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Balking

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  • Balking

    Can you educate me about the balking horse? One that will kick out when asked to move forward, back up and threaten to rear, ears back, total pissy attitude?

    How does one correct this behaviour?

    A friend had a bad ride yesterday and tried all known avenues to correct the horse. Got off the horse, lunged. Got back on, horse zoomed backwards and kicked the wall. Pinned the ears, total refusal to move forward.

    Apparently the horse had a great first half of a work out but in the midst of trotting, just quit.

    My friend thinks the horse is ring sour and needs a good gallop.

    I don't know what to tell her since i never had this problem with my horses. My mare would sometimes get tough, but only when she was about to come into heat, but never like this. And she worked out of it.

    My friend quit and got off, convinced her horse was going to rear or buck and toss her.

    Advice? Do horses do this because of mental issues or is it most always physical?

  • #2
    Tell your friend to get herself a good trainer.

    It can be physical, more than often it is.
    It can be bad behavior. Bad behavior can also be pain related, even if the horse is no longer technically suffering from said pain. Memory of the pain.

    If it is not usual for this horse to act like that, it is probably physical. Do a first exam yourself if you could find anything that could have cause the pain. (ill fitted tack, teeth, back, maybe the horse knocked one of its leg? locomotion problem from recent farrier job?, check under the feet, tail, neck, whatever!) Then call the vet.

    Ring sour come usually from a rider problem who is not listening to his horse.
    ~ 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.
    HORSING mobile training app

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    • #3
      Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post

      Ring sour come usually from a rider problem who is not listening to his horse.
      Absolutely. Repeat all of the above .

      Comment


      • #4
        Yes to alibi's comment about ring sour. Also, there is far too little info in the original post to determine possible sources of the problem. If you can rule out health, saddle fit, teeth, etc. problems, than you have to scrutinize what the rider is doing.

        This comment "My friend quit and got off, convinced her horse was going to rear or buck and toss her." shows that your friend is anticipating a problem. This anticipation is going to make her very tight--with her hands, seat, legs. etc. All of these things will prevent a horse from moving freely forward. Is she not taking lessons??? If not, she needs to get into a lesson program right away and preferably with someone who is willing to ride the horse to better understand the source of the problem.

        Comment


        • #5
          My friend quit and got off, convinced her horse was going to rear or buck and toss her.
          Defintely get off, but try to do so before it gets so out of hand that the rider no longer is able to choose the timimg.
          Then calmly continue working the horse on the lunge etc (at least for a few minutes) so that STOP comes from the human not the horse.

          Apparently the horse had a great first half of a work out but in the midst of trotting, just quit.
          BUT then this sounds like pain, did she asses the horse then? or just assume bahavior?
          It can be difficult to determine, but if this is out of character for the horse, & she seemed physically fine, I'd've settled with some nice responses on the lunge & not gotten back on.
          Then give mare a few days off or just lunge work until it's determined that it's not a physical issue (again depending on the horse & subsequent demeanor, have vet out).

          Do you have a trainer that knows the horse & can work with her a bit before having your friend get back on.
          I agree that this
          convinced her horse was going to rear or buck and toss her
          suggests there have been other warnings.

          Have you watched a ride recently? do you have a trainer doing at least one ride a week?

          Comment


          • #6
            Sometimes if you use opening rein to move the feet sideways, rather than getting in a flat out war with leg, spur and whip, you can tactfully keep the ride going.

            I had one who did this. Leg and spur and you would be off (I learned in the first ten minutes of my first ride!). Opening rein and a cluck and he would usually re-start.
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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Well, I can only speak of what I've been told, but I'm pretty sure the horse has been fit by a saddler so that is good.

              I asked about health and the horse's turnout was cut down a couple months ago to a tiny paddock. The horse is pretty high energy. I think that she had the horse moved to a large paddock for 24/7 turnout following this incident.

              The horse had been off work (no fault to the horse, it was my friend's schedule) for almost a month or so.

              I asked why she got off the horse and she said that the horse was acting in such a way that the horse never had-complete refusal to move forward, pawing, and leg on the horse and the horse kicked out with one hind (wasnt clear if the horse connected with anything like a wall, but I think so). She said she got off, worked from the ground and remounted. As soon as she asked the horse to move forward, the horse started going backwards.

              I wasn't there, so I don't know the particulars beyond The horse does do better when my friend rides her all the time, so I'm told.

              I'm wondering if it is is a combo of too much energy, not enough turnout, lack of work and general bad attitude. She said the horse can sometimes be difficult but never like this, and nothing has changed as far as tack or feed or farrier care.

              Friend said the horse is getting spring shots/check up next week (or around there) and will have the horse examined fully, just in case.

              My thought is that she should have stayed on until she got the horse forward. Ideas?

              Could ulcers cause this?

              Comment


              • #8
                Is it a mare? I had a rescued mare that would absolutely refuse to go forward during a certain part of her heat cycle. She was experiencing pain with a rider in the saddle, and as a result would refuse to go forward. She was very good natured, and could be encouraged to move forward, but would do so grudgingly and uncomfortably.

                She has since gone to a new home, where she is mostly a pasture pet/occasional trail horse.... but if I had kept her, I would have considered regumate for her.
                Founder & President, Dapplebay, Inc.
                Creative Director, Equestrian Culture Magazine
                Take us to print!

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by alto View Post
                  Defintely get off, but try to do so before it gets so out of hand that the rider no longer is able to choose the timimg.
                  Then calmly continue working the horse on the lunge etc (at least for a few minutes) so that STOP comes from the human not the horse.


                  BUT then this sounds like pain, did she asses the horse then? or just assume bahavior?
                  It can be difficult to determine, but if this is out of character for the horse, & she seemed physically fine, I'd've settled with some nice responses on the lunge & not gotten back on.
                  Then give mare a few days off or just lunge work until it's determined that it's not a physical issue (again depending on the horse & subsequent demeanor, have vet out).

                  Do you have a trainer that knows the horse & can work with her a bit before having your friend get back on.
                  I agree that this
                  convinced her horse was going to rear or buck and toss her
                  suggests there have been other warnings.

                  Have you watched a ride recently? do you have a trainer doing at least one ride a week?
                  I asked if the horse seemed sore, she said no. I guess the horse was perfectly fine lunging, tacking and the beginning of the ride. So good, my friend said she was surprised that the horse was so chill given the time off.

                  Not my horse, so no on the do I have a trainer riding. I will see if our schedules collide next time she rides, I would love to see what it looks like (mostly for educational purposes and a second set of eyes always helps).

                  I dont know if she disengaged the hind end. Probably not, given the story and outcome.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Yes it is a mare.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hmm. Something to consider, then.
                      Founder & President, Dapplebay, Inc.
                      Creative Director, Equestrian Culture Magazine
                      Take us to print!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Well I'm glad to hear this wasn't your horse

                        Ulcers could cause this - & may be likely given the time off & changes in horsekeeping - unfortunately they don't heal on their own so owner needs to either scope or just treat.

                        Yes riding forward (or lateral & then forward etc) is the answer BUT not if the rider is tense/anticipating/scared etc.

                        Encourage your friend to do some lessons or get a trainer involved, I'd also have the vet/chiro out to really assess the horse for soreness.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I knew a horse like that, but he would occasionally act up on the ground too. His rider would be able to restart forward movement if he was on the lungeline or leading, but was never successful when riding. I don't think she ever found out why he would have those episodes. And you didn't want to get into a fight with him, he knew how to get ugly!

                          I think your situation sounds like a horse dealing with some type of discomfort.
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                          • #14
                            I, personnally, would wait until the vet's approval before getting back up since he's coming shortly.

                            I would lunge and free lunge until then and see if there any thing wrong or if the behavior is improving.

                            Since the horse is working less than usual, has her food been decreased accordingly?

                            There is no point in riding a horse who is potentially ill/lame/sore and reacts that badly.

                            Being out of work, fresh and hot, a mare, and this early in spring...I'm not that surprise this horse is acting out.

                            I wonder if this horse might have bite her tongue/inside cheek and is in need of some teeth floating.
                            ~ 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.
                            HORSING mobile training app

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              I will pass this information along to my friend. Not sure if the horse needs a float. Could teeth cause balking?

                              I dont know about the food reduction, but I imagine not. If it were a tooth thing, wouldn't the horse be fresh off the bat and not halfway through the ride?
                              I read someplace that horses with ulcers can act up through the ride. I thought my horse had them but did not.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Yes, teeth problems can cause balking! Rearing, head shaking, pawing, being nervous, can cause lots of different things.

                                Yes, horse might be good one second but then if she suddenly bites herself or get hurt from a tiny sharp point while the rider takes contact with the reins she can act up for the rest of the ride! Ask me how I know!!!

                                To many possibilities. Pro help is needed.
                                ~ 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.
                                HORSING mobile training app

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I had a mare that would do this when in heat. Otherwise a delightful, easygoing girl, but when she was cycling, she didn't want to go forward under saddle. Sometimes she'd start a ride reasonably well and then just stop dead... and that was the end of it.

                                  We checked all other avenues just in case there was a problem unrelated to her cycles that she would tolerate except when in heat - teeth were checked, treated her for ulcers, chiropractor looked her over, she got a few massages, saddle fit was checked, another saddle that fit reasonably well was tried, etc. - with no change, in addition to having a vet check her out for "girl issues." Nothing obvious; she just has rough heat cycles. She's even sensitive to having her sides touched from the ground while in heat.

                                  I've had her on Mare Magic since I bought her, but on the advice of someone who had been through a similar issue, I put her back on the loading dose and kept her there. The next two cycles, I used a western saddle on her - I was concerned she'd hate it, but I wanted to make sure I could at least keep her walking a bit and thought I could use the extra support in the event of an outburst. She actually loved that saddle. I think the extra weight distribution in her "tender times" was helpful for her. She went quite willingly in it.

                                  From her third cycle (post Mare Magic increase) on, she's been fine. Way less side tenderness, and she works out of tightness without slamming on the brakes now.

                                  I have no idea exactly why it works. One theory I've heard is that the calcium and potassium in raspberry leaves (which, quite frankly, is all Mare Magic is) help with the smooth muscles in the uterus and pelvic region, which diminishes pain during heat cycles. Maybe it's crazy. I don't know. Whatever it is, I don't intend to take the mare off of it anytime soon!

                                  Anyway, just offering another experience. I do agree with the others in regards to checking back, teeth, joints, ulcers, etc. It sounds like it's physical to me, just from the limited info here, and there's no sense in hurting the poor girl.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Ah, timely! I currently have one of these - part of the reason I purchased her

                                    Originally posted by LittleblackMorgan View Post
                                    How does one correct this behaviour?
                                    CORRECT TIMING OF THE AIDS!!! Your timing has to be excruciatingly perfect and you have to have INFINITE patience.

                                    I'll describe what I've done with this particular mare. First, a little background info: mare constantly challenges. Everyone. Previous owner tells me this mare would persistently "check" to make sure Boss Hoss was still boss hoss. She would also persistently challenge her owner u/s and drag her into a fight whereby the balkiness would increase to the point of NO forward. She'd even test the farrier when asked to pick up her feet. She was also girthy and did not like to stand to be tacked (red flags #1 and 2).

                                    My first ride: she backed and backed and backed... I let her. I did NOT apply leg to ask for forward as I felt it would add fuel to the fire - I did not need her firing backward like a bat out of h3ll. So I asked, then when she backed, I took my leg off and waited. The instant she stopped moving her feet, I re-asked. This happened about 3 times before she decided Tactic #1 was useless and she stepped forward a couple steps. Pissy face the entire time throughout all this. Tactic #2 was to rear or hop. Again, no adding fuel to the fire by applying aids or reprimanding her - she was LOOKING for a fight and I was not going to play into it. Asking, waiting, re-asking. Finally we got walk. Every time she halted, I patiently re-asked (using the same methods as above). I waited for her to make the mistake without correcting her before she made the mistake, even though I knew she was about to make the mistake (ie, halting). Timing was KEY!!!! Within that one ride she was trotting and within 3 rides she was enjoying her work u/s. She has a ways to go yet (I have only worked her maybe a dozen times at most) but is GREATLY improved now - w/t, very forward and fully in front of the leg (in fact, now I am having to channel that forward, haha!). More repetition and continuing to apply forward to various exercises that challenge her, and she'll be good as gold. She really enjoys her work u/s now (very happy to see me!), is easy to tack up and is no longer girthy, and has even been a doll for the farrier since she's progressed u/s. This was supposed to be a sale horse but I'm sorta falling in love

                                    This particular mare REALLY hates heavy aids - she REALLY likes her rider to be extremely light (more sensitive than usual). So I use light aids, and ask ask ask until I get it. Sometimes (with other horses, not with this horse) I do draw the line and increase an aid, but then I INSTANTLY remove the aid the INSTANT I feel a response - even if it is just a thought yet. If she does not follow through on the thought, I can always re-ask.

                                    Other horses I have worked with have not been so extreme and in those cases, timing was also key but I could increase the aids and "draw the line" so to speak (ie, increase my aids until I received a response, then release). "Expect a lot, reward little" - be prepared to reward the thought. If the horse fails to follow through on the thought, no worries, just re-ask. Your response must be instantaneous. If the horse is not so extreme that you can increase your aids, do so - increase your leg in phases (ie, cue with your seat, then your leg, then apply heel, tap with heel, then continue these cues and also increase the pressure via the end of a rope/dressage whip), spank with the end of a rope/wiggle then tap with a dressage whip, then release the instant you get a response. "It's the release that teaches".


                                    You could also have someone on the ground help you, perhaps in a roundpen. Once you've got them thinking forward even a little, you can build off that. Give them a job to do that they really enjoy and that encourages forward - chase cows, hack out, etc. Use the point-to-point exercise (I explained it here, post #9) or other exercises that encourage forward - poles on the ground, jumps, transitions, etc.

                                    Apparently the horse had a great first half of a work out but in the midst of trotting, just quit.
                                    The horse could be tired. I've ridden some horses who had an "expiration time" whereby I had to adjust accordingly. If the horse can only give you 30min, take 30min and quit BEFORE he quits (VERY important). Over time you build more of a work ethic to where the horse can go all day, but you have to EARN this, some horses won't automatically give it willingly. Again, keep the mind stimulated and do something the horse clearly enjoys doing. This might mean forgetting all arena work for a couple months and just hacking out (even in ditches if you don't have trails!). Or it might mean setting up some jumps or maybe patterns using barrels or cones - anything to interest the horse. Then quit before the horse quits.

                                    Do horses do this because of mental issues or is it most always physical?
                                    Also of course consider ulcers, pain, saddle fit, teeth, etc - all the usual. Ime it can be either or even both. Completely depends.


                                    If this is behavioural, this requires a ton of patience and absolutely perfect timing. If your friend rides this horse unsuccessfully more than 3 times or the horse escalates to the point of being dangerous (which sounds to potentially be the case), get off and get the help of a professional. Allow the horse to continue this say more than 3 times and you're establishing a habit that is much more difficult to undo than if it is not yet an established behaviour pattern. Remember: "there are no problem horses, only problem riders". It's up to your friend to figure out the best approach for this horse, which will likely require professional help. This is not the horse's fault.

                                    ETA: sorry for the novel, hopefully some of it helps though. Just read all the previous posts and I have to second just about everything said and recommended
                                    Last edited by naturalequus; Mar. 9, 2012, 06:27 PM.
                                    ....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.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I had a horse that would get very balky. He'd been a school horse and just hated it. When he was done, he stopped. if you urged him forward, he would kick out.

                                      Rather than get into a fight, the best way to deal with him was to out wait him. Just sit there for 5 minutes or so. Not with loose reins but with contact, leg lightly on but not letting him move at all.

                                      Then change the subject.

                                      Rather than ask him to forward, asking him to move sideways, for example.

                                      Getting into a battle with him just made him dig in for the long haul.

                                      He stopped being balky completely after awhile when he realized that every ride wasn't going to be a battle.
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                                      • #20
                                        You are in New England? I would definitely test for Lyme. When I first got my horse (also past school horse baggage), he acted similarly, though never threatened rearing or anything terrible, just balky and kick at the leg....never lame...but his Lyme titer was off the charts. Two rounds of Doxy, some blue 'pop rocks' afterwards for suspected ulcers and he is a different horse...pleasant, forward, willing.
                                        Once your friend has ruled out physical issues, definitely go with a month or two with a good trainer/strong rider that can sit out the hissy fits.
                                        Wiiliam
                                        "A good horse is worth more than riches."
                                        - Spanish Proverb

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