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University Suggestion Box

Giddy up rope

Hello! 100 lessons completed
I have a horse that is ‘crabby’ off the leg, everything that could be bothering has been checked and she has been given the all clear. I would love to see a longer series dedicated to use of the Giddy Up Rope. She isn’t nappy at all just crabby and I have watched the only lesson I can find where it is used for this purpose. I would just like a bit more background and a bit more knowledge about when, why and the reasoning behind how it works so I can be sure i’m as effective as I can be.
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Hi Vikki & welcome to the Uni. Before sharing any thoughts on your 'crabby off the leg' mare can we get a bit more detail? What is her history & age? What activities do you engage in with her? Is she always 'crabby' about her sides, to legs, when grooming, rug changing & when being saddled/mounted or untacked? By 'crabby' do you mean - lays her ears back, head shakes or weaves, stamps a foot, swishes her tail, gnashes her teeth, snatches forward as if to bite? If she only shows crabby behaviour in certain circumstances, what is her demeanour like at other times - in the pasture, when stabled or confined, when being groomed or washed, at mealtime? Showing displeasure within the herd is natural, especially for alpha mares, as they are the herd disciplinarians - mares ensure youngsters learn the skills to keep them all safer. Displeasure with humans is a behaviour caused by humans. For instance, if routinely mounted from the ground & the human toe digs into their side but the human then rebukes them for forward movement, it's not unsurprising the horse feels confused & unjustly treated. I'm sure the vast experience of those who contribute to the forum will be able to bring you great insight into your mare & why she reacts as she does, as well as giving you options on how to best deal with the situation. Looking forward to how this thread progresses. Cheers, Jo.
Hello! 100 lessons completed
Hi Jo 
Thanks for your reply, here goes..........
My mare is 5 years old, coming 6. I have only had her 6 months and it has taken a while to form a relationship of any kind with her as she is what most describe as a ‘moody mare’. I know I am not there yet entirely but she is certainly improving. Sometimes I just get the feeling she’s just not content in life, would be like having a human who is constantly huffing and puffing at you and miserable when they speak.......does that make sense? 
I know  that she was imported from Ireland approx 2 years ago, I am her 4th home since then :0(
She had issues with picking up her feet (she put one young lady in hospital) she will now be shod happily tied up and chilled. She objects (swings her head at you with ears flat back, occasionally followed by a bite) to having her girth done up so I always gently massage the area followed by small pats around the area before I do the girth up in small increments, this helps and I have seen some vast improvements.
She is mainly a fun happy hack for me, I would like to do jumping with her. I try and do work in the school with her as she is still young. It’s in the school where she gets ‘crabby’ mainly walk into trot. You put your leg on and her ears go back and her head raises, once in trot she settles. Looking at her reactions to start with I thought it could be pain but saddle, back, teeth etc have all been checked. She doesn’t do it out hacking so it almost feels like a resentment of working in the school (which isn’t her favourite place). Based on this I always limit my school sessions to approx 10mins and twice a week and change what I do every time to try and make the school a happier place for her, she is never nappy to go in the school. I take opportunities like when my son is riding to take her in the school and just sit on her whilst I watch him so she doesn’t associate the school always with hard/boring work. She is fantastic to mount and will stand patiently when asked, she is a more stop than go type. We practice our away from pressure on hacks moving side to side and she is learning really quickly and raises no objections. I also do some turn on the forehand work in the school and again there is no objection to the leg pressure. You would think the reaction that you get when asked to go into trot in the school that she had spent the last 10 years in a riding school going round in circles!!
Out in the field is her happy place, she gets along with all the other horses, ponies, sheep, dogs etc she doesn’t get overly attached to any of the other horses but when in the field she is the boss unless she is out with the older mare who she respects. I had to move yards when I had had her 2 months as she was very unsettled, it was a riding school so was constantly busy. There were bars between the stables not walls and she was constantly fighting with the horses next to her when in her stable which made her continually stressed and she was becoming a nightmare to be around due to this. Now where she is stabled it’s very calm, there are walls not bars so she is much happier in her surroundings. Being in doesn’t suit her particularly and she is certainly a lot moodier if she has to stay in when situations don’t allow her to go out. 
Any insight would be greatly appreciated, any other information that might help please ask away xXx
Hello! 100 lessons completed
If stabled her demeanour is crabby towards just about everything and everyone. This is just ears back with the odd head swing towards you but nothing more. Never bothers with her rugs but gets crabby to brush almost says ‘just leave me alone’.
When out 24/7 with the odd time in the stable (normally because of extreme weather) she is easy to catch and her demeanour is generally much happier, only girthing her up and asking her to trot in the school gets you ears back. 
I try and limit her stabled time and make sure that I loose her in the school or exercise her if going out in the field isn’t an option.
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Hi Vikki. I've read & reread your post. Do you own a giddy up rope? I think it could be a useful tool with your mare - just NOT for this issue. She came from Ireland at 3 years old & then went through the hands of 3 more homes before you got her at 5, but still no one had taken time to show her basic skills like foot handling. Thankfully for her, she has now landed in a much improved situation. 
Your mare clearly wants to be cooperative - you've seen her learn to relax with the farrier & because you make the effort to girth her with consideration she is getting more confident with that too. Someone has pinched her sensitive areas behind her elbows which is why she wants to warn you that she finds that unacceptable. Not unreasonable. She will relax more with girthing up if you continue to be calm & quiet, keep your breathing slow, deep & relaxed & maybe pause tightening up to appreciatively scratch her neck. Scratching is more acceptable to horses than patting. Also, if you can find the time, saddle her up & then take the saddle off again for 10 seconds. Then repeat twice before actually riding. No one will have done that before. She will probably look at you quizzicality & because she has a different experience to process she may forget to be crabby very quickly. 
Use of an arena is helpful but it's clearly an environment your mare associates with 'stuff she didn't like' ( perhaps harshness ). You already 'train' out on a hack. I suggest you use the arena to do ground work only. PLEASE don't lunge but work on two lines or just loose. If she learns to move from walk to trot by voice command ( clicking ) alone then when ridden you can combine the voice with a very subtle leg aid. This will lead to her being, overall, very sensitive & light to your legs. Study the lessons on Join up & give it a go - it'll completely change how your mare views you when you get it right. 
Quick story. My filly, homebred, so I was the first human to touch her, longlines without any equipment! I don't have an arena let alone a round pen so my guys, 4 in all, work in the field & because I don't separate them ( which can be chaos ) they learn from each other. So, Miss Moley watched work with Dually & longlines - I should have said Kirk is her older full brother & Humphrey is their sire ( now gelded ) & they are a very close knit family group. Anyway, as a yearling she watched & wanted to join in. So I thought I'd humour her. I walked up behind her, spread my arms, clicked & she walked forwards. I moved her left & right by moving from directly behind her, arm outstretched - she did cheat by looking back at me to be sure she got it right & stopped when I stopped one or two steps after saying "whoa". I guess that would have been all of 90 seconds & she's never forgotten it. 
Keep in touch & let us know how you get on. Cheers, Jo.
Miriam (Holland&Germany)
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Hi Vikki and Jo,

Such an interesting thread! There's always so much to learn from others questions and the answers that come to them..
Apart from all the very sensible advice from Jo, I have one question for you Vikki: When in the arena, where do your eyes focus when you ask for a trot? I aks because it could very well be that when out on a hack with your young mare, you look into a certain distance to check if it's safe to start trotting. Sometimes people forget to give the horse a 'goal' with their own eye-focus, when in an arena. Your horse goes, where your eyes show her the way. 
Please keep us posted!