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Young horse balks/rears when asked for forward....help please

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  • Young horse balks/rears when asked for forward....help please

    I've searched the forums here and elsewhere, and gone with what I know - go for FORWARD. This young 4 yr old doesn't have much forward, but dang that boy has a rear in him. We're talking hi ho Silver here...
    He's been fully vetted and cleared for everything. Saddle is a good fit, although I've tried several others in my process of elimination. Teeth floated. French link snaffle. Feet are good. As such, I think I've pretty much ruled out pain.
    In company, he goes along in a follow the leader sort of way, often being the leader himself. Groundwork is progressing way above his under saddle work. I'm not overworking him, or overfacing him.
    When under saddle alone, he balks. Plants. Rears. FWIW, when he rears, I do NOT dismount. We keep going until I get a trot. This behaviour has been going on for several weeks now, always the same. Forward is the answer, but what do you do when there is no forward? Is it time for a good ol' come to Jesus meeting? I do use a dressage whip as a tool, behind my leg. Occasionally on his rump, but that seems to be the more frequent REAR trigger.

  • #2
    How is he when you lunge? I'd be more apt to make sure he know FORWARD on the lunge first before going under saddle, but I'm a wimp when it comes to rearing and don't want to play that game/ride. Once established on the lunge, then you can start transitioning to under saddle.
    ************
    "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's the Hard that makes it great."

    "Get up... Get out... Get Drunk. Repeat as needed." -- Spike

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      tle, he is perfect on the lunge. Has his voice commands DOWN. I recently introduced side reins on the lunge, and he worked that out in record time. That's my frustration, his groundwork so surpasses his undersaddle work.
      I've diligently ruled out pain, as to saddle fit etc, to the point of working bareback...but careful not to push too hard with that because I really don't want to sit a rear bareback

      Comment


      • #4
        First, let me say that a horse that rears, as you must know, is very dangerous to your health. I had one flip over and I got at-12 compression fracture.

        Is there any way to establish forward on a lunge line? Use voice commands, so that you can use them when you are in the saddle. If you cannot establish forward with him, then please find someone who had helped horses work through this problem.

        Of course, whenever there is a fight or flight situation, your horse can revert back to rearing.

        Whatever you do, please be very careful! There are a lot of nice horses in the world that are not dangerous. As a cowboy once asked me about my dangerous horse, "What is your life worth?"
        When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!

        Comment


        • #5
          I would do groundwork with him. Teach him to move his back feet across behind and to follow through forward following the rein. So, it would be step over behind by pointing or tapping with a whip and then immediately follow with a rein in the same circular direction. He needs to yield and follow through totally to the one rein direction each way. When you ride him you ask for forward with your leg or indicate with the whip and then immediately circle him (use an opening rein)...if you have to, switch directions and keep him circling and changing direction, because it is much more difficult for them to plant and go up when they are moving. Obviously, he needs to go forward on the longe line promptly whenever you ask with the whip indication and a voice command. The rein follow through is important. Just my 2 cents.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Yes, Auburn, I hear ya.
            There is something in this horse that made me see past that, and I didn't expect a "quick fix". I'm a good rider, have had young horses before, and liked the "unspoiled" quality in this one. I did hear after taking him on that the track trainer had deemed him "dangerous".
            I'm not ready yet to give up on him, and am willing to make the journey - just somewhat confounded that he can be so good in one area and not have it translate. I'm hoping time time time will help with that, just wondering if anyone here has any similiar experiences. I don't want a flip. FWIW, my non-horsey BF saw last night's rear, and was super impressed . He thought I'd asked him for it like a trick pony Apparently he is quite up and balanced. This seen though less than novice eyes.
            When I explained to him what was happening, it freaked him out a lot (BF that is).

            Comment


            • #7
              Have you xrayed his back? I know you say you ruled out pain but it is very unusual to have the ground work going well but not the undersaddle work....and not have it be pain. That's usually the first indicator to me....if I can push the lunging and not get the rear that come out doing something as simple as going forward.
              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                Have you xrayed his back? I know you say you ruled out pain but it is very unusual to have the ground work going well but not the undersaddle work....and not have it be pain. That's usually the first indicator to me....if I can push the lunging and not get the rear that come out doing something as simple as going forward.
                This is a good point--especially considering the track trainer's comment. Perhaps he has Kissing Spines? (I know, they are often overdiagnosed...)

                Still, what stands out in your posts is the fact that he *only* behaves like this with a rider on his back, and shows no "tendencies" towards being balky and going up when worked either from the ground or on the longe line; IOW, he's not nappy and "backward thinking" by nature, correct?

                This might indeed point to pain...
                "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

                "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")

                Comment


                • #9
                  that brings back memories of my girl as a 4 y.o. - those really big rears are scary.

                  The only thing that I remember really helped (other than time to grow up) was forcing very small circles as soon as she planted her feet - at the walk, a 5 meter circle, switching directions, makes the feet keep moving, until they decide forward is preferable.

                  Even now, 3 years later we still have occasional planting of feet while working. A good smack (which would have been dangerous when she was young) usually elicits a pretty nasty buck, and then she is back with me.

                  You are braver than me. I am still looking forward to the day I can ride mine bareback!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Is he fresh when he is doing this? My horse, for whatever reason, always thinks "up" when he is fresh - never forward. So, yes, he is a rearer. I've had him since he was 3 1/2, he's a TB, raced.

                    If something happens while he is being led - something scares him, or he is fresh, or if he thinks he can dominate his handler, he rears. If he is wild and I lunge him, he rears and rears on the lungeline and then FINALLY goes forward. He rears in the paddock when he is fresh instead of running around. And, yes, he rears under saddle sometimes - and they are big rears.

                    He is 8 now, and the rearing has diminished over time. It was at its worst when he was 4. He did it a lot at that age, and it wasn't because I was in his face. He would be walking around on the buckle and stand up. In any event, the way we addressed it was by just SPINNING him HARD every time he thought about going up. The timing is critical, and you have to get them before their front feet lift off. Nose to the knee and just SPIN, SPIN, SPIN, while kicking, then kick forward into the trot. If the horse offers to rear again, same deal, SPIN SPIN SPIN and then kick forward. He actually figured it out fairly quickly and disliked being spun enough that he knocked it off in short order.

                    Now I know him well enough that I can usually tell if it is likely to be "that kind" of day, and I will toss him on the lungeline for a few minutes before getting on so that he can get the forward deal down without me on him. This eliminates most issues. But I still have to spin him from time to time.

                    We mostly have reached an understanding, this horse and I, but the whole scenario is not for the feint of heart, and I don't think I would want to deal with it in another horse besides this one that I own and know really well.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      That's a toughie. When he does this and you don't stop until trot, how is that achieved... What happens in between?

                      I had a rearer in college (young and dumb), and what worked very well for me was to double him back. Turn him tightly in a circle when he started to try it, and boot him out of it. The moment we stopped circling, OUT we went. If we didn't? More very tight circling... It seemed as if I got him shocked enough to go "Wait? What?" And he forgot about balking and subsequently popping up. I had this suggested after I tried everything else, nothing worked. The point being I got movement no matter what. And those circles were quick and nearly head to stirrup. Not how I normally ride but he was a confirmed rearer and this seemed to help him understand it was wrong and unacceptable.

                      He thought of going up a few more times (out of a forward walk or trot, he was extremely athletic) and a mere squeeze of my rein and a shift forward in my weight would stop him. One time it didn't and he went up half way again, well, it was a serious come to Jesus. Several waps with the crop, kicking, and growling. He KNEW it was totally unacceptable, and he tried again anyway. Again that only happened one time.

                      It is so hard when this is not nipped in the bud (not meaning you but if the track trainer wrote him off, this is not new). I think the key is correcting the rear before it actually happens full out, you need to figure out what will do that for him and then learn to feel when he is preparing for it so it can be corrected quietly well before that.

                      Another thing that helped with this horse was he needed to constantly be busy. I would leg yield him, etc on and off the rail, serpentines, counter bending until he was more reliable. If I kept him thinking I kept him from plotting.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Are you 100% absolutely sure it's not pain? I second the back x-rays, I would add the neck and pelvis/sacral area to those. Especially after you said he was deemed "dangerous" at the track but has what you want down pat on the longe. He's trying to tell everyone something is wrong.
                        "IT'S NOT THE MOUNTAIN WE CONQUER, BUT OURSELVES." SIR EDMUND HILLARYMember of the "Someone Special To Me Serves In The Military" Clique

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I should note that I had a serious rearer. Owned him since he was a yearling. He DID have mild Kissing Spine...but he also reared ALL.THE.TIME. It was his response to EVERYTHING. It came out on the ground and undersaddle. Growling, wacking...and above all else...quickly spinning him and coming forward out of the spin eventually got he message across that this was not acceptable. By the end of his 4 year old year--he pretty much had stopped rearing all together.

                          But as I said...this horse reared ALL the time....it seems very off to only hit the rear with a rider on his back.
                          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            BFNE & DD - I felt the same reain. He has not been x-rayed in the back. Had a full vetting by the rehab program he came from, but I don't know if they did this. DD - you wrote *only* and not quite right, as he is fine in all 3 gaits when there is another horse in the ring. I rode him all over an xc course (just an outing, no jumping started yet obviously!!) in the company of 6 others and aside from his lack of steering knowledge, he was la-de-dah over it. Same thing at the barn in the ring, with others. He goes. Fairly well. The balk/plant/rear only happens alone.
                            I'm light. He has rein, and is learning contact at the walk. JenJ, I do the circles too, as my objective is to redirect his focus and keep him moving. I give BIG praise, and he responds to this.
                            It seems to me that it is more behavioral. Riding in company fixes it, but I don't always have that option.
                            Thanks all for your replies.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bornfreenowexpensive View Post
                              Have you xrayed his back? I know you say you ruled out pain but it is very unusual to have the ground work going well but not the undersaddle work....and not have it be pain. That's usually the first indicator to me....if I can push the lunging and not get the rear that come out doing something as simple as going forward.
                              True, but the OP said he is fine under saddle in a group setting. Sounds likes juvenile antics to me, FWIW.

                              Since he already understands the lunge line well and cooperates while on it, I would have a ground person lunge him with you in the saddle. Immediately reward any forward and end the session before it turns sour. Hopefully he'll get past his silliness as soon as he figures out there is a better way.

                              Props to you for spending the time to teach him a better response, scary stuff!

                              Just my .02
                              Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.

                              The Grove at Five Points

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by ACMEeventing View Post
                                True, but the OP said he is fine under saddle in a group setting. Sounds likes juvenile antics to me, FWIW.

                                Since he already understands the lunge line well and cooperates while on it, I would have a ground person lunge him with you in the saddle. Immediately reward any forward and end the session before it turns sour. Hopefully he'll get past his silliness as soon as he figures out there is a better way.

                                Props to you for spending the time to teach him a better response, scary stuff!

                                Just my .02

                                Could be (they just posted that) and I admit that is weird...but I've also had them overcome the pain when doing something they enjoy...like jumping only to have it show up again later.

                                I guess if it was me, I'd rule out the back with xrays. But even if it is something like KS....best thing to do is get them stronger.

                                So this horse need to work in side reins...alone...and be sent forward. As he gets stronger....then you need to do more work to get him confident in you so he learns to work better on his own...but that will take some time. But in the end...you need to nip the rear in the bud before it happens.

                                And if mine...I'd be sending him off to someone better just because of the danger.
                                ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I agree entirely with BFNE on this one.
                                  "IT'S NOT THE MOUNTAIN WE CONQUER, BUT OURSELVES." SIR EDMUND HILLARYMember of the "Someone Special To Me Serves In The Military" Clique

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Track trainer deemed him dangerous in hand, as he was horrible to lead & performs airs off the ground. Has quite the spook in him. He didn't make it far in training and is unraced. He had an injury (bowed front left), rehabbed, and never went back to training. His spook has gotten much better, less reactive. Lots of in hand work, to which he at first objected to.
                                    MagicTT "That's a toughie. When he does this and you don't stop until trot, how is that achieved... What happens in between?"
                                    I keep asking asking asking asking asking....he gives in and goes. BIG BIG reward, praise pat act like he just hung the darn moon. Get about 5 more minutes in, and yes, I push my luck and ask again for trot. To clarify, he doesn't rear every time, and thus far, if I get one rear I don't get another. But the balk and planting is EVERY TIME WE RIDE ALONE. So the rear is a crap shoot.
                                    Again, why I'm thinking behavioral, and seeking some advice. I don't particularly WANT to ride out the come to Jesus meeting myself. But I think if it was PAIN, it would be consistent, and not happy go lucky with Sir Trots a Lot is in front of him. Pain would be present alone or in company, right?

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I know this might seem like a strange question, but who is in his pedigree? I think my horse's rearing and just his general personality (he is opinionated and can be a bit aggressive if things don't go his way) are largely inherited.

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Delay in posting, all these great responses.
                                        ACME, yes, I think so too, because it's erratic behavior. I will look into the xrays though. Hadn't thought of that bc he came to me "clean".
                                        BFNE, there is a guy named Frank in Ocala but I can't remember his last name...
                                        If I have to he'll go there. I do not want to ride the rear. ANd when I crack him after it, I usually get a rebuttal buck but VERY halfhearted. If he wanted me off, he could get me off.
                                        Anyone know Frank?? Or suggestions in Florida? I'm not there yet, taking my time, maybe step up the side reins work.
                                        Oh yeah, I have pressed/palpated/short of hammered (lol not really) his back, in all of the pertinent places, and he doesn't even flinch.
                                        Considered ulcers, but he isn't girthy at all,his coat is a mirror with dapples, and he's in good flesh. There may be other indicators I don't know though, never had a horse that suffered with them.

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