Am I giving up, or making a smart choice?

This topic contains 27 replies, has 17 voices, and was last updated by stockshowkid'97 stockshowkid’97 4 years, 5 months ago.

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  • EquineMelody Original Poster
    Topics Started: 6Replies Posted: 29

    Okay, so (just a warning, this is long), my 4 year old TB I bought this past July is truly an amazing horse. He’s so smart, and he has so much potential, I’m just not sure what that potential is aimed at yet. I’ve been having problems with him very shortly after I bought him. When I first rode him, I was just riding him in a circle, he hadn’t been jumping much, but we had such a great connection, I felt amazing and on top of the world with him. But shortly after I bought him, things changed. His previous owner is a bit of a sad excuse for a trainer, and let’s just say I have a lot of problems with her. She got him to the point of being rideable and he does not act at all like a 4 year old other than his spookiness, but that’s more his personality than her training. Anyways, she never challenged him or rode him for more than a few minutes. He gets bored easily and he just needs a challenge. So when I bought him, me and my trainer started challenging him, asking him to do more than ride in a circle, and that’s when the problems started. He keeps pushing me into the corner of the arena that’s closest to his pen or to the gate. I can’t canter him because he swerves to that corner/gate or stops when he reaches it and I’ve taken a couple nasty falls off him because of it. I thought he had a lot of potential to be a jumper, but he doesn’t even try… He just drags his feet over it lazily or run out to the side at the last minute.
    But with the whole trying to get back to his pen, I know it’s because he’s not enjoying our rides, but I don’t know what to do! I’ve tried doing a million different things to keep his mind engaged, constantly switching it up, but nothing helps. I can’t even do anything else, like practice jumping, because within minutes he wants out. Me and my trainer have tried everything to get him to stop, but I don’t think that he’s doing it to be aunry or a butt, it seems that he’s just not enjoying when we ride. I can ask him to do all sorts of things for me on the ground, so it’s not that he doesn’t listen to me, I just honestly really think he hates arena work. The thing is, when I’m working him on the ground, it’s a whole different story. Last week I started doing some liberty work with him, and he was SO happy! It was amazing, I could just tell (and this was with being at a new barn, in an indoor for the first time, with a lot going on that would normally make him a nervous spooky wreck) that he was so happy, because he honestly loves nothing more than to please whoever is working him, but only if he finds what I’m asking him to do something that interests him. But he did so amazing, and I got this strong connection with him that I haven’t had since I first met and rode him. And yesterday when I went out to see him (I hadn’t worked him since doing the liberty stuff), he ran up to me when he saw me pull in and get out of the car. He’s never done that. I worked him on the ground for a few minutes, he did great, I hopped on him, he wanted out. I don’t know, I’m just at a lost as to what to do with him. I think I just want to do liberty work with him, and get him desensitized to where I could go on trail rides with him. Am I just giving up on the whole arena work and jumping thing and he’s just being a butt head, or am I doing the right thing, does he just not enjoy doing arena work and jumping? Because like I said, he’s so responsive and happy when I’m doing liberty things with him on the ground, and once I get him desensitized I think he would love trail rides, but yeah… What do you guys think? I still feel like, whether or not he enjoys it, I should be a good enough trainer to break him of doing this, but I don’t think there will ever be anything I could do to get him to stop if he’s just not enjoying it. And at the same time, I also don’t want a push button horse, and if he’s not enjoying doing this stuff, I don’t want to force him to do it just because I ask him to, when I could be doing something, like the liberty things, that he does enjoy. I believe in a horse being a partner, not me being the “alpha” and having him bend to my every command regardless if he enjoys it or not. So yeah… am I giving up, should I try to fix this, or is he just not enjoying it which is causing the problems?

    • This topic was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by  EquineMelody.
    NinaJD NinaJD
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 139

    What kind of training are you doing? Are you following a certain group/person?
    If you aren’t, you might want to check into Parelli. They have some youtube videos and do a lot with horses who get bored very easily.

    With the gate thing, does he buck when you ask him to move away? My horse does the same thing around gates. I just make him work harder near the gates when he tries to stop. And like your horse, mine only does it when in the arena and saddled.

    Have you tried doing other things in the arena besides doing circles or jumping? Maybe find a place that has arena trails, cows, etc. My friend’s TB loves cow work. I would continue to try new things with him, but make him work hard when he goes to the gate or even moves towards his pen.
    “make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy”

    Good luck. Having a green horse is a learning and growing experience for both human and horse. I know I’m learning a crap ton of stuff with my new boy too. and it can be very frustrating at times, but so worth it in the end.

    "Take the time it takes, so that it takes less time."
    "Expect a lot, accept a little, reward often."
    Pat Parelli

    EquineMelody Original Poster
    Topics Started: 6Replies Posted: 29

    Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not following a specific person really, but my BO and trainer, who was trained by my BO, do follow a lot of Parelli methods and I’ve learned everything I know about horsemanship from them, but overall it’s just sort of common sense horsemanship. I’ve been working on getting him to give his head to me, and when he does, I immediately release, and he was responding really well to that, and he still does, so when I go into that corner, before we get to corner or gate, I ask for his nose and for him to come to me and pay attention, but he won’t do it, so I just hold his nose out there and push him with my outside leg until he finally gives in, and the second he does and turns the way I want to go, I release him. But that isn’t doing anything… So yesterday I did start working him in circles every time he went to the gate or corner (well, I’ve done this about 2 other times, but we’re in a new arena now), and he caught on quicker, but yeah. I’m only able to work him twice a week, is this enough to break him of the habit?
    Oh and to answer your question, no he doesn’t buck when I ask him to move away, he absolutely will not buck with me on him, but he just doesn’t move. No matter how much I kick or pull him the other way, he just won’t move. Eventually I get him to, after a few smashed knees into the rail (mine, not his), but yeah.
    I’ll keep making him work when he does this, though and see if it helps.
    The thing is though, I don’t know how to do any other type of riding. I don’t have a clue about doing anything with cows, and I’ve only ever done jumping. I think he might actually like reining, so I’m kicking myself for not asking my trainer to teach me reining like I wanted to a while ago because now I’m at a different barn, but I don’t know how to do it, and I’m not sure if he could actually do it because he’s about 16.1 or 16.2, and has really long and lanky legs that he hasn’t gotten quite accustomed to I don’t think because he can be pretty clumsy. So I’m not sure what to do with him? I guess I could try barrel racing or something, because he loves to just run, but I don’t know. My trainer told me this guy was going to test my creativity haha.
    I’m worried though that only being able to work him twice a week will just get me nowhere. He learns so fast, but yeah. Next year I’ll be able to work him every day if I wanted to, but for now I can’t… aaagghhh…

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I’d suggest looking into many different methods. I, myself, follow teachings of Buck Brannaman and I’ve got an OTTB that’s come a long way. I was told nothing nice about the horse, he reared, pulled back, heavy, wouldn’t load… As I starting working with him using simple methods I know, like controlling his hindquarters and forequarters. In working with him, I found out why he was doing all these things. Not to mention that no one allowed him to think his way through things. I helped guide him, making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. He’s never pulled back, and he’s quit rearing when put in a situation he doesn’t understand. Even trailer loading is getting better. He’s much lighter in the bridle and just a joy to be around now. Don’t give up, there are methods out there available for the taking.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    in my 40 some years of horses, many breeds, many displines, showing and trail riding, ect.. i have found we purchase horses for many different reasons.. we may buy a horse for a certain displine and that particular equine may end up not working out for that.. first thing a physical checkup might need to be done.. pain, saddle discomfort, ect. can cause many, many habits to start, or make a other wise great horse seem aggervated, mean, or just a pain in the butt, and then the rider gets frustrated.. ive seen it more than once, and it doesnt have to be a horse with age on him or her to show signs such as this, next the horse may just be trying to tell u something.. this is not what im cut out for, he may be frustrated, aggervated and just not cut out for jumping ect… i have a wonderful tennessee walker who is just awsome under saddle, as long as u stay out of the showring or constant ring work training, he hates it!, he acts up, does everything naughty he can, and hes was always in the first two placings regardless, he had everything he needed to excel, but the heart, i can take him and climb the highest mts, the most demanding grounds out trailriding and he gives me everything hes got amd more.. he to is a very smart fella.. more than most ive trained.. i coach youngsters in jumping, and dressage.. as well as contesting, english, western, showmanship, ect.. each horse is made for something, but not always what we think or want them for.. listen to your partner… sometimes we forget to.. good luck, and god bless… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    This sounds just like my QH mare. I just bought her last month and after we got a chance to know one another, I discovered she likes to take off for the gate once you ask for the trot. She will pick her head up, shoulder up, and go immediately into the canter if we are near the gate or her pen, or any direction near the way out lol. She bends her body inward to move outward to the gate. I started carrying a dressage whip. Like the previous poster said, make the wrong thing hard, and the right thing easy. When I felt her tense up and pick up speed near “her direction,” I would turn her into a tight circle. If she picked up the canter, I’d smack her (not hard) on the shoulder on the side of the gate, and turn her head away from it. I did circles constantly in front of the gate. If she didn’t want to go in the gate, I’d back her in. Once she went nicely without fussing, the whip was not used, and she learned that if I squeezed the reins, I meant business. So she’s learning that the easiest thing to do is to not throw a fit, which is what I call it.

    It has nothing to do with her not liking arena work. She does great when she’s focused, and not focused on the gate. Her previous owner simply never told her “no,” and let her do whatever she wanted. It’s all about relaxation, and teaching what’s right and wrong. I wish you luck! It gets better ๐Ÿ™‚

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3

    When you say you do liberty work with him is he saddle? it seems that his resistance is when you are riding him, maybe is a tack fit issue, his he an OTTB? in general before I make any judgments about personality or behavior and start “training away” I check medical issues (he may have ulcers, back pain, etc) and tack fit. If all of that checks ok then again look at clues from his former “life” horses at the track work out in well…tracks ๐Ÿ™‚ the idea of an arena is very strange to them, same thing for a trail horse that is asked to be in an arena….not saying you cannot do it but it requires understanding. Lastly you are right not every horses loves jumping, working cows, the trail, etc it takes a special combination of having a conformation suitable to make the job “pleasant” for them (as in pain free) and also a personality fit.
    I love that you are thinking about what your horse enjoys and trying to find out if you can find a common interest to pursue.

    dakotasmom dakotasmom
    Topics Started: 6Replies Posted: 4

    First, ask yourself what you want out of riding. If you want to do hunters/jumpers, maybe this horse just isn’t the right one for you. I know it’s hard, but maybe he would be better in a different situation and you could get a horse that better fits your goals.

    If you don’t have your heart set on a particular discipline, and you want to keep this horse, is doing ground work for the rest of his life going to be enough for you? Probably not. It can be a great foundation to start from. I would recommend following a Parelli type program for a while. It gives you set goals and will help your relationship. Your horse is young and you might both really benefit from the ground work.

    However, eventually you need to ride your horse. Regardless of whether you do jumping, dressage, reining, or trail riding, you horse needs to be able to calmly walk, trot, and canter both directions around the arena, be engaged behind, bend, and have clean transitions on your command. With a young horse, this is easier said than done. This will take a lot of work and consistency. Is there a trainer that can ride your horse and give you lessons while you build his foundation under-saddle? Doing patterns, transitions, and poles can help keep him entertained. I understand wanting to be his partner, but he can’t be aloud to push you into corners. Do the ground work in the “problem” areas of the arena first, then work your way up to riding him in those areas. He might need a swift kick in the rear to teach him that behavior isn’t acceptable.

    Lastly, if he is so much better on the ground than under-saddle, are you sure his tack fits him correctly? Is his behavior being caused by pain? An ill-fitting saddle could cause him to be lazy, buck, and turn sour. Consider finding a saddle fitter in your area.

    I hope this helps.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    Don’t assume it’s a training issue until you rule out pain! This is classic behavior for a horse who doesn’t like something about his tack. He likes you, he likes working in the arena at liberty, he is a good boy until he has a saddle on and weight on top of it. Check the saddle fit, girth, pads, bridle, bit, everything he’s wearing before you assume it’s a training problem!

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 3


    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I see a lot of issues here. One, throwing a bunch of new stuff all the time at a four year old OTTB… not generally a good thing for them. Only working them twice a week, also generally not going to work for a young OTTB. These horses thrive on routine. If he’s four and off the track he probably doesn’t know how to jump much, if you’re throwing that at him (amongst whatever else you are doing “trying a million things to challenge him”) he is likely over whelmed. Sorry to be blunt but you and your trainer sound like you are over horsed with this guy. I’d also check into pain – saddle fit, ulcers, teeth, etc. However, a horse that you can’t control is not a good fit for you. I’m guessing if your trainer could have fixed it you wouldn’t be posting. So yeah, I think it’s not a good match. Sounds like a bad situation for you and for the horse. And I don’t agree with Parelli as an answer unless you want to be doing ground work with your horse forever. Quite frankly, anyone who hasn’t drunk their Kool-Aid will tell you they aren’t that great of horse people.

    Odie4Me Odie4Me
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 13

    My first thought is pain- Please have a saddle fitter check his tack. I know a lot of people think they are experts on saddle fitting, but a real saddle fitter can tell you if your horse is suffering from the saddle fit. My horse was that way, resistant to going forward, did not want to work, but was great on the lunge. I had a saddle custom fit for him, so I didn’t think it was the saddle until I had my vet come out and look and sure enough, the saddle fit great when he wasn’t standing, but when he moved it pinched his shoulders.
    Same thing when a young girl bought my son’s horse- I told her what bit to use on him, she didn’t listen, bought some other bit and sure enough in a week he was a different horse and she couldn’t ride him. I went out with his old bit, switched bits and when she rode him again, he was the horse that she bought.
    Sounds like your horse wants to be good for you and have a real partnership
    with you- please don’t give up- try the tack fitting, make sure he doesn’t hurt somewhere, and once that is checked out, then you can really be sure it is a training issue and start working him outside of the arena, trail ride, but work him while on the trail, jump him over logs, etc.
    Good luck!

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I have just gone through something similar with my horse. I love dressage but he does not, and I don’t believe he ever did, and now cannot do the exercises due to arthritis. I have always done in hand work and started clicker training which he really lights up for. I had to change MY plans, forget about showing, and find something he seemed to enjoy. I have found it’s not the end of the world! It’s actually more fun to take the pressure off myself and him and just have fun! Which is what having a horse is really all about. Have fun with him! Let him tell you what he wants to do and you will both become closer and bond better.

    rgalambos rgalambos
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 5

    The first thing to remember here is that he is 4. he is still a baby and he still has a baby mentality. It’s just like a kid who would rather go play than do his homework. I doubt it’s a pain issue or a training issue, it’s that he is young and he’s previously not had to work hard and he’s happy so long as he is doing what he wants to do, but gets fussy when you try to make him work like most young horses.

    Young horses, just like old horses, are still required to do what you ask to the level you ask them to do it, they are just not expected to do it for as long. Elaborately reward any good behavior, even if it is one single step. He does one step in the arena to the level you want him to, hug him, pat him, tell him he is good and call it a day. Next time he is expected to take two good continuous steps before he is done, etc. until he learns what he is supposed to do and that you do expect him to do it.

    Unlike us, horses aren’t expected to work their job 10 hours a day to be able to earn food, shelter, care, etc. They are expected to work 1 hour a day tops for these things. Take your time with him and praise him every chance you get, but don’t forget that he has to earn his keep too. Horses will do whatever you can think to ask them do to, as long as you ask them correctly and with patience.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by rgalambos rgalambos.
    EquineMelody Original Poster
    Topics Started: 6Replies Posted: 29

    Thank you all SO much for the replies, I really appreciate it!
    First off, just to clarify, he is NOT an OTTB.

    My first thought was initially pain or saddle fit. So I tried several different saddles- no change in behavior. My saddle fits him really good when standing, except for the tree is wide and he needs a medium, so I’m using a half pad until I can find a saddle with a medium tree, but everything else fits him fine.
    He did throw his hip out pretty badly for quite a while before I caught on, so we got the chiropractor out to adjust it and while he’s moving much better, no change in behavior. The previous owner did say that he had a sore back when she first started riding and training him because he hadn’t been ridden before, but that it went away. Does this generally happen or is it something to be concerned about?
    So I guess I should probably have the vet out to do a full exam for ulcers and anything else, correct?

    I guess I’ll just keep working at it, then, and doing what I’ve been doing. I am noticing a few flaws in how I was going about it though so I’ll fix those and see if that makes any difference. I don’t think I’m catching him quick enough, I wait until he gets to the corner to make him work, but I need to do it the second he starts showing signs of even thinking of pushing me over there. I do often forget that he is so young, because he honestly doesn’t act like it the majority of the time, but he is a very dominant and stubborn horse, and his previous owner never making him work I do think might be a big factor in all of this…
    I did read somewhere that working him in his pen would make him realize, hey, it’s not any better in there so I might as well stay in here and do what she asks which is easier, might work? I don’t know about this, though…

    kim_schmittendorf- I agree! I’ve been putting SO much pressure on myself to train myself and my horse up to a high level of competition, because the dream was always to compete professionally, that I wasn’t really enjoying riding anymore because I was pressuring myself so much, and in turn I was projecting that onto Cowboy. I have recently decided to screw the competitive life and pursue a career as a horse trainer. Even though he frustrates the crap out of me, training Cowboy has been more fulfilling than anything, and I’ve realized it doesn’t matter what discipline I do, as long as he’s happy, I’m happy, and seeing him progress (not with this issue, but with other things) has been amazing. It is great what taking the pressure off can do for your relationship with your horse and your own stress levels!

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