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  1. #1
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    Aug. 11, 2008
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    Default Involuntary Dismount - Horse or Rider's Fault?

    Horse just recently coming back into work after 4 years of back problems in a new environment. Generally a sweet easy going horse, but due to lack of work, is a bit spoiled. Has been excellent at the walk, trot is difficult, either a fast jackhammer racing trot or doesn't want to do it at all. When he's relaxed and balanced, he's amazing. Gets upset when he gets off balance, which happens a lot due to his general state of (un)fitness.

    Yesterday, asked for a trot, horse got really quick, tried to turn him into a circle, and he got really pissy and went into a bronc bucking fit.

    FWIW, I don't think this horse is a jack@$$ at all. I think I threw him off balance, maybe asking for a turn when I should have tried to let him go straight and settled him. He's only been back in work for a month, and I think it may be too soon to be asking him to try to balance on a circle at the trot. We're still working in the indoor, and I think it might be best to keep him at the walk until we can get outside and do some nice long straight lines on trail? Trainer and a few friends think I'm 'babying' him.

    Saddle fit and chiro work all been checked by the appropriate professionals. We're not aiming for a show or anything this year, I'd rather take a year to build him up slowly than rush and risk an injury.

    Is it the horse or rider?
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm
    http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/



  2. #2
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    Sep. 30, 2003
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    Default

    Might be a bit of both.
    The rider may have asked for a bit more than the horse had in him that day. However, this shouldn't result in a bronco fit.

    Horse may be expecting pain if that has been its history. It may take awhile for horse to realize that the saddle doesn't bite every time he gets off balanced.

    Personally I think you are taking the right approach. Maybe even just work on lots of walking until you are able to get in the outdoors with more space.

    Just because you are walking doesn't mean you can't do lots of work. Bending (gradually), transitions, etc are all things that can help return fitness without overdoing it.



  3. #3
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    Dec. 13, 2010
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    I'm of the school that it's never the horse's *fault*, because the horse is just being a horse!

    In your description of the situation, my opinion is confirmed. I agree with your guess that you pushed him too soon. I think that you know this in your heart, but it's fine for you to type it out here, for feedback, in the face of all those dissenting voices around you.

    Don't listen to those "back-seat riders" who are telling you to quit babying him! YOU feel your horse underneath you, YOU have way more information coming to you via all of your senses & your intuition, so you need to solve your own puzzles with your horse.

    The best of luck to you & horsje!



  4. #4
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    Nov. 4, 2003
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    Default

    Coming back from that long a lay up? Yeah, I'm with you... take it slow and easy. Rebuild fitness and confidence. Lotsa walking, trotting poles, big circles, etc.

    A once over by the chiro couldn't hurt either
    <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.



  5. #5
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    Dec. 30, 2009
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    What Sport said, to a T! Lots of strengthening work - over poles, over hills (when possible), etc and gradually work from there. Horse should not have gone into a full-out blow-out but he does have previous pain history and everyone's full-out blow-out is different (and thus what is acceptable is different). What's done is done - I don't think it would have been fair to punish the horse for "talking", even if the did "yell"... the more work you do where he becomes relaxed and supple (and better conditioned) with him and the more in tune the two of you become, he won't "yell" anyways. Just keep working with what he is giving, and refining it.

    When he gets really quick, can you push him inside leg to outside rein, and bend him to supple him a little? Put him on LARGE circles and serpentines etc. Or, last resort, ask him to disengage his hind instead? Establishing some good trot habits on the longe might also help - with a horse reacting similar to yours at the trot, I attacked it from both angles: on the ground and u/s. The groundwork helped immensely, especially since he can build strength and balance better without the weight of a rider, so you start to establish some better habits.
    ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
    ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov. 16, 2004
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    NE Indiana
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    Default

    Maybe he's stiff and turning him into that circle was uncomfortable. I'm assuming he's a STB...mine is like a barge and takes constant suppling.



  7. #7
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    Dec. 31, 2000
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    El Paso, TX
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    Default

    Build his fitness with longeing (short amount of time at first) first, and light riding at walk, maybe to cool him out at first. You can also work on teaching him voice commands during the longeing.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar. 22, 2011
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    Default

    Well-stated advice here. I'm glad you seem proactive about finding out the source of his bronco fit rather than dubbing him a temperamental snob. I would agree that after such a long break, he's probably severely lacking the muscles to hold a rider and perform much more than straight lines or very light bends.

    Some favourite exercises of mine to supple and stretch out the back and sides are very easy to do from the ground. Stand at his shoulder and take your inside rein and very gently lift it back and up, encouraging him to pull his nose to the inside. When he releases the tension even the tiniest bit, let go. Do this a few times and eventually he will be able to stretch pretty far. You could use treats to encourage him to bend further, though this could be dangerous and cause him to strain something should he stretch too far.

    Another way to stretch out is to get his attention with a treat, then slowly bring it down to the ground and back between his front legs. You could do this several times, with the ultimate goal of him gaining a stretch along the back. Of course always make sure the sides are stretched out with the above technique and any more you might have in your arsenal, as well as the legs (bringing front legs out in front of you as if you're pulling loose skin from under the girth and getting him to push down into the pressure).

    Best of luck, and it sounds like you know what you're doing as far as conditioning him.

    ETA: The first exercise is (in my opinion) done better in a rope halter. I'm not a fan of muscling horses about with a bit in their mouth, so if you've got a rope halter, I suggest that instead. If you're on the fly, though, always remember light pressure and immediate release.



  9. #9
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    Sep. 30, 2003
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    Default

    One other thing I forgot to mention. With my guy when he is coming back into work, we let him do something that he can do easily and then we push him a bit, sometimes only for a few steps and then quickly back to the easy. This way he is rewarded for the difficult by switching to something he can do. He doesn't like not knowing what to do, or physically not being able to do something, so this helps stop any temper tantrums.



  10. #10
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    Nov. 18, 2004
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    Default

    Agree with not blaming the horse, but as someone who is about 3 months ahead of you doing the same thing (horse off for 2 years, back to work for about 4 months, depending on how you define 'work')...

    There is often a significant element of "I am appalled that my vacation is ending!", even with kind easy-going horses who were uncontroversial to ride pre-time off.

    I would want to be trotting politely before I took your horse outside. For safety. And drugs are your friend, judiciously used.

    Never hurts to buy a few trainer rides when starting a horse back to work. The mental game combined with a horse's physical limitations when coming back to work can make it a challenging ride.

    Just IMHO.
    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09




  11. #11
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    Aug. 11, 2008
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    Thanks all. I think I will just have to tell my trainer that we need to back off on him a bit until I know he's more fit. We were doing well with just lots of walk work, I was mostly concerned that he'd get bored with it and start to get ring sour, but I think for now I can do other things with him that will make it fun and interesting without over-stressing his muscles and joints. He's also got weak stifles, so I try to keep lunge work at a minimum, just enough to warm him up and re-establish attention and obedience.

    He IS a little spoiled, but after sitting around for 4 years with no job, I think he's actually behaving quite well.
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm
    http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/



  12. #12
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    Lori - I think you've nailed it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lori B View Post
    There is often a significant element of "I am appalled that my vacation is ending!", even with kind easy-going horses who were uncontroversial to ride pre-time off.

    Oh, there is definitely a bit of this going on! But nothing that I haven't been able to handle.

    Never hurts to buy a few trainer rides when starting a horse back to work. The mental game combined with a horse's physical limitations when coming back to work can make it a challenging ride.

    Am thinking about this, but I have to be very careful who I select. He's a very small horse, just around 15H, and due to his prior back issues, he's can get very anxious when another rider tries to get on him. Its sort of strange... he doesn't mind me a bit, but when I put a trainer on him who is only a bit bigger than me, he practically dropped his belly to the ground every time she got on him. No a hint of anxiety when I tack him up and get on him, so I think its mental instead of physical, but I also don't think it will do much good to put someone on him and have him go around inverted - which would probably just bring back the back issue.
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm
    http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/



  13. #13
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    Nov. 18, 2004
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    Default

    Thanks. I think that while the turn may have been uncomfortable, the bucking fit was not warranted. To me, the trick is finding a rider (if it's not you) who can tactfully require your horse to be polite and safe without making him too uncomfortable or asking for too much of anything. I don't want my horse getting tons more fit ahead of her manners and respect for Not Breaking Her Mother.

    Maybe ace him (or your cocktail of choice) and take him for a long walk outside, to burn off some energy safely, building fitness?
    I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
    I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09




  14. #14
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    Oh, the bucking fit was definitely not warranted. There was a little bit of rooting and headshaking preceding it, so he was definitely giving me the proverbial middle finger.

    I did get back on and make him work around 10 minutes more, including a few trot strides down the long sides of the ring, but today I'm too sore to ride and will have to live with just to letting him get away with it until tomorrow or Wednesday.

    DD did offer to hop on him today, but I want to be there to see what's going on as I don't always trust her judgement. She'll get ticked off and stubborn and I don't want the progress I've made undone just so she can make a point.
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm
    http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trevelyan96 View Post
    Oh, the bucking fit was definitely not warranted. There was a little bit of rooting and headshaking preceding it, so he was definitely giving me the proverbial middle finger.
    You haven't been *working* him long either so keep in mind you have to re-build that partnership where the two of you can work in harmony. He gave you a warning (the rooting and head-shaking) that he might "yell". You can't blame a horse for being a horse, and for communicating in horse terms. He *shouldn't* have blown up, but you have to also *earn* his respect. What you *can* do, is earn his respect and partnership. Doing it on the ground first (or simultaneously) might be the answer.

    Case in point: my high-energy high-anxiety OTTB would absolutely explode u/s when I first purchased him (buck, rear, spin, bolt, what have you - he would have done a rodeo horse proud). Sure, he *shouldn't* have, but it took awhile for me to earn that right. Now, if he is upset, he does not explode, out of respect for me. But I had to earn it, and that took time. In the mean time, I managed a lot of this behaviour on the ground first, to properly set him up and prepare him. Some horses will give you that respect easier than others (my coming 9yo OTTB gives it to me a lot easier than say the aforementioned 7yo OTTB).
    ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
    ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.



  16. #16
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    Oct. 26, 2010
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    Yeah, I think he's saying "bite me". I was thinking , if it were me and my horsie, and no plans for showing this year, I think backing off and long walks at first and then start adding little things here and there. You have the time plus he IS 4 yrs older! If he acts like a knothead again, are you able to sit in the middle of him and let him run out of steam and then go right on like nothing happened?? Sometimes these rascals know they can get you going and then they get out of work. Just a thought.
    GR24's Musing #19 - Save the tatas!!



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by naturalequus View Post
    You haven't been *working* him long either so keep in mind you have to re-build that partnership where the two of you can work in harmony. He gave you a warning (the rooting and head-shaking) that he might "yell". You can't blame a horse for being a horse, and for communicating in horse terms. He *shouldn't* have blown up, but you have to also *earn* his respect. What you *can* do, is earn his respect and partnership. Doing it on the ground first (or simultaneously) might be the answer.

    Case in point: my high-energy high-anxiety OTTB would absolutely explode u/s when I first purchased him (buck, rear, spin, bolt, what have you - he would have done a rodeo horse proud). Sure, he *shouldn't* have, but it took awhile for me to earn that right. Now, if he is upset, he does not explode, out of respect for me. But I had to earn it, and that took time. In the mean time, I managed a lot of this behaviour on the ground first, to properly set him up and prepare him. Some horses will give you that respect easier than others (my coming 9yo OTTB gives it to me a lot easier than say the aforementioned 7yo OTTB).
    Agree with this up to a point. I do think most people see he's 10 years old and so he should be 'confirmed' under saddle, but he's really spent so much time off since he was just turning 5 that I consider him to be more like a very green 3 year old.

    He IS a bit spoiled. Being a backyard pasture puff for over 4 years will do that to a horse. He's generally easygoing, but its more out of laziness than an actual desire to please. Is very easygoing to work on and around, so there haven't really been enough challenges to create those 'learning' opportunities.

    All in all, I'd sum up his personality as dominant but lazy and insecure. He can be lots of fun to work with on the ground, has the makings of a nice trick horse, but he can also be opinionated and is not above using bully tactics when he wants his own way. It seldom is a problem because he's just too darn lazy to get himself worked up about most things.
    Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
    Witherun Farm
    http://witherun-farm.blogspot.com/



  18. #18
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    Especially as a *greenie* and especially after so much time off, you have to work hard to earn his willingness to work with you and a partnership with him, because he's a (1,200lb) being of his own with his own mind, wants, and needs. The above stands ime regardless of the type of horse - high-energy or *lazy*.

    I've got a WB gelding who used to be pretty opposed to anything that involved work when I first started him u/s. Easy-going, but mostly due to laziness and being confident in himself. He did his own thing and if that did not include you, tough luck. He even went so far as to lunge and bite, strike, etc to get me to move my feet and avoid work. U/s, if he decided he wasn't moving that day, he wasn't moving that day. If you *dared* push him, he would buck, pin his ears, and move even slower. Same as above, I did a ton of groundwork, earned his partnership, and voila, he was willing to work in partnership and wasn't pissy any longer - those ears I could have sworn were permanently sewn pinned to his head, came forward, permanently. Especially if the horse is spoiled, now you have to change those habits. He's used to having his way and doing what he wants, so you will encounter some resistance asking him now to follow *your* lead and be respectful. It's still your job to earn it though, and you will have to do it in increments. Is there something he enjoys in particular? The above horse LOVES jumping, so putting him over ground poles and cavelleti even, brightened him up a bit because we were doing something *he* wanted to do. Give the horse a job to do if you can (even if it's cows!) - keeps their mind focused on the job at hand, puts you in a position where they *want* to follow your guidance, and conditions them.
    ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
    ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.



  19. #19
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    Jul. 14, 2000
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    Ditto what Sport said. Not knowing the specifics of the injury/condition that has caused this, my gut says asking him to turn a reasonable circle isn't a reason to unload you. Certainly in his pasture when he plays around he trots and canters circles.

    And from my contacts in the good western world, they would say "control the horse's time and you control the horse." If he has been a pasture puff for 4 years, he has been a hippy, snoozing, eating and lollygagging around. Between time spent in a small paddock, time spent standing tied, they would control his time and also the horse. IOW, if he is tied up, he is working for you and not free to come and go as his mind chooses.

    Good luck with the rehab.



  20. #20
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    I think you are thoughtful and correct in considering your horse's physical condition as it applies to the training, i.e. can't do a lot of lunging because of weak stifles. To me the key sentence in your post is where you're describing his trot- either he doesn't want to do it or it's too fast and rough. IMO this indicates a horse that needs work on his balance through stabilization. Start out using the good advice about stretching on the ground. When you ride him, ride him at a walk, with circles, serpentines, walking over poles. Wet saddle blankets are the key here. Talk to him, give him treats, and/ or reward him by releasing pressure when he does what you ask. If possible, get him out in the fields or trails and build up his rear end by walking up and down hills. Do this work on a loose rein with his head down and free. Let him stretch his muscles out through work. When he's warmed up and paying attention to you, ask him to trot on a loose rein. If he gives you just a few steps in a relaxed, balanced manner, praise him and let him rest for a few minutes. Next time trot him a little more, as long as he's balancing himself and staying calm. It may take weeks to get his cooperation but this work will do wonders for building strength and balance in both of you. Only when he will trot going straight or in circles or serpentines on a loose rein, relaxed, do you begin canter work. Only when he learns to balance himself and mind you on a loose rein should you begin seeking contact.

    You're already considering taking a year to build him up. I admire that so much. Calmness and patience in stabilizing his mind and body, building his strength, balance, and trust in you will give you splendid results.



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