Monday, October 25, 2010

Breaking & Training, Horse Behavior Issues

Hi. I have a question about a horse of mine that I hope you can answer. I am currently riding a 5 year old thoroughbred/quarterhorse/arabian cross mare and for the most part I enjoy riding her. But every time I bring her to a new place ( we travel a bit going to gymkhanas and barrel racing) she acts up and starts to get excited. She gets very pushy, rude, and I have barely any control over her. The last time I went somewhere with her was about one week ago, and I couldn't do anything with her. I want her to learn how to stand still while I am mounted, but all she does is move like crazy. She refuses to be still, and won't listen to anything I tell her to do. Do you have any ideas on how to fix this? Thank you for your time.

I hope you accept my opinion and consider that it is the best thing for your mare at this moment even though it may interfere with your immediate plans for showing. You should consider it as it sounds as if your mare is just going to get worse and worse and you would have trouble showing her anyway.

Gymkhanas and barrel racing can be overexciting and stimulating to a horse. She is plainly showing you that she is "losing it" when you take her to these events. She is not a happy horse-she is a fearful horse. Horses are basically timid, and their reaction to fear and anxiety is flight or fright. Her level of negative energy is so great that she cannot concentrate on your directions.

My suggestion is to cease all training for games AT THIS TIME. Go back to the basics and gentle ground work like T.E.A.M. She does NOT need round penning.....she needs to start to get a bonding with you again...not to be chased around. After she is soft and listening to you in her ground work, start riding her again thinking of the basics....large circles and transitions, etc. When this is going well, take her in a trailer to a pleasure type horse show and if she is quiet, just ride a bit in the warm up not show. She needs many pleasant experiences to negate the fear memory that has happened to her. Read the chapter on horses in Dr. Temple Grandin's book HOW ANIMALS MAKE US HUMAN.

Your horse is pretty much a baby at five...her breeding includes horses bred to be fairly sensitive and intelligent. Gaming may not be the correct agenda for her and if it is not you need to accept that. Obviously you care about her or you would not write in.

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Even gaming should be done and trained so that a horse accepts it willingly. I have clients who can walk their horses on a loose rein, ride their run, and walk out again on a loose rein. This is a correctly trained gymkhana horse. It is not a pleasure to watch a horse jumping out of his skin run a barrel pattern.

Mitzi Summers

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