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Let's hear it for "difficult" horses!

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  • Let's hear it for "difficult" horses!

    A comment someone made was shared with me last night. Referring to my horse, she said she respected that I had "bitten off a lot." Not more than I could chew, but a lot.

    I LOVE my hot horse. He's generally quite mellow at home, calm and relaxed, and just happens to like to work a LOT and adds in plenty of running on his own since he has the space to do it. When we go away from home, though, he's a different story. With two former careers where trailering somewhere meant a lot of galloping (racing and eventing) he has taught me how much I need to improve as a rider if I want to teach him to relax away from home. It's definitely a work in progress.

    But oh, man, when I get it right... two weeks ago we had a clinic, his first time in a covered arena, it was 60 degrees hotter than it had been the previous saturday, he was my second ride of the day... I didn't have enough energy to deal with shenanigans if he'd given me any, but he was GREAT. When I got on he was slightly tense, and we worked forward through it. It took fewer than 5 minutes of warmup and he was just forward, attentive, and ready to GO TO WORK. Soft, sensitive as always, responsive, but with enough energy for both of us. He was my dream horse - and my hard work had gotten him there! Now, I have no doubt our horse show this weekend won't go as well, but I see the progress we're making, and now know that the horse I want to teach him to be is there. I wouldn't trade that forward, sensitive horse who happily carries both of us and repeatedly asks if I want more for an easy, even-tempered automaton and a million dollars!

    Tell me about YOUR "difficult" horse you love having!
    Originally posted by Silverbridge
    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.

  • #2
    I have one who is hot, hot hot. And difficult. He's a coming 10yr old OTTB who showed up at my doorstep going on three years ago with a reputation for being dangerous (confirmed rearer), and a plethora of other issues. It has taken a LOT of work to get him to act like a horse vs. a spaz case but we're getting there. Sometimes we have a bad day but, generally speaking, there has been a huge improvement, in fact we're just about ready to take the plunge and go to a show. I love the bond that we forged and I absolutely adore him, weird quirks and all.


    • #3
      My mare is a difficult horse in disguise.

      She is the type of horse that you would feel safe leading through a lightning storm or hacking out alone at dusk. She is so so so safe and is a average mover so she seems like an easy, low key ride.

      What people don't realize is that she is a very subtle ride and requires constant minute adjustments to keep her from inverting and racing. While she might be a 6 mover, she is very powerful so any tension or disobedience can be incredibly disconcerting even though it doesn't look like much on the ground.

      I love putting people up on her because invariably the first thing they say is "how do you sit her walk?! she's throwing me all over the place" or "how do I make her go straight?"

      She is a good horse to teach a rider that simple does not mean easy and safe does not mean dead-head.


      • #4
        Seems like every horse I own is a difficult horse. A short synopsis:

        Aged (17 when he acquired me) Hanoverian gelding who had been a stallion for quite some time and never lost his mental inner stallion. Schoolmaster to the extreme in that he does not suffer fools lightly and his default assumption is that everyone is a fool. Hardest trot to sit I've ever ridden. Knew every trick in the book and invented new ones, and used them in combination without mercy.

        KWPN gelding. Brain of a butterfly, body of a carthorse, and surprisingly moves incredibly well. When I bought him, he had convinced his previous rider to be a passenger and would throw giant (17.3hh) hissy fits if the rider attempted to, you know, ride. But super talented, so he gets a pass on some things. Some. Huge prima donna and loves the spotlight. For some reason, nobody wants to ride him.

        Weser-Ems pony mare. Wicked smart, wicked quick, and maybe just a little bit evil. Will never be a kids' pony. Has in the past annihilated a flock of turkeys that had the temerity to try to spook her. I suspect low submission scores will be in my future.


        • #5

          ROTFLOL. Love your descriptions--don't want to ride any of your horses, but do love the bios on them.


          • #6
            I love my hot, sensitive mare! She's a Friesian X NSH and most days, the NSH comes out in her personality. She's taught me SO much about riding properly, it's ridiculous. She's also taught me the important skill of how to sit a really hard duck, spin, jump, bolt spook. Lol. And despite her young age (5), she can tattle on me to my trainer when I'm not sitting balanced because she'll swing her hindquarters towards the offending seat bone. My other horse, is her polar opposite, and while he has his perks, I much prefer to ride the hot sensitive mare. Relaxation is definitely the key for these guys and quite difficult to get at the same time, but when you finally get that away from home, it's an amazing feeling!


            • #7
              I loved my difficult horse from the time I saw her photo as a 3-month old. She's the kind who just crawls into your heart and hangs out there.

              But I like my difficult horse more now that we're with a trainer who really gets her (and me). She's a higher quality horse than I "deserve" and I learned very early that she wasn't the amateur training project I'd hoped for.

              She took a long time to develop with her original trainer and I didn't take a very active role. But when my move across the country became permanent, I found us a new barn with a thoroughly German trainer, and it suits us well. Difficult Mare *loves* the trainer -- the boundaries are clearly established, discipline is always as a correction, and key words I hear all the time are "comfort" and "trust."

              I didn't realize that part of having a professional train my difficult horse would result in that horse becoming easier for me to ride as we both progressed!! Sure, she's finally developing great balance so the big gaits are controllable, but she's also more generous about my mistakes and more likely to trust my judgement when I say "no, I really DO mean now."

              I guess one thing that's been really weird is that I had it drilled into me that a horse should always be "better" when I get off than when I got on ... improved movement, new achievement, or quieter, more centered ... something. It's been a lot for me to get over the fact that it's not likely in this relationship ... for a while longer, at least, I'll be the two-steps back. But our trainer says that's okay. It's her job to "fix" the days she rides so that I can learn from a correct place ... and that my mistakes have become fewer and less aggregious ... and my horse is learning not just to be a talented performer, but a considerate "mount", too.

              Now we just have to work the strategy for long-term "comfort" so she can continue to develop her skills.


              • #8
                Okay, I'll play. 9 year old GRP, super moving, very pretty, looks easy but isn't. Not hot at all, needs to be inspired to go forward, scared of traffic in an arena and pretty much terrified of everything else too. I've always owned hot horses and am good at calming them down & keeping them focused. This is my first "behind the leg" type & boy do I find it challenging. I think we lost our focus recently schooling a lot of the complicated work and he managed to talk me into
                doing too much of the work while he just slugged along ignoring me. So we're back to "and you will go forward when I say" basics again.

                He spooks, spins, and bolts at the slightest provocation like noises, anything out hacking, the sound of sand hitting an arena fence, you name it. Once focused though, he's the best! He'll never be a beginner's ride but he'll always be my ride. We've pretty much got the spin & bolt thing under control (though I know it's always in there percolating along just below the surface), and the traffic issue is coming along nicely. We go out hacking after our rides at every opportunity even though he pretty much hates it.

                When he's focused and in front of the legs, he does his changes off weight aids, he offers everything with the lightest of aids. But generous? Nope, not his style. At least not yet! We'll get there though, I just know it!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by suzy View Post

                  ROTFLOL. Love your descriptions--don't want to ride any of your horses, but do love the bios on them.
                  Yeah... I get that a lot.

                  But 2 of them earned tricolors at the regional championships at multiple levels! That's got to count for something... or it just keeps me from giving up on them forever. Either/or.

                  I gotta say I love the "difficult" ones. And they seem to find me... my GRP was a Craigslist pony giveaway.


                  • #10
                    My gelding is difficult too, I was excited to see this thread When he's good he's AMAZING, but when he's bad he's BAD! We typically either win or get eliminated there is really no in-between with him. He came to me because his previous owner said he was dangerous and I would have to agree with her. He's on the younger side and still a bit green and he knows every trick in the book. He tests new riders, has thrown 3 of my friends (sent one into surgery) He is super sensitive, very opinionated, drama king, gets anxious so he can't hunter pace or fox hunt but will also be lazy and balk and rear. He likes to spook scoot spin and bolt (other wise known as tele porting) and he also enjoys bucking and galloping back to the barn after he throws you. Why do I ride this horse? He's gorgeous, nice mover, great jump, nice knees, very athletic, likes to go out alone, loves water and like I said before when he's good he amazing... hunters, jumpers he can do it all, I would never be able to afford a horse as nice as him so I guess I'm lucky he has some "quirks." He is an in your pocket type of horse on the ground, quite the cookie monster and he stole my heart after owning him for about 6 months so now I'm doomed. Hopfully I won't get hurt, I've fallen off of him to many times to count and have been lucky so far. I've had him for 3 years and we have made a lot of progress but I think he will always be a hit or miss special type of guy Good to know I'm not alone and there are others out there like him!


                    • #11
                      I was never interested in rodeo until my horse, now 15, learned to buck me off at age four. Rather than continue getting thrown, I learned to ride through the bucking. It was no fun for him anymore, so he quit doing it...

                      Except for this one Christmas eve day, when I went riding bareback in the pasture, got cantering and he got revved up and went bucking through a gateway, which landed me on a fence post and later in the urgent care clinic with a broken rib. I guess this one was just for old time's sake.

                      One of his other tricks in younger years was picking fights with the menacing horse in the arena mirrors. Once I was trotting by and he stopped, reared and attacked. Fortunately, he just left a big mouth print on the mirror and didn't break it or himself. (Today, he is BFF with the beeeyooootiful horse in the mirror.)

                      My trainer at the time was terrified of him. She told me he was dangerous and unsound and "worth dog food" and that I should get rid of him. So, I got rid of her.

                      Today, this horse is my go-to guy and an absolute joy to ride. We're working hard on 4th, he is trying very hard to learn the pirouettes and has nailed the tempis down to the 2s. He'll still occasionally act up at clinics and shows, but he is mostly just playing around.

                      I do take him frequently to a 4,000 acre park and let him trot out and gallop as much as he wants. Even though he's turned out full time at home, I think these mental health runs are good for his mind and help keep him sane -- they let him scratch his Thoroughbred "I MUST RUN, I MUST RUN" genetic itch.


                      • #12
                        Mine's not nearly so bad, but our show mantra seems to be "do really well, or scratch". There is not a lot of in between! She is very, very focused on what is going on around her. When she gets overwhelmed, her brains fall out of her head and it can take quite a while for her to get them back. She is actually quite a safe horse as long as one can deal with the fear. One nice thing, it doesn't come out of nowhere so I get ample warning and sometimes can bring her back.

                        When she is good, though, she is "on" and has saved my sorry butt a few times at shows.
                        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


                        • #13
                          Mine scares the gymkhana kids. Enough said.

                          Patience and Consistency are Your Friends


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rizzodm View Post
                            Mine scares the gymkhana kids. Enough said.

                            we got kicked out of 1 trainer's program because trainer was: "scared of her", only to find a WONDERFUL trainer who happens to LOVE my Chestnut, TB mare as much as I do

                            new trainer knows just how to pull the best out of my mare.

                            now she uses her powers for good instead of evil...


                            • #15
                              When it comes to dressage, isn't every horse "difficult" at least some of the time?

                              My own problem child has been making great strides. His favorite evasion used to be going behind the bit and now he's reaching for it. He's working over his back and becoming much more forward, which makes everything easier.

                              However ... all that forward has brought new challenges, as evidenced by a show we attended this weekend. I used to say he didn't buck much because it was too much work. Well ... it apparently isn't now.

                              But I have to admit I was giggling about it -- all that energy and pissiness left at the end of a three-day show. All I have to do now is channel it in the right direction.
                              "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                              the best day in ten years,
                              you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."


                              • Original Poster

                                Originally posted by mp View Post
                                When it comes to dressage, isn't every horse "difficult" at least some of the time?

                                My own problem child has been making great strides. His favorite evasion used to be going behind the bit and now he's reaching for it. He's working over his back and becoming much more forward, which makes everything easier.

                                However ... all that forward has brought new challenges, as evidenced by a show we attended this weekend. I used to say he didn't buck much because it was too much work. Well ... it apparently isn't now.

                                But I have to admit I was giggling about it -- all that energy and pissiness left at the end of a three-day show. All I have to do now is channel it in the right direction.
                                See, this is my thought on it.

                                When I got my horse, I actually told people I kind of felt like cheating because he was the easiest horse I'd ever ridden. I still do most of the time! He has his tricky points, but such great natural balance and so much love of movement - his tricky points are something I'd much rather live with than a horse who wants to plow around on his forehand.

                                I just don't let any friends ride him, given he has a tendency to make it VERY clear when he doesn't want other people on him...
                                Originally posted by Silverbridge
                                If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                                • #17
                                  I must say reading these posts have made me feel much better! I am not a dressage rider but I read the forums becuase I also find helpful info for my difficult mare (ie exercises, hind end work, lead changes, etc)


                                  • #18
                                    My trainer once told me some day I would be greatful for that spark... She was so right!

                                    The two tbs at my barn doing dressage have a much easier time it seems in this heat. Plus once you get a little bit of half step they run out of energy pretty fast if they are a hum ho type of beast.

                                    Nothing takes the sass out of the frass like a few passage steps between change of bend LOL

                                    Even counter canter has become a friend for the bucker lol
                                    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                                    • #19
                                      Thanks, you guys are making me feel a little bit better about my monster, who was particularly difficult last night.

                                      I've ridden a lot of difficult horses and even consider that to be my forte (cnm161, I wold totally gravitate toward your pony mare!), but my current beast is a)hot b)started way too late c)scared of everything d)hot e)a mare and f) hot. She was acting particularly beastly last night and I was feeling a little bit frustrated, since we have a show this weekend. Thanks for reminding me that she will be irresistably loveable again, right at the very moment I start to question my own sanity for getting such a challenging horse. I hope one day, her hotness and acrobatics will turn into beautiful expression and I'll love it!


                                      • #20
                                        I'd be bored if my horse was easy! Thinking back, all of my mares were tricky rides. Some were hot, but safe, some hot and not that safe, some not hot but opinionated.

                                        But we all made it work eventually. My current one is a 13yo Ottb I bought at the track. She is really fun to ride now, both in dressage and over fences, but we've had a few rough patches over the years.
                                        Case in point, vet visit, mare jumping out of her skin, playing hot air balloon at the end of the lead, vet asks: "You're riding THAT?!"

                                        When I had her at the big barn people would come and watch us ride just because things usually "got interesting".

                                        She now mostly does her airs-above-ground in turnout, not under saddle. She still has her moments, will squeal and bounce at times, or buck in the air over a fence, and I wouldn't have it any other way. She definitely made me a better, more tactful rider.
                                        Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!