“I have a question about a recent colt I’ve started and would certainly be grateful for any advice. I have a 5-year-old mare I bought and started under saddle last fall. I put a few outside rides on her before winter and then had to turn her out. This spring, I brought her in and began a bit of a refresher course before continuing on. She is really soft, has a nice stop, and will out travel any horse at a walk. However, when I ask for more than a walk, she instantly panics or gets mad and will rear, buck, kick, etc. I’ve tried riding her with another horse in hopes she will try to keep up and figure it out, I’ve calmly pulled her around and collected her when she starts bucking until she gives to pressure and calms down then I’ll ask again, etc. She is extremely herd sour, which has played a role in it as well. I’ve never had a problem like this with a colt before so would greatly appreciate any advice you may have. Thanks again!”
“What I am hearing from your brief description is that you had a few rides on her, that she rode soft and quiet in a walk, and had a nice stop. Then you turned her out for the winter and when she came back in, the things that she learned last fall were good. When you ask for more, it’s not so good.
Some of the other things you mentioned raised more questions than answers for me so it’s hard for me to get a good understanding from the horse’s perspective as to what is actually going on.
When you say she instantly panics or gets mad, I’m not sure I understand because a horse doesn’t instantly get mad– they work up to that and it takes a lot of confusion and frustration for a horse to get mad, especially a young horse with limited experience.
Other than a stallion playing or showing off, generally when horses rear, it’s when the forward motion has been blocked. They can buck for several reasons, they generally kick at a rider’s feet or possibly when they’re being whipped on their lower leg or belly.
One question that comes to my mind is: She’s a five-year-old, and has issues that aren’t consistent with horses you’ve worked before. Is it possible that she has had some previous experience from another trainer that has taught her some of these vices?
Another scenario is too much work inside the corral to the point that she didn’t have enough opportunity to move out and got frustrated by too many drills.
As far as her being heard sour, at this stage of the game I would use that to your advantage and use another horse or horses to lead her away from the barn, or her point of security. I’d try leading her from another horse and get her to where she’s comfortable trotting and possibly loping with an empty saddle. Then, have a rider on her and do the same. Eventually, hand the lead rope to the rider. This makes it so that there are no big transitions in the program.
This can help the horse to have a good experience in new places and see things with the security of a calm horse next to them. The better the horse is prepared, the fewer problems there will be.
Regardless, the resistance is coming from her not being sure of where to go. A horse’s first means of defense is flight, if they can’t take flight, they fight. In other words, if they learn that they cannot get away from pressure, they learn to go against pressure, then we have to teach him to give to pressure.
If you are a confident, competent rider who brings in enough intimidation so that they take flight, they move out before they show any signs of resistance or fight. This approach may get a little Western and be unsafe depending on certain variables, the other approach of using another horse can provide more assurance.
Good luck, and remember to pull your hat down.
Thanks for your question,