Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blow Up...

Here's your hypothetical question for the month. YOU own a horse that is GORGEOUS! This is the horse you have waited for your WHOLE LIFE!! Your dream horse. Has impeccable ground manners. Is bred to the HILT! Has training that is beyond words, BUT, your horse has a problem... She SOMETIMES rears. She will only rear when you mount. If you get past that part riding her is amazing! It's not all the time, but sometimes thar she will blow. Saddle fit, health problems, teeth, sore back, ALL of this has been ruled out. She just decides she doesn't want to work.

OR... What if they are a bucker??? A Kicker or a biter???

You see we run into problems as riders and trainers of these awesome horses that MOST people would just say "Get rid of them." BUT, you wouldn't necessarily give up on a bad child either would you??? So, how would you handle it if your beloved horse had a bad habit, but was perfect in every other way????

My friends, the ball is in your court... What would you do? Especially when you know deep down inside there is an awesome horse in there...


Long Island Five said...

I'm on the extreme end of the spectrum. I BOUGHT a horse that seemed like he ought to be a great horse but had nearly everything wrong with him: gait abnormalities at the walk and trot, high-strung, absolutely piss-poor muscle condition and tone. I didn't know about that sky-high buck until a few weeks after buying him (lesson: always drug test for the vet check). He's a real fixer-upper.

I don't know why I did it. Somehow I thought that I could get through to this horse. Result: I totally flamed out!!!

It took another nine months after "rebreaking" him (more like retraining ME), to earn this horse's respect and then figure out that he had EPM.

A year and a half after purchasing my "fixer-upper," I am starting to get glimpses of the potential horse.

But, would I do it again? Nope, too dangerous (I'm 41 for pete's sake). However, I'm glad I did. I learned a lot and am a better horseman for it.

qhgirl said...

I had a horse that would blow (rodeo bronc style) at completely random times.. I came off her a couple times.. and pretty much lost confidence in her ability to stay sane.. I sold her to my trainer.. she had the same problem..(I think she thought she could fix it). It has never completely gone away.. the horse is fine 98% of the time.. but when that fuse blows.. whatch out!

monstersmama said...

I had a horse who would do anything not to work rear, or buck..and boy did he buck. We actually used to take turns trying to handle it, until finally someone said he needs to be cowboyed...well a cowboy came to look at him...but he was scared of him so he traded me...and sold the horse as a pasture ornament...goregous blue eyed liver chestnut gelding...(paint) Mr Norfleet bred..but..just damn stubborn...broke my heart and my confidence.

Nicely dun said...

My horse used to be the english pleasure class Bronc super star. Same with the western pleasure class. Alternating shows though.
He calmed down fairly quickly riding at home, but I learned how to stick a buck pretty quick and how to not come flying off when he bolted.
We definitely had disagreements, and I believe there was a time when we hated eachother, but I have always thought he is a gorgeous horse. His ground manners used to be...non existant, but those come with time and patience and a lot of consistency.
The bucking was dealt with by riding riding riding through it. (And hopefully not coming off-which luckily was rare). The shows became less rodeo like and after 10 years I can't picture any other horse as my own. He has suprised me twice in the last year, by throwing in some bucks with his overly occasional spook-the big chicken. His ground manners are just amazing,he loads, stands for the farrier and vet and what have you with no issue, just once in a blue moon he will suprise me with something insane, and that basically keeps me on my toes.

Good post today! A good question to ask.

WiltedZebra said...

If I was in my twenties I would sort these things out myself. Now that I am in my thirties and have a very small person to care for, I would send to a lady I know who specializes in horses who have serious behavioral issues. I don't really see how there is an option other than that, as I would not take that on myself right now and could not, could not sell a horse that was dangerous, even if the buyers were aware of the issues. Buyers, like some sellers, are not always honest about their skill level and I would not want to be the person responsible for selling a horse that hurt someone. It just isn't worth hurting someone else. If I can't do it, pay a trainer to do it and then either sell or keep depending on whether or not the horse was going to be suitable for my needs after the re-training.

SolitaireMare said...

I'm sort of in that place right now. My new horse has wonderful ground manners that have continuously gotten better. Under saddle, it all started out great and then I got bucked off. I did get back on after the buck that same day and ride with no incident but my confidence got a beating. Not to mention that the relationship between this horse and I went from good to constantly having him challenge me.

I called a trainer who works with everything from unbroke to rank and problematic horses. He made a big difference in my horses' attitude and the goundwork I'm doing has been going okay. I am ready to try riding him again and the trainer is working with us to get me there.

It is just extra hard because the horse before this one I had for 10 years and he was the most forgiving soul. It has been harder for me to switch my attitude from a horse that would trust me and do whatever I asked to one who is challenging me and making me work to earn that trust.

I just have a hard time believing a horse with such bombproof manners being groomed and handled has no future as a reliable riding horse. I am working this out to see if it's a trust and leadership issue. Even the trainer has told me when we get through this, I will have a very nice horse.

sandycreek said...

I bought a four year old Zip's Chocolate Chip paint gelding three years ago in March. He was the sweetest easy riding WP horse I ever saw. He was VERY thin, the more weight he gained the meaner (saddle bronc head between the legs bellowing crazy thing) he got. Guess what? He has PSSM, so the more feed he ate, the more sore in the back he got, I figured out what it was and changed his diet to a low starch high fat, now he is very fit and back to his sweet self.
People, if you see a behavior change in a horse after you get them, please check for PSSM, it is far more common than you might think!

Wazzoo said...

My horse, Hamilton, (the one in the picture), was wonderful to ride when I first got him. No buck, no bite, no kick or rear...then he got the winter off. We lived in South Dakota...I didn't have a indoor arena to ride in. Well on a nice day I went to ride him and boy can he buck! Better than rodeo horses. No problem...I have someone ride the buck off him. Well now, if I don't ride him at least once a week, he bucks...and I am now at a point where I cannot sit his buck. Last Spring we moved to Georgia and I was able to find someone to tune him up for me and we had a pleasant summer and fall. Then I wasn't able to ride him during the week, during the winter because it was dark by the time I got home...well it was a couple weeks before I could ride him and sure enough...the buck is back. I lunged him before I got on I went. This year, the guy who tuned him up for me before is busy working and cannot get to him there Hamilton sits because I cannot find someone to tune him up and I cannot do it myself. He is such a good ride once that buck is gone...and it only takes one good ride to get him to stop doing it. I won't sell him though...I can't ride right now anyways as due to some injuries, I can't even wear anything but flip flops. I am looking for one more horse that is one of those that you can put to pasture for 6 months, bring them in and just hop on and ride kind of I love Hamilton but now I don't trust him. Still won't sell him though, I couldn't stand the thought of that happening to someone else and they turned out to be a heartless soul and send him to auction :(

sandycreek said...

Where in Georgia are you Wazzoo?

Nosnikta said...

I got my sassy mare to stop being light on the front end by sticking my can of Pringles out over her neck when she tried it one supposed-to-be-relaxed trail-riding night.

This was a habit she had when I first got her. She's much better now.

It was impromptu, but something different that caught her attention without giving her a concussion.

My snack was crumbs though.

Equus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Equus said...

I find these "issues" with a horse are manifestations of something missing in the partnership between horse and human, or an emotional imbalance in the horse (ie. horse is excessively reactive, excessively aggressive, etc). Just means more work and development with said horse resolves all these issues.

I've got a Warmblood who used to downright attack me - he'd sneak in if I was circling him, ears flat against his head, to charge me. He kicked, trapped me against stalls, bit me...he's the horse that got me into NH and he's been the best partner I could ask for since then - even more reliable sometimes than his sweet and good-natured older half-brother!

Same follows for our OTTB we bought off the track last fall. I was told we were crazy to buy him - he deliberately kicked at other riders on the track, reared, double-barrel kicked if he was ticked off, bucked, and high high HIGH energy. I started him off slow, from the ground up, and now ride him at liberty! We're working on dressage this year and will get into jumping next.

It's the rider (us), never the horse. Sometimes we have to do some work to "balance out"/develop a horse, but after that, it's all up to us - how we communicate with our horses. I actually enjoy working with the "problem" horses - they're so rewarding to work with. I don't like being bucked off more than the next person though, so I just work with them in such a way that they don't buck (or attack, bite, kick, etc etc). For the most part, it's pretty avoidable (without cowboying them). If something's not working with your horse, check out another way of doing things!

Wazzoo said...

sandycreek said...
Where in Georgia are you Wazzoo?

June 25, 2009 8:35 AM

I'm in Trenton.

Wazzoo said...

I don't think my horse is doing it because he doesn't like me...I think he's doing it simply because I am not able to ride him enough. :-)

S&D said...

I have the same issues with my mare as Wazzoo - if i can ride her consistantly, then she's a doll. No rears or bucks, but give her a couple weeks off and it's time to start at the beginning again. Our biggest issue is rearing, and she'll do it as your swinging your leg over the saddle, so you have no time to ask for forward movement.
We are working on correcting this habit (again), and I have gotten a successful mount and ride around the round pen out of her, so I'm hopeful we're moving in the right direction.
To answer your question TX- Obviously getting rid of my mare isn't an option. I will work through this issue with her for as long as we both take in air. And worst case scenario, she becomes the most beautiful lawn ornament in the neighborhood! :)

Patricia said...

There are some things I can work out on my own, particularly things that can be handled from the ground. One of the things that I do for a horse that randomly blows up is to keep them occupied while I ride. I will do lots of circles, changes of direction, changes of stride length, tempo increases/decreases, etc. to keep the horse thinking about me.

If in doubt, I get help. I will call someone who has a lot more experience than me to come out and watch me ride the horse. I usually get some fresh ideas and good pointers there.

A farrier told me a story about a horse that used to throw people, back up, and stomp the hell out of them while they were down on the ground. After the horse killed his owner by completely pulverizing her arms, legs, pelvis, face, and spine, the owner's husband had the horse euthanized. The thing is, the woman knew about the horse's problems because he'd done it before- he reared, flipped over and crushed her, then got up and stomped on her arms, yet she rode him again once her arms and ribs healed. I suppose if the horse is that dangerous, he either becomes a pasture pet or becomes a vet school student's necropsy subject after euthanasia.

I would like to think I would know when it is time to give up, but honestly I'm a big softie when it comes to a horse with a story. That's why weekly riding lessons, even as a riding instructor and trainer myself, is something that I will always set aside time and money for.

NewHorseMommy said...

Well, I just got my first horse a few months ago.

I'd only been taking lessons for a few months when I had kind of bad fall off a lesson horse (it gave a little buck, I came off, and I was too injured to get back on). No more english saddles for me! I was pretty much a nervous wreck after that and wanted my own horse to learn to ride on, rather than an endless parade of strange lesson horses.

I'd been kind of looking for a while when I heard of a horse that was going to be sent to auction. He'd pretty much been untouched for 6 months to a year, but when I went to look at him, he let us all walk right up and halter him (this is a biggie for me, I don't want to chase a horse, it strikes me as very unsocial on the part of the horse).

So I brought him home (he was "free"). Got the vet and farrier out right away and put him in 60 days training. I have to say, I was a little overwhelmed at first. I was nervous and he is a little spookier than he should be for his age (15). Every time he would spook and jump, I would jump and make a sqeaking sound. I'm over that now!

I don't want to carry on too long, but then it was time for my riding lessons! To summarize, I wasted about two months of lessons having panic attacks before I finally tried hypnosis. One session and every lesson since I've been perfectly normal! I'm actually finally starting to go faster than a walk! No trotting-he is gaited so we do a running walk instead.

Now, I lucked out. He has never offered to buck, rear, kick, or bite. He was mouthy, but I just started to rub him all over his mouth when he wanted to get mouthy and that pretty much put and end to that. He's not cinchy, trailers just fine, runs up to the gate when my car pulls up, and lowers his head into the halter.

The only issue we are still having are his spooks. He spooks in place under saddle, but on the ground he has knocked me over twice by jumping into me (we have an eye exam scheduled for tomorrow). My current plan for this if there is no eye problem is to circle him the instant he starts snorting and looking around for monsters to get his mind on me, although but he doesn't always warn me first.

Anyways, the point of all of this was that I took him knowing that I might not get over my nervousness, or that he might turn out to be psychotic. I accepted this, and was perfectly willing to keep as a pasture pet if it came to that. I told my husband "there's no rule that says I have to ride my horse." And to be perfectly honest, I would be just as entranced with him if I could not ride him. He is very smart (unties his rope), funny (crossed the pasture with a mouthful of water to SPIT it onto another horse), and he loves people.

I guess my point is that if he suddenly developed some problem that I felt was insurmountable, he would be still be very loved as a large and expensive pet!

kestrel said...

Depends on the horse...I check physical problems, tack, teeth, find out what I can about bloodlines. There are some I just won't touch. I don't mind a bad actor and kind of enjoy them LOL, but a horse that will go blind and hurt it's self is a no deal for me.
4 of the horses that I own were once outlaws, and they have turned out well, but there have been a couple over the years that had such serious issues that they were a menace to themselves who turned out to have problems ranging from undiagnosed cancer to neurological problems.

The Pale Horseman said...

My mare can be a bit like that. never as extreme as rearing but when she doesn't want to do something she will either dig her feet in and refuse to move, start backing up or if she's having a particularly bad day and doesn't want to work will bronc.

I think it's a case of outsmarting them. When my mare refuses to go forward and starts walking backwards, I make her backup, backup, backup until she's sick of it. after a couple of goes she realises it's easier to just go forward.

If you have no way of outsmarting them, give them a reason to do what you're asking. Reward for standing quietly if they rear in impatience.

I don't train horses, and none of my own horses have any serious problems but all it takes is some common sense and spending time with the horse to decide wether outwitting, persevering or bribing is the best way to go with that certain character. ;)

GoLightly said...

I think the important part is to be utterly realistic in what you expect from your horse.

Know as much as you can before you buy!
BUY from reputable breeders of the type of horse you want.

At what cost will you actually end up with your dream horse? Is it realistic for you to have a pasture puff?
Can you afford time off work (if you work) for injuries you may incur?

Sorry, just trying to be realistic.
Unscrupulous sellers aside.

NewHorseMommy said...

I wanted to add that I know I seriously lucked out with my boy!

My problem is I'm a sucker for a sad story, which is how we also ended up with 2 dogs and 4 cats, all rescues! I found the latest cat on the side of the Interstate. Someone had obviously dumped him there, as he was not feral.

I know that a nervous, absolute beginner with a slightly nervous horse that needs refreshing is a recipe for disaster, and I would not encourage anyone else to follow this path, but I have been as cautious as can be. It helped that a friend of a friend knew the horse, and each time we went to see him my friend rode him first.

I bought and read about 40 (seriously) horse books before bringing him home, had boarding, a vet, trainer, and farrier lined up before we moved him, and I am only riding in lessons for the time being (3x a week right now, probably soon going to twice a week with some extra practice riding in an arena with someone supervising).

He's not a fancy horse, but that was not what I wanted. I wanted a nice horse, which he is. He is healthy, sturdy, and sound (I did pay for the pre-purchase vet check even though he was free). As my trainer put it, my goal is to "toodle around on the trails." But there won't be any trail riding until I can confidently

He is turning into quite the babysitter for me (at least under saddle). I had my first group lesson this weekend and he just stood there when another horse spooked and started to bolt and the rider screamed (this episode didn't do a lot for me, however!) and he was completely unconcerned when another riding kept riding her horse right into us.

And as I'm sure everyone here knows, a free horse is NOT a free horse. I've spent a lot of money in the last few months on training, lessons, worming, vaccinations, blood work, tack, supplements, and cookies of course, but I knew before I got him that there would be quite a bit of expense involved. If I could quit smoking I could get another horse (except I think my husband would kill me first)!

He is boarded close enough that I can go check on him daily, and I am learning a lot (I give my own glucosamine shots now, and sheath cleaning is on my list of things to learn).

When I take in an animal it is forever, for better or worse, and I am his forever mommy now. I can't even imagine life without him now!

Oh, and I don't know if everyone here already knows about this, but there is an awesome site called Horseflix, which works just like Netflix, only it's all horse videos! I'm madly renting them as fast as I can watch them!

apassaro06 said...

Love this topic!!!
My beautiful Arabian dreamhorse has one flaw. He is a very dominant guy in the pasture and prefers to back into his pasture buddies in the riding ring and give them a few kicks. He requires his personal bubble and isn't afraid to let others know it. He has chosen me to be his one person as all others watch out!!
Recently our training regimen has included turning his head where he's trying to back into. That way he can't kick others but I'm worried he may soon resort to other means. He seems to be clever like that.
Best of luck with all your problematic dream horses!!

ValiantDancer said...

I had a trainer who I absolutely adore give me a tip for getting my horse to stand to be mounted. I don't know if it would work for a horse who bucks or rears during mounting but hey it is such an easy trick I figured I would share.

She starts from the ground by doing basic bending exercises. She taps on their shoulder, than holds/pulls a rein to a certain tightness until they give to the pressure and bend, the trick is to give release quickly when they do as asked. Eventually they can turn their head and stretch all the way back toward their shoulder, if your horse is already pretty flexible and bends well you may not have to start so slowly. She starts there and than does it with just a tap on the shoulder to get them to bend and when they turn their head toward their shoulder and bend around/ or give to the bit they get a treat. It helps as a basic bending exercise as well getting them slightly of balance and looking for a treat. Once they are bending around good at the tap on their shoulder from the ground she starts doing it as soon as or while mounting, they are so busy bending around to look for the treat that they stop walking off. I am sure it is not foolproof and may not work as well on a horse who rears or bucks but it worked like a charm on my young gelding when he would not stand to be mounted, and if the horse is off balance with its head bent around it is pretty hard to buck or rear.

It was a very good non-aggressive method I could use without having to fight with my horse. She always stresses techniques where you are not getting into a fight. She basically suggests letting the horse do "things" to itself, such as running into the fence when my gelding failed to listen to a command to stop on the lunge or bumping his own mouth when he refused to stop while long-lining. She has made all the difference between me and my gelding; I now get almost instant responses to the things I ask him to do instead of the lackadaisical attitude of before where he was doing it but in his own good time. Now when I ride and I say go when he is gearing up to spring 5 feet in the air for a full buck he just goes without thinking about it. It meant I spent an extra year doing ground work without riding but hey I have not spent any more time eating dirt either.