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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 22, 2010
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    Unhappy Confused - Horse running away from me! (..long)

    Since my horse was switched to a pasture that shares a fenceline with three mares (used to go out with one gelding - they played much too rough, shared a fenceline with a single gelding), his behavior has changed dramatically when I go to catch him and bring him in for a ride. Previously, he always let me approach him and halter him with no issue, even welcomed and approached me, but never ran from me. Throughout the past two years I have owned him, I would always give him a small treat when we had a lovely, friendly greet and haltering. On the rare occasion he tried to tell me he'd rather be with his friends, he did not get rewarded with a treat as I felt that would be rewarding him for trying to evade me, and making me follow him across the pasture.

    Now, he was going out with a gelding with whom he got along very well, and shared a fenceline with the said three mares. It has been since that time that his behavior has changed. When he sees me coming he would simply turn and walk to the mare's fence and scream for them, completely ignoring me. He never walked away from me when I finally got to him, until today. Today, he was actually waiting AT the gate, let me get within 50ft, and then took off bucking and galloping to the mares.

    Unfortunately, we lost the gelding he went out with last Thursday, so he has been alone since then. So.. after the two minutes it took me to cross his pasture, he took off again, in the same manner, back to the gate, where he tried several evasive movements, but then let me catch him without further issue.

    This horse is loved on and well-maintained, and we do not only have working rides, we also do trail rides and a bit of clicker training after I used it with great success with my dog, to improve communication, and it has been quite fun for both of us. So I have a hard time buying that he doesn't want to come to me because I = bad news and only work. He is easy to catch for the BO's husband at night, but then all his friends are going inside, too, and he's about to get dinner - so what is it about me, my technique, my "vibe" that is making my horse tell me "GO AWAY I don't want to be with you!"?!

    IT HURTS!




    ETA some relevant info:
    1) His pasture is MUCH too large for me to play the "you want to run? ok, let's keep you running and see how long you wanna do that for!" game.
    2) There is no other available option for turnout currently, although another gelding might be joining him soon.
    3) He is out for 12 hours during the day in the winter, 12 hours at night during the summer, forage 24/7. I would keep him pasture-boarded, but his feet tend to get too soft from being constantly wet in the snow (never uses the shelter..) which leads us to a whole other barrage of issues..
    4) He is surrounded by horses no matter if he is outside or comes in the barn to work, or in the ring. That said, he also works perfectly well away from horses (different story two years ago - but now he quite enjoys going on trailrides by ourselves).
    5) All of his tack fits and he is sound and healthy, seen by a chiro and receives several supplements for his feet, magnesium, msm, lysine, multivitamin, and tractguard.
    Last edited by ake987; Nov. 10, 2011 at 12:02 AM. Reason: Add info

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2007
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    2,169

    Default

    It's not you; it's that he prefers the company of the other horses over what he knows is going to happen.

    Remember the key to operant conditioning: whatever behavior is being repeated is being reinforced--either by you, or by the environment. In this case it's pretty clear it's the environment. He's screaming for the mares, ignoring you. If you get close, he knows he'll have to go away from them, and he doesn't want to. He's probably not thinking any farther ahead than that.

    So, take your emotional reaction out of it. It's nothing personal to you. It's his instinct, which at the moment is stronger than your conditioning.

    So, you just have to make your conditioning stronger than it is. I could write one of my long boring posts on ways to go about this, but you've clicker trained so you know the drill. For the time being, do what you can to quit repeating this scenario. Either don't put him out w/mares or only bring him in when other horses are coming. Don't let this habit of evading you continue if you can help it--just manage the situation as best you can while you work on your solution.

    Meanwhile, start with small steps. Have you trained him to target? Condition him to touching a target, and use that. Start in a place where there aren't any distractions, and work up to targeting in more distracting places. Pair a gesture or verbal cue with the target, whatever you are going to be using to call him in from the pasture.

    I could go into a lot of detail about intermittent reinforcement and shaping, but you know all that. You just need to sit down, make a plan that breaks the issue into its smallest components, and get to work.

    You can do it! You need to get his attention focused on you, but you can't start when he's out there with the mares. You have to start w/o the distractions, condition his response, and gradually add distractions and distance.

    ETA- I posted before I read your additional info. All of that doesn't help, of course, but you still have to address it. No magic is going to change your environment, so you'll have to figure out how to do the graduated work somehow.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep. 22, 2010
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    NY
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    Default

    Melan, thank you so much. I actually took behavior modification last semester and loved it, so I know exactly what you are talking about! I also have an autistic brother that I have designed and implemented a beh mod plan for, so I really love this stuff and see how well it works!

    Looks like I have some task-analyzing to do to come up with a plan for this. He is target trained, but I could definitely use some more time with him for that.

    I also just thank you for such a very friendly, generous and helpful response. I am trying my hardest to be objective and look at this as a behaviorist would, but.. sometimes I can't help but think "My horse doesn't like me." Your post has helped me gain some perspective and set the ball rolling to correct this. Thank you!

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun. 7, 2006
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    Default

    First of all, don't get your feelings hurt by your horse.

    Sometimes people get a little, "I do so much with/for him, can't he just be nice to me during my rides one hour a day?" and get their feelings hurt.

    But he's just a horse. Yes he's expensive and takes up a lot of your time and devotion but he doesn't know that. He just knows that you show up and he gets a treat and then he stands for grooming and then you spend some time doing stuff and then he goes back in his house. He likes his itchy spots rubbed and enjoys trail rides but at this moment, he is in his field and playing with his friends.

    Sometimes the best thing to do is just matter of factly catch him even if it does involve two laps of the field and then go groom and ride as usual. He's just a horse, he has no idea.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 16, 2009
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    758

    Default

    This is probably silly to add but it's getting to be that time of year.

    Be careful you're not giving him a static shock when you touch him.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct. 24, 2003
    Location
    Hunt Country Heaven, VA
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    630

    Default

    I agree with the others. Don't take it personally. "The girls" are much more fun to hang with than you.

    I keep my horse at home in a field where he shares a common fence line with three other geldings. He doesn't play well with others, having been a breeding stallion for a few years. He isn't hard to catch, but he will never come across the field to me when I go to catch him. I have to go to him no matter what treats I carry.

    I moved him briefly to a boarding barn when I changed locations for work and he was in a much smaller field with no commonly shared fence line, but he had a 360 view of every horse on the farm. He would whinny a loud greeting when I would come to ride and gallop to the gate to meet me.

    Moved back home, back to same old field, back to same old gelding buddies, back to hiking all the way across the field to retrieve him, except at feeding time. At least now, he does give me a nicker as I give him his carrot before I put his halter on.
    Lost in the Land of the Know It Alls



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar. 26, 2005
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    You've gotten good advice already.
    I just want to add you don't have to chase him around the pasture - just walk him down.
    How large is the field?

    My Can'tCatchMe! pony is learning he will eventually have to come to me in my 3ac pasture, get haltered & lead in.

    It may mean I devote 15-20 minutes to just walking after him as he expends all the energy runbuckfart-ing around me, and that is all we get done (instead of the ground-driving session I intended).
    But each session is a little briefer.

    I just keep walking toward him, and eventually his curiousity & greed (I carry treats too) win & he comes to me and stands for the halter.

    I know when you're boarding and each visit is meant to be for riding or other training it feels non-productive to "just" catch & halter your horse.
    But it will get better/easier & then: Problem Solved
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
    Hey Vern! 1982-2009
    Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar. 10, 2011
    Posts
    195

    Default I feel your pain

    This has become an issue for me recently as well so I feel your pain! When we added another horse to our herd, he quickly rose to the position of "undisputed boss." Problem is, he's not so easy to catch. So now, my other horse who has always been a dream to walk out and catch, runs off with her buddy/boss at first sight of me with a halter. I've been doing the chase-them-around-until-I'm-exhausted routine--but like you the pasture is much too big for that game. Chris Cox has some great methods for dealing with horses like this (involves roundpen work) but I've yet to try them. I need to just spend a couple of weekends on this. Look into Chris Cox's methods for some ideas! Good luck!



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep. 22, 2010
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    NY
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    Default

    Thank you very much everyone!

    I am truly NOT the kind of horse(wo)man that forgets horses are animals, not living, breathing teddy bears. I am only human, however, and when the situation builds and builds, I do fall victim to becoming emotional at times when it is not appropriate to do so. This thread has provided a lot of good support and helped me regain the appropriate perspective, as well as formulate some ideas on how to approach the issue from here on out.

    I suppose I just need to face the fact that there are now younger women in the picture, and we know how men like the younger women! Sorry buddy, you're comin' in with the decrepit 24 year old hag!

    2Dogs - Just to clarify, I have never actually engaged in a "chasing" behavior, I hope my wording did not insinuate that. If I went running after him shouting and flailing...well, I wouldn't blame him from not wanting to come near me!

    Whenever he turns tail (it's usually at a lovely medium walk, only recently has the buck-run-fart started), my method has been to walk in his general direction with relaxed, non-threatening body language, and then approach when I am almost parallel with him, walking towards his shoulder in a friendly manner. I don't have my hand extended with treats, I feel that is bribery. He has to exhibit the behavior to get the reward. If he seems more inclined to not be caught than usual, I tend to stop a few times on the approach so I am not just driving him away, but also providing him with the opportunity to exhibit the desired behaviors: either not moving, or approaching me. He usually approaches me once I am within 10 feet ("OH! Hey! I didn't see you there.. gotta treat?" .."Yeah, sure you didn't!"), it is only this past time that he has let me get within 10 feet, then decided another romp was essential. After that go'round, he did the usual, and approached me when I got within 10 feet (...back at the gate, where we originally started, heh).

    If I had to guess, I would say the pasture is probably between 2-3 acres, rectangular. It takes me between 1-3 minutes to walk from one end to the other depending on the footing and weather.

    If he avoids me initially, but then approaches me eventually, would you still treat, or withhold? If he is really resistant to being haltered and is rude during that, I would definitely not reward.. but if HE approaches ME AFTER the walk-about?

    My question is this: He runs around, avoids being caught, but then approaches, gets haltered, and gets a treat: Does he "think" he is being rewarded for the sequence of behaviors (run, avoid, approach, halter), or does he "think" he is being rewarded for the very last behavior exhibited (approach stupid blonde girl with noms)?

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  10. #10
    Join Date
    May. 12, 2008
    Posts
    4,170

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    I always treat my horses when I catch them. With my mare, it went from 'running' from me, to standing still to actually walking up to me now.

    So, especially if he walks up to you eventually, treat and praise. It's like ending your ride on a good note.



  11. #11
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    Mar. 26, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by ake987 View Post
    2Dogs - Just to clarify, I have never actually engaged in a "chasing" behavior, I hope my wording did not insinuate that. If I went running after him shouting and flailing...well, I wouldn't blame him from not wanting to come near me!

    Whenever he turns tail (it's usually at a lovely medium walk, only recently has the buck-run-fart started), my method has been to walk in his general direction with relaxed, non-threatening body language, and then approach when I am almost parallel with him, walking towards his shoulder in a friendly manner. I don't have my hand extended with treats, I feel that is bribery. He has to exhibit the behavior to get the reward. If he seems more inclined to not be caught than usual, I tend to stop a few times on the approach so I am not just driving him away, but also providing him with the opportunity to exhibit the desired behaviors: either not moving, or approaching me. He usually approaches me once I am within 10 feet ("OH! Hey! I didn't see you there.. gotta treat?" .."Yeah, sure you didn't!"), it is only this past time that he has let me get within 10 feet, then decided another romp was essential. After that go'round, he did the usual, and approached me when I got within 10 feet (...back at the gate, where we originally started, heh).

    If I had to guess, I would say the pasture is probably between 2-3 acres, rectangular. It takes me between 1-3 minutes to walk from one end to the other depending on the footing and weather.

    If he avoids me initially, but then approaches me eventually, would you still treat, or withhold? If he is really resistant to being haltered and is rude during that, I would definitely not reward.. but if HE approaches ME AFTER the walk-about?

    My question is this: He runs around, avoids being caught, but then approaches, gets haltered, and gets a treat: Does he "think" he is being rewarded for the sequence of behaviors (run, avoid, approach, halter), or does he "think" he is being rewarded for the very last behavior exhibited (approach stupid blonde girl with noms)?
    Got it - actually I never envisioned you running after him, any horseperson with one firing brain cell knows how well that works...NOT!

    Your description sounds very similar to my pony.
    And I do not give him a treat unless he approaches and stands - even for a nanosecond - quietly.
    Sometimes I'll give him a treat and walk away - not wanting him to think every time & treat equals getting haltered.

    If I had to bet on it, I'd say your guy will connect the reward with the last action "approach girl with noms"

    And I'm sure he doesn't consider you stupid or blonde....maybe palomino & a little slow?
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
    Hey Vern! 1982-2009
    Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan. 2, 2006
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    Dallas, NC
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    Default

    I have a mare that used to be hard to catch in a 16 acre pasture, so I feel your pain.

    Is there a golf cart handy?

    I used to follow my mare around ina golf cart (would only go and get the golf cart when she wasn't catchable on foot), get within about 30 feet and get off and approach her, if she walked off, I went and got back on the golf cart and followed, rince and repeat.

    I didn't run her down (though sometimes she went off at a canter or gallop) but I tell you there were some days I was so PISSED she didn't want to get caught I wanted to FLY in that golf cart and chase her around as fast as I could go, hanging out around the windshield with a crazed look and shout "So you wanna run bitch?? Well RUN!!!"

    *sigh* never did it...
    I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

    Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.



  13. #13
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    Jun. 7, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by ake987 View Post
    My question is this: He runs around, avoids being caught, but then approaches, gets haltered, and gets a treat: Does he "think" he is being rewarded for the sequence of behaviors (run, avoid, approach, halter), or does he "think" he is being rewarded for the very last behavior exhibited (approach stupid blonde girl with noms)?
    IMO, he only remembers the immediate catching. They do not keep a list of behaviors three items long that they are grouping together mentally when they get a treat. It is more, "I just did this, oh look! Treat!"

    So, for example, if a horse runs off from the mounting block when I swing a leg over, I wait until I can get him stopped (circling, some scooting, crow hopping, whatever) and the second he is four-footed I reach down and feed a treat.

    A lot of owners at first think this is rewarding the scoot, but really it rewards THE HALT and teaches the horse to "look for the halt" and within a day or two the horse stands politely for mounting.

    I would think same applies to being caught.



  14. #14
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    Dec. 21, 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajierene View Post
    I always treat my horses when I catch them. With my mare, it went from 'running' from me, to standing still to actually walking up to me now.

    So, especially if he walks up to you eventually, treat and praise. It's like ending your ride on a good note.
    I am so thankful I have never had a hard to catch horse ( yet). I always give something when I catch them, even if someone is acting like your guy ( all can have an off day) . I do it every time and now when I come out to ride all 3 follow me into the barn, stand over by where the halters are kept ( treats are there too) and wait to be haltered.



  15. #15
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    Sep. 25, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chardavej View Post
    I have a mare that used to be hard to catch in a 16 acre pasture, so I feel your pain.

    Is there a golf cart handy?

    I used to follow my mare around ina golf cart (would only go and get the golf cart when she wasn't catchable on foot), get within about 30 feet and get off and approach her, if she walked off, I went and got back on the golf cart and followed, rince and repeat.

    I didn't run her down (though sometimes she went off at a canter or gallop) but I tell you there were some days I was so PISSED she didn't want to get caught I wanted to FLY in that golf cart and chase her around as fast as I could go, hanging out around the windshield with a crazed look and shout "So you wanna run bitch?? Well RUN!!!"

    *sigh* never did it...
    OMG. I have tears running!! That visual is WAY too funny!!!!! It reminds me of when I went after Monster on the lawn mower. That heifer broke down the fence AGAIN and was in the hay field AGAIN. I thought you know - I will be GD'ed if I'm going to hike out there after her one more time. I flipped my little lever from "Turtle" to "Hare" and that cow ran all the way back to the barn to get away from my John Deere. Ooooooh I was mad.



  16. #16
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    Mar. 10, 2006
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    midwest
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    Default

    I had a horse that did this. Have actually spent over an hour in the pasture chasing the little booger down.

    1. Your horse does not understand the "I run, I get no treat" concept. Soo, treat EVERY time you put his halter on him. You want him to associate Halter-Treat. It was very hard to bring myself to treat after walking down a horse in 90+ heat for 45 minutes, but I did it. Halter goes on first, then a peppermint. I even did this initially when haltering him in a stall. Halter=peppermint. It is the ONLY time I use peppermints.

    2. The second thing is never to let him win. Even if all the time you put aside to ride is spent catching him, he must be caught.

    Mine now comes to the gate when I call. **peppermint**



  17. #17
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    Dec. 7, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by mishmash View Post
    I had a horse that did this. Have actually spent over an hour in the pasture chasing the little booger down.

    1. Your horse does not understand the "I run, I get no treat" concept. Soo, treat EVERY time you put his halter on him. You want him to associate Halter-Treat. It was very hard to bring myself to treat after walking down a horse in 90+ heat for 45 minutes, but I did it. Halter goes on first, then a peppermint. I even did this initially when haltering him in a stall. Halter=peppermint. It is the ONLY time I use peppermints.

    2. The second thing is never to let him win. Even if all the time you put aside to ride is spent catching him, he must be caught.

    Mine now comes to the gate when I call. **peppermint**

    Agree with the above poster 100%!! Although I don't use peppermints, I think any of your horse's favourite treats will do! Reward every time you catch him. I still reward mine and he is super easy to catch in his big pasture.



  18. #18
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    Apr. 16, 2002
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    ontario, canada
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    The horse I ride is currently going through a stage where she refuses to be caught. Or rather, she refuses to allow ME to catch her.

    It started about 4-5 weeks ago when I got considerably more strict with her on the ground. I had been a little too tolerant with her sometimes quite poor ground manners and decided it was time to expect a little bit more. I've also been asking her to work harder under saddle. Now, I'm apparently no longer the fun one. Her owner is not as strict as I am, and has spent years catching her, giving her a treat and then letting her have a really lovely hand graze, grooming session etc. The result is that the mare is quite willing to be caught by her (and clearly adores her), but has decided that being caught by me smells far too much like actual, hard work.

    Its actually quite comical. During one attempt to catch her on a weekend morning, her owner happened to stop by at the same time. She came out to the field (the field is large) and when the mare heard her voice, she came to a screeching halt, pricked her ears and allowed me to slip the halter on. The mare had spent the previous 10-15 minutes full-on trotting and sometimes cantering away from me.

    I don't know what the solution is. I don't have a lot of spare time, so I tend to head to the barn to ride. On days where I have more time, I'll spend some time hand grazing her after the ride or taking her for a stroll around the property for some variety, but its not always feasible. She needs to be worked as she goes better when in a consistent schedule and I don't have time to make extra 1.5 hour round trip drives to catch her, give her a treat/hand graze and leave.

    Even if those extra trips would help, we are about to hit winter in Canada. Hand grazing is not exactly a January activity! I think I may try and work in some clicker-training so we can have some "easy" time together, but I'm not sure how well that will ultimately work. The new behaviour really coincided with my newer absolute no-nonsense approach on the ground, and that isn't about to change.

    Its really frustrating! I've NEVER had a horse that was hard to catch. Most of the ones I've ridden regularly/owned have come to me. Worst-case scenario was that I would have to go and get them. I've never had one actively try and avoid me/work.

    Another semi-interesting aspect is that this mare is the 4th horse I've known that is similarly bred that had the same habit. The other 3 were the offspring of a particular stallion, and this one would be a grand-horse of that stallion.

    Edited to add: Mine always gets a treat when caught. I may get her something more delicious, though. She currently gets boring apple cookies, so I might try and get something "special" for her treat when caught. Maybe a studmuffin-type hunk of deliciousness.



  19. #19
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    Dec. 13, 2010
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    If the horse knows you, rather than it being an impersonal "I dislike/distrust all humans" opinion, then it is personal. The example of the horse being amenable to being caught by owner but not the taskmaster shows this.

    You must earn points with the horse, so that he'll catch you. You must make your time with him interesting/fun for him. Otherwise, why the heck shouldn't he run when he sees you?



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Western View Post
    If the horse knows you, rather than it being an impersonal "I dislike/distrust all humans" opinion, then it is personal. The example of the horse being amenable to being caught by owner but not the taskmaster shows this.

    You must earn points with the horse, so that he'll catch you. You must make your time with him interesting/fun for him. Otherwise, why the heck shouldn't he run when he sees you?
    Oh, its definitely personal in my case lol. And I'm certainly making an attempt to make things more fun for her (mixing things up, having some fun pole exercises to get her thinking) and last weekend I went out one day, eventually caught her and didn't ride her. But at the end of the day, she is a riding horse. Its not going to be all hacks on a loose rein. More importantly, this behaviour started right after I got more strict on the ground. I'm not going to tolerate her dancing in the cross-ties, bumping into me when she seems something scary, etc just so that she "likes" me again.

    I'm hoping she adjusts and stops this silliness, but we'll see.



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