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Horse Behavior and Training

Lazy horse?

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Well, a little while ago I had put a post up regarding my mare Lily. She is a bit of a slug, and the hot weather has made it much worse. I recently discovered that my 50 by 90 foot ring is probably a contributor to the problem, as there is just not enough room to really move. I have since resigned myself to the fact that I probably shouldn't canter in there very much because it is just too small for comfort and is creating problems rather than fixing them. With my current situation, whe will probably just be a trail horse, which is ok with me since that is where she is happiest anyway.

However, there are going to be times when I want to ride her in the ring. She has a good foundation and I have trained her from the start and want her to be my willing partner. The heat is really an issue though, as she just doesn't want to move. I tried the rope idea that Monty outlines, but to no avail since she is not really bothered by me doing anything with her- she trusts me and is very relaxed all the time. The only advice that people give me is to use a crop or whip, but since lightly tapping does nothing, I would have to resort to a more forceful approach, which I will NOT do because causing pain would ruin my relationship with her.

Right now I am just very frusturated, both with my lack of space, and Lily's lack of energy for anything. It all reflects very poorly on me as a trainer, and although I will NOT use violence to train, I am just not sure what to do in these situations. She literately just tries to stop and stand still. I can get her going, but it is just not a fun ride when your horse is giving you nothing.

When I bought a completly green arab, this is not what I had in mind- especially since I have a way with hot horses. I just don't know what to do with such a dull horse. I mean, I know that the ring is small, but trotting shouldn't be such a problem, and she should be able to at least walk/trot even if it is a little hot. Maybe she just needs a little time off...

Any advice would be appreciated!

Kicki -- Sweden
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Hard to say without seeing you, but here goes three suggestions:

I've just read an article at The telling how horses are much quicker overheated than humans in hit (and humid) weather, and the importance of keeping them cool. (Pour on water, scrape it off and then keep on repeating this.)
My other thought was that the mare could be in heat. I know lots of mares who reacts that way when they are, and some have longer periods than others - some are affected by the weather. In that case, I don't think there is much you can do. You just can't fight with Mother Nature. But try some "Moody Mare" herb mixture.
The ring is small. Maybe she has experienced sore muscles or loss of balance. You could try working on exercises at walk first that will help her get stronger and more balanced in there.

Rudi - Pratteln, Switzerland
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Dear Kim. I am more or less just repeating what is wrtitten in Monty's books and tell about my own limited experience. In a horse that does not move you have to think about first whether there is an anatomical or psychological problem. You have to excluse a problem of health by your veterinary. If you see your horse playing and running with the other horses this is less probable. Remain eventual problems of the tack. If you get to the psycological problem you can stimulate the horse with the "giddy-up-rope" that can also be out of plastic bags. In the roundpen you can use the plastic as well. To prevent a desensibilization you should go from a let's say 10 % stimulus immediatly to 100 % for only a short period (in the safe roundpen). The horse will learn that you don't tolerate his resistance and will start to accept your 10 % stimulus. Eventually you have also to accept that your horse has a calm caracter and cannot give you the maximal response.
(I don't think that the size of the roundpen is that important.)

julie m.
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All of the above sound like good things to look into. I would also suggest making sure that your girl has the right rations. I would have your hay tested and look into what your grain mix has in it. Could be she is just missing a bit of something nutritional to give her that extra bit of energy you are looking for.

If that's all ok, then I would say you have a good, easygoing horse and you should recognize that. You can work to get her impulsion going but really recognize the fact that she may never be as forward as her Arab bretheren. Enjoy walking her out on the trail. There are tons of folks out there who would love a horse that low key. If you wish for a ride with a little more get up and go, perhaps you should look into a second horse. It's like new shoes-- a girl can never have too many horses :)


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Thanks for the suggestions. I have gone back to the basics with her for a little while with some good results. I do realize that most of it is just her personality, which is a good thing on the trail, just not when you want her to work.

I have ruled out any physical problems, and since she is fed a grain meant for horses who need the extra vitamins/mminerals that may be lacking in an all-hay diet without the extra calories, I am pretty sure she is getting all she needs. She also has free access to a pure salt, and a salt/mineral block.

Kicki- I do think that the hot weather is affecting her. She really hates the heat, and we have been in a month long heat wave up here.


thanks for this post! I am having almost the exact same issue. I recently adopted my very first mare (10 yr old Spotted Saddle Horse) and she is as calm and sweet as they come. I've tried to send her away many times to start Join-up but she eventually just slows down and acts like she doesn't care that much. She will lower her head, lick and chew, but she doesn't come meet me. She will stand for me to come to her and she will follow up (unless she gets distracted by other horses outside). We are still getting to know each other since I've only had her 3 weeks, so I can tell she doesn't trust me all the way yet, but she doesn't fight me much on anything! I wasn't sure if there is something I should do or just keep working with her on more of Monty's principles. I have been used to riding Arab mares this past year that were always challenging me...but my new girl is totally different. Should I keep trying to Join-up with her? I think the heat here in Indiana is affecting her too. Plus, our round pen is grass (so that might also be why she wants to slow down...) but I think I can also put some more pressure on her too with throwing the line, etc. I've also been told to lightly whip her while riding so she would go, but I just don't feel comfortable doing it. I think I'm ok with her just being the calm trail horse that she is showing me. I just want to make sure that we truly Join-up together! But this post did help me out a bit. So thanks!


I have a really lazy Arab x Lipizzaner mare who just lives to eat and sleep and thinks that the idea of 'riding' and 'work' should be outlawed. I bred her myself and have raised her using Monty's principles so she has no fear of people and is pretty de-sensitised to plastic bags, etc. The giddy-up rope does help to get her moving, albeit at a slug's pace, but I've found the best thing is to motivate her with grazing treats or
rest periods - eg. if she walks nicely round the arena without stopping, I let her have a little snack, before asking her to move on again. Then, if she does the next thing I ask, I'll jump off for a moment. It's a bit laborious, but she's the type of horse who gets very stroppy if you try to make her do something she doesn't want to and would buck me off, or worse, if I used any kind of force to get her moving. Incentive and motivation is the key to these horses, I think. Hope this is of some help, but if nothing else, you know you're not alone :-)

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Thank you nikki. It is nice to know that I'm not the only one with this problem. My Lily is a total sweetie, but not really what I was expecting when I bought a green arab- having been used to riding "hot" arabs up until that point. Your girl sounds very much like her. Lily gets VERY upset if you try and force her, and I think that if push came to shove she would definitely fight anything that she doesn't view as fair treatment.

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Ealight- My only suggestion would be to try join up in a sandy area. I know that if I tried to inspire my mare to move when there was grass around, it would probably be a waste of energy. Especially if she is already comfortable around you...she knows she has nothing to fear. If you don't have access to one, I wouldn't worry too much about it if she is already working comfortably around you. I never did join-up on my two until I learned about it a few years after I got them, and although I did try it on them, by then we were so closely bonded that I don't think it really mattered much. It certainly didn't hurt, but I don't think it was necessary by then except to give me some valuable experience.