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tell me your success stories....challenging 4.5 year old

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  • tell me your success stories....challenging 4.5 year old

    I have a lovely 4.5 year old are that I bred. She was a SUPER easy 3 year old and has now turned into a challenging 4 year old. UGH. She has begun being super reactive to noises outside the arena and startles easy. She used to be so calm and unreactive. It takes me at least 15-20 minutes to get her to settle almost each time we start work. She gets worked 4-5 times/ week. Once settled she is pretty good. She used to be a mare you could just hop on, no lunging. Now I wouldn't even consider getting on her until we get through 15-20 minutes of lunging and focusing. Where did my lovely mare go? I am hoping this is just a teenage phase and try to make each training session a positive experience for her. Tell me your success stories of horses going through their teenage year(s)!

  • #2
    Have you changed anything in her feed? I had a horse who was freakishly allergic (or reactive?) to alfalfa. I didn't notice the changes right away, but looking back, I could have written the same thing you did above. Happened during his 5yo year after a stellar 4yo year. I initially blamed it on age, but once I pulled out the alfalfa he went completely back to his mellow ways. Not saying yours is allergic to alfalfa necessarily, but that sure doesn't sound like a "normal young horse phase."
    __________________________________
    Flying F Sport Horses
    Horses in the NW

    Comment


    • #3
      IMHO, this is fairly common. 3 year olds are gangly and awkward, and they aren't strong or confident. They're submissive elementary school students. Somewhere between 4 and 6, they hit puberty. Between hormones, newfound confidence in their work, coordination to act up without fearing self-harm, and some awareness of their strength - they become teenagers.

      That said, I'd still check for ulcers.

      Comment


      • #4
        Mine went through something like this, though very briefly. Because the spookiness and difficulty to handle on the ground was coupled with super-sensitivity to touch, we drew blood within a few days of symptoms starting to show. It was Lyme, and within 2-3 weeks of treatment, he was back to normal.

        Comment


        • #5
          Are you feeding a ration balancer? When I fed a RB, my pony mare was out of sorts.... I'm guessing it was the soy protein.
          "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

          Comment


          • #6
            Will be following with interest. My rising 5yo OTTB was pretty good to start, albeit with occasional sharp moments. We could hack, first few shows were great. He is now a bit of a nightmare who has a seriously explosive buck and overreacts to all kinds of random stimuli. We've cut his feed, taken him right back to basics, cut out any maize and some grasses which make him hot but still he persists. Not all the time, but enough of it.

            The teenage phase is a well-documented horse phenomenon so you're not alone, but it does make you wonder if there are other things going on!

            Have had the dentist, chiro, physio etc but getting the vet out again soon just to check if something could be wrong.

            Comment


            • #7
              Look for anything that has changed physically, environmentally, or in the diet as everyone has mentioned...

              Then, how challenged is this horse in the work you are doing now either physically or mentally? Are you still mostly noodling around like she's a baby? I don't want to imply you work a young horse more than they can physically tolerate, but a lot of the nicer young horses aren't really challenged until you get to more advanced work.

              You can start introducing things that will safely challenge her like in-hand work, half steps, baby counter canter and flying changes, etc. If you are having to lunge every ride, try replacing that with some in-hand work and flexions with the bit that might get her brain to slow and focus. You could also try clicker training see if you can get that to help her focus when you start working here - I'd start with it somewhere she's normally quiet like her stall and then see if you can move the activity to the arena where she is more excitable.

              I'd also put her on 24/7 turnout if possible with 3+ other horses.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Pocket Pony View Post
                Are you feeding a ration balancer? When I fed a RB, my pony mare was out of sorts.... I'm guessing it was the soy protein.
                Most commercial feeds have soy in them - it is a cheap source of protein. Not just RBs.

                OP, I agree with Joie - this may just be a normal rebellious phase - most young horses go through it when they gain confidence. Some more then others. If you rule out diet change and ulcers and vision issues, I'd be inclined to think it is just "that phase".

                Comment


                • #9
                  My youngster did something similar this summer. Easiest baby I ever started at 3 but then here in her late 4th year, she started getting more and more reactive under saddle. Basically spooking, ducking out from under you, and not wanting to pay attention at all. She was better with my trainer than with me but still wanted to check out and threaten to take off/buck at least one ride every week. Lunging didn't help as she was pretty obedient on the lunge but then wicked tense under saddle, always looking for something to spook at. We tried a lot of things ... different work, hacking out, a couple rounds of ulcer guard but the horse we had on the ground was not the horse we had under saddle.

                  Trainer & I were putting it down to the teenage phase but in retrospect, it was all (or at least mostly) back pain related.

                  I finally got a good lameness vet out after she exploding under me while we were walking off from the mounting block. Turns out, she had a pulled ligament in her spine, right under the rider's seat bone. Showed up wicked obvious on an x-ray as the whole vertebrae is tilted forward. Vet thinks the injury is around 4 months old and was most likely she did it to herself while acting like the baby brain she is out in turnout.

                  In retrospect, it all makes sense. I'm a well padded rider and my trainer is slender pole of woman who is made of nothing but muscle and grit. Of course my weight would aggravate a back injury a lot more than my trainers and of course she'd act up more with a rider than without.

                  On the up side, my baby is expected to make a full recovery although we're looking at a couple months of Pony Physical Therapy to help realign & strengthen that back.

                  So if you're seeing a difference between on the ground and under saddle, the weight of a rider may very well be aggravating an injury somewhere.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    My mare has had full blood work, teeth checked in spring, has 24 hour turn out (is alone but pastured next to other horses). Her saddle was purchased brand new for her in the spring and fitted to her (she is the only horse using it). She is an interesting mare. Was super easy as a 3 year old, go with the flow, great at shows, etc. This summer she started giving a little attitude when asked to up the ante on her work (started lateral work, smaller circles) but nothing too bad. She can be explosive on the lunge line, but has not (thankfully) offered any of that under saddle. Under saddle she will give a little crow hop, head toss, rush, lean on the reins during work at times. This is her MO: getting ready (grooming, tacking up) she is constantly moving and looking all around. I then bring her in the arena on the lunge and she is distracted, looking around, not focused, will buck/ rear/ bolt/ play around for 5+ minutes. Then will settle into work and be obedient. Then I either continue in-hand ground work with lateral work, supple to the bit, etc or go on a trail (which she is good for) or have the young rider get on her. She is great on the trails (better with a group than alone, but still OK alone, just not as confident). She is better as a follower on the trails than in the lead as she is not as brave.

                    I think this is a teen age phase and/or hormones and have bounced around the idea of trying Regumate with her. The cooler weather is not helping!

                    As I am now 46 and not nearly as brave as I was 20 years ago I have a young event rider coming to my place 3-4 times/ week to ride her. They are getting along wonderfully and I'm hoping she gets out of this phase!

                    I like the idea of clicker training her during the grooming and tacking up phase to see if I can get her to settle on the cross ties. She has been clicker trained in the past so should pick it up quickly as she responded well to that in the past.

                    We are also hoping to get her to some desensitization clinics over the winter. She is actually good about going over tarps, flags waving, hula hoops. She is good about things around the arena as well such as flags, flowers, etc. I even had my husband fly his drone around her. Next we were going to work a remote controlled car around her. What she doesn't like is the barn cat darting in/ out of the arena, squirrels/birds in the woods along side the arena.

                    Keep the stories and ideas coming!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I had one of these. She never did get better and I eventually donated her to a college. They sold her and 15 years later she was still spooking, bucking and bolting. Hope your mare works out of it.
                      Not my monkeys, not my circus.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Well, if you want a success story, my old girl was an absolute terror between 4 & 6. By 8 or so, she was considered a saint by anyone who hadn't met her during her nightmare stage. Unfortunately, it did take almost 3 years for her to grow & properly wire up her adult brain.

                        She's another one I got as a 3 year old and started myself and she was a sweetheart until the fall of her 4th year. Then she ran the whole gamut of bad behavior... bit, kicked, gate charged, bucked, reared. You name it, she tried it ...over & over again. She had very big ideas about being higher on the totem pole than everyone else. Her halter-perfect ground manners went out the door and she basically tried to bully everyone around her, every chance she got.

                        I had to put my foot down that every single person who handled her had to insist on manners, 110% of the time. No exceptions. She couldn't even give someone a nasty look without getting in trouble for the whole year between 5 & 6 ... otherwise, she'd escalate and try striking or biting next. I also ended up throwing her out with a bunch of grumpy old mares who had no problem putting Miss Big Britches in her place over & over again. Eventually that final brain cell finished maturing and it was like a light switch clicked - suddenly, she was a good citizen again (well, mostly). At 20, she'll still gate charge if she's sure she can get past you and then she'll lead you on a 20 minute chase while she prances around like the star of a one pony circus.

                        With her, though, it was a problem in every aspect of her personality. The same testing just manifested differently between the ground and the saddle but it was all coming from her saying "you're not the boss of me!"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I have one of those. His problem is he's too smart. As a 3 and 4yo he was super easy, he could go a week without being ridden and he'd come out the same. He also used to sleep ALL THE TIME. As a 5yo he had more of an attitude and a spook/buck, but was good when he was in regular work, he still slept a lot.
                          As a 6yo I could barely ride him, I had to try to time my rides so that I could lunge or let him loose in the arena for a few minutes before I got on. I switched him to outdoor board and he was infinitely better.
                          This year we moved across the country and he's back on indoor board (that's the culture around here). He's not as bad as he was when he was 6, but he needs a lot more prep then he did the last two years. He's gotten a little cribby lately so I'm going to treat for ulcers and see what happens. I'm hopeful that that's part of his issue.

                          For your mare my first suggestion would be turnout with a buddy if you can. Most horses don't "play" enough by themselves to get the sillies out.
                          Second would be to consider ulcers or some sort of nerve/muscle pain.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by GoodTimes View Post
                            I have one of those. His problem is he's too smart. As a 3 and 4yo he was super easy, he could go a week without being ridden and he'd come out the same. He also used to sleep ALL THE TIME. .
                            OMG, my youngster is like this. Spends hours flopped out on her side sleeping like a foal and she sleeps so deeply, you can walk right up to her and nudge her without her waking up. She lays down so much that she gave herself rain rot from laying on the damp ground this summer. I hope she doesn't go down your guy's path as pasture board isn't easy to come by up where I'm at.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Blume View Post
                              My mare has had full blood work, teeth checked in spring, has 24 hour turn out (is alone but pastured next to other horses). Her saddle was purchased brand new for her in the spring and fitted to her (she is the only horse using it). She is an interesting mare. Was super easy as a 3 year old, go with the flow, great at shows, etc. This summer she started giving a little attitude when asked to up the ante on her work (started lateral work, smaller circles) but nothing too bad. She can be explosive on the lunge line, but has not (thankfully) offered any of that under saddle. Under saddle she will give a little crow hop, head toss, rush, lean on the reins during work at times. This is her MO: getting ready (grooming, tacking up) she is constantly moving and looking all around. I then bring her in the arena on the lunge and she is distracted, looking around, not focused, will buck/ rear/ bolt/ play around for 5+ minutes. Then will settle into work and be obedient. Then I either continue in-hand ground work with lateral work, supple to the bit, etc or go on a trail (which she is good for) or have the young rider get on her. She is great on the trails (better with a group than alone, but still OK alone, just not as confident). She is better as a follower on the trails than in the lead as she is not as brave.

                              I think this is a teen age phase and/or hormones and have bounced around the idea of trying Regumate with her. The cooler weather is not helping!

                              As I am now 46 and not nearly as brave as I was 20 years ago I have a young event rider coming to my place 3-4 times/ week to ride her. They are getting along wonderfully and I'm hoping she gets out of this phase!

                              I like the idea of clicker training her during the grooming and tacking up phase to see if I can get her to settle on the cross ties. She has been clicker trained in the past so should pick it up quickly as she responded well to that in the past.

                              We are also hoping to get her to some desensitization clinics over the winter. She is actually good about going over tarps, flags waving, hula hoops. She is good about things around the arena as well such as flags, flowers, etc. I even had my husband fly his drone around her. Next we were going to work a remote controlled car around her. What she doesn't like is the barn cat darting in/ out of the arena, squirrels/birds in the woods along side the arena.

                              Keep the stories and ideas coming!
                              The bold parts are the problem IMO. Something happened when you started to asked for more.... Many young horses do feel overwhelmed when something new is introduced. And IMO this is a very important time. The rider has to comfort them on one hand but on the other hand he has to appear superior... If this doesn't happen the horse kind of looses confidence in the rider and takes over....
                              And because she took over the second bold part comes in. She does not think you are the leader of the pack....

                              And I am sorry I think you will have to reestablish your leadership. Until then the problems will continue. Do not allow her these habits.... She is dominating you with it....Stop it immediately when she does it....
                              https://www.facebook.com/Luckyacresfarm
                              https://www.facebook.com/Ulrike-Bsch...4373849955364/

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                My 4.5 year old has also become a bit of a handful of late. Super chill as a 3yo getting started. We did a lot of outings this year, which he by and large took in stride, the biggest exception was our cow sorting adventure. He was understandably freaked out by the cows at first, but after a few patient attempts getting closer over an hour or more, he ended up having a great experience and actually sorted the cows. He also sleeps a ton, and is cranky if you interrupt his nap to work him, but otherwise a giant puppy dog of a personality.

                                But recently he has been more of a handful on the ground and under saddle. Offering to nip, "spooking" when hand walking or balking. And he's also bucking a bit more under saddle. He managed to buck me off last week because he is getting bigger and stronger and more confident, and he has always been athletic. The next day was a super good ride, however, so if it is physical it is intermittent. We are working our way through the physical and mental issues checklists, but it is possible this is simply teenager + cool weather.

                                I would love to turn him out with some buddies, but that type of situation with suitable buddies is hard to find where I am.
                                "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by AltersAreUs View Post

                                  OMG, my youngster is like this. Spends hours flopped out on her side sleeping like a foal and she sleeps so deeply, you can walk right up to her and nudge her without her waking up. She lays down so much that she gave herself rain rot from laying on the damp ground this summer. I hope she doesn't go down your guy's path as pasture board isn't easy to come by up where I'm at.
                                  He's a Cabardino and everyone else I've talked to who has one has similar stories. It's like they need all their energy when they're young so they can grow. The day they fill out they have excess energy, and it's impossible to tire them out. And they're smart so eventually they feel the need to start their own fun. He has to be turned out with electric and has to have an escape proof stall. But no matter how explosive he is undersaddle, he's a perfect gentleman on the ground. Full body clips, etc with no tranq or twitch.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    I'm feeling a little better after reading these! My mare has great ground manners in her run-in, during feeding/ blanketing, leading, farrier, I can give her injections without a halter alone, etc. She is very chill about introducing new "items" into her environment. She has no kick, bite, strike, etc when dealing with her. In that aspect she is wonderful and very sweet. She is a bit aloof with people, likes them OK, but doesn't run up to you in the pasture. Doesn't run away either, just sort of stands there looking at you.

                                    Based on reading these I do think I have lost some of my herd leader position. Probably becoming a bit complacent with her as she was so easy. I will work on re-establishing her attention to me when we are "working". She is not a mean spirited, or really even bullish, mare so I have 100% confidence I can get her through this phase. Thankfully, I like doing ground work so this will be a good project for me:-)

                                    Thinking more about things, she is really great when around other horses. She is good at shows, can be tied to the trailer, good on trails with other horses, etc. I think some of her recent excitement is now that it is dark when I get home I have to work her in the covered arena alone, away from the other horses out in their pastures. It is a big change for her. However, she will have to get used to it as she has to be able to work away from the group and I hate having a herd bound horse.

                                    Keep the suggestions coming....

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      So knowing she's impatient and needs a mental challenge, even in the cross ties, I'd work on giving her way to calm her brain.

                                      For the cross ties, bring her in, put her in the cross ties, make sure the barn/situation is safe if she happens to get loose, and leave her there to chill. I do my stall, make grain baggies, scrub water buckets, sometimes wander off and talk to someone and my horse sleeps in the cross ties for 30 minutes and can chill longer.

                                      With your last post - her not enjoying being away from the barn by herself - that's probably a bit of young horse attitude. Work her and let her chill. If she doesn't, do a bit more work. Try to get where you can bring her to the arena and she doesn't automatically start being up.

                                      If you can, put her out with a few other horses. I honestly think being beat up by the broodmares when he was 2-4 years old is what made my 17.2h dinosaur relatively easy to handle and ride through his teenage years. We had very little shenanigans until he got much stronger in his body and spooky at the same time (probably around 7 or 8).

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I have a very slow starter. He finally clicked over into steady progress last year, and flipped the mental maturity switch this summer. He's nine.

                                        He was good as a three year old, easy start, smart, liked new stuff and was working well for me during our short rides (20-30min, three times a week). But after his fourth birthday his progress was erratic, to say the least. I kept having things crop up with him after 2-3 months of work. We'd get whatever it was resolved and be okay for another 2-3 months, then something would go wrong again. I felt like I was constantly restarting his strength/fitness work. We made progress on training stuff (I was quite pleasantly surprised when everything finally came together).

                                        Everything was dramatic with him. I kid you not - he once fell down because he was so upset about having to work with rain in his face that he wasn't paying attention to his feet.

                                        That stop start was a large part of his issue. He has a very short back, with nrves near the surface behind his shoulder blades that get pinched if the saddle slips forward. The change in his muscling over the 2-3 months of good work was just enough to make the saddle fit a problem, and the dramatics would begin again.

                                        At that age horses backs can change significantly in apparently minor ways that have a large impact on saddle fit. If you had yours fit in the spring it might be worth another check.

                                        All that said, I really enjoyed riding my horse when he was on, and I am still thrilled that we have had 21 months of good solid work with only one three week period of no work (I got sick, then he played to hard with the extra energy and strained something). I was very close to getting rid of him a number of times, but I am glad I persisted.

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