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Horse refuses to lunge, but used to!

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  • Horse refuses to lunge, but used to!

    I recently purchased an OTTB who has had downtime and was moderately retrained prior to him coming to me. When I first got him he was skinny and out of shape but since has put on weight and is starting to have regular workouts. Initially he would lunge or go in the round pen but now he refuses to move.

    When I ask him to go, he wheels his butt towards me and either refuses to move or kicks out when the whip is applied. The thing that worries me is that no matter how much I try to straighten him out or tap him with the whip, he does not respond. He is a very sweet and calm boy, but is lazy and very confidant in himself.

    I was thinking that, as he has a dropped hip, he is getting sore from all the work as his muscles develop, but under saddle he will walk, trot, canter, do anything I ask. He does feel slightly off, but not enough for him to not want to move forward or for me to pinpoint a leg, if that makes sense. He recently had his teeth done, so I don't suspect issues with them.

    Any suggestions on what could be going on and what I need to do?

  • #2
    The lunging circle, or round pen, is a much smaller circle than we use when riding - is he the same both ways?
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


    • #3
      He doesn't sound like he is behaving in a "sweet" maner by turning his butt towards you. In addition, your post suggests the horse is not sound. However, when in doubt start as though he has never been lunged and start at the walk. If you don't have lots of lunging experience you may want to have someone that does restart him so they can quickly stop bad behaviour before it really starts. Good luck!


      • Original Poster

        He used to lunge both ways correctly, but in the past week I have tried twice and gotten the same poor result.

        I agree he is NOT being sweet with this, but his overall personality is, so I don't know what has caused the shift in behavior.

        His off-ness comes from the hip, as the dropped hip is taking a shorter stride, which is something he was rehabed for, but will continue to stick with him to some degree throughout his life. I mainly want to lunge him so I can see his movement and ensure that the issue is not bigger than his usual hitch, and since he's finally working after sitting for a long time. I expect soreness within the hip area - I just think that perhaps he is feeling a bit more off as a result of the work (we recently took a long trail ride) so I wanted to review him. It does work off in the ring and he returns to his usual gait after a few laps.

        So I wonder, is he refusing to lunge because he is uncomfortable, or because there is another problem. Under saddle he will go and he does enjoy it, though the ring is bigger.


        • #5
          My youngster also came with quite good longeing skills. After he had been out of work for a period this summer, I longed him one day to get nothing but rearing one day, while trying to canter to the right.
          I think he had a stifle issue, which he wanted be to be aware of
          I'd go for pain, first.


          • #6
            What does he do if you ride him in the round pen? That will give you a good indication if the size of the circle is causing him discomfort and making him sour.


            • Original Poster

              Sorry for not responding sooner! I never tested him riding in the round pen but it's probably good I didn't. I was able to get a chiropractor out and turns out that not only was the dropped hip bothering him, but he had also recently threw off the other side of his pelvis. Now I have a very grouchy horse who doesn't like to do his hind end exercises but at least I think he's feeling better overall.

              Of course he still wont lunge....the chiropractor recommended that to warm him up prior to the stretches I should put him in the round pen or lunge for 10 minutes. He is still resistant, so I guess I'll give him a little more time to adjust.


              • #8
                What do you do when he refuses to lunge? You could be dealing with the "it may hurt so I don't want to do it and you can't make me!" attitude. If you stopped lunging when he turned his butt to you, he just won the battle. I don't care if one of mine is as lame as a duck. If I tell a horse to do something, he needs to at least try. If you stop when they say "no," the next day you get "F#@% NO" from them.


                • Original Poster

                  Well I start him off and send him out, he takes 2-3 steps and starts to turn in, head first. From there I encourage him to move back out, to which he swings his butt inwards. If you flick at him with the end of the line or a whip, he will do warning kicks and outright refuse to take another step. It does not matter the direction or location. Last night I tried out in a field to see if the scenery changed his mind. I don't think he intends to actually kick me, as he is shocked every time he actually makes contact with the line or whip, but I'm not trying to get too close just in case.


                  • #10
                    Don't longe him then, long-line or just ride him. Until you get the pain issue sorted out, (assuming the behavior is due to pain), then continuing to try and even to force him will make an annoying problem much worse. Revisit the issue of the longeing only after his physical issues have resolved.
                    RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                    • Original Poster

                      I'm following your advice of leaving him be for now with the lunging. Right now we're just doing 10 minute trot rides with walking over poles and serpentines. He hand jogs wonderfully, go figure, so that's our warm up solution to get him ready for his stretches. The chiropractor is coming out again in 2 weeks and I'll see if she think he looks any better/should be pushed to do more work. He's feeling good under saddle, so I can only hope there will be improvement. Now if I can get him to pick his feet up better while trotting!


                      • #12
                        Considering this is an on-going injury type thing I would speak with your vet about whether or not lunging is a good idea. If your vet says it is, try riding first and then lunging. Perhaps warming up under saddle a bit will "get the kinks out" and get him moving more freely so that he is more willing to move off on a smaller circle (lunging).

                        Also, unless you are willing to really get after him, I would have a trainer help you get him moving next time you do lunge. If the vet says he is sound enough to lunge, then you need to make him go. If he learns he can turn his butt into you and get out of work, he will continue to get worse.


                        • #13
                          I wouldn't buy the whole, "It hurts too much too lunge" thing. Lame horses are lunged all the time to evaluate them. If you think he's uncomfortable don't do much, but you might consider having a pro lunge him very briefly so that he doesn't keep the upper hand, then leave it alone and stick with what you're doing now that works. It sounds like your reaction to his rudeness is too mild and he's aware you won't do anything.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rea4977 View Post
                            If you flick at him with the end of the line or a whip, he will do warning kicks and outright refuse to take another step.
                            Lame horse or not, if one of mine swung his butt at me and did a "warning kick", he'd be rethinking his poor decision right quick.... and it wouldn't be a "flick" of the whip either. It's dangerous and likely to escalate if not corrected firmly but w/ a clear answer (forward, on the circle).

                            Go means go. Go NOW. No attitude. If you don't feel comfortable being more assertive (not beating, not abusive, BTW), then please get someone who will, for some retraining. Eventually he will also pull this behavior under saddle...