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Why does cold weather make my mare suck back & refuse to go forward?

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  • Why does cold weather make my mare suck back & refuse to go forward?

    All last winter my 6 yr. old mare sucked back & refused to go forward. She ignored my legs & whip. Spinning her in circles would get her to go forward for a little while, but then I'd have to spin her again.

    When the weather warmed up she quit refusing to go forward & went willingly forward all summer.

    Now that winter is here again she is back to her old refusals. If I understood why she does this I might be able to change something. Help!

  • #2
    She's probably cold, which is making her tense. My gelding does better if he wears his BoT saddle pad, a quarter sheet, and gets a long warmup focused on getting him loose and forward. While tacking him up, I go as quickly as possible and don't pull his blankets off until I need to. Otherwise he just locks his body and I can't get anything from him.


    • #3
      In the winter, my horse generally has plenty of forward, however, I still do a careful warmup to make sure she is ready to work. I generally leave the blanket folded over on the back half (loins to hindquarters) while I groom and tack up. Once I've tacked up, I'll groom her in the area that was previously covered and then will put a quarter sheet on. If the ring isn't busy, I'll longe her for 10 minutes or so. If there are too many people in the ring, I'll do the same amount of handwalking before getting on.


      • #4
        Is she hurting somewhere? Arthritis? That would be worse in the winter. Or, maybe just a quarter sheet would help her.
        Originally posted by RugBug
        Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.


        • #5
          I have used heating pads, massagers and quarter sheets for some horses. If I like riding them I do what they need done.
          “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
          ? Albert Einstein


          • #6
            In addition to all of the above, I'm convinced that ulcers can be seasonal. Either brought on by a fall weed or mold, or simply the lack of forage.

            Also, mares can have trouble with their cycles, which brings on low-back pain, in the late fall.

            I would start looking for what's bothering your horse instead of treating it like a training problem.
            "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince


            • #7
              Originally posted by EJF View Post
              Now that winter is here again she is back to her old refusals. If I understood why she does this I might be able to change something. Help!
              Static electricity shocks? Saddle panels are cold so less flexible? Does she get better as she warms up?


              • #8
                There is also a good body of work on low-grade laminitis that indicates the sugars in fall grasses can cause problems for some horses, not just those with classic Cushings symptoms. Sore feet would definitely make a horse fail to go forward.

                "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
                - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926


                • #9
                  I would test each hypothesis carefully -

                  so maybe start with she is cold so therefore tense...

                  warm her up carefully with a quatersheet, etc. walk her briskly (in hand if need be) for 10 minutes then ask her to trot gently so her muscles can loosen. You might try this on the lunge so you can see what is happening.

                  It also might be she is unsure of the footing if it has rained and or the ground is frozen.... that will generally go away as they horse gets used to it.

                  I would be very careful of "spinning her" because that may make things worse.

                  When she balks make sure you go directly to a straight line, relax your body and relax the contact so she can walk forward.

                  Go in slow incremental steps and see how it works.

                  Good luck.

                  ps - I also agree that arthritis could be a possibility - I know with me I am fine all summer but the minute it gets cooler my hips hurt like a mofo and standing up and walking is difficult the first few steps - if I was being ridden I would balk too!


                  • #10
                    You are riding outside? Wind in her face could be a problem for her...cold wind.
                    Ride like you mean it.


                    • #11
                      What is the footing like? If it is frozen or hard, that is a clue.


                      • #12
                        Agree with Retrofit, it may be cycle/hormone related. Hormones are all over the place in the fall through January or so, and some horses are affected by the fluctuations more than others. Perhaps give your vet a call for their input.


                        • #13
                          I'll add to the folks who say hormones as well. I have a mare that was horrible this fall and she's been wonderful all summer. She's had a "don't touch me" attitude and did not want me putting a leg on her. For the last two weeks, I've seen none of the attitude. Of course, for part of that time the neighbor's TWH stallion was pasture breeding her mares across the street.
                          Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Goethe


                          • #14
                            I say start treating the least complicated possibilities first and rule out each thing in order.

                            1. Cold muscles - use a quarter sheet and warmup slowly. Start on the lungeline to see if she goes willingly without weight on her back. If that doesn't improve - continue using the quarter sheet and go to
                            2. Footing - is it hard and frozen enough to give sore feet, or slippery enough to make her afraid to move forward?
                            3. Mild arthritis - give low dose (for her weight) of bute for 1 week - continute with quarter sheet and slow warmup - see if there is improvement if not -
                            4. Ulcers - is she girthy or grumpy while being tacked up? Any other personality chages? Try giving her some tums with each feeding for a week and see if she improves. If so - follow up with scope and/or ulcer treatment (ranitidine, pop rocks or gastroguard)
                            5. Hormones - this seems to be the first conclusion a lot of people come to with mares and I really think this is the last thing to consider in most cases.

                            Our gelding started acting the same way as soon as the weather turned cold, so the most likely possibilities are either sore muscles, arthritis, SI out of whack, or ulcers. We're in the early stages of eliminating one thing at a time. He's not lame, but doesn't want to move downhill and is hopping at the canter, so we've backed him off of canter work, doing 3 weeks of slow warmup with quarter sheet, and uphill work. We're in week 2 of this, at the end we'll pop him on a lungeline to see if he can pickup the canter without hopping or bucking. If not, vet will be called.
                            Lowly Farm Hand with Delusions of Barn Biddieom.
                            Witherun Farm


                            • #15
                              I have a gelding that becomes behind the leg and does not want to go forward at all every fall. In the early spring he feels better and gets back to work. His issue is hormone-related. He is now on hormone meds and is doing much better. So it can be hormone-related regardless of the horse's gender. I'm not saying this is the answer to the OP's issue, but it isn't something I would put at the bottom of the list, either.


                              • #16
                                Frisky for some is just plain tense.

                                I would make sure you are not riding like its cold frisky weather because a lot of rider (myself included) look out at the gloomy sky and expect some trouble LOL

                                How cold is it where you are?

                                I would expect a good ride cold or not. Warm her up good but then ask her to work.

                                Horses should be fairly impervious.
                                ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                                • Original Poster

                                  Wow! Great ideas!

                                  You've given me lots to think about. I'm so glad I asked! It's interesting that geldings do this too.

                                  My mare is usually longed for 10 minutes before riding to motivate her because she's a lazy type. In the summer she doesn't balk, she's just lazy about going forward. In the winter she balks repeatedly, as much after she has been warmed up as she does before she is warm. She balks as much on warm winter days as on cold days.

                                  I keep her blanket on her hindquarters while grooming & tacking up & use a quarter sheet on her but it doesn't seem to help.

                                  She is girthy & prefers my fabric girth to my synthetic one. She has regular chiropractic appointments. The arena footing is consistent; not hard & not too soft.


                                  • #18
                                    i would check out ulcers with the new info re: girthing.

                                    i think you can medicate for them and you should see a difference in a week or two if they are indeed an issue.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by EJF View Post
                                      My mare is usually longed for 10 minutes before riding to motivate her because she's a lazy type. In the summer she doesn't balk, she's just lazy about going forward. In the winter she balks repeatedly, as much after she has been warmed up as she does before she is warm. She balks as much on warm winter days as on cold days.
                                      Lazy is usually either a training problem or a health problem. If it's a training problem it can sometimes be because the horse has shut down because she feels that no matter what she does she gets no relief so she just gives up trying.

                                      Another situation is when the horse feels like if she moves she'll just get punished even more (more bouncing, more yanking, more pain/discomfort), so she won't move until the aids become insistent enough that avoiding them becomes the lesser of the evils.

                                      It doesn't have to be a training problem either, because if the horse is in pain and moving increases the pain that can be what's punishing her for moving.

                                      One of my first horses was "lazy" for all of the above reasons, and then I finally got a clue about what was causing it and none of mine have been lazy since.


                                      • #20
                                        I missed if the OP said breeding of the mare. If she's TB or has a lot of TB it may well be the innate tension TBs carry. It's so hard because if that's it, she needs to get pushed forward and worked through it, while if it's due to pain or injury she may need time off, and pushing her may make her suck back even more because it hurts.
                                        If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.