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Respecting mom.

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  • Respecting mom.

    Hi all,

    I need some insights regarding respect from equine to human. I’ll start by saying I have a great trainer who knows horse well. My horse (gelding) has one general resistance behavior when asked to go forward (from walk to trot): he balks, pins his ears, paws, kicks out. Will sort of buck if pressed. Problem is, he does this when something is bothering him (my we think he gets hindgut ulcers, etc—he doesn’t have any issues otherwise and vet is on top of his tummy) or when he thinks he’s done and the human has the audacity to ask him to work more. He does this mostly only with me, almost never with trainer (but I do ride him more). He’ll do it with me, trainer will get on, and he’ll be perfect. This behavior flares up every 4-ish months. So although we both think that sometimes he’s telling us something is off (and then we’ll tweak his tummy supplements, get the vet out, etc), sometimes he just does this.

    The fact that this behavior emerges with me and not trainer means this is mostly a rider issue. My leg is not so offensive that poor beast cannot trot forward and it’s not a consistent issue. I seriously think I get on and he thinks “oh, the nice lady is up there, let me see what I can pull to get out of work.” And then when something is bothering him and the behavior is legit, we do listen but then I think he milks it for days.

    Today, I grabbed some mane and got after him when he did this. Judicious use of the whip to reinforce my leg. He eventually got the message. But I want him to respect me the same way he does my trainer and this is frustrating. Anyone offer any wisdom?

  • #2
    Add spurs and hold your ground, he's just looking to switch up the program.

    If he wants to pitch a fit and tantrum, let him.
    DO NOT REACT.
    Ignore him as long as there's no danger involved.

    How I cured my rearing boy.
    When he got NO reaction (beyond me staying on and not interfering) he was truly puzzled. I had changed the thought process from avoiding me to waiting for my next directions.

    Damn, I miss my Bubbles...
    *************************
    Go, Baby, Go......
    Aefvue Farms Footing Inspector

    Comment


    • #3
      Unfortunately you're going to have to keep getting after him. If he gets to stop once, the problem will resurface... "that one time I bucked and mom let me stop"

      You could also try backing or circling or something that would be "more work" when he decides to fuss.

      Good luck! What a stinker!

      Comment


      • #4
        Besides the obvious of, continue to investigate why he is balking (saddle fit? more ulcers? sore back??), ask your trainer how she is asking him to trot.

        Sometimes adjusting the magnitude of our aids will get a much more willing partner. Some of the more defensive rides need quieter aids to elicit quieter responses. It may be a learned behavior, or it may be that he is actively defensive because of active pain - so keep this in mind as you work him. I have an older OTTB warhorse who is still green, but in work - with similar issues (including ulcers that are improving, but aren't 100% gone). I always tell anyone that rides him to "think" trot/canter, rather than trot/canter. For him, all you need is that subtle shift of balance and the subtle movement of your leg, to cue the trot/canter depart. He is very sensitive in the good way, so if you asked him the way you asked a lesson horse, you'll get a big response vs a quiet one.

        It may also be, he was never taught to accept leg aids -- teaching him to yield to calf or leg pressure may go a long way in helping him understand you are asking him to move his barrel/body over, vs just spurring him on.
        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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        • #5
          Drop “mom”. I bet your trainer doesn’t refer to herself as mom. Way too personal a term for a situation that may require some distance.

          Comment


          • #6
            Ask your trainer if you are getting ahead of him when you ask and he balks. If she says so, get her to help you learn the feel of "staying behind" and driving him forward with seat and legs. (And yes, reinforce with artificial aids as needed at the beginning.)

            Comment


            • #7
              The order of ramping up of leg aids is leg, cluck, stick. And not slowly. By the time you cluck, your horse should 'know' in one second, he is going to get smacked with the stick. If your horse is a little confused about what you asking, he still doesn't get to tell you to f* off. Leg means move. Unless you are wildly clashing your aids, he should move. He doesn't get to say, 'Unless you do it perfectly, I am NOT going to do it."

              Leg. Cluck. Stick.
              *****
              You will not rise to the occasion, you will default to your level of training.

              Comment


              • #8
                I'd add a neck rope or bucking strap. Even a balanced rider can accidentally tap the mouth when a horse surges forward. If you are going to reinforce that leg means "now", you want to be 100% sure that you are not touching his mouth if he leaps forward.

                Is this the same horse where you are having trouble with the right lead canter?

                Comment


                • #9
                  My mare came to me with a tendency to balk any time something was hard, she thought she should be done working, or just to see if she could get away with it. This could be anything from kicking out/backing up when asked to walk forward (almost exactly like what you describe actually), to full blown rearing while cantering. She has improved leaps and bounds over the past 10 months, and the days of any significant rearing seem to be behind us, but she will still see if she can get away with balking at the start of a ride.

                  Here are the two biggest things that helped me:
                  1. Hands and eyes up and think about leaning back always.
                  Hands up = reins short, so their head is up and front end light, so they have to engage their hind end which equals forward. Leaning back means you are pushing forward with your seat, so you're less likely to leave the "back door" open so to speak, therefore backing up is no longer an option for the horse. Eyes up and ahead because if you drop your eyes, you have probably also dropped your hands and leaned forward, giving horse the opportunity to stop (or not go, as the case may be).
                  2. If/when horse balks when you add leg, keep a feel of its mouth. It's our instinct to release contact to encourage them to go forward, and this is not wrong. However with my mare, as soon as I stopped letting go of her face in response to balking, I got 80% less balking within about 3 rides. Seemed counterintuitive but it helped me and your guy sounds similar to my mare.

                  Good luck!

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Hi all,

                    yup, same horse who objects to my request for right lead canter. He’s a very good egg overall but still a bit green. I think my timing is a significant issue. Trainer is much much quicker with any correction, whereas I ask...get pissy response, think “oh #%! now I have to get after him”, ask again, then spur, then get same response only worse, then whip. She asks correctly and immediately backs it up if he’s not in front of her leg. I’m going to add a neck strap today because I do tend to grab his mouth when he surges forward. Also, I’m learning from my getting braver that there’s a limit to how bad he’s going to get—for a while I wasn’t sure and he’s big and powerful, but he does give without exploding if the correction is fair.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My suggestion is to reframe this problem in your head from one of respect to one of improving your riding – take all the emotion out of it

                      Do you ride with a purpose? I’ve found with green horses that the more I have an immediate, measurable plan the better they go. For example: “we will march in walk past the blue jump, then turn left, head to the outside corner, do a little flexion round the corner, head to the red jump and halt next to it. March on, go round that cone, pick up trot straight towards that big tree, turn left at the trot poles, back to walk at the red jump -----”

                      It sounds silly typed out like that but having a purpose makes a huge difference – we can both feel that there is a “job” to do and it stops me staring at the ears. It also helps to mix it up a lot so it’s not just endless 20m circles.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RileysMom View Post
                        Hi all,

                        yup, same horse who objects to my request for right lead canter. He’s a very good egg overall but still a bit green. I think my timing is a significant issue. Trainer is much much quicker with any correction, whereas I ask...get pissy response, think “oh #%! now I have to get after him”, ask again, then spur, then get same response only worse, then whip. She asks correctly and immediately backs it up if he’s not in front of her leg. I’m going to add a neck strap today because I do tend to grab his mouth when he surges forward. Also, I’m learning from my getting braver that there’s a limit to how bad he’s going to get—for a while I wasn’t sure and he’s big and powerful, but he does give without exploding if the correction is fair.
                        OMG. You and I are living in a parallel universe, RileysMom!!! Minus the surging forward part. Mine just will not move his feet at all as I squeeze, cluck and use my stick --except to paw or kick out sometimes. Absent the surging forward, he will swing his neck around to either side and try to bite my feet in protest. Once or twice he has made contact with my boot. Last weekend was super fun when he thought it was a good idea to paw with the front right and kick out with the back left simultaneously and almost landed on his face. Upside: He embarrassed himself so much that he immediately trotted forward, and quite nicely.

                        Following this thread closely for suggestions. Generally mine gives up relatively easily and usually he only does it in the beginning of the ride when I first gather up my reins and ask for the trot, but in a group lesson when it's our turn to jump, he'll try it again sometimes. Again, though, gives up easily MOST of the time but it's annoying. However, last week he was a complete and utter DONKEY about it and didnt give up so easily. Good timing on your thread!

                        ETA: Similar to your story, he either does not attempt it with the pro(s) at the barn or if he does, it's over in a matter of a second or two without drama or escalation.
                        http://www.poochpaddock.com/

                        http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Po...4588358?ref=mf

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Please, please spend some time working on the ground with your horse. Do not just hit/kick when he misbehaves. Look at several websites....Buck Brannaman, Warwick Schiller.....I truly believe that there are no bad horses. He may not understand/respect you. So much can be accomplished with solid ground work. It has changed me, and it has changed my horse. good luck

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by skyon View Post
                            Drop “mom”. I bet your trainer doesn’t refer to herself as mom. Way too personal a term for a situation that may require some distance.
                            Stop being "Mom" or the "Cookie Lady." He is to address you as "ma'am." It may help to ride with a dressage whip rather than a spur. You don't want him to learn to ignore your spur such that the only correction you can make is to boot him as hard as you can. I find dressage whips better for the young horses because you can back up your leg a lot more selectively. So you apply your leg aid and if he doesn't give the desired response, you back it up with with a quick, but notably different reinforcement.

                            Do ground work. Make sure when you lead him around the farm, that he is totally respectful of your space and that he doesn't bump into you whenever he wants. Also make sure that he doesn't tend to dive for grass whenever you are leading him.

                            Also, make sure you are fit. Go to the gym and strength train, because improving core strength and balance will improve coordination and reaction time.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Well as an update, I think something is actually bothering the beast. He put up too much of a fight tonight for it to be purely behavioral, especially since I was prepared for him and he was stiffer in one direction—wondering if he pulled something in his back. He’s sound though. Back not seeming especially sore but I’m not the expert at palpating it. Trainer is going to take a look before I ride him next.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I have been to this movie, and I’m still finding my way out. It started with a physical problem and horse learning that if he said no loud enough there was only so much I could do about it. Took a long time to unravel the physical things (especially since he didn’t want to do his rehab exercises but also because there was usually not anything obvious —no limp to block, etc).

                                At one point, he escalated to a place that made me uncomfortable. Like get on, walk 4 steps and start pawing and rearing. I could always ride it out but I was on edge all the time. I finally found another rider that he liked and wasn’t afraid of (despite the behavior with me he is afraid of getting in trouble). I did a TON of ground work. Eventually, he turned a corner physically and we started to climb out of the hole.

                                He still pushes me around because he still has anxiety about all of it. He still anticipates even if the other rider gets on and warms him up first. When he relaxes his mind, he is sensitive and forward. When he is anticipating, I could make welts with the dressage whip and he’d do nothing except maybe kick out or go backwards. I’ve done a lot of work on my confidence and fitness, and that helps too.

                                It took a very long time for it to get as bad as it did because there were so many layers to his physical issues. So it will take even longer to fix it. But at least now I have some help.

                                Long story short, get to the bottom of any lameness or other pain issue and prioritize that before this gets really ingrained. At least where you are now, you can get a response. For sure put a bucking strap on. I often have someone longe me to warm up my horse so I can focus completely on go forward and don’t have to steer (and the person holding the line can stop him from going backwards) until he gets over it for that day and decides to be rideable.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I think someone posted and had it right that you are not mom. You are the alpha mare. With that said that does not mean you need to beat your horse into submission. You do not need to hit him at all. You need to work with him on the ground on the lunge line and he needs to listen to your commands. Walk, trot, canter, whoa, halt. I think you should go back to the basics and put these cues on him on the ground and start from there. He also can not stand you off. The alpha mare within the herd casts the others out until they behave and are allowed back into the herd. Same concept. I think you should have someone experienced with proper lunging help you with this so you do not get hurt. He is not your child. He is a horse and while you can think of him as your child you must treat him like a horse and learn to think as a horse does. Until you can lunge him and he behaves as a proper gentleman and you can do transitions on the lunge line, I wouldn't even get on him to ride. He needs to learn you are the alpha mare and his life will become much happier as he will know his boundaries.

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