I used to brag at how nice of a horse she was to ride. Lately, since the fall, she will pin her ears, ball up into a tense ball in the very beginnings of a ride. She is NOT moody at all on the ground handling leading or grooming. If asked to trot, she will either sometimes a. cow kick with one leg stamping it on the ground b. toss her head. Like about 15 minutes into the ride, she does settle down somewhat but she still has an attitude. It used to be when she was lunged (which she didn't need much of) she would complain because she had to work. Now, it is starting under saddle. I need to nip this behavior in the bud as I don't appreciate it! BTW, she's had an adjustment, had acupuncture, and has been checked by a horse sports therapist and no recent pain issues have been found. Could this be a hormonal thing?
I know your mare has a long history of chronic issues (I remember vaccine toxicity in there as one of them) and that its an on again off again battle to get circumstances 'just right' for riding. I know you are meticulous about tack fitting and such like as well.
Without ever meeting her its hard to say what's really going on, but remember training problems/issues can be separated into 3 categories:
You have ruled out physical so your other choices are communication and relationship.
Next you can rule out communication by doing either or both of the following:
Take a lesson with experienced eyes on the ground to rule out rider error.
Have someone highly trained and sensitive ride her and see if she goes okay.
If neither of the above change anything, then you can safely conclude its a relationship issue. You need to then take on a stonger role as leader so that your horse wants to follow. Become the most interesting stimulus to your horse.
I believe it could be. This time of year, every year, my mare is moody. Its her first cycle of the season and she is just a plain b*tch. She seems fine on the ground, but under saddle, her sides are more sensitive and she just generally has a pissy attitude. Pinning her ears and bucking on the lunge line only ever occur during this time. I never notice it any other time of year, but she's like this almost always during March (at the first cycle of the year).
Is that what is going on with your mare? I have no idea, but its a possibility.
I have been going through the same thing with my mare for over a year now. Though we are finally getting a handle on it.
First off how old is your mare?
Two..Have you had a vet out yet to do an exam on her?
Not only a general physical, but maybe even a lameness exam of the hindend.
PLUS if at all possible I would have them do a reproductive exam of her, especially ultrasound her ovaries.
My mare acted the same way with not only me but past owners. She started with the cowkicking and then progressed to crowhopping and backing when asked for the trot. Somedays even just getting her to walk was an issue. This behavoir waxed and waned and it was very frustrating for myself and my trainer.
We ended up ruling out any lameness problems or back issues.
With some trial and error it was narrowed down to pain from the ovaries when she was in heat.
I put her on Regumate and had fairly good results, the behavoir was less but not totally gone.
I ended up having her spayed since I work in the veterinary field and knew a Vet who did alot of those surgeries. Though I do know that is the extreme measure and not for everyone, but in my case I had no plans of breeding her, and in the end it was cheaper than Regumate.
I have to say though she is a much calmer happier horse, and so far has been doing very well under saddle with no balking issues.
So to sum up my bit of babbling...
I think alot of mares have pain associated with their heat cyles and do not want to work as a result.
Some are worse than others, my mare as an example.
This may be short lived with your mare as it is spring so maybe coming out of the winter hiatus is making things a bit more sensitive/ouchy for her.
But it probably wouldnt hurt and would ease your mind to have a vet come and look at her. Just make sure there are no cysts or other problems going on.
Good luck! I know it can be frustrating.
Mares can also just get nappy and refuse to do things without being in any pain and nothing at all being wrong. Mares protect their foals and the herd and they have an attitude that they need to be the boss, and if they aren't worked regularly and firmly they very easily get nappy. They very easily get bossy. With a mare, 'he who hesitates is lost'.
Many mares get very kicky, crabby, for no other reason than they are bossy and they like to be in charge, and they're just doing exactly what they do in a herd to be in charge - kick, pin their ears, jib.
In other words, mares are just like their human counterparts....LOL.
If there is nothing physically wrong according to various practitioners, be sure one of them is a very good sport horse vet, and an experienced trainer who can spot those little subtle things that create 'holes' in training is your next stop. Be sure there are no symptoms of cystic ovaries - stiff , very typical carriage in the back and tail carried stiffly away from the hind quarters nearly all the time, overly erratic mood, etc.
I have another rider riding her this spring - does the same thing to this rider as she started doing with me this past fall (mare had winter off) so at least it makes me feel better that it's not all me.
As to vet checks I had a vet out this fall. She is 11 now so it could be hormone/ovary/ovulation related. So now I have to figure out what homeopathics/herbals/supplements to be used with her to get her feeling like herself again. This is totally not normal for her as she was always even tempered 90% of the time. I definitely do not want to spay her right now as we do plan on breeding her (hopefully in the next few years).
We will see how her "tude" goes in the next few weeks. Glad to know there are other mare owners that go through this.
Perhaps the saddle is fine for her out of shape, had the Winter off body, but quickly becomes too narrow once in work. "Too narrow" can be very relative - for some horses, it has to be REALLY narrow before they start complaining. But for others, it's a Princess and the Pea situation. That doesn't make it a non-issue just because it's such a small deviation from true comfort, it's still a BFD to her
______________________________ The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET
Another one to check for is excessively large follicles. I had a mare who struggled with that. She would sprout these huge follicles and then take forever to ovulate. Vet determined this as the result of persistent (i.e. daily) ultrasounding. I then gave her IV banamine before riding...the change was immediate.
I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
My mare is generally a B***H in her first few heats of the year on the ground and in the saddle since we moved from FL to VA. My vet in FL pointed me to Mare Magic and I have been very satisfied with the results. I use it at each of her feedings until she gets into a regular cycle again.
I agree with bdbeitel!! Get some raspberry leaves!!! I have 6 mares and believe me, many days it is just plain hormone h#ll around here (they are all VERY happy that I am now POST menopausal cuz you can just imagine what fun we REALLY used to have)!!
I have one mare who just plain doesn't like to work, if I ride her she is happy, happy, happy...trainer gets on her and she squeals, cow kicks and bucks (hmm, doesn't want to work or be TOLD she has to work...several "discussions" later, she is working-like it or not).
Another mare seemed to be weird in one direction when the trainer would "sit into her right cheek bone", I changed her saddle this morning, worked like a charm, much happier horse.
My competition mare has HORRIBLE spring/fall transitional cycles, in the past only Depo worked on her and the long term side effects are unknown so I didn't want to keep using it(she will go right through Regu Mate, not even worth the effort or the $$$because it is as if I never gave her any) so, I have all three of them on Magic Mare and they have been much better since they started on it (I should have started them in January but forgot).
This does not take away from the issues that could come from either lyme disease or EPM (usually you will notice the lack of hind end muscling from EPM) but both diseases make horses very cranky.
I guess my point is, each mare I own has had different issues that I have figured out (except for the one that doesn't want to work and oh, well too bad for her). Take your time and evaluate everything you are doing with her to see if you can narrow it down, it might just be that she had the winter off and would love to continue her vacation or you might have to get a vet involved if it is something like lyme or EPM. Good luck!
For my mare it was a saddle thing. She'd muscled up over the topline so althought it had just been adjusted 6 months earlier it needed adjusting again. (Or if older saddle wool flocking may have gotten some "hard" spots in it.)
Next time she did it was during the winter and a heating pad around her withers/over her back before putting the saddle on made it better.