Since I am recycling horses for beginner riders, I pass on these horses. I've had 2, one a paint, then other a QH.

I also don't do horses that seriously buck. Rearing, crowhopping, and little bucks I can ride through, no problem. That's just protest or yippie. But a horse that will swap ends and do it's best to get you off, nope, don't even bother. Doesn't matter if I can ride it or not. I can't afford to break anything, and I'm not going to sell a horse I know is unsafe or 'iffy.'

and FYI the horse doesn't have to buck you off to do the damage, a friend was schooling one of my recycles, and he went to bucking. She never came off, but he bucked so hard, she sprained both ankles and a wrist. She gave up before him, or they may have fractured.

Deer Run Stables said...


I'm excited for you and your mare, and I *love* your enthusiasm! LBI's can be amazing horses when they are working with you instead of against you. Keep us posted on how things go!

BubbaLove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BubbaLove said...

I usually take care of my own issues. But it is smart to send a horse to someone else before allowing him to get away with a behavior such as bucking someone off. I had a TB at one time that was at a road block with his training. He had been under saddle for quite sometime, but was not consistent. I could feel that he always thought that he held the cards when it came to me being in the saddle. He was an angel for ground work, but thought he was the leader once I was in the saddle. He wanted to buck and get snotty. My efforts of redirecting his energy or going back to ground work was just not working with this colt. He had it in his mind that bucking was the funnest thing he could think of and I could feel that he was determined to try it out. So I never pushed beyond that point knowing my own skill. Instead I found someone with a Velcro seat and let them push him to that point. I was correct in the assessment of this horse. He bucked a few good bucks, the guy stayed on and corrected him and it has never been a problem since. I would not generally use the reasoning that a horse needs to buck a little bit in order to learn not to buck, but it worked well for this horse and then we could finally move on with his training. He realized that it wasn't as much fun as he had imagined I guess! He was a smart cookie.

I am not a fan of the horse that will rear over backwards either. My big draft colt did that the other day and had me a little shaken. His size had never intimidated me until a couple of days ago when I had to imagine what it was going to feel like when he went over on top of me. Fortunately I got him under control, before that happened, but it definitely made me think about want I want to deal with and what I don't.

For a draft he is very spooky. He saw something the other day that scared the pee out him and since I would not let him spin and run, his answer was to rear up, way up and he started to sway over backwards, but caught himself. At that moment I was really contemplating what it was going to feel like to have a 1700 lbs horse jam a saddle horn into my chest. And that is the moment when his size and height started to make a difference in my bravery. I had never felt like throwing in the towel before, and I don't like the feeling very much at all.

Princess Jess said...

LOL Fugly- I have actually done that "carrot on a fishing pole" (well, longe whip) trick with my ancient Saddlebred.

I remembered trying it with him when we were both younger, so last month while Katie and I were riding around bareback late at night just for fun, I thought I'd try it again.

Still works. ;)

mugwump said...

I have sent a few horses back. There was a blue roan hancock mare I got twelve rides on. She was lazy, a little sullen, but not too bad. I had walked and trotted her and couldn't get the forward on her I needed to lope. So I put my assistant up on her so I could watch her go and look for lameness issues or soreness I wasn't feeling. Oops. She bucked my assistant off so hard she flew probably 20 feet.
I knew there was no way I could stick her buck, and it was like a light had turned on. She was angry.
There was a young cowboy on the place who was quite proud of his ability to ride broncy horses.
I asked him if he would try to ride the buck out of her. He got out a stout pony horse, we snubbed up the mare to the horn and he got on. I was able to get him ponied around all right. She licked her lips and relaxed, he said let her go, and she blew up as soon as I let her loose. He lasted six jumps.
We talked about it and agreed she was beyond us. I turned her back to the owner.
I did help her find a trainer who would take her. He was well respected and trained out of the T-Cross. It took him a year and a broken arm to get the mare going. I have never regretted refusing to ride her. I know my limits.

Deer Run Stables said...


Capri is under contract! She's going to go live in Florida-- lucky little thing. :-)

The log-jam of unsold horses is broken!

PrairieFarmer said...

Glad I clicked on the VLC link from fugly...this topic has been on my mind and Fugly (Cathy) if you see this and have any thoughts (I know you had polo experience), would love to hear it...
Got this new "retired' polo pony mare, 20 year old TB with a bowed tendon injury that has healed but no more high performance sorta work for her. Probably off track at one point but don't know for sure. She is sweet in the pasture, a bit pushy for food but not bad and a likes to test a bit on the ground but again nothing horrible. Smart. Unties herself. Watches EVERYTHING.
Started trailriding her which is probably a relatively new thing for her. No big problems generally, no spook, but really willing, REALLY wants to go (She's 20? Acts like she's 5!). I'd like to go slow - to start at least, which granted is alien concept for her. Tired arms after first few trail rides, but not impossible. I switched her from snaffle to kimberwick with a draw rein to see if a bit better response. She was better on the pulling but started with this habit of a lunging out and up sort of rear when on the way home (so basically, not "rearing" to protest leaving home but "rearing" to protect not being allowed to race home). Like trying to take off for a race. She doesn't run through the bit, she is sensitive to it, so that energy when she wants to take off seems to be going "up." First time she did it no big deal, I controlled her and then she settled right down and walked home no problems.
2nd time, a different story. Kinda like the video posted only about times 10 on the richter (rearing) scale. Been out for a while with a friend. Windy day (not good). We had been heading toward home but when my friend turned away toward her place and I kept going home the mare really started trying to "lunge" out toward home. Again, I controlled her but she started really freaking out and lunging and rearing high. I stayed on. But when the rearing stopped, she was just "gone." Staring into space and not moving, just quivering. I tried to let her settle and push her out slowly and she would go back immediately into this rearing thing. The 3rd time she was going even higher so I bailed (I had a horse come over backwards once, frightening). Walked her home (cuz I can barely get on her with the mounting block).
So now at a bit of a loss. I've never used a trainer because, well, never really had an issue that really needed one and never started my own horse. Granted between work and what not haven't been able to get back at it. Also, I know "tie-downs" are such a HUGE no-no these days but I can pretty much guarantee this mare has been ridden her whole life in one (as per polo pony gear). I haven't had her in one (I'd like to go without, for sure), but now thinking switch her back to snaffle with tie-down and work her like that and see. I'm suspicious that she is pretty sensitive to the bit and the kimberwick with the draw rein was too much when she was freaking out. She also tends to get VERY high headed when she gets excited about going. But because she has been a polo horse, getting into more contact only serves to get her more excited (and confused). I don't care to be riding dressage on her, I just want to be able to go for a trail ride and feel like she's not going to wig out on the way home! And I like riding with a nice loose rein, as long as I can feel confident she won't take advantage of that by leaping off toward home!
If I can't work her through this, yeah, I'll probably "throw in the towel," I'm not going to risk life and limb. But I hope not, really like this mare in many ways, and she doesn't have a lot of options otherwise.

Deer Run Stables said...


I have an opinion on this, but I know you weren't asking me. From reading your post, I think we probably have rather different philosophies on horsemanship, and I'm not sure if my suggestions would be helpful to you.

If you are open to the touchy-feely natural horsemanship mumbo jumbo, I'd be happy to throw some thoughts out there. Otherwise, let me just say kudos for taking on an older mare, especially one with previous health issues. I wish more people would do what you did.

PrairieFarmer said...

DeerRun Stable -
I would love to hear your opinion. I always want to hear it all and am not opposed to incorporating techniques that may be different than what I grew up with. (Some of the stuff I read about rearing was the "hit them over the head" sort of route. I don't think that is the why to go with this mare, although I DO need to make sure she knows I'm the dominant one and hence, she can trust MY decisions how I get to that point is regardless...).
Taking horse advice, I think, is like taking kid/baby advice - listen to it all, then take what works for you and your situation!

PrairieFarmer said...

Correct to previous post, whoever is reading...I switched the mare from a snaffle to a pelham (jointed, with rubber, short - not long - shank for draw rein). Not kimberwick. Sorry - I keep switching the names on those 2 bits (a memory lapse I'm suffering more and more, attributed directly to my children...).

horsin2much said...

My 10 yr old QH/TB showed some very dangerous barn sour behavior the other day - refused to go forward a little ways down the road from my barn. Rapidly backing up toward the deep ditch, bucking when hit with the whip, kicking at my legs when I applied pressure to go forward. Didn't matter that we were with another horse. The only way we could get him to go forward was to have the other rider pony him along. this lasted the entire 2 hour ride until we turned back home. This was blatant disrespect for the rider. He is my dressage horse and last summer did not display such refusal. I just got him last summer and he has had the whole winter off. That stretch of road is too dangerous for me to work on this so I either have to never trail ride him or get rid of him. I am afraid tho, that he may show this behavior elsewhere, like at a show. considering throwing in the towel - there are a lot of other horses in the world that are more agreeable -

Amy said...

Deer Run- I posted on my blog some of the progress with your suggestions. Thanks!

Drillrider said...

PrairieFarmer: I have a mare that would try to take off towards home, calling to her friends, jiggedy-jiggedy, pulling on the reins. So...every single time she tried to take off, whinney or get jiggedy, I turned her "away" from home and we cantered for about 20 yards, then turned towards home again, if there was more nonsense, we cantered away from home again. It took about 30-40 minutes of this, but by the time I was done, she WALKED home on a loose rein, was totally quiet and has been better ever since then. She learned that behaving got her back to the barn and her horsey friends LOTS faster than being naughty!

Karen V said...

I have returned a horse that LAUNCHED me. I gave him a month, and assessed the physical/dental, and had a trainer work with him. He was never going to be trust worthy.

I have sold a GORGEOUS colt I'd had since he was a yearling. Once he came home from the trainer, we did NOT click. he was never "bad", he just didn't feel right.

I sold a DEAD BROKE show horse to a 13 yr old. I was intimidated by his size, she thought he was the coolest thing EVER! It was a good match!

My new mare tossed a friend this weekend. I got on and rode her for an hour, no trouble. We click.

PrairieFarmer said...

Drillrider -
Thanks. I'm thinking something along the lines of this. What kinda threw me was that she was "lunging/rearing" in an attempt to take off toward home. Kinda the "bolt out the starting gate" scenario yet when I didn't let her go (she is sensitive in the mouth), then she justed started going up, up, up.... My normal response with a rearing/balky horse is to push them forward but this was one was confusing to me because I was afraid if I did do the big kick to push her through it, then she would REALLY go and leave me sitting in the dust, not to mention that was rewarding the behavior in the first place cuz this was exactly what she wanted to do...
Anyways, my current thought is to put her back in snaffle, school her in arena to get her to start relaxing and get head down without an aid. And also try her with a tie-down on for trail riding (again, remember this mare has most likely never been ridden without one, except for maybe when she was on the track! and has never learned to work into the bit plus has probably never been trail ridden!) and work on the going home issue and keep her moving/moving/moving, but in the opposite direction, when this behavior starts. And, hopefully be able to merge these two positives together so I can trail ride her securely without a tie-down...

Deer Run Stables said...

Amy: Sounds like progress is being made. That's great!

PrairieFarmer: Here are my thoughts... my tendency is to try to puzzle out the underlying reason for a horse's behavior, and address that, whereas, in the horse world in general, I often see problems addressed technically-- if the horse does *this* problem behavior, you should use *this* set of aids, or piece of equipment, or exercise in order to make it impossible for the horse to continue engaging in the behavior.

Your post describes (to me, at least!) a prey animal who is desperately fearful, and is trying frantically to return to a place where she feels safe. She *knows* that she is separated from the herd (after the other horse left), alone, defenseless, and she could be killed and eaten by predators if she doesn't get back to safety *right now*.

To her mind, getting to safety is a completely rational goal, and one that any animal with an ounce of sense would share in her situation. But she's carrying a predator on her back, and every time she tries to hurry back to safety, this predator tries to stop her. She's been trained to believe that this kind of two-legged predator won't kill and eat her, but it's getting harder and harder to remember that training when the predator is trying to force her to stay in (what she perceives as) a blatantly unsafe situation.

So she fights. She doesn't fight because she wants to hurry home to her nice clean stall and get some grain, she fights because she thinks she is in danger of being pounced on by a hidden cougar or pack of wolves and eaten alive.

Pretend you're a 5ft, 100lb female, walking through the meanest neighborhood in Calcutta in the middle of the night. Your last friend just left you as you passed her house. You're alone. You have no weapon. Every time you pass an alley, you think you see movement out of the corner of your eye, or hear murmured, indistinct male voices. How do you feel? Where do you want to be? How fast do you want to get there?

That's how she feels on a trail ride. Horses like this can only be comfortable on trails and in unfamiliar surroundings if they believe that their human is a herd member who is better suited and more trustworthy at judging whether a situation is safe than they are... to the point that they just defer judgment and say "If you say it's okay, then it must be okay."

That exalted leadership position can take a long time to get with a 20 year old mare who clearly thinks that she's on her own-- every horse for herself.

If she were my mare, I probably wouldn't try to address the issue on the trail, but the two avenues that you might try (both of which will get you laughed out of a "normal" horse barn) are trail walks (leading and later, ground driving on the trail) and exploring thresholds.

At some point, leaving the stable, you reached a place where she said "I was comfortable and felt safe up until this point; now I'm afraid". It's probably quite close to the barn, and I can almost guarantee that you blew right through it and didn't even realize it was there. That's a threshold. Sometimes, great strides can be made in horse-rider trust and leadership by playing with those thresholds, using approach and retreat until the threshold becomes not-so-scary, and expands to a new place 20ft down the road. This is incredibly difficult for most people, because it feels slow and silly and like you're not making any progress, but it can be incredibly meaningful for horses who lack confidence.

Just my two cents worth. Good luck with her, and let us know how things go.

PrairieFarmer said...

Deer Run -
That's not such touchy-feely! I thought you were going to have me dance around her naked in the moonlight and "click" her everytime she spooked at my big white naked butt!
Hah! But, yeah, I think there is an element of this reaction in that. Generated by the fact that I'm asking her to do something she isn't so used to - i.e. a lot of walking around in unusual places going from point A to point B, mostly slow. She is used to, tack up, go, go, go, in an arena or large field setting and then finish untack, maybe tied up to a trailer for an hour and then hauled home. I also think she is VERY smart, likes to "test" and one of those horses that could turn mean with somebody who let her get away with bad behaviors not because she was inherently evil but because she figures if you aren't in charge, than she better be. This behavior started as probably a combo of naughtiness/fear/TB "OMG" excitement (going away from home, she is quite calm and walks nicely) and, when it progressed, yeah, she was totally freaked. (My friend with me actually thought she was spooking at something, but I knew she wasn't). This actually was one of the reasons I decided to bail out of the moment - I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere with her and just sticking on a horse because I could isn't always the smartest idea.
I have noted with her, that she actually seems more confident walking around our farm when I'm riding her than when I'm leading her! I rode her one day (before the big blow up) and she looked, but I easily pushed her past a combo of kids on bikes, ducks, geese, etc...but when I hopped off her to lead her back to the barn and I lead her by the same stimulus she was MUCH more freaked out about them. That was interesting. In the pasture she doesn't spook at things but she notices and LOOKS at everything (which he old QT pasture mate never notices, he just sees her looking and then he is like, what????). Also, because she was a polo pony (most recently collegiate level), she has most likely been ridden by LOADS of different folks but likely hasn't ever been given the time to bond with any one rider.
Anyways, I like your suggestions. Will go forward with them and nobody here to laugh at me (not that I would care anyways...). But I'm still tempted to try the naked/clicker dance thing, kinda sounds fun.

Bonnie said...

I don't think sending a horse off (if you're an owner) to a trainer is necessarily 'throwing in the towel'.

I did the same with my colt. I've had my Very Large Paint since his yearling days and have gone through most of the 'traumatic' things with him - gelding, moving homes, etc. He came to me very well handled with as much of a foundation as a yearling can have and I put the rest of that foundation on him through his 4th birthday when I rode him for the first time. He was late maturing and I had a pregnancy interrupt my training time with him - all the better for future soundness. All that said, it was my goal to take him from start to finish, but there came a point that I realized not only did I not have the stamina to polish him off, but my fear issues and his consistent baby-behaviors (testing, walking through the bit, etc) were more than I had the experience to handle. I simply did not know what to do about that and what to expect as a result and that made my confidence issues worse. So, by the grace of God, I found a fantastic, stubborn, wonderful, kind trainer who took him for 45 days and, while he's not 'finished' he's definitely closer and knows more than most of the horses I've ever ridden. He needs miles and experience still but we're off to a great start together.

Bonnie said...

deer run - the previous owner to my first mare did that with her to help her herd sourness - they'd go on trail, she'd drop the bit out (she had one of those awful halter/bridle combos, useful for this and this only, lol) and let her graze on trail. after that, she'd always go out ears pricked, because, you know hey, she might get to munch! really helps those 'allergic to work' - most of the time they think the cure for that allergy is more food!

Deer Run Stables said...

But I'm still tempted to try the naked/clicker dance thing, kinda sounds fun.

ROFL! You should build a "training" system around that concept, and market it with DVDs and little booklets for the low low price of $999.95. You'll make millions!

really helps those 'allergic to work' - most of the time they think the cure for that allergy is more food!

Bonnie: Tucker wanted me to let you know that he agrees wholeheartedly with this sentiment!

badges blues N jazz said...

That picture you posted is what my horse Jazz does! it is surprisingly easy to stay on though, as the head stays up. IF she were to drop her head and buck, I would definatley be eating dirt.

Rearing: If a horse reared or was an all out bronc, I would definatley send it to a trainer.

Equus Spirit said...

Answer--if you are scared, GET OFF! The first time it crosses your mind. Now--I'm assuming that is not you in that picture. That horse is trying to tell somebody that his tack is pinching the sorry hell out of him or that something else is badly wrong. How do I know? Because a normally well mannered horse does NOT do things like that. Mine didn't. UNTIL, that is, he got a case of hoof wall separation that made it too painful for him to carry my weight. Then he bucked--something he never did before and hasn't since. This is a high energy horse, too. A sensitive animal will eventually get to the point that they will-for all practical purposes--pick up a log and bash you over the head and say--Now, will you listen?

I'd bet he's been trying to tell you something and you've been busy with something else. Happened to me--very humbling experience!

Capilet said...

Londoner- I was where you are about 6 years ago, I'm glad you've made it to your epiphany relatively unscathed--I didn't!

The first horse I fully threw in the towel and passed on was a gorgeous, tri-color pinto QH/Arab mare. She had spent quite a few years as a pasture ornament for no reason I was offered. If I remember properly, she was around 12 and about 15hh. Sweet, a bit shy, and very food motivated. She worked nicely on the ground and in the round pen with me aboard.

I proceeded to riding her in the arena. She was still a bit 'new' but not bad by any stroke of the imagination. She walked, trotted, and steered relatively well.

Her second or 3rd ride in the big arena, my friend who had been working her mare, left the arena to head out to do some homework, etc.

The mare's brain turned off. Just, click, she was gone. She started flying around the arena at a very agitated trot, and I almost got her stopped. Then she backed up, touched the wall with her bum and FREAKED. She reared up,twisted around, and came down on top of me. I tried to bail, but it happened so fast. (I was also riding in a borrowed circle Y--I grew up riding hunters).

Only really my leg was under her 1400lbs, but that was enough for me --I whapped my head a bit, but I'm a helmet nazi, so I was ok on that front. It has taken a good three years and a lot of PT for me to be able to compete at low level dressage again and be physically comfortable. We still don't know if I'll ever be able to handle riding jumpers again.

I knew that I could not fix that mental switch of hers, as it was just complete and utter disconnect.

A few years later, and I'm finishing the retraining of a gelding with a really similar story. Buckley had a similar personality as well in the beginning, sweet and shy. While we have hit some nasty bumps along the way--including a couple rearing sessions and a nasty buck/kick at the air problem--he can always be engaged and is coming along brilliantly for a re-run guy.

The other two 'pass' horses I have known/worked with were a pair of Trakheners owned by a woman I was riding for. The one mare, whose mother and half sister are very sweet, smart horses, is a sneaky, mean bucker. She was sent to a trainer at one point who couldn't handle her, and its semi-cemented. She will rear, bronc and bolt the instant you put weight in the stirrup. PASS!
The other is a recently gelded, 8 year old trak who is GORGEOUS and has beautiful gaits--think almost Andy gaits, but the forward of a TB added. He is also blind in one eye, and HOT. PASS and GIVE TO A COMPETENT TRAINER as a project. I'm just not that fearless anymore!

Serendipity said...

Ah, this post brings back memories.

I made the mistake some years ago when I bought the redhead, in that he was a green horse and I'd never ridden anything other than dead-broke older schoolies for twenty years. After a few relatively blissful months, he tossed me. Then he continued to toss me because the little prick had my number and it was a game for him.

He was so good at it that at one point while I was nursing my sore backside, my mother asked me if I wanted to continue. I told her I hadn't bought him to dump him when we hit a rough spot.

To make a very long story short, I ended up taking some more lessons, and learned how to stop him from doing that. He hasn't been cowhopping much lately because it rarely works now. We've got an odd relationship. He figures out a new way to dump me, and I learn how to stay on when he tries it. Rinse and repeat ad nauseum.

His new thing the last couple years is bolting. He'll act fine and then at some random point (usually at the beginning or middle of a canter) will take off like a bastard.

After being one-reined for a while, he learned to be a noodle-neck and gallop sideways. He eventually realized I wasn't letting him off, and now he likes to slam on the breaks and spin on his front end. If he's feeling particularly good he'll throw some high-speed cowhopping into the middle of that. He's not malicious, just an asshole at times. If he was truly out for blood I'd have him euthanized. Oddly enough he's always an angel at shows. It's just at home that he's a dickhead.

I wouldn't look down on a trainer who passed a horse along to someone else any more than I would a rider who rehomed a horse that made them feel unsafe. There is always someone better.

Cut-N-Jump said...

I hardly pop in here, but this is a good subject.

I can add a few things from the other side of the fence, if you will.

But it is smart to send a horse to someone else before allowing him to get away with a behavior...

That is a biggie! Most people wait too long before sending the horse to someone to 'fix' a problem.

Their ego gets in the way or they just don't realize it has gotten out of hand for what they know how to or are comfortable with correcting. Sometimes it is a minor issue, but emotions get involved and it seems bigger and more difficult than imagined.

The longer you wait, the more of a problem it can become and the harder it can be to fix, if it can be fixed at that point.

When you do finally come to the conclusion that you both need help- not just your riding, not just the horse, but both of you- Be Honest with the trainer as to exactly WHY the horse is coming to them or why they are there.

Give them the chance to send you to someone else if they honestly can't help you, so they don't unintentionally make things worse, or somebody gets hurt.

Trainers despise and abhor the phrase:

"He Neeevvveeer did that at home!"

and especially the people who say it.

Yeah, sure. I just bet the horse never did that before in their life. Hard to believe since all the classic signs are there that this is a habit, not a new trick.

And yes, after they do something a few times it can become a habit, good or bad. What you consider not a big deal, may be a dealbreaker to potential buyers if you should ever have to sell the horse.

All reasonable things to keep in mind. How many things can you think of in your own line of work, that could be prevented or fixed easily, if only it had been brought to you from the beginning or as soon as the issue started?

Faedyn said...

I can say for a fact that bolting is now a classic fear of mine.

See, I made a gigantic mistake. I sent my greenie to a girl recommended by my trainer to start canter work under saddle (to this day I'm not sure why I agreed to this...not like I was a rank beginner). Anyways, said girl was supposed to call me after every ride. A week passes with no call, and I've left multiple messages.

So I go to my weekly lesson on said greenie, and it goes well - he's on contact, round, bending, moving forward. Basically did everything as asked of him. I'm a trusting rider - this horse has always been very quiet under saddle. My 3rd time on him I laid back and put my head on his butt with a loose rein and he did not move. I always walk my horses out on a lose rein...or I did, anyways.

This time, he went from half asleep to dead gallop before I could blink. No warning. I was solid in the saddle but my brain went blank, so I asked my trainer what to do (hoping for a refresher like circle or pulley rein...something!). I didn't get that. I fell, and then I got trampled by my 1000 lb pony with shoes. Out of commission for 3 weeks with a banged up knee (thankfully no broken bones).

After my fall I come to find out that a) he started bolting with the girl recommended by my trainer; b) she fell and broke her wrist after the 4th ride.

So basically, what started as a fear response to pressure (my opinion - he wasn't balanced enough to canter under saddle and she pushed him) then turned into an evasive tactic because it worked - she fell every time.

My confidence was severely shaken for years, even after I paid for a "big name trainer" to work it out of him (successfully) and sold him to a talented young rider with a very experienced trainer who were fully aware of his old habits. To this day if a horse gets quick I tense up.

Lessons learned:

1) Trust your gut instinct. No one knows your horse better then you.
2) Never let someone you don't know get on your horse, even if recommended by someone you trust and respect, without serious research including watching them work and references.
3) When your trainer lets you down, TELL THEM. If they don't acknowledge your feedback, replace them.

Denali said...

It amazes me what a green horse can do to your confidence as a rider. I bought my FIRST horse finally last July. (Long story, see her blog) and she magically turned from an Appendix to an OTTB (bought at auction) I honestly wouldn't have it any other way. I didn't have to worry about backing her for the first time or getting her use to the bit. I did throw the towel in, in March. I handed her over to a trainer who can consistently work her everyday rather than me trying to get out there and work with her. It has made a world of difference. The trainer has me come out and work with her two, and I get report cards on her progress. It's more money, but in the long run I'll have a very nice finished horse rather than the demolition derby horse that I had for so long!

Ana said...

I've only been riding for about seven years (off & on; it's probably more like four or five years altogether) so I still don't feel entirely comfortable dealing with big issues. I'm alright with a little bit of bucking if it's just a mare convinced that someone is in her personal bubble; but I do get nervous if I feel like I can't stop and/or turn if I need to. There's one mare that I've been riding that does have problems with steering, so I've been spending quite a bit of time just walking & trotting when I'm on her, trying to get her to understand the concept of corners & that arena fences are not an excuse to do a shoulder-out.

amarygma said...

On my own horse, I hop off as soon as I feel the situation getting dangerous.

Luckily though when I remount he's successfully rebooted his walnut-brain.

badges blues N jazz said...

"I'd bet he's been trying to tell you something and you've been busy with something else. Happened to me--very humbling experience!"

If that was directed at me, beleive me, I have ruled out all pain issues with my mare. She is just a horse with extreme "tude"

JohnieRotten said...

You talk about throwing in the towel as an amateur.

Over the past 30 years as a professional trainer, I have had to send a few horses to other trainers because I was just not able to get along with that particular horse.

No matter what we did, we clashed. Just simply a personality issue.

I showed a stallion, who was a really nice reiner, and I wanted to do well with him. But we just did not hit it off. I talked my client into sending him to a friend of mine, that won a lot with him.

tonje said...
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Nadika said...

I have a friend who fancies himself as a horse trainer... but really he just likes to get himself bucked off. I'd rather start slow and ride my young horses so that they never feel they have to buck or rear (of course every horse is different) but he likes to goad them on and then try to break the habit. It drives me crazy! I can ride out a buck and I'm not one to stay off a horse that has thrown me a few times... but I think ground work and respect are essential. After I get thrown (as long as the horse's attitude was involved) I use a round pen to start at the basics and work back up. If I fall off because I wasn't paying attention and the horse spooked and bucked and I went flying... no punishment for that. But if it happens more than once I go back to ground work for a bit.

Nadika said...

Question/Thought - I have my hands on a horse that's a "problem" horse. She'd rear over backwards for no apparent reason, buck randomly in her western pleasure classes, or shake her head and throw herself into a fence- then continue like nothing had happened. We checked out back pain, rider error, teeth issues... the mare was sound. Figured she was just a nut and unpredictable. Well I figured out the mare was HYPP positive. Could it be possible that she's having attacks on her lungs and has troubles breathing, thus causing her to panic and freak out? Any one heard of this before?

amarygma said...

I hate to spam, but I did an auction report and I know how hard it is to reach Fugs.

Canterproductive said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canterproductive said...

I've been backreading this blog, and there was an entry about the SAFE show that really rang a bell for me, and relates directly to this question. You described how you just felt solid on one totally green horse, and another made you so uncomfortable that you got off almost immediately.

Yes. That. That's it exactly.

For me, it's really and truly all about feel. Some horses I feel safe working with, and some I don't, and I've been around horses long enough that I trust my instincts (I'm also not a professional trainer, so I'm not losing any money by saying "thanks, but no thanks").

I try to get a feel for the horse on the first ride and go from there. I have been on alleged buckers who've never offered to buck, and alleged bolters who never bolted once with me. I've been on "safe horses" who've given me the screaming heebie-jeebies with one hesitation or misstep or ear-twitch. I never apologize for getting off that "safe horse" when I get that icky feeling in my gut.

Everyone says I'm crazy for taking my rehab project, a Morgan whose only speed was WARP DRIVE. But I feel safe as anything on that horse. I trust him to bits, and I have a feeling he can tell.

My instincts have been pretty good, so far!

The one thing I won't get on, even for a test ride? A horse that has been confirmed to be a rear-and-flipper. I've never seen a horse successfully rehabbed from that habit (I've heard about it being done, but never seen it myself).

I ADMIRE trainers and riders who can evaluate a situation, decide that this job is not for them, and pass the horse along to someone more appropriate.

Shame? HELL NO. I explain with pride that I know very well what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I see no point in putting myself in harm's way for the sake of some fake idea of machismo, or to somehow prove myself to someone who probably couldn't find their own ass with two hands and a flashlight. Most people who try to shame anyone into doing something stupid do, I find, fall into this category.

The minute I hear a 'trainer' boasting that they can fix "anything?" I start walking away. Anyone who's trying to prove that is a) a liar, b) going to hurt themselves or the horse in doing so, and/or c) delusional. No one ever knows EVERYTHING, and I learn something new from each and every horse.

(edited to say: so, yes, I do 'throw in the towel' when I get the heebies on a horse. But that usually happens long before anything drastic actually happens.)

Katie said...

I have NO problems throwing in the towel now. I used to stick it out and work through the issues.

The horse that I had before my current one(Who is a ANGEL) was inconsistent. I bought him because he was pretty. YES I said it, he was pretty. I should have tkane the first hint that he was wrong for me that during a clinic with Lynn Palm he bolted and we did circles around the ring. I also had no stirrups so that was even more fun. I didn't fall off somehow..but it wasn't fun. So I was really scared of him.

So after that dumb self kept leasing him. I LOVED him and I got pushed into buying him.

So I kept working with him for two years. I did get him going good in Walk/Trot and that was it. He was very responsive to me and if anyone else got on him he would go insane.

I ended up switching barns because of issues with barn manager. I think that I was just looking for a reason to get rid of him when the worse bolt yet happened. I had cantered him nicely both directions which was HUGE progress. Well BO wanted to see him canter again. That was to much for that little brain of his and he bolted outright. I got thrown into the jump and messed up my back.

Horse got evaluated by 3 professionals and all siad the same thing. HE is to much horse for a working ammatuer. I signed him over to BO for 1.00 and moved on. I started leasing my current horse right after that. I got on him and walk/trot/cantered both directions and he didn't try to maim me at all.

It has taken a year to get my confidence back to the point that I can canter to the left without tension. We gallop through the fields and go for trail rides. I still tense when in a group of 15-20 horses but that will better. I can now canter jumps and not worry about him doing a dirty stop, or bolting after a jump.

Old horse went to a farm in VA and is a fox hunter. HE LOVES it. He can gallop and no one is trying to stop him. The rider is a very experienced rider and understands how he works. During the off season the wife baby's the horse which he does love. On the ground old horse was a total lover it was just under saddle that he was scarey.

SO now...I will get help before it gets to bad. I also will not buy a hrose on looks alone.

icepony said...

Having to laugh a bit at this one, as I'm in the process of "throwing in the towel" right now. Sort of. I've had my gelding for a year now, and when I got him, he was hungry and neglected, and a really easy ride. Now full of food and daily attention, that's another story!

I bought him as a dressage prospect, and it turns out I was right and wrong at the same time. Right in that he has turned from a certifiable klutz into an athletic thing of beauty. Wrong in that he hates, hates, HATES arena work. Did I mention he hates it? Yes, he does. He wants to be...wait for endurance horse!

Lucky for him, my BO is an endurance rider. So I sucked it up and realized that I will never make him into a dressage horse, and he is an EXCEPTIONAL endurance prospect. High percentage Arabian, 15 mph trot, incredible recovery rate, and absolutely no quit to him. I'm now paying my BO to train/condition him, and he's going to his first competitive ride next weekend. In the meantime, I've been doing all the "general good citizen" work with him. We've worked through a lot of issues, from not leading at all to agressive behavior on the lunge. He is not quite a delight to be around, but he's getting close.

I will never be an endurance rider; I'm scared spitless to ride him on the trail. He will never be a dressage horse, although he does lovely half-pass at the canter and can extend a trot like nobody's business. Square pegs, round holes, and all that jazz.

So my version of towel-throwing means finding him a competitive endurance home. Yes, I'm selling him, and yes, it will break my heart, as I've fallen in love with him sometime in the past year. But he needs a different rider, and I think catering to his needs will ensure him a much happier life. Next weekend will tell all: if he's successful, there are already a few people who are watching him. Keep your fingers crossed, please - he's an awesome horse who deserves a home where he can shine doing what he loves to do.

Monica said...

I was wondering how your colt was doing. I haven't seen an update in a while and was curious.

HorsesAndTurbos said... beat me to it. I was going to ask the same!


icepony said...

Quick update on my "throwing in the towel" with the wannabe endurance horse a few posts back. He's now been to 2 rides, and done VERY well in both of them! He placed 3rd out of 41 horses in the first, which was 30 miles, and was begging for more. A week later, I sent him to the Big Horn 55 and he placed 3rd again, only 3 minutes behind the winner! His vet scores have also been excellent; at the Big Horn, he missed Best Condition by only 2 points. We've found his niche...he LOVES this! Now I just have to find the appropriate endurance home for him.

arabian1999 said...

my 3yr old qh was doing great! i was riding him bareback.but put a saddle on him and get on he would buck and bolt i was stumped went back to the basics had a vet out that led to a chiro looking at him and it was discovered he had a twist in his spine by his pelvis hes all better now and a new horse!.no more bucking bolt hes going out 4 miles three times a week on the trails and hes only got 19 rides on him and doing great!

sonic1015 said...

I have a horse that, to this day, has a mounting issue from being broke improperly. I can get on him without incident (usually), but my coach says I can't pay him enough to ride him. Despite my attempts to convince him, I respect his decision; he knows that if they do clash, he could undo months of rehab on him.

On a side note, you do realize that by closing the comments on fhotd, they'll eventually just come over here... blogger widgets, and you might find a nice online chat with a "flag" feature :)

SFTS said...

sonic1015 wrote:
On a side note, you do realize that by closing the comments on fhotd, they'll eventually just come over here...
- - - - - - - -

Actually, I am surprised that hasn't happened yet.

Cathy, come on, let us all know how the VLC is doing! Pictures too, please! :)

Anonymous said...

Do we have a VLC update coming soon? Pretty, pretty please?

Tami said...

I see this blog hasn't been updated in quite some time...I wish it were, I just found it and read the whole thing start to finish and it is just what I needed. I am a 40 year old re-rider that got hurt on my Standardbred/Arab mare several years ago. I threw in the towel until my 12 year old son suddenly got into horses. He bought a 15 year old (big) POA gelding for himself and I broke down and purchased a 16 year old ex-field trial Tennessee Walker for myself. Both these horses are dead broke, but I find myself flinching six inches up into the air if they blow snot! What is wrong with me? I, like VLC's mom, used to ride anything with legs and now I am afraid of both these gentle boys.

equus said...

tami: i hear you. i upgraded a half-arab two years ago and last year went off (my own fault), ending up with a slight concussion. i have been riding for 51 years now and have hit the dirt many times, just not in the last 28 years. and it hurts as much as i thought it would. anywho, i got right back on after falling and rode for about 10 minutes when the horse became scared and tensed up and i really freaked out. i was sure i was going to fall again (second time in 10 minutes, dear lord!), but i managed to dismount. it has shaken my confidence to the nth degree. i had my hubby lead dusty around with me on him once since the accident, but i sincerely could not wait to get off of him. and so far this year i haven't been on him. i hired a 17 year old girl to put miles on him and he is coming along swimmingly.... but i still can't get on him. i ride my other horse, but my confidence is even a little shaky on her, and i have had her over 20 years and she never makes a wrong move. so, i know where you are coming from. lousy feeling. hang in there, i am.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what has happened to the VLC .
Where is he at and how is he doing?

Has anyone noticed besides me that
this blog stopped a at the same
month as Fugly Wenches blog?

Jenn said...

So what's up with the colt? Did he settle in at the trainers?

I'm on tenterhooks... you went from Apr 27 to May 20, then nada.

Did the trainer fry him? (because, c'mon, if he was handling okay for you, she should have been able to replicate that, yes?)

Serendipity said...

I want to hear how the VLC is doing like everyone else, but I'm also a fan of the Old Bat. I want more COB updates!