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Horse Behavior and Training

Kicking Under Saddle


My mare and I have been through a lot together. I am her first owner, and I bought her at 4 years of age after she had been 'started'. Turns out 'started' int his case meant an abusive western took me over 6 months to get her to stop shaking..physically shaking!..if she saw so much as a cowboy hat. But over time she got better,a nd now she is 15, and my best friend. We ride both English and Western, and until a few weeks ago she never gave me much cause for concern. During a jumping clinic she started being very reluctant to start moving agin after we stopped. She got crankier and crankier every time I asked her to walk forward. She would finally go, and then calm down and do her job, but getting her going was a pain.
This morning she started doing it again, just while I was riding her regularly. We had been trotting and cantering, and doing some conditioning (she was not overly tired, hadn't even broke any sweat anywhere) when she started flinging her head around again, like she had before, refusing to go forward. Then she kicked out! She's NEVER done that before!
I resisted the urge to dismount immediately, not wanting to reward her for that heinous behaviour, so we backed up (she did that willingly). Then I got off and checked. I could find no reason why she should act like that. The billets are long, and may have been tickling her tummy, but that's just so odd. Does anybody hve any idea what this could be? She does not have back troubles, is sound as a dollar and it is not health realted. She gets regular chiro appts, massages, and is taken incredibly good care of.
We do ground work daily, and she is the best..everybody comments on her ground manners, and how easy she is to get along with. She would walk through fire for me, I have no doubt. So this has me really stumped. She is a bit lazy, and is a huge character with a big personality, but she is nt mean or aggressive int he lwast. This has me shocked to my core.


Really? Nobody has any ideas as to why she should suddenly balk? I've been watching the videos about 'Walter' with great interest, and am looking forward to the third installment, hoping some practical exercises will be shown to help me deal with this situation.

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

When was the last time you had the mares teeth checked. Many times any problems with the horses teeth translate into head flinging refusal to work etc. If it has been more than 6 months since her teeth were floated, I would check them again for points as well as alignment


Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

to add to Dennis's comment regarding physical ailments - if you are working more than usual she may have developed more muscle mass and a saddle that fit her two weeks ago may not fit her now..
Good luck it sounds like you are extremely diligent in your care for her. You are both lucky to have one another.

Kicki -- Sweden
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed

I have no doubts that she is very well looked after, but some things are so hard to detect.
I would still say get her checked out by a vet - teeth, back, legs, croup, hips - the works!
And get both saddles (I assume you have one English and one Western) checked by a saddle fitter.
What did the chiropractor say?
It's my experience that 9 times out of 10, these sudden objections are due to being uncomfortable or even in pain. When did you notice the very first signs? (Like a reluctance that is easily overcome, or a stiffness in either side that would warm out as you rode her?)
Was there a time when the signs were more subtle?
What happened at the jumping clinic? Did she come in wrong towards a fence and had to stretch, stop or twist in any way? Did you continue to ride her daily after this incident, or did you let her have a couple of days off?
It could be that she injured some muscle-tissue while jumping that wasn't too serious but took a bit of time to heal, and now she expects things to keep hurting.
Fingers crossed you find the cause of the problem!

Kicki -- Sweden
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed

I was too quick to click "Add comment"!
You say this is a mare - could she have problems with her ovaries? Some mares do develop disorders when they get older.
How are you as a rider? Well balanced, or tend to slip over on one seat bone or the other?
You don't have to answer these questions here - this is just off the top of my head - but it could be of value to think them through, since there are so many ways a rider can cause wear and tear in the horse just by sitting just a bit off balance, or riding the horse in a tense shape or form.
I'm saying this only because the problem isn't always within the horse. Certainly, if we can't find anything wrong with it physically, then the next logical place to look would be the rider.
Again, good luck with finding out!

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed

Seems as if she's having some pain somewhere which is exacerbated when she's at work under saddle. Since she does not show any problem with your ground work, you might focus on areas that could hurt when saddle and rider are added. A skito saddle pad has made a big difference in Sister's endurance rides. The R.L. Watson flexible panel saddle added another dimension of comfort. Conditioning her to run barefoot made her better yet. If your mare wears metal, it could be her hooves. Adding rider weight might me causing pain. Best wishes! Let us know the ultimate solution. If nothing else, you might try a week or two of her just being turned out to pasture.


Many years ago my husband bought me a quarter horse mare who would do the strangest things under saddle that sound unexplainedly strange like your mare. We investigated her past and found out that she had been one of a group of 7 horses that had been 'trained' by one man. I do know his name but we are in Austrlia and I think you are writing from the US. We found 2 of the other horses he had had and they acted similar. Turns out he had used some form of electric shock treatment in his western 'training' methods. The 3 horses would run backwards uncontrollably, throw themselves down or be going forward nicely and stop and flip themselves over backwards. The 1 who threw himself backwards I saw his eyes roll back into his head before he did it like he was having some sort of fit. The 2 mares were worse if in water, like crossing a creek, where they would throw themselves down and roll over uncontrollably - with someone on them. Although really quiet horses on the ground they had been turned into horses who were too unpredictable and dangerous to ever ride again through no fault of their own.
This may be way off the grid for your mare and nothing like her problem, but it's possible something you did on the day she started acting this way may have triggered an old memory.
I hope this is not the case for your girl, but you need to protect yourself. Robyn