I own an older ex-dude ranch horse that I purchased specifically to help me with my riding confidence and in the two years I’ve owned her she has definitely done that. She is a lovely horse, in fact she does as asked to what I believe is to the best of her training and conformation, but she has a sour attitude about the whole riding thing. I think of my horse as a partner and enjoy doing things together. I don’t blame my horse from her past experiences as a dude ranch horse riding nose to trail every day. She is old and has put in her time so to speak. I’ll be ready to progress onto something more challenging soon and would really like to find a horse with a can-do attitude. A horse that looks forward to work and willing to learn new things. How do you look for that type of attitude when you are horse shopping?
I always try to bridle the horse if possible or else watch it being bridled. This is a first indicator for me. They should be willing and not clamp their jaw or throw their head up. I really like it when they drop their mouth open for the bit as soon as the bridle slips on their face. Next I look for saddle acceptance, no ear pinning or blowing up with air, cow kicking etc. Finally I like a forward ear with a bit of swivel to listen to you as you go and a nice big walk. I went to look at a 3YO paint that I know had been brought along slowly and well by a local riding instructor. She wrung her tail twice when they asked for the trot..no thanks..she's either marish or a little sour about working already and there are alot of nice horses out there. imo
Your last line made me think you were thinking of parting ways with your faithful mare. Don't do that quite yet!
First, I'd look into a pain issue with your vet. She undoubtedly has some milage on her body and if you haven't looked into joint supplements yet, that's place to start. A quick and dirty home experiment-- try 5 days of 1g of bute AM and PM. By days 2 and 3 if you see change in movement or attitude, you know pain is a factor in her sourness.
Otherwise, I recommend a "brain-washing program" for the older horse who is tired of his or her job. This worked with my very kind, sissy gelding. The minor aches and pains of age, plus some boredom that comes with already knowing his job were catching up with him.
I did two things. First, I spent time on the ground making him feel like he was the Center of the Universe. I relaxed the rules--learning to do minor massage and asking him what he liked, playing tag with him in the ring, whatever I could think of that made him feel equal and really listened to. I wanted him to feel really, really good about himself so that when I did ask him to do tougher things, he came out thinking he was The Man and capable of any feat.
Second, I did fun and unexpected things-- rode him bareback, went swimming, taught this English show horse to neck rain and go in a leverage bit, strange things with tarps and poles and cones. I might get off mid-trail ride and walk with him for a while, I line drove him around the farm, just about anything to keep him from getting bored.
On days I'd tack him up and he looked sour, it would become a "fire drill." I'd saddle him up while he bitched, got all dressed myself and then Surprise! Unsaddle him and put him back out. Or maybe we'd do all that, march up to the ring, then strip naked for a nice roll and get put back up dirty like a regular horse.
On the other hand, and a warning about making your mare think she's All That And A Bag Of Chips. This works if she already knows the rules and doesn't tend to like to push you around. In that case, you need to combine "I adore you like no other" and "You must say 'Yes Ma'am'" when I ask for something. They really can figure this apparent contradiction out.
If you really try to get inside her old mare head, you and she will both enjoy it.
PA, where the State motto is: "If it makes sense, we don't do it!".
If you try enough horses you will soon be able to tell which horses are "agreeable".
When I first got back into horses after a thirteen year hiatus I decided to go with a camp horse lease, instead of purchasing, to make sure I really wanted a horse.
I first tried a small grey, QH type--nice little pony but then decided to try a larger bay. Well, the larger bay made it clear to me that he cared not one iota for what I was asking him to do and was a flighty mess. The grey was quieter and made absolutely no fuss whenever I asked him to go here or there, and he was the one I took--I never regretted it. Turned out to have a great work ethic and we really clicked as a team....
If you have a horse that "fights" you, you will know it when you ride it! Most likely you won't "jive" with him on the ground either....
Some horses are just not "people" horses--get a "people" horse! "People" horses will come over to the fence to greet you and when asked to do something will do it and not complain....
My SWB mare has one of the best work ethics I've seen (& others have remarked upon). She behaves nicely for the bridle but, as i've noticed with a lot of mares, does blow up her belly when girthed.
But she works her hind end off and tries to please - sometimes by anticipating (which can be a pain) but always working hard to do what she believes her rider is asking.
I purchased her aa an unbroken 2 yo - basically because I lunger her and although she'd never been lunged (barely had been handled) she tried to please me. Very soft and loving eyes but NOT a lover type of horse (unless she's in season).
So best way is ask horse to do several things which it may never have done before. If you ask for a HP and get a buck then wrong horse. If you ask for a HP and horse tenatively takes a couple of lateral steps then praise the horse and buy it.
In other words if the horse willingly tries to do as asked and it's "outside" of the horses comfort zone YOU HAVE A WINNER! If they stop, react negatively then most likely that's not the horse for you.
I have three of our horses in our local riding for the handcapped theraphy program.
They rotate them, the one they like best, he can take up to six weeks, then he starts getting tired of it, so much that if you let the trailer door open and turn him loose, he will self load himself and hope he is going home.
The others are fine for considerably longer.
The first indication that they are getting tired is to pin their ears a little bit here and there, just become a little grumpy without reason.
I would check your horse up physically, to be sure there is not other going on, just in case.
If you decide to move on anyway, in today's market, the kind of horse you are looking for is hard to find, not because there are not many out there, but because there are many more someone will try to sell you as that nice, quiet horse, that are not.
Could you look at stables around you, maybe go on some rides and see what they have and if some of those horses may work?
How about local rescues?
They some times have just the kind of horse you need and, if they are a good rescue, have someone evaluating their horses so they know what they have.
I think the poster here Fat Palomino may be close to where you are, in CO and has contacts with the local rescues and may be able to help.