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Help! My horse has learned how to get away from me while lungeing!

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  • Help! My horse has learned how to get away from me while lungeing!

    Yes, my draft x mare has finally learned that if she wants to quit, she can.

    Here's the story - we recently moved her to my daughter's farm, no arena, no round pen, but a nice flat paddock of moderate size (maybe 1/4 acre) to work in. All was well until about 1 month ago, she started tripping, and refused to pick up a L lead canter (it was always a bit of an issue, but when in consistent work, not so much). Yes, we had moved and didn't do much with her for about a month. I started taking lessons again, and things were going well, but she started having the tripping issue. (Her feet are fine according to my farrier). I rested her for a couple of weeks, a couple of days of bute, and started to lunge to see where she was at. The first day, she bucked a few times, not unsual, but then took off and ran around the paddock with what my trainer and I call "the Pepe LePeu canter". Now, I can't lunge her without her deciding to call it quits. Try as I might, I can't hold her when she does this. I can always catch her and put her back to work, but again, when she decides she's had enough, there we go again. She has done this before in the arena where I used to live, so it has always been in her bag of tricks, but is more of an issue now.

    Additional info: she is usually a quiet horse, but is an alpha mare, now living with a herd of goats. I am a 59 yo perpetual advanced beginner (ha!) We started on a joint supplement, but she seems to have a problem with them (smartflex senior for a week and all 4 feet got very hot). Cosequin a few years back and she became unmanageable.

    Any thoughts?
    "Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death."

  • #2
    Call the vet for the lead/leg/feet/joint issue.

    Call the trainer for the lunge issue.

    How do you lunge? With the bridle? Just the halter? Side reins? One-two lunge(s)?

    Could you not lunge her and just get on instead?
    ~ 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


    • #3
      Assuming it's not a physical issue, I would suggest doing more close contact ground work to gain her respect and to get her to soften her neck - it's when they straighten that giant neck that we always lose.

      Be patient and quiet, have her walk at your shoulder, not in front, not in back. Stop when you stop, go when you go, turn when you turn. When she makes a mistake, calmly put her where you want her. Be a little more forceful if she steps into your bubble of space. No bumping or crowding allowed. Walk over/around poles, cones, whatever. Turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, leg yield. You can progress into more classical in hand work and start shoulder-in, haunches-in, etc. There are unlimited things you can work on. Just make every step yours.

      A good exercise to help her relearn how to respond to a pull on the halter is to have her stand still, walk around her to the opposite side with the lead over her back and then ask her to follow the rope (it would be away from you) to turn around to you. That may be harder to describe that it is, do you know what I'm talking about?

      Work on flexions on a small circle - not the pull the nose to the tail type, but a normal bend you would ask for under saddle. Watch for her neck to relax and make sure she gives you her head, that you're not pulling it around. She should soften towards you whenever you ask. If she can't do it on a small circle around you at the walk, don't expect her to do it on a larger circle at a faster speed. Increase the size and speed only when she is completely responsive at the smaller size. Make sure you give her plenty of walk breaks on a straight line and change the direction frequently.

      All of this will help you gain her respect and turn YOU into the alpha. She may resist at first and get nasty, just be insistent and patient. Try to avoid fighting, but don't let her win either. Also, don't let it all go when you leave the arena! Expect the same response in the barn or walking to her pasture. Depending on how skilled you are, you may be ready to try lunging again in two weeks or two months. A pulling habit can be hard to fix and it's really going to be respect that does it.

      Also, what equipment are you using? A lunging cavesson would give you more control, more leverage, as well as protect her mouth if you are lunging with a bit. With a horse that knows it can pull away, I don't think I'd use anything else. I also wouldn't use side reins at this point either - she could hurt her own mouth by pulling away and then you'd have pain controlling her actions.

      (As an aside, if you simply do a long pull against the horse when it's taking off, you will never win - the horse can use that neck to just haul you around. If, however, and this takes some timing work, you can relax the line and pull HARD at the right moment, you can spin a cantering horse around without much effort. It's not strength, it's timing - I'm 5'4" and have done it many times, including on full Irish Draught horses. You could actually practice it with her at the trot/walk in a gentle way to work on your timing.) I've spent many years breaking babies or rehabbing and riding the problem horses that other people didn't want to deal with and it all boils down to respect. And respect comes from being firm, being fair, and being consistent - NOT being a bully or causing pain.

      Edited to add: Riding her and working with her on the ground can be two separate things - you will not necessarily get the respect you need on the ground from riding her.


      • #4
        get help from a trainer who will not allow this kind of behavior. She has your number now and that is DANGEROUS. The tripping *might* be EPSM or more likely just her being lazy and not putting effort into her work.

        if this were me i would lunge her only in a bridle, with side reins, with the line either thru the bit ring and up over her head to the other ring OR thru the bit ring back to the girt. either will give you leverage.

        also if possible make a lunge arena with T stakes and hot wire so she cant leave.

        wear gloves, keep her on a small circle and drive her forward. do NOT allow her to lose focus from you for even a second.

        but really find a trainer who can help you. this is a VERY bad habit that needs to be canceled now.


        • #5
          Originally posted by OreoCookie View Post
          protect her mouth if you are lunging with a bit.
          who cares about her mouth at this point? seriously. she needs to learn NOW to not pull away. this is a very.bad.thing. and must be stopped. if it hurts she might think twice before doing it again.


          • #6
            Originally posted by mbm View Post
            get help from a trainer who will not allow this kind of behavior. She has your number now and that is DANGEROUS. The tripping *might* be EPSM or more likely just her being lazy and not putting effort into her work.

            if this were me i would lunge her only in a bridle, with side reins, with the line either thru the bit ring and up over her head to the other ring OR thru the bit ring back to the girt. either will give you leverage.

            also if possible make a lunge arena with T stakes and hot wire so she cant leave.

            wear gloves, keep her on a small circle and drive her forward. do NOT allow her to lose focus from you for even a second.

            but really find a trainer who can help you. this is a VERY bad habit that needs to be canceled now.
            ^THIS. Especially the rein through the bit and back to the girth. This will add to your "strength" so you can get her "number".
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            • #7
              I think OreoCookie has some very good ideas, but I think first and foremost you need to set up a safe lunging (or ground working or riding) area that is properly fenced. Having a barrier/wall up from which she cannot escape will be very helpful in both as deterrent for her and as a confidence-helper for you since you'll know she can't actually go anywhere.

              I would also be consulting with the vet on finding reasons for her tripping. Sound horses don't trip, so while it may not be her feet (according to your farrier), it surely is something if this has become more than a once or twice occurrence.

              Finding a trainer who can help you through this is also paramount. At this point your confidence is shaken and your horse's confidence is too much. You need to learn how to work with her on the ground and do exercises that aren't lunging but will transfer to you having better skills whilst lunging and will teach her how to submit in her body and soften in her body and mind.
              "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


              • #8
                I agree with the posts, I don't know where you are in PA but I am in the southern tier of NY and can help. PM me and we can chat. I hope this helps.


                • #9
                  As others have asked! Do you use a bridle, a cavesson, side reins?

                  A horse like this I would longe in side reins, and a bridle with the longe through one ring and over the head to the second bit ring-never on one bit ring, and if necessary, I would instead use a chain at the end of the line with the chain thru the bit rings and over her nose instead of over her head.

                  I know this sounds harsh, and it is. She needs a sharp come-uppence. Once she gets in trouble once, it should not be an issue again. In way too many years doing this, I have used it on one horse. His education was instant!!
                  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.


                  • #10
                    My horse learned this trick, too. Now he's never lunged without a bridle, longing cavesson, and side reins. I set it up like merrygoround suggested, with the longe line through the bit ring on one side, up over the poll, and snapped to the other bit ring. I also do a lot of in hand work with him, but always with the side reins, and dressage whip. He walks when I walk, he trots when I jog, and he stops when I stop. If he doesn't stop when I stop, he has to rein back and we try again.

                    It makes a huge difference in his attitude on the ground, either grooming or leading. No more trying to bolt for 'fun'.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks for some very thoughtful responses.
                      Yesterday, after the running away incidents, I rode her for about 1/2 hour w/ no problems FWIW.

                      I lunge her with the line over her poll snapped to the opposite side. Sometimes with sliding side reins, sometimes not. She is better with the side reins on, but has gotten away from me wearing them too.

                      I have done a lot of ground work, mostly Mike Schaffer, with her, but I agree that I am not her "alpha" especially when something scary is going on, or it's windy and cold, etc. Some days she is good as gold, others, she's on another planet. She is NOT good at giving to the bit - some days it takes 20 min. or so before she gets responsive. Other days, she is quite good - like immediately. I'll admit sometimes I just want to get on an ride, and forego the groundwork.

                      classics - I am in South Central PA, but would be interested in any ideas you would have!

                      I have never lunged with the line going from bit to girth, not sure about that. I was also thinking about a lunge cavesson. I don't have one but could probably borrow one. I also agree that I will get my trainer involved (like, yesterday!) It could be a problem setting up a lunge area, bc it's not my property, but I think we might be able to work something out.

                      My gut feeling is that I need to get the vet involved too. Just was hoping the problem would resolve before I went that route.
                      "Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death."


                      • #12
                        With a horse like her I would not use a cavesson. It is far too kind.

                        I use one to start all horses and continue until and unless they misbehave. I had one imp that liked to step back and strike at the centrally placed longe line when it was on the cavesson. He rapidly graduated to a bridle and bit arrangement.
                        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.


                        • #13
                          I think in this situation you very would be wise to cordon off a smaller area to work in---something visual to discourage her from just running off. Pipe Panels are solid and are fairly easy to work with---if nothing else step in posts and hot tape might serve this purpose.

                          I have found that running the lunge through the bit ring to the girth or surcingle is far more effective than over the poll for keeping them turning also regular side reins rather than sliding reins.
                          Redbud Ranch
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                          • #14
                            For sure, lunge with a caveson, with side reins attached to the caveson. A stiffer caveson/unserrated serrata is even better. But everything is technique.

                            How is she getting away? Turning away?? Do you start in walk (on a smallish circle)? Do you keep her between the inside hand (one pointed at her head/elbow bended) and outside hand (whip pointed at croup)? Do you mark time on one spot or wander what you think is a circle? Do you have the inside s.r. slightly shorter? You need to have a taut line, by running it over the top it is easy to have tooooo much and they can turn away.

                            What do YOU consider 'giving to the bit'? Lateral flexiblity or longitudinal flexion? This is where a draft can deep six you if you are about the later.

                            And NEVER should the horse be allowed to play/buck on the lunge line. They immediately are stopped, and restarted with calm.
                            I.D.E.A. yoda


                            • #15
                              sound horses *do* trip! they do it when they are being lazy and not paying attention. Ask them to actually put some energy into the work and the tripping will stop.

                              Not everything is vet related - alot is actually related to the energy the horse is expected to put into their work.


                              • #16
                                I will say that I have had success with using a rope halter with knots on the nose for horses would like to bolt and/or turn on the lunge to get away. But you have to be able to react quickly and a lot of times I see people actually teach their horses bad behavior on the lunge because they, themselves, are not good at it. Lungeing may seem simple but there is an art to it and it can quickly go downhill.

                                mbm, I do agree with you that it is not always vet related. Of course we dont want to assume the horse is just being a snot and ignore any possible health issues. But sometimes they do get your number. I know too many people that have this issue, even currently, and it is a vicious cycle. I think a lot of times people are worried they are going to bolt or try to get away so they let them poke around at a jog and not actually work. When that occurs, tripping is very likely. Then they learn that if they go forward, thats when they can get away, so then they basically train their handler to let them poke around and not work.

                                How often do you lunge her/work on circles? The not wanting to pick up the lead when she would before would make me think stifle. If you lunge too much or too often, you are putting a lot of wear and tear on the stifles and esp in the bigger horses, you will see them start to not pick up leads, esp more on the lunge than u/s.

                                Member of the ILMD[FN]HP Clique, The Florida Clique, OMGiH I loff my mares, and the Bareback Riders clique!


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by mbm View Post
                                  sound horses *do* trip! they do it when they are being lazy and not paying attention. Ask them to actually put some energy into the work and the tripping will stop.

                                  Not everything is vet related - alot is actually related to the energy the horse is expected to put into their work.
                                  Sound horses certainly do trip. Some trip if they're not strong enough or haven't developed appropriate balance for the work.
                                  Donald Trump - proven liar, cheat, traitor and sexual predator! Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but we have all lost.


                                  • #18
                                    I had an unruly young one who would test me every time on this and run to the next county, so trainer taught me to use a rope halter and cradle my end of the lunge line back around my seat to give me some leverage. (not to dangerously wrap myself in the line, just place it behind you and sink your weight in your heels when necessary as a counter-balance-think unfair advantage in playing tug of war) guide with one hand run behind your butt and hold surplus slack with the other. It took a while to gain coordination but it works every time, on every horse.
                                    Its an easy way to use your weight to counteract his weight. Now I use this as my method on every horse just in case.
                                    no hoof, no horse
                                    no head, no horseman. just wear it.


                                    • #19
                                      Instead of wrapping the lungeline such as you are doing, try this: thread the line through the bit ring nearest you, under the horse's chin, through the off bit ring, then up the off side of the horse's head, over the poll, and back to you, attaching it to the bit ring nearest you. Make sure when you change directions, you also change the way the lungeline is threaded. While I have had one horse pull me off my feet this way, as a rule, it makes escape more difficult because you can turn their whole head toward you as they start to run. Yes, and do use sidereins as well.


                                      • #20
                                        I also use the lunge line through the bit to the girth...but I think it requires someone with tact and confidence in their lunging abilities-- not for a novice. With that arrangement, there's a lot of leverage acting on the horse's mouth/neck, and the horse will easily overbend, and/or turn in to face you if you aren't careful. I prefer to use an outside side rein, too, that way you bend the horse into the outside rein to half-halt himself. I'd double longe, too, if I knew the horse was okay with an outside line touching his hocks; still with the inside line through the bit to girth on a strong, charging horse.
                                        “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                                        ? Albert Einstein