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Onset of resistance

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    Onset of resistance

    Falling upon collective COTH wisdom here. I've owned my 6-year-old wb/tb mare for about nine months. About a month ago, she started to periodically balk. She stops out of the blue, sometimes rears or bucks a little, and refuses to go forward. She doesn't keep it up for more than two or three strides, and will settle back into work.

    I'm very troubled with behavior as I know it is an issue with 'forward' aids from the leg. I called my very experienced coach, whose seen her do this, and I was in tears (there's a lot of other stuff going on atm, extremely ill parent, money, and depths of a wet and utterly miserable Antipodean winter). Long story short, coach said, 'its a stage that young and green horses go through ;- you are able to ride through it -- what about two lessons a week and I get on first?' Yes. I thought. Ok.

    The mare gets 3-4 rides a week for 30-40 mins each. She is on meadow hay and a small grain-free feed of complete style pellets, a little oil, and pre-biotic/mycotoxin binder. She's turned out 24/7 in a field on her own in sight and touch of other horses. She's had her teeth done in February and a saddle check/fit just before Xmas. No health or soundness issues, very good confirmation.

    For the first six months we had lessons once a week or so, attended riding club, I did some competition ground de-sensitising, we rode our first test [Training Level] ... I was trailering her around to a number of [to her] new environments and she was always good - has a look and think. Then in Feb I had a fall, partly because I was so surprised when coming around the short side on the right rein from C in canter, on a busy arena, she spooked and bronc'ed two or three times. I got back on, unhurt and we finished the session on a better note.

    I was in a bad position, [too forward] and didn't have her in front of the leg or 'with me' enough. My previous horse, now retired, my schoolmaster, was easily distracted and spooky so I have developed the tools to keep the focus through years of his much more impressive spooks and spins ... The mare and I also recently had a scary incident, the barn owner's aggressive dog had a go at us while I was leading her past his fenced enclosure. She went up, and while I managed to keep going past she got an arena light post between us, snagging the lead rope which I had to then let go of. Caught her back pretty easily, but it was a really unfortunate event at that stage.

    Coach says my seat's stable, hands ok, calf though is often off when it needs to be on, I need to be quicker and better with the leg aids. I didn't necessarily want to transition from a schoolmaster albeit a quirky one, to a young horse, and back in Sept was looking for something with a bit more mileage, but tried endless older horses with serious issues of one kind or another. And the mare, then rising six, vet checked perfectly and had/has a generally quiet, and willing to please temperament. I'd seen too many people buy horses too young for them, or too much, and didn't want to go down that road myself, but this mare was kind of really nice.

    Anyway, this current phase is just knocking the stuffing out me, and some collective wisdom at this point would really help.

    It may be worth taking another look at saddle fit. A six year old can change pretty drastically in six months. My mare will do this if her shoulders are being pinched even slightly. She’s one that likes the saddle a little wide with a thicker pad.


      Can you track these episodes? My mare acts this way when she is in heat. She balks, swings her haunches out, and throws in small bucks. As a four year-old, the behavior was mild, but got stronger in her five year-old year.


        Original Poster

        I would think, given that our seasons are opposite of yours, so its now mid-winter, she wouldn't be cycling, but its something to bear in mind for Spring. Also I will book in a saddle fit check GreyDes. ta.


          First, calm down.

          Second, trust your trainer.
          It could be you, it could be a training stage, it could be the tack, etc - you are already trying to find a solution.

          Third, step back a little - for you.

          As you said, you’re going through a lot.
          Your own anxiety and these little bursts of bad behavior may or may not be connected - the important thing is, you seem to already be able to resolve this issue on your own AND your trainer is there to guide you through this.

          I would go a little further than your trainer and have you sit and watch during one of two lessons per week for a while. It would help both you and your mare.
          ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

          Originally posted by LauraKY
          I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.


            Does it happen with your coach riding?


              Original Poster

              BlueDrifter, my coach, well, since I've had the mare, ie. nine months, hasn't really had to ride her, except briefly in the lesson I had just after the fall in February, where she got on for about 10 minutes to fix a falling out of right canter issue, but that was before the resistance started to escalate. But when we commence with the plan, next Tuesday, we'll find out!

              And thanks alibi_18! really appreciated. My coach would be fine with riding the whole session, which I will be videoing, as I normally do. x


                You say she "stops out of the blue." I suggest that you take careful note of what happens just before she stops. There could be a pattern. And you sound like a rider who might be able to finesse the situation once you see the pattern.

                I have a horse that started balking with prior owner who was trying to use him as a dressage horse. He doesn't want to be a dressage horse.

                He is much happier outside and especially with other horses. I can now ride him in the arena but I only do so very sparingly.


                  If the saddle fit and teeth are good, give your trainer's plan a chance. If you're still having issues in a month, then it's time to re-evaluate.


                    Are you hacking out and also "playing"? Does she get fun days with you? Does she do this bareback? Those are my initial thoughts. I've sure come full circle to realize how important to ask if my horse is happy. Horses need to get out and trail ride and hack. I always have this vision of Ingrid Klimke riding bareback with her neck ring or out galloping a field.



                      My horse, a former ranch horse, started doing that with me about 6 months after I got him, at age 12. Lots of tests for pain (saddle, chiro, vet, prostride, osphos, mri), some on/off RF lameness/tripping that seemed to fix with shoeing, but otherwise vets didn't see anything major and his attitude was still pissy. Long story short is I put him in Equioxx...and started him in training because rearing was too much for me... and Voila! A changed horse.

                      I am pretty sure it is the Equioxx, but with the trainer and me taking lessons, I realized I had/have been hanging on him, anticipating those bad moments we experienced before. It took videos of me riding to see that, because otherwise, I am normally guilty of "shorten your reins" feedback. And now I can see the pissy-ness starting when I am riding poorly. After 6 months of being good, it started again, right when I started riding him more and taking fewer lessons. We are back on track again and he is sweet.

                      He has been described by many as "unforgiving," and as an adult rider I probably need "forgiving," but this horse is teaching me so much.

                      Anyway, just a thought that you are holding your horse back in some way, justifiably so, but she is reacting to that.


                        Have your trainer ride the horse for a couple of weeks to see if she has the problem. Have you had recent vet check"?


                          Based on my experience with various horses, resistance that come "out of the blue" are due to pain. The question is to diagnose the source of that pain.

                          One horse was great at extension collection. Then slowly over time that ability went away. The horse did not want to extend where in prior times he was the proverbial "go" button horse. Turns out he had EPM. He never presented any classic symptoms but blood work showed he was positive and had been for a while.

                          Another horse started showing resistance on the lunge line. Turns out he had Lyme.

                          So my vote is to look for sources of pain or discomfort.
                          Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
                          Alfred A. Montapert


                            Original Poster

                            There's something worth considering in what you've all said. Thank you. BlueD yes I've been thinking about giving conflicting aids 'go' but 'stop'. Unconsciously 'holding her back'. My anxiety goes to my hip joints as I found out when my best horse friend and I booked a double lesson with a well-known biomechanics coach we'd both done a lot work with over the years.

                            We rode our mares with the Franklin balls under our seat bones, the 'green moons' so quite big and taking a lot of balance and core to keep in place. I bounced happily around in sitting trot on both reins and my mare was fine, easy to achieve rhythm, and 'springiness'. I couldn't believe how much it opened my hip joint and let her back muscles slide underneath. It was a lot of fun, and something I'm really aware of now ie. 'am I letting her 'through'?'

                            Maybe I am but somewhere in there is this psychic 'nooooo' . It wouldn't surprise me. I am dangerously wound up about Dad's situation and am aware I am literally waiting for the call to say he's passed. Due to vascular disease and huge clot lodging behind his knee, seven weeks ago the surgeons amputated the leg and due to under lying conditions the stump won't heal, won't drain, and keeps getting infected, so he can't rehab, and they keep taking more and more off ... he's having a fourth surgery this morning. He's 84. Its an horrendous situation for him.

                            I thought I would try dealing with it by simply continuing to ride, given that utter focus you need with horses, I thought that might help, but that huge health crisis in the family and how its unravelling is very much playing into my ability to keep things light and relaxed with the horse. So I'm soldiering on but in fact, and I know, my stress is off the Richter scale.


                              doctordarling I'm so sorry that your Dad is having such a terrible time. Hugs to you.


                                Your dad is in my prayers. Do something less stressful with your horse for now.
                                Banter whenever you want to banter....canter whenever you want to canter.


                                  Are you comfortable hacking out on your horse? If not, why not?

                                  There is too much stress going on in your life right now, use out of the arena rides to help relieve some of it.
                                  Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                  Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                                    Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                                    Are you comfortable hacking out on your horse? If not, why not?
                                    There is too much stress going on in your life right now, use out of the arena rides to help relieve some of it.
                                    The horse is occasionnaly balking, bucking and rearing a little...

                                    The OP is, for good reasons, very stressed...

                                    Not sure this is the time to figure out if hacking out will be ok... and that is if there’s even a safe place for the OP to hack out.

                                    I truly do understand the hacking out when stressed, when either the rider or the horse needs some down time... but when there’s an issue with both, it’s more like a disaster waiting to happen.
                                    ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                                    Originally posted by LauraKY
                                    I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.


                                      Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post

                                      The horse is occasionnaly balking, bucking and rearing a little...

                                      The OP is, for good reasons, very stressed...

                                      Not sure this is the time to figure out if hacking out will be ok... and that is if there’s even a safe place for the OP to hack out.

                                      I truly do understand the hacking out when stressed, when either the rider or the horse needs some down time... but when there’s an issue with both, it’s more like a disaster waiting to happen.
                                      Agree, that is why I suggested trainer ride the horse for awhile. That would determine if it is a problem with the rider at this time and most likely rule out a physical, saddle fit, etc issue. The trainer could find out what is going on with the training and then help the rider with it.


                                        I would spend some time grooming and hand grazing my horse. You have enough on your plate right now.
                                        A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.--G. K. Chesterton