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Any Ideas How To Fix This?

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    Any Ideas How To Fix This?

    Okay this is probably the strangest problem I have ever had a horse have.

    *horse has been with me for a week now, to be clear early on*

    A friend of a friend contacted me two weeks ago about a 8 year old qh mare she was having trouble with. The mare had been started a little less than two months ago and owner was hitting a wall, wanted some help.

    From the two hour long phone call, I found out the mare would not steer. Basically she owner explained that if you touched the reins to either side the mare would slam on the breaks. Once the reins were touched the mare would not moveuntill they were slack again. Aparently the lightest touch triggered this. Mare will walk trot lope on a completely loose rein but any contact she stops and will not move. Other than that the mare was behaving.

    So I was now curious on the mare. While i dont publicly train I will work horses for others if they seek me out or are referred to me. And the horse is within my skills to work with.

    So I offered to work the mare and she galdy accepted the offer. We set up for her to bring the mare over the next day. So far good vibes from owner on the phone. She had started a few colts but this mare was just stumping her. She just wanted a trail horse nothing fancy. No red flags.

    Well she unloads the mare from the trailer and the first thing I notice was she has a CA brand halter and lead. Not just that style the brand. So I asked her if she used his methods, and she said yes! I have no problem with CA when his methods are used in moderation,. I mix some of his stuff into my workings as well.

    So as we are putting the mare in her run, owner starts to talk more about what she was doing when she rode. How she was doing what CA said to do with colts, getting them relaxed at all gaits and just comfortable with everything. Nothing seems off.

    Then she starts to explain how hot headed the mare was. Now for me just having seen the way the mare behaved on the ground in a brand new place with a dozen other horses screaming at her, the mare did not act hot. So i asked more about it.

    She explained that the mare had a very fast trot and lope, she would not lope or trot slowly on a loose rein as CA had said the mare should.

    Then I found my smoking bullet.

    She explained that CA said one rein stops were a cure for a hot horse. How she had done as he said in his videos.

    This mare has been one reined stop every 4 strides at all gaits for almost a month straight. this mare was being rode an hour to and hour and a half 5 days a week. Every ride she was one reined stop hundreds of times. Owner had thought she was making her mare less hot by doing this. She had basically focused on this one issue with her mare and now that the mare has lost all of her will to go forward with energy it's time to suddenly learn to steer. Well mare is doing what she has been taught the past month every time the reins are touched. Stop.

    I have been riding this mare only a half an hour at a time 4 days a week the past two weeks. I have never seen something so deeply ingrained in a horse. You so much as set your hand on the rein on either side and this mare will slam the breaks. She has almost sent me over the front she will stop so hard. She is not a hot mare, that I can tell. She has lovely gaits, I cant imagine her being hot, maybe owner has gotten rid of that.

    I have tried holding light pressure to just get her to move forward with her nose tipped,, nope. I have broke out crops trying to get her to move forward with no avail. She wont even move forward if you are holding the reins. Right now I am trying to just get one step forward while I am holding the right rein, not even asking for a turn, just holding it.

    She sets her feet and will not move. I cant figure out how else for her to learn that it's okay to move forward when the reins are touched. She acts so shut down, it makes me feel bad for her. If she would just be willing to guide a little I would have her out of the arena on the trails learning to move out and enjoy it a little. But right now she has non existant steering.

    She does lunge beautifully, owner did her groundwork very well for sure. She is soft in the halter and also soft for "flexing"

    She is not acting pissy or angry when asked to move forward while rein is held. She just sulks up and shuts down. But let the reins down and loose at the saddle horn and she will walk/trot/lope off with light leg pressure.

    So does anyone have any other ideas to get her out of this? I am at a loss on how else to get her over it. I do want to try and help her before telling owner that she needs a trainer above my pay grade. I have told owner after first week that her mare is worse than I had expected, but that I would see what I could do. If not there are a few other skilled trainers a bit farther away.

    So any ideas?

    Ok so I have never dealt with something like this but I think this is the way I would do it. I would start by teaching her rein contact doesn't means stop. Think asking her to go into frame and be light in your hands. I would make sure to reward any attempt to accept the contact and move forward. 1 step? Huge praise. 2 steps? Huge praise. Continue until she can walk/trot without stopping with a light contact. You may need a helper on the ground to lead her while at the beginning of introducing contact. Than I would introduce turning. Again having a helper to lead her while you change the contact to turn may be the ticket to success here.

    Other things you may want to try is different bits (keep them soft), maybe a hackamore or other bitless options. Maybe have her play follow the leader with other horses.

    If that doesn't work I would send her on to someone new.


      Work in hand
      Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
      Alfred A. Montapert


        I am three years into retraining one who had no go. I used the trail riding approach and "anything forward is good." I took him out in safe areas with another horse and let him go pretty much at any speed in any direction. I did have the ability to steer in large circles to slow down when, very occasionally, I needed it.

        If you really have no steering, I would suggest having a helper pony you on the mare. Just sit there and rub her neck and tell her how wonderful she is when she's going forward. I would put on a sidepull or maybe even a bosal and not touch it. Perhaps tie a rope around her neck and hold onto that while she's being led. Use your legs as usual and your hands on the sides of her neck when your helper is turning to begin teaching turning aids without reins.

        I am afraid that such a process could take a long time, even if it might work. As I said, I started three years ago and I have a pretty nice horse now but he still has a "shutdown" in there and probably always will. I try to do things with him that we both enjoy and that works out well.

        Good luck and thanks for trying to help this poor mare.


          My 2 cents. Put her in a bosal behind another horse? Just relaxed trail or relaxed around a quiet area, not an arena? Following another horse with no bit?
          When I first got my old gelding his previous owner had him " on the bit" which meant he tucked his head to his chest and would not have any contact at all, so I put him in a rubber Mullen mouth and did a lot of forward work up hills, then put a sweet iron snaffle dropped a little low so he had to reach for it and continued to work him forward. But your problem is much more extreme.


            If I were working with this horse I would get her out of a bridle/bit set up and go with just a halter with two lead ropes as reins -- or something else that does not feel like a bridle to her. Even a bosal as xerochicksuggested, and then work on steering, going forward, stopping with this totally new approach = different pressure that she's not used to.

            Mare sounds quiet enough to trust with no bridle/bit. A change of equipment should break the conditioned response mode she's in. Just my 2 cents too.


              I feel for you...we are re-starting a CA horse currently. He’s a sensitive soul who appears to have only dealt with the ‘methods’ by totally shutting down because in all actuality, he’s scared of dang near everything. I don’t think he ever really accepted a single thing they have video of him doing. He was just so numb from over stimulation that he couldn’t process anything anymore and would freeze. The only way you can catch him is by running him around the round pen until he ‘connects’ with you. 🤔🤔 that goes for his stall too. He sees human and it’s cue for ‘I’m about to get chased’.

              We can start a CA re-train support group. Lol.

              I also agree that there are good pieces to be found in many of the training techniques, but blending what is needed to suit the horse should always come first.

              I might try starting back on the ground with long lines and see if you can give contact without the reaction there. Or, like others have said, use a side pull or something bitless, even a halter, and see if maybe the reaction is triggered by the feeling of reins on a bit? Maybe changing the pressure point will help restart some willingness...

              i dont know....but I definitely have empathy for you!


                Sorry to parrot many things that Danacat also said. We were typing at the same time!


                  Then she's going back to the same owner that trained with one rein stops?

                  I agree with ground work and lots of rewards.


                    I really hope the owner understands the magnitude of what she did to this horse. Sometimes the worst things are done with the best intentions.

                    If I'm reading correctly if the reins touch either side of the neck while someone is in the tack, the horse slams on the brakes and then will not move.

                    What if you have a ground person quietly leading the horse and then you do things like softly touch the neck with your hand or rub a section of rope against the neck? Let the horse move in a straight line, dont have the rider steer, and just start making the connection that pressure on the neck does not mean stop.

                    It seems like that is the most basic step that the problem can be broken down into.

                    ETA: I really don't think breaking crops over this horse is a fair way to go about things. This horse had "neck touch means brake" drilled into their head literally hundreds of times. To beat the snot out of the horse until you break a crop because they did not do the exact opposite is only going to create a lack of trust and ultimately fear. It will take hundreds of tiny positive experiences to fully change this association. If you want someone to smack for their poor decisions, go after the owner (joking...ish...).


                      Ground driving. Have someone walking at the horses head to get you started. Lunge whip in your hand if needed.
                      Last edited by AppaloosaDressage; Feb. 13, 2020, 10:12 PM.


                        Original Poster

                        Thanks all for the suggestions!!

                        So a few things; she can lead on the ground by the reins. She has no issues with mouth pressure when a rider is on the ground. I can even get her to lightly lunge from one side of a split rein (not alot, I just wanted to see if that pressure would stop her, it didnt)

                        To also clarify, it's not when her neck is touched, it is when the reins are. As far as I can tell she has bee walked, trotted, and loped with the reins being held in the middle just below the saddle horn, meaning basically no pressure to her mouth. If say I was trotting on a loose rein, then barely touched the right rein with my pinky she will stop. Its mouth and rein pressure, not just her neck being touched.

                        While a helper or second hand would be amazing, most my help is working on pack strings and such. I might be able to round someone else up but I am the one stuck home with the youngsters getting them ready for pack lines.

                        From what I have now read about CAs colt starting, he starts his colts in a lopong hack. From what I am able to get from the owner her mare spent the first week in a hack before being swapped into the snaffle.

                        I am hoping to try out my mares bosal on her tomorrow, she is soft and easy in a halter I think the bosal is a great idea to try and keep out of her mouth. I hope she was not drilled hard in that first week with the hack.

                        I may also try ground driving her in a halter, tho since she leads works fine on the ground with the snaffle on. I am really starting to think she only does this when she has a rider aboard.


                          Side reins while lunging? To show her contact is an ok thing? I’d go about it cautiously with them very loose.. helper to walk at her head would be ideal. Lots of praise for a few forward steps etc.. may be worth a shot.


                            I mostly work on my own too, but in this case, I would rope someone else in. Do some ponying first - in the round pen, arena and then out on the trails. Then, I think someone on the ground to help encourage coping with the rein contact could make all the difference. It may only take a couple of sessions, especially if you can make one of those sessions out on a trail.


                              I think I'd be tempted to just go ahead and tuck her into the pack string, in between two forgiving horses, and see if she'd follow, and you could gradually work on picking up the reins. I wouldn't even worry about steering yet, let the group steer her and just work on going forward when someone is holding the reins. I'd also try to enlist someone to give you a pony ride on her to try to get her to see she can go forward and feel some rein contact at the same time. I think steering will have to wait until you can undo her fear of the one rein stop.


                                Originally posted by Mango20 View Post
                                I think I'd be tempted to just go ahead and tuck her into the pack string, in between two forgiving horses, and see if she'd follow, and you could gradually work on picking up the reins. I wouldn't even worry about steering yet, let the group steer her and just work on going forward when someone is holding the reins. I'd also try to enlist someone to give you a pony ride on her to try to get her to see she can go forward and feel some rein contact at the same time. I think steering will have to wait until you can undo her fear of the one rein stop.
                                Agreed. I definitely wouldn't put more pressure on her by hitting her with a crop. She's obviously had too much pressure already. She needs to regain her confidence. Poor girl.

                                I once worked with a mare that had big gaits and a scaredy cat owner. So, if you asked the mare for an upward transition she leapt into it and threw her head up in the air to escape the inevitable yank on the reins to slow her back down. This, of course, was worse in the canter than the trot, but happened with both transitions.

                                This mare was really willing and wanted to please, and she was an anxious mess. We took her out of a bit and put her in a bitless bridle and rode with basically no contact. The second thing we did was never, ever punish her for responding to a cue to go faster. If she leapt into a fast canter I left her alone for a stride or two before asking her to circle. I used circles at the trot and canter to slow her down. She gradually gained confidence and we were eventually able to put her back in a bit and even ride with really lovely contact.

                                So, somewhat the opposite problem but both problems are a result of overcorrection causing anxiety and a lack of confidence in the horse. I would try following another rider or having someone hand walk her while you ride, giving her an opportunity to realize that she is not going to be punished every four strides. This is going to take a while, because you have got to be really careful not to push her - she's been pushed too much already.


                                  Also, the owner needs to understand that she should never, under any circumstances, use a one rein stop on this horse again. Otherwise you will be wasting your time.


                                    I wish we could pin this post at the top of the forum with a big, bold title that says "A Real Life Example of Why You Should Stay the H*** Away from CA and His Training 'Methods'"

                                    This is exactly why his methodology is absolute and utter garbage. Too little too late for this poor mare, but seriously, without sounding entirely exasperated, this is a fantastic example of the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

                                    Here's where I might get creative: can you teach her what the rein being picked up ACTUALLY means (which has nothing to do with her speed and everything to do with her body shape and posture) from a halt? Take forward motion out of and it just focus on reteaching her that when you pick up on the inside rein, she needs to soften at the jowl, lift the base of her neck and step under with her inside hind? Think of it like teaching a horse a turn on the forehand, one baby step at a time. If you pick up on the rein when she's already stopped and hang out there, eventually she's going to start to hunt for another answer...after all, she's already not moving, yet the pressure is still there. This may take a while in a horse this shut down, but if you have the patience to keep at it, you should be able to make good progress by releasing the pressure ONLY when she frees up her feet, no matter what that looks like. You can then progress to then intentionally asking her to move off when she frees up her feet.

                                    This is where someone on the ground with a flag while you're mounted can come in handy. They can add just enough impetus if the mare is starting to get tuned out to encourage her even just to think about shifting her weight or lifting a foot. Again, no major pressure, but tiny baby steps.

                                    I might start this in a rope halter and a lead rope, not a snaffle bridle or a hackamore. Keeps it as simple as possible.

                                    I also hope you are A) charging this person for your time and B) willing to go the distance for this horse and impress upon the owner how they are NEVER to one rein stop this horse again, ever. If you can convince them to burn all their CA crap, all the better.
                                    Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.


                                      Originally posted by GraceLikeRain View Post

                                      ETA: I really don't think breaking crops over this horse is a fair way to go about things.
                                      I didn't read that a crop was literally broken hitting the horse, but that OP "broke out" ie added a crop to the tools she was using to aid in overcoming the stop.

                                      ". I have broke out crops trying to get her to move forward with no avail. "

                                      OP, just one comment as I follow this story... You've had her two weeks?.

                                      "I have been riding this mare only a half an hour at a time 4 days a week the past two weeks. "

                                      I'd be taking way, way, wwwwaaaayyyyyyy more time doing one consistent thing.

                                      ​​​​To me this sounds like a super smart horse who has grabbed onto the one thing she's been taught so consistently, over and over, hour after hour for months... Rein = stop. It will take probably twice as long to undo than it did to do, and starts with first establishing some serious trust.
                                      As someone mentioned, it will get reinstalled anytime someone does anything even remotely resembling a one rein stop ever again too.

                                      Can you train her using vocal commands rather than hand/rein?
                                      Which you can reinforce any and every time you work with her, even walking to pasture, being worked on by vet, farrier, anyone and everyone.
                                      I understand only working her every other day for far less time each session... But it will take way longer to replace all those hours and hours, and hundreds of every four stride one rein stops at the rate your doing it. Changing to verbal commends is something you can practice hundreds of times a day but with far less intensity. If that makes sense.
                                      Last edited by Angela Freda; Feb. 14, 2020, 09:00 AM.
                                      Yo/Yousolong April 23rd, 1985- April 15th, 2014



                                        Things that jump to mind initially that you may or may not have tried:

                                        At a halt, use rein on one side to flex her just a little and ask her to go forward at the same time so she starts off to the side rather than straight forward. You could potentially build on this that rein aid =/= stop, but to turn.

                                        Lunge in side reins. Start loose so there isn't any contact, once she is fine with that slowly tighten one hole at a time as she accepts that. Biggest thing with this is that she stays moving forward. This would honestly be where I'd start.

                                        Once she can lunge with side reins and a tiny bit of contact, try long lining or ground driving where you can essentially lunge and start teaching her that the reins help to steer AND stop.

                                        If you can, find a ground person to lead the mare while you ride, or even lunge the mare while you ride, to keep her going as you reset the buttons.

                                        Under saddle, try to reset the one-reined stop as well. It IS a good thing to have, but once you can get her going forward, make your seat aids really obvious as to when you are asking for a one rein stop (and flex the head around for it too), and when you are asking for a reaction to one rein. I know a lot of people said to make sure they never use a one reined stop again, but I don't think that's quite the right way to go about it. I think you will just have to be SUPER DRAMATIC about the difference between one reined stop and rein aids/turning for a while.