View Full Version : Looking for Western riding advice--forums, books, etc.

Oct. 15, 2009, 02:20 PM
I'm new here, and I've mostly lurked in the dressage forum as that's my main interest. I have a mare that I've been using for dressage, but I've come to the realization that her issues (mental, not physical) are severely limiting her ability to do my chosen sport. In other words, what I like to do is not necessarily what she likes to do. Her work ethic is low, and she is explosive and extremely resistant when asked to advance beyond a certain level. Essentially, her issues are holding me back and making her unhappy.

I'm trying to decide what to do with her, and my trainer and I are pondering different options. She's a great mare, and I want to make sure that she ends up with a job that suits her and that gives her the best future. One idea I've been investigating is to send her out for 90 days+ training in a new discipline. She has a hard time accepting contact. She's extremely spooky, explosive, resistant and piggish when asked for strong, direct contact, but she tends to be OK on a loose rein. I think she feels like she isn't trapped. The good news is she can work properly and through her back on a loose rein. So I'm considering sending her for retraining in Western-style riding.

My thought is that I could then use her for trail riding and maybe some low-level showing if she displays any aptitude for the discipline. (I am in the process of finding a more suitable dressage mount.) Or maybe I could find her a home where she could be used in that discipline. She's tends to run a little hotter than I like, but I've begun to wonder if that isn't because she's having a mental breakdown from the contact and her perception of pressure, etc. Her previous situation was not a good one, and I do think it has contributed to her mental state.

I'm trying to be realistic about this mare's future. I feel she has been let down in the past, and I want to make sure that her present and future are the ones she deserves. What happened to her is not her fault, and she is a quick learner and when not having a mental breakdown, tends to be a sweet girl. I spent a year working on her ground manners and getting her to lead, tie and accept routine maintenance without biting, kicking or other horrible behavior. My hope is that once we find the right solution for her job, she will take to the new tasks with the same diligence and good attitude that she took to her ground manners brush-up. I just need to figure out what it is that will be best for her!

I was hoping some of you might be able to recommend some forums, books or other information that could help me evaluate whether or not this idea has merit. I wish COTH had a Western section because I tend to trust the advice I get here. This section seems as close as it gets, so I'm hoping some you trailriding/endurance folks might be able to direct me to some good resources.

Thanks in advance for the help! (And sorry for the long post!)

Oct. 19, 2009, 11:56 AM
I'd find a good, solid, reputable western trainer that has a lot of resources to let the mare try everything, if you want to go that route. Obviously, "explosive" doesn't work in the western ring or trail either, but if it is caused by the heavy contact she could be much happier in western style work.

If you can find someone that will give her a chance to try everything "western" (push cows, trail ride, western pleasure, reining) there are so many different disciplines within the discipline that I'm sure you could fine something that she enjoys.

The trick will be figuring out if that helps her with the issues that make her unsuitable for dressage. And finding a trainer that has what it takes to adequately train/ride all of the different aspects well enough to give her a fair shake and accurate evaluation... Not easy to find a trainer that can do it all well enough for that. But they are out there.

Oct. 19, 2009, 12:36 PM
I strongly suggest that you look for a good NH (natural horsemanship) style trainer and not go to a typical show barn trainer. You know your horse has resistance issues and "baggage". You need to work with a different type of trainer and you may find you have a much, MUCH happier horse and rider.

Try looking at NY and PA links from this web site:


There are many trainers listed and some are well known with good reputations. Think outside of the box. If you think your mare doesn't like dressage she is going to be very unhappy with the run-of-the-mill western show type trainer.


Oct. 19, 2009, 02:51 PM
Thanks for the input everyone!

Cowgirlsoap, I like the idea of letting her try some different activities to see what suits her best. I think once we get past some of her emotional baggage, she will be a great place to do just that. This is a horse that was truly abused--beaten on the head and body with whips, pushed too fast, left to molder in a stall when she was perceived as "bad," so we have our work cut out for us. It's important to me to make sure she has a job she likes so that her future doesn't include a double-decker truck and a slaugherhouse.

Chicamuxen, I'm already headed in the natural horsemanship direction, so your advice couldn't come at a more opportune moment. Thanks for the link. I'm thinking that she needs to be restarted and brought along slowly and with absolute fairness. She does beautifully when I'm not demanding contact from her. I rode her yesterday and today on loose, Western-style contact, and she was light, responsive and not spooky in the least. (She did want to trot a lot, but that's just her forward nature.)

After we got done riding yesterday, she literally pushed her head up against me in the horsey equivalent of a hug, as if to say "thank you for finally listening." It made me realize that while all horses can do the work we ask of them, not all of them want to do it with the same enthusiasm. They're living creatures, not motor vehicles. Sometimes I think it's easy to forget that important difference.

Oct. 19, 2009, 05:35 PM
Sounds like you have some potential resources there in your area. Best wishes finding a path she'll like.

Oct. 19, 2009, 05:41 PM
Are her "mental breakdowns" dangerous or just annoying?

I've heard very good things about this guy: http://www.bobburrelli.com/

Oct. 19, 2009, 05:42 PM
try the pleasure horse forum. www.pleasurehorse.com. Like COTH for western riders!

Oct. 19, 2009, 10:37 PM
I can give you the name of an excellent trainer; Stephanie Lockhart. She trained my horse and she has an uncanny way of knowing exactly what's bothering your horse and what to do about it. Stephanie will know what your horse would be good at. She's kind and gentle, but doesn't take any flack from the horse. I brought my VERY opinionated mare to her. My horse was started out as a foundation horse for a breeding program, and never really got schooled. I've had her for a few years and we've taken some nice trail rides and we've had some battles in the trails too. She's 11 now and I've finally been able to get her to Stephanie, who is up in Morrisville, VT. It took me 8 hours to get to Morrisville, but every minute was worth the trip! I left my mare with her for 2 months and I've got a different horse! She's still got her own personality, but is much more accepting of things now. I went up and stayed in Morrisville for a few days in the beginning of training, a week at the end of the first month and a few days when I went to pick her up. Stephanie emailed or called me almost every day or so with updates.

I highly recommend her! She trains and has experience in many diciplines.

You can Google: Stephanie Lockhart Colonial Spanish Horses and find out more about her. Her number is: 505-340-8376 or email her at: vtblackpony@aol.com

Oct. 19, 2009, 10:39 PM
BTW, Stephanie uses Natural Horsemanship in her training.

Oct. 19, 2009, 11:25 PM
Twofatponies, her breakdowns are probably not dangerous for a more advanced and confident rider, but for me they sometimes get dangerous. She does a spook/whirl combination that is pretty deadly, and she has started bucking, particularly when we introduced the canter. Again, she's not physically in pain in any way that we can diagnose. I know how she was started at the canter (a reliable source was there when it happened), and it was violent and horrible. We suspect her reaction is entirely fear-based. It's sad. I'm just not a good enough or confident enough rider to handle these episodes, and I've had to come to terms with that fact.

I am going to have her scoped for ulcers, just in case. That's the one thing we didn't consider, but it's worth checking. Better to know it isn't that than to let her suffer. Her willingness to work well on a loose rein gives me hope that she can have a good future, though.

My main goal is not to let her down. This is a horse that has been let down so many times by bad training and abusive techniques. I feel like I owe it to her to give her the best shot at a happy future. I'm currently calling and talking to trainers to see who I click with and who I think will have the best program for her. I'll definitely give Bob Burrelli a call. Thanks.

Thanks, Mypaintwattie, for the link. I KNEW there had to be the Western equivalent out there. I just didn't know where to look! :-)