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Herd bound mare

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  • Herd bound mare

    Hello everybody..

    I need help. I am desperately wanting to start endurance riding. We moved from the perfect place for training, the rolling hills of hunt country around Lexington, KY up to the Edmonton, Alberta area last summer. I have absolutely no one to ride with me and no where but gravel country roads to ride on now, which scares the sh*t out of me. My four horses are also now ridiculously herd bound which makes the prospect of riding on our country roads a very dangerous and seemingly impossible venture. I couldn't even get my gelding to the end of the freaking driveway last week, without him trying to spin around and bolt back to his buddy numerous times. Truthfully, I don't feel entirely confident riding after a two year break due to chronic illness. I am scared to death to ride on the road and I have NEVER ridden alone, I was always taught that it is unsafe to do so, so I never have.

    Anyway, I need some advice for how to conquer my fears and bolster my confidence back up to where it used to be, and I also need some advice on how to cure my horses of their herd-boundness. Thanks everyone!

  • #2
    Time to take a horse to a trainer for a week or more. After the horse is apart from his buddies, she should be able to get him out on the trails. After she rides him for a few days, you should ride him with her along until you feel brave. After you feel brave, start riding alone from her barn. Then, take that horse home and ride him every day on the trails. Trailer him to a different trail every day if you have to.


    • #3
      Riding on gravel roads would scare me too! is there a grass shoulder along the gravel to be on ...also wear a protective vest (and grab strap to saddle)
      Are there any local people you can ride out with?

      As far as the herd bound, my horse had similar problem. Here is the key...that spinning and trying to get back to herdmates has to be stopped, and dealt with. When he spins left, you can restart him by spinning in opposite direction, right. Or use crop on his outer shoulder to disrupt the spin. I had good results mixing it up.

      Either way, get him going in the direction you want and get him forward. Keep reins short enough for control. He has to be 100% obedient to going in the direction you want and forward, kiss, cluck, talk or yell. Whatever it takes.

      Work on this on short sections of driveway. Better to have his obedience 100% within 50 feet of barn then a mess 200 ft from barn. Once he realizes that spinning and trying to run back will get him nowhere, and he HAS to go forward, that is the main lesson. Once that is in his head, ride out another distance till he tries the spin again. Repeat and forward.

      How obedient are your horses on ground and working in barn or close to arena? Any hole in that, any leeway, and they will exploit it outside, so address those issues too .
      Till I got very comfy with area, I'd ride back and forth along same stretch of gravel road. You can expand next season when your riding and their obedience is better.


      • #4
        If you have the funds and there is a trainer or even a good experienced rider in area who can help you, is that an option?

        As you admit you are nervous (can't blame you ) in a new area and after a 2 year illness, of course our super intuitive horses can feel it...and unlike a human, who might feel sorry for you and cut you a break, their instinct is that they are not safe with you feeling nervous, combined with new terrain combined with herdboundness and it is a really tough task.

        A trainer or even a good confident rider can help get the horses past the worst of it. A good trainer helped me with my herdbound horse , I did part on my own and part with her help.She is the one who taught me the unwinding method...they spin right, you unwind them by spinning them left and then making them go forward.


        • #5
          I agree - a trainer and a riding buddy is the BEST start, but if you can't do that, start out leading your horse away from her buddies.

          Can you ride one and pony one, as a start?

          The gravel road part sounds pretty safe to me. Is it heavily traveled?


          • #6
            Even someone walking along side can help.


            • Original Poster

              The road is not traveled all that much, but when there IS traffic it is usually either big, scary farm machinery, semis going to/from oil rigs, and local farmers hauling ass to save time getting from one chore to another.
              I NEVER get on my horses without my protective riding vest and my helmet, have had too many wrecks to ride without them. Lol Now that I am older, I am learning the importance of groundwork and Pre-ride Checklists, hubby to be is a pilot, I adopted the checklists from him lol. Especially since I will be without health insurance here for another two years due to my immigration status.

              I sadly do not have a trailer right now, and do not have access to one. A trailer is on our shopping list for next year though. So anyway, trailering them out to trails right now is not an option for us unfortunately.

              I have absolutely no one here locally to ride with. Every one around here rides in rodeo events and they don't trail ride much, if at all. I have tried, to no avail, to make horsey friends to ride with frequently but it never ends up coming to fruition. In KY I had a good friend who leased my Part-Arab and we used to ride nearly every day for many, many hours in the hunt country surrounding the farm I boarded the horses at. I have no one here, except hubby-to-be who I would just have to babysit right now because he is just learning how to ride. That is fine once I have my confidence back and all, but right now it would just amount to a ton more stress for me.

              I tried to post a message on the Endurance Riders of Alberta FB page last week asking for someone to mentor me, and offering a free lease on my Part-Arab for someone willing to train with me, but the message was never posted by them, due to privacy settings I am guessing.

              Unfortunately, all four of my horses (two of which are my endurance prospects- my 9 yr old Part-Arab who is a bit of a wingnut, and my 18 year old Mustang who is sweet as pie but will only be able to do 25 mile LDs if I can keep her sound.) are herdbound like crazy. I have my two mares in the dry lot together, they get fat just looking at grass and cannot be on pasture except for in winter. They are now super attached to one another, and the Part-Arab would be downright dangerous to ride if separated from her buddy. None of them neck rein, so ponying is out of the question.

              I would LOVE to be able to take them to a trainer for help but we are currently living off one income due to my visa status (I am not allowed to work in Canada for another couple years.) planning a wedding, and renovating our home, so we simply just cannot afford that right now.

              I work all of my horses on the ground frequently. We use a mixture of some of Buck Brannaman's exercises, Clinton Anderson's Respect On the Ground, and some stuff from Chris Cox as well. I have had excellent results using these techniques on all of them except my Part-Arab, she is a Jekyll and Hyde personality and alpha mare personality, and she is VERY opinionated. I know she is going to make a great endurance horse, she is brave, LOVES the trails, and has lots of endurance, but I am not entirely sure she is the right match for me b/c she still intimidates me. I ALWAYS do ground work before getting on, and if something isn't right, I don't ride until it is.

              I am thinking about taking dressage lessons at a local stable to help give me my confidence back and help me learn how to collect my horse properly, something that I was never taught anwhere else and something I know is essential to keeping my horses sound, strong, and balanced.

              Thank you all for your advice and encouragement. I really need the encouragement right now because I am feeling very overwhelmed and like the odds are stacked against me. My horses have been pasture ornaments for the past two years, while I steuggled with my health, and everyday that goes by my riding confidence slips away more and more, and I become more and more sad and disappointed in myself for not "cowgirling up." Fear is a powerful thing.
              It has always been my dream to ride for the US Equestrian Team, ever since I was a little girl, and more recently to ride Tevis someday. I am about to turn 40, so I think my US Equestrian Team dream is definitely over. Now I would be happy just to be able to ride confidently again, and maybe complete a local 25 miler someday.

              Again, thanks for the advice and support. Sorry for the pity party, but I am so discouraged and sad right now.


              • #8
                Do you have a small arena or field to ride in? If so, perhaps ride there and just wait on the trail idea... after you live there a while and get to know people and settle in some riding partners might be found. If you must school one of them on the gravel road, if hubby is avail to walk alongside I would do that. Dressage lessons are an excellent idea, plus if you start riding at a stable in area you will meet fellow horse people.

                Not sure why you have 4 horses that are pasture pets ...could you sell one or two and maybe concentrate on making the remaining ones really good riding horses?

                Maybe exchange some board at your place with people who could ride with you? (offer pasture board very free or cheap at your farm to someone for a riding partner to do some trails with ?


                • Original Poster

                  They weren't pasture pets before I got sick, they were each ridden 3-5 times a week for anywhere from 2-6 hrs, they were all extremely fit, as was I. The newest horse is my daughter's project pony that we just got in June. The other non-endurance horse is my fiance's and daughter's pleasure horse. The other two are mine, my personal trail and endurance horses.

                  There is only one other boarder at the farm and she is extremely busy with her two barrel racing horses. I have asked her for help but she just doesn't have time.

                  The dressage barn is over 45 minutes from here, any horsey friends I make there will not be llikely to travel this far to ride with me, and I have no trailer to haul my guys right now. I have lived here part time for years now, it is not like I am brand new to the area, but we are way far out in the sticks and making friends is really hard.


                  • Original Poster

                    I do not have a field to ride in that is free from either other horses or cattle. All I have to work with is a 70' diameter round pen.


                    • #11
                      I would find trying to ride/keep 4 horses fit overwhelming. Perhaps make 2 pasture pets for life and concentrate on keeping 2 in good shape and rideable and well trained. Best of luck, maybe you will get some other good suggestions here, hope so!


                      • #12
                        If you don't have immediate access to miles of trail, you cannot seriously start Endurance without a trailer, whether your own or access to someone else's. So come up with a plan to buy a used one as soon as possible. Heck, skip the flower arrangements at your wedding and bake the cake yourself! Better yet, sell one of your horses, as harsh as that sounds. You should concentrate on one of them for now and focus your energy.
                        You need to load up this horse, trailer out and you shall see how well behaved this horse will be away from home! If it also eagerly moves out, ears up and forward, exploring the trail, you will know you're in a perfect place to start conditioning.
                        It wasn't clear whether you already had experience in Endurance or not. You should read lots and lots and talk to people/email other riders. But don't wait for anyone to come and pick you up and serve it on a silver platter.
                        It sounds as if you really want this, so make it happen! Getting a trailer is your starting point and while you save up for that, work in the round pen, ride in the field with the cows, go for walks with your horse, etc.
                        You want to do Tevis? Toughen up and you will get there!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Alberta Horse Girl View Post
                          I do not have a field to ride in that is free from either other horses or cattle. All I have to work with is a 70' diameter round pen.
                          Look, you have to start somewhere. If this is your land, you control how many horses are in each field and how the land is used. Make either the whole field, r a portion of one of the fields available for riding and schooling at home. Rotate the animals perhaps between fields or set a small one aside for just riding..

                          Get at least one of your horses fit and obedient on home turf and your confidence back from riding again before tackling trails.

                          The key is to figure out a way to organize your property and prioritize what you are capable with what you have right now. Otherwise, things won't change, re, your mare is not the only one spinning in a circle ! (I have found, amazingly over the years, that our horses' issues mirror our own)

                          I think you can resolve things but sound overwhelmed and maybe confused what to do first. Perhaps write out a list of possible changes you can make right on your home turf to make things better. : concentrate on one horse for right now, make one field or area accessible for riding, perhaps search harder for a boarder to take in as riding buddy but make it clear that is what you want when interview the person and give them a discounted rate, search out a local trainer who could come to your place (just some suggestions)


                          • #14
                            Welcome to the lovely world of endurance and canada!

                            I know quite alot of the alberta riders (since Canadian endurance is a pretty small group overall as you will find ) - if you want to pm me I'll see if I can find you someone closer to your location then myself (since I'm in B.C.) or at very least I can possibly get someone on your side of the Rockies to put your post up for you.

                            Here's my suggestions.

                            For the beginning any rate.
                            1. get yourself to lessons (using a school horse is fine)

                            2. work in the round pen , or even if you can - put whichever horse you are focusing on in the round pen for sleep overs - to get them used to be separated from your other horses if no one else needs access to it.

                            3. teach your horses to pony in the round pen, up and down the driveway etc etc (clicker training is handy for this) plus it allows you eventually to condition 2 horses at once - as I tend to pony one out, and pony the other back in. very handy when keeping multiple horses competition ready!

                            4. Consider walking. hand walk your horse out and about. Until you both develop more confidence and willingness(on your horses part) to leave the driveway. build from there.
                            Originally posted by ExJumper
                            Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.


                            • #15
                              My Arab did the same thing. I was out in the sticks with three horses. I had to ride alone on the roads if I wanted to get any endurance training in. We started off walking down the driveway and two or three houses down. He'd meltdown, flail, spin and act a fool. I'd sit there and just keep redirecting him away from the house. Occasionally I'd let him get moving toward the house and he'd have to work hard. Lateral movements or very collected movements. We'd turn away and he was allowed to rest. The next day we'd get four houses down before the temper tantrums started. I just calmly redirected the behavior and NEVER let him rest pointed toward the house. Rest is ONLY away from the house. We would only head home when the temper tantrums subsided. Sometimes this involved me dismounting and knocking sense into him with some ground work.

                              Each time when we got back to the house, I'd go into the arena/dry lot area and work him hard with low level dressage exercises. Sometimes ground poles were involved. The point was that coming back to the house didn't equal rest either. It is actually harder than just trotting calmly down the road in a straight line. Only after he would work calmly away from the house, did he get untacked, groomed and turned back out immediately.

                              Each time we'd get a little farther from the house and he'd behave a little better.

                              As far as vehicles go, if something is coming, just ride up a driveway a safe distance, onto the shoulder or into a yard if you have to.

                              I also rode in the arena/dry lot with the other two loose. If they were truly being pests, they'd get put in a stall or locked into another part of the property. If those weren't options, they'd get the patience pole treatment. Halter and stand tied while I work.

                              I always rode alone. I texted a friend (sometimes two) and said in headed out, this is my route, I should be back at this time. If you haven't heard from me by a certain time, call me. If I don't get back to you within 15-20mins, call 911.


                              • #16
                                Do you have a barn where you can tie the horses not being ridden? I think it would help if they were all together and not focused on the horse who is leaving. My 3 are always tied in my barn when I am working any of my horses. Otherwise they would be running and calling and making my ride a mess.

                                That would free up a field for you to use and get your horse used to the idea of being alone when ridden. As the horse settles you can begin going down the driveway and eventually out on the road.

                                I have always ridden alone and my horses are always started out alone. It is nice to ride with others but if done exclusively some lose the ability to ride alone .


                                • #17
                                  my short version to offer is to ride where you feel comfortable and safe. If that is working on leg yields in the yard or doing groundwork over tarps, so be it. Start where you are comfortable and in control and build up from there. Too many things can go wrong when you're riding on roads with machinery and fences and ditches and you're alone.... stay where you are in the right frame of mind!
                                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey