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How to build trust w/ a horse who has been roughly ridden?

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  • How to build trust w/ a horse who has been roughly ridden?

    I have acquired a project horse who has been through some rough hands in his past. He is a beautiful mover and tries his heart out, but is also very sensitive can get worried undersaddle. He came from a home where he was habitually ridden much too deep and with some unforgiving hands. As a consequence, he sees the bit as a negative force and tends to pull and accelerate when he gets uncomfortable with the contact. I have started by having his teeth examined and a chiro adjust him, so that has been addressed. I would like to get him back to the point where he is soft and relaxed in a training level frame. If that is as far as he ever got I'd be happy! I would like to hear people's suggestions for getting this guy to relax and realize that being ridden isn't punishment. I am a quiet, confident rider and do work regularly with an instructor, just looking to get some outside views from others who may have worked through similar situations.

  • #2
    Good for you for taking him on and wanting to bring him back. Lots of folks will have plenty of training advice for you here, but be ready, the most important thing you can do for him is give him time. Serious time.

    My BO has brought one of hers back from 18 months of rough training by a cowboy who punished her by backing her up at 90 mph any time she did something wrong. It's only taken 8 years to bring her back to schooling a solid third, showing 2nd.

    Yup, 8 years to undo 18 months.

    But they're worth it, aren't they?

    Comment


    • #3
      Time. And get out of the ring. I'd take him on some nice trail rides, and let him just meander along on a loose rein and RELAX. Do plenty of loose-rein stuff in the ring too, and set up some ground poles and stuff for him to have fun with. Let him figure out that riding is not a chore and not an hour of his daily life where he's going to be abused and roughed up.

      And if you have a spot to take him out and gallop him, do so! Honestly, I think people underestimate how good a gallop is for those horses who have been roughhandled and no longer see the fun in going out for a ride.

      And then more time.

      Good for you for taking him on, and it's fabulous that you don't have ridiculously high expectations for him. That way, he can completely blow through the low expectations you have for him. I have to agree with Bayou Roux...these types of horses are -so- worth it.

      Comment


      • #4
        My sister received a horse from the COTH giveways that had also been pushed beyond his mental and physical capabilities and he is coming along great. He is turned out 24/7 with a run-in and a couple of very stable buddies. We've had him here for about a year and he's a different horse. He is so relaxed and laid back - doesn't get upset about the day to day stuff anymore. He's now being ridden by my sister and my two teenage daughters and he's doing great under saddle as well. His evasion tactic was to balk and mini-rear and now he'll occasionally try half-heartedly to do it again, but he now trusts everybody and just gives up. I think the key was getting him to just enjoy being a horse and realizing that we were not going to push him beyond his limits, so he trusts us. Bit by bit he's coming around and you'd hardly realize he was a special case before.

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        • #5
          My grey is a similar story, so bad that he shows a bump behind the poll, from breaking at the 2nd neck vertebrae.

          I find it difficult to teach such horses to trust the bit.
          What I did and actually succesful so far :
          - took away bit for 6 months and rode him in a jumping hackamore (noseband only)
          - very limited ringwork and only walk & laterals when going in ring.
          - lots of trail riding
          - I would actually praise him when he'd be leaning on my hands, rather then putting his nose on his chest
          - after 6 months put him back in french link bit with worcester noseband, which diverts pressure from the bars and shares it with slight nose pressure (so an in-between-step from hackamore to bit)
          pict : http://www.ingatestonesaddlery.co.uk...nd-101485.aspx

          At present he goes round nicely with this noseband, so I'm leaving him in it.
          It's not legal to show, but the step up from this noseband to a regular noseband won't be all that big anymore.
          Once he stops rushing, accepting the bit & contact in this noseband very well, I'm confident the next step up (regular noseband) will be an easy one.
          I also like that it has no flash strap, so if they wish to open their mouth they can, just helping to give them the feeling of freedom whilst learning to trust, without feeling locked in.

          Good luck, not a simple task.

          Also, I find it's not worth it tempting my luck by schooling in adverse weather, like 30mph winds etc. He'll only be spooky, nervous tense, which results in me riding more defensive, stronger rein contact and.... he tucks in deep again.

          Comment


          • #6
            Good for you for taking this guy on.

            My mare was ridden in a 3 ring elevator with a running marty (go figure) with her nose pulled to her chest. She was SO afraid of the bit and is already very sensitive as it is.

            I spent a lot of time doing as mentioned above, just loose rein (but still keeping some contact b/c for her, she got very worried and insecure without knowing you were "there"), getting her to relax. We only worked on walk and trot for about 6 months.

            After we started getting the relaxation, it was time to work on the bit issue. As you, obvious phyiscal issues were ruled out. I had a trainer that I trailered out to at the time, and she told me to just always keep a soft feel on her mouth. Let her know that this is ok, it will not hurt, but you cannot pull or suck back from it. So with very soft hands and very elastic elbows, I followed her with the bit. When she pulled and inverted, my elbows opened and followed her, and when she sucked back, we closed and followed. It took her about 3 months to finally stop trying to evade.

            Im sure you will get a lot of great advice on here and I cant wait to hear how hes coming along.

            Any pics??
            ~~~~~~~~~

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

            Comment


            • #7
              Lay up/ turn out for six months or so.

              Then start the horse over from the beginning like he was a youngster. If bad behaviors reappear, go back a step before moving forward again.

              This may sound like a long process, but it will save you time and trouble in the long run.
              "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Trigger View Post
                I have acquired a project horse who has been through some rough hands in his past. He is a beautiful mover and tries his heart out, but is also very sensitive can get worried undersaddle. He came from a home where he was habitually ridden much too deep and with some unforgiving hands. As a consequence, he sees the bit as a negative force and tends to pull and accelerate when he gets uncomfortable with the contact.
                Don't let the contact change... If he pulls and accelerates when he is uncomfortable with the contact, is it possible that you are unconsciously pulling on his mouth to get him to slow down?
                Keep the contact soft and following at first, use your body (core, firm thighs, non following pelvis upper body hold) or your voice, whoa, bird chirp, to slow down your mph not your hands.
                re-schools are ridden a bit differently until you have corrected the badly schooled part.
                Can you stop him with no hands? No contact? If not, this I would take a bit of time and teach him "no hands down transitions". Once you can do this easily, add soft following hands to keep a contact while you do the transitions with your body. Should be easy to transition at this point to fairly "normal" riding.
                Riding is not a gentle hobby to be picked up and laid down. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bayou Roux View Post
                  Good for you for taking him on and wanting to bring him back. Lots of folks will have plenty of training advice for you here, but be ready, the most important thing you can do for him is give him time. Serious time.
                  Terrific advice. I'll go a step further and tell you to ride with your inside rein loose so your gelding never feels trapped and knows he always has an escape route. In time you won't have to do this. Can't tell you how long it took with my gelding, but then one day it was no longer an issue. It's a big responsibility and commitment. Make sure no one, including your trainer, rushes this step b/c it will be the foundation of your relationship with this horse. His trust has been broken. It has to be rebuilt. Have fun. This could turn out to be the greatest horse relationship you've known.
                  Susan B.
                  http://canterberrymeadows.com/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by KrazyTBMare View Post
                    I spent a lot of time doing as mentioned above, just loose rein (but still keeping some contact b/c for her, she got very worried and insecure without knowing you were "there"), getting her to relax. We only worked on walk and trot for about 6 months.
                    You pegged this right. So many tell you to ride on a totally loose rein but I found that horses like this need some security. Keep the training scale in mind -- rhythym = relaxation. Be super generous with your praise. Definitely let us know how things progress. Cheering you on.
                    Susan B.
                    http://canterberrymeadows.com/

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      As others have said, time out on the trails and correct work on a loose rein can make riding time more enjoyable for the horse and go a long way toward changing its outlook on riding. When done correctly, riding on a loose rein actually increases the horse confidence and focus.

                      The ‘walk on the buckle’ exercise on a circle can be especially helpful for horses who have lost trust in contact because the rhythm and alignment of the exercise helps the horse to relax and reach. Appropriately sized circles can be used to help regulate the tempo and prevent overuse of the reins. Once relaxation and reaching are well established, tactful transitions can be made between a neutral, following contact and then back on the buckle again. A key factor in this exercise is that the transitions to contact are done so tactfully that the horse doesn’t take notice.

                      Once the horse develops confidence in the contact in the walk on simple school figures, work in the trot can begin. Here again, in the trot work, a neutral contact should be maintained as much as possible and circles can be used to help regulate the tempo and prevent overuse of the reins.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I would also suggest going to the softest bit you can find. My mom and I have both been working horses with contact issues (just the way they are - not a problem caused by training) and we started riding them in soft rubber bar bits.

                        The young horse I am riding went from grinding his teeth and avoiding contact to taking to confidently and her mare is FINALLY taking solid contact after years of avoiding it.


                        Christa

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                        • #13
                          Try a side pull with a soft noseband to start. Then go to the rubber bit.
                          ... _. ._ .._. .._

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