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Best way to handle a horse who refuses to go forward and then runs backwards?

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  • Best way to handle a horse who refuses to go forward and then runs backwards?

    I've been riding this horse for about a month now and up until today he's been a joy to ride, willing and a super fast learner. However I think he must have had a bit too much spring grass because today he was like a totally different horse. Super spooky (he isn't usually a spooky horse at all) and he would just stop dead, refuse to move forward and run backwards when I put my leg on. I was able to prevent some of the backwards movement by turning him in a circle, however getting him to go forwards was a major struggle and eventually I just got off and lunged him as it was the best way I could think of to get him to move. So my question is, what would be the best way to handle this in the future? I don't want him to think he can get away with not going forwards.

  • #2
    Get him off the grass first. Feed him old hay. Get some toxin binder (mycosorb or equiguard) and feed him that with added magnesium in a low energy feed - meadow hay chaff (not fibrepro products), pony pellets, copra, non molasses suget beet.

    Give him a couple of days so his brain and body can co-ordinate again and then try again. I'd suggest keeping him on equi=guard all summer and into autumn.

    When you do let him back onto the grass, let him have small amounts at a time - break feed or let him out for an hour and then back in the yard.

    Look at
    http://www.calmhealthyhorses.co.nz/

    There's no point trying to correct an issue which is not a training issue, but rather one to do with feed, unless you sort the feed out.

    Comment


    • #3
      Having had one like this I'll disagree with phoebetrainer. Absolutely it is a training issue. This horse still doesn't have a complete go button. I would go back to "stop start steer" exercises and absolutely guarantee leg means go before anything else.

      DO NOT EVER GIVE UP ON GOING FORWARD. It doesn't matter if it's tapping with the whip for 45 minutes or 4 hours. Don't let the horse get away with refusing to go forwards. It is absolutely a fundamental problem that can be a permanent problem if it isn't fixed now. You may be putting up with kicking out, mini bucks whatever as a refusal to give in but you must win if he exhibits this again. Best bet is again, work on cementing the meaning of the legs "go."

      You can even try clicker training or anything else that is the latest method but at all costs, the leg MUST mean go.

      Comment


      • #4
        If this is a sudden change, I would explore and rule out physical issues first. He might be trying to tell you something hurts. Maybe he threw his back out of whack, hurt his withers rolling or whatever.
        Too often we fail to listen to our horses because there is nothing visible, but I don 't really believe a previously obedient, willing horse that was a "joy to ride " would make such a drastic change overnight.
        "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by BEARCAT View Post
          If this is a sudden change, I would explore and rule out physical issues first. He might be trying to tell you something hurts. Maybe he threw his back out of whack, hurt his withers rolling or whatever.
          Too often we fail to listen to our horses because there is nothing visible, but I don 't really believe a previously obedient, willing horse that was a "joy to ride " would make such a drastic change overnight.
          I totally agree with this. That is a drastic and sudden change and a clear sign something doesn't feel good.
          Amanda

          Comment


          • #6
            There is No Spring Grass in September??? Bearcat and YellowBritches are on the right track...This time of year I fear the cool mornings not anything from grass sugar...

            Comment


            • #7
              OP is in New Zealand
              "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by judybigredpony View Post
                There is No Spring Grass in September??? Bearcat and YellowBritches are on the right track...This time of year I fear the cool mornings not anything from grass sugar...
                It's Spring in New Zealand.
                -Debbie / NH

                My Blog: http://deborahsulli.blogspot.com/

                Comment


                • #9
                  Huh. I've never had a horse do that from spring grass, or any other feed for that matter. Perhaps it's a New Zealand phenomenon?

                  But I agree with two things. 1. The horse must respond to forward, even if at a walk. 2. Because it's a sudden change, check out every possible physical cause.

                  BTW, I love that you changed the equation and made him go forward on the longe. Good thinking! If you can establish forward that way, get someone to longe him with you in the saddle and see if that helps. (Assuming it's nothing physical: see #2 above.)
                  They don't call me frugal for nothing.
                  Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BEARCAT View Post
                    If this is a sudden change, I would explore and rule out physical issues first. He might be trying to tell you something hurts. Maybe he threw his back out of whack, hurt his withers rolling or whatever.
                    Too often we fail to listen to our horses because there is nothing visible, but I don 't really believe a previously obedient, willing horse that was a "joy to ride " would make such a drastic change overnight.
                    Yep.

                    Sudden behavior changes that are inconsistent with the horse as you have known it to date = pain, is always my first assumption. Pain causes strong reactions, and it also causes tuning out the rider/handler. Or seeing them as the source.

                    Agreed that just because it isn't obvious doesn't mean it isn't there. There isn't much point in trying to "train" a horse to work through a serious pain or discomfort, imo.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BEARCAT View Post
                      If this is a sudden change, I would explore and rule out physical issues first. He might be trying to tell you something hurts. Maybe he threw his back out of whack, hurt his withers rolling or whatever.
                      Too often we fail to listen to our horses because there is nothing visible, but I don 't really believe a previously obedient, willing horse that was a "joy to ride " would make such a drastic change overnight.
                      This. If you do rule out a physical problem, treat it like you would rearing. Both are extreme refusals to go forward. If he stops, ask for forward lightly. If he won't move or backs up, turn him in a circle, using leg and/or whip as needed to keep him turning. After a couple turns, ask for forward again. Repeat as necessary, increasing the force of the 'go forward' until he obliges. Make sure to not always turn in the same direction. When he starts going forward again DO NOT pull back! Let him go forward for a bit, praise, then politely ask him to go back to a walk and ask for forward again.

                      Backing is a nasty, PITA habit that needs to be corrected before it gets bad. My first horse could run backwards faster than he could trot, when he wasn't bolting or dropping his shoulder and spinning. We ran over a lot of things (jumps, chairs, people, walls, even backed into an electric fence once) before I figured out how to make him go forward. 18 months later when I sold him, he would still try going backwards anytime he wasn't in the mood to listen. Not fun.
                      .

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Check his vision. I had a mare do this out of nowhere and this is what it was, she was always a fantastic trail horse and once she adjusted to her vision loss she went back to being her normal fearless self.
                        Last edited by magicteetango; Sep. 22, 2012, 02:45 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by BEARCAT View Post
                          If this is a sudden change, I would explore and rule out physical issues first. He might be trying to tell you something hurts. Maybe he threw his back out of whack, hurt his withers rolling or whatever.
                          Too often we fail to listen to our horses because there is nothing visible, but I don 't really believe a previously obedient, willing horse that was a "joy to ride " would make such a drastic change overnight.
                          BINGO !! He hasn't had too much fall grass. I suspect something you are asking him to do is either causing him pain or you are pushing him to hard too fast for his age or fitness level. Since you give us no background on this horse before you started riding him a month ago it could be a number of reasons.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Sounds like its time for in hand, double lunge, ground driving boot camp.
                            www.destinationconsensusequus.com
                            chaque pas est fait ensemble

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Check his stifles. I've seen this happen when a horse developed a stifle issue. Good luck.
                              Piney Woods

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                the best way to handle it is to get a rider who will ride him forward thru whatever he tosses at them.

                                no matter what he needs to go when asked. period.

                                then you can look at why he is being silly and it is probably the grass....

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by frugalannie View Post
                                  Huh. I've never had a horse do that from spring grass, or any other feed for that matter. Perhaps it's a New Zealand phenomenon?

                                  Yes, its very much a NZ problem and getting more prevalent. That's why I gave the advice I've given. We get a form of neurotoxicity here caused by mycotoxins in the grass. The toxin binders treat that. Fast growing spring grass also tends to lack magnesium - hence the need to supplement with magnesium. Lack of Mg results in ataxic gait and spookiness.

                                  Lots of horses have major over reactions to normal requests when they are suffering from either Mg lack or mycotoxin reaction. They can't think straight, work things out (as much as a horse ever can!) or react calmly to stimuli.

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Thanks for all the replies!

                                    He is a 6 year old TB and all I have been doing with him is some low-key dressage schooling. He was out of work for 6 weeks before I started riding him so I have been careful not to push him too hard. He has been very trainable and seemed to enjoy his work. However it is possible that he doesn't have the 'go' button fully established as once or twice he did resist my leg by stopping in his tracks, however he then moved forward again no problem when asked.

                                    His owner described him as quiet so I don't think he's ever done this with her, however she's only had him since the end of last summer. I'm pretty sure the grass is the problem as it's just started really growing and he's recently been allowed into a larger section of the paddock where there is A LOT of grass. However, he was on that same grass when I rode him two days ago and was a perfect gentleman, so maybe the toxins have only just started coming through. I won't rule out pain, although he seemed VERY worried and spooky yesterday and had no trouble going forward on the longe.

                                    The spring grass is a real issue here in NZ, I've always had all my horses on magnesium and/or equi-guard for that reason.

                                    I'm not afraid of him, and I'm willing to ride it out, just wondering what the best approach was to get through to him.

                                    I'm going to talk to his owner today and see about getting him off that grass and onto a magnesium supplement.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Yep step one would be get him off the grass and onto a toxin binder. Also its the time of year to start the magnesium again, something like alleviate, or I see Vetpro have a new one out that looks like it might be good, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin E, its called Relax I think.

                                      Was it actually an overnight change, or have there been subtle changes over the last couple of days? I just ask because usually toxins aren't a completely overnight temperament changer, but it is usually pretty quick over 2 or 3 days. Magnesium deficiency tends to be complete irrational behaviour and again a very fast onset, often overnight. And if you're like we are here and have finally been able to enjoy a few days of sunshine and can pretty much see the grass growing again, they are definitely possibilities.

                                      If after a couple of days off grass he's not virtually back to his usual self, start looking at other options, and go back to basics with the "go" aid. Andrew McLean work is generally a good starting point for this sort of thing.


                                      And for those people above - yes NZ has a very horse UNfriendly mix of grasses generally, its mostly "improved" pasture that's been especially designed to get maximum production from dairy cows, sheep and beef so its very fast growing, resulting in the magnesium deficiencies, mostly rye (and we have the perfect temperate climate for the rye toxins to flourish, resulting in toxin issues and staggers in horses and cattle) and very high powered with much more sugar than our ponies need! Then to compound the problem, most NZ horses get the majority of there feed from pasture 24/7, not that many horses here are stabled.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I know nothing about grass in NZ, so no comment on that. I assume that residents of NZ know what they are talking about.

                                        However, as for the not going forward, I have learned that the best way to get a horse moving without having a fight is to shift the horse's weight to one leg and then to the other, using the reins to do so.
                                        \
                                        Rock to the left, then rock to the right. This will force him to put a foot out to keep his balance and once he puts a foot out, he will move.

                                        The problem with fighting with a baulker is that it will frequently lead to rearing, bucking or some other form of resistance.

                                        Actually running backwards, in most horses (ignoring the NZ grass problem for the moment) is a vice similar to bucking, rearing, etc. It is just a different form of trying to get the best of you. Again ignoring NZ grass.

                                        Try rocking him back and forth, gently, and see if this will not get him moving.

                                        Comment

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