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Horse Behavior and Training

Too much energy!


I have a 6 year old quarter horse mare that I was given at the beginning of the summer. She has had only one other owner and he joined the peace corps and couldn't keep her when he joined. He trained her to ride for pleasure. I haven't had the time to spend with her up until the past few weeks. I am not incredibly skilled with horses but am comfortable around them and have ridden my whole life. I have tried to ride her on several occasions but was not successful as she bucked me off once and threw fits the other times to the point where I aid to get off for my own safety. I have been working with her on join up as well as ground work with the dually halter and leading stopping standing still etc. and she does great and is as attentive as can be. I have done this both unsaddled as well as saddled. She is fine with saddling and shows no signs of any issues with saddles or bridals. The problem comes when I try to get on. Generally I walk her around for 5-10 min after she is saddled before attempting to mount and during that time she does great. Once I try to mount, the moment I am on she is ready to take off. It is all I can do to hold her back. She will stand still but only after a great deal of work getting her to that place. Even with the slightest amount of pressure from my legs she is already into trot and wanting to run. I can't get her to just walk at a calm pace. Its either a run or she wants no part of it and throws her head, tries to throw me and heads back to the arena gate. My boyfriend rode her on a mountain expedition and when all the other horses where dead tired she was acting like she had more energy then she did when they started! How do I deal with her!

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Hi Arnicaspring,
Several things come to mind- first I would check her diet- maybe she has to much protien causing her to be hot, also turn-out,is she getting adequate turn-out?

And as always, there are two of you in the dance... You must, whether knowingly or not, anticipate trouble after mounting causing many different physiological responses that your mare is picking up on. I would try to diagnos the cause before trying to address it. Good luck keep me posted on your progress.
I am sure you can work it out.


Thanks for the encouragement richandi. She is turned out on 500 acres most of the time so I don't think it's that but there may be something to her being hot. She is just on the same grass that the rest of the horses are on during the summer months but she sweats really easily. Her previous owner said she was always like that. I will keep it in mind and keep working with her. Thanks!

ruthy - Gold Coast, Australia
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I understand exactly where you are coming from, as I have (and am still going through it) a very similar issue with my lovely horse. We are getting there however! When I first purchased him, he had great ground manners (which I have since continued with, using join-up and the dually halter work) but would really stress out as soon as he knew that I was about to mount (he would walk backwards and sideways). And then he would be so stressed and tense when we were riding (he also bucked a number of times and was generally tense, going backwards, almost rearing). I understand now that a lot of his issues came from his previous owner.
I got him checked out by a chiropractor early on to make sure there were no issues from pain, and then with a lot of work (i don't mean hard ridden work, just time and patience and effort!) (and a lesson from very experienced people once every week) he now stands completely calmly and still when I mount, and walks off calmly when asked. I am still working on getting him to be relaxed when we first move into trot, but he does relax after shorter and shorter periods of time. I think the most important thing I do is keep myself relaxed, and that gives him confidence that he can relax. Generally, if he breaks into canter or does anything funny, we stay calm, but turn him in a smaller circle, not allowing him to rush it, and then allow him back onto the bigger circle as his reward. It is important, however, that when we turn him on a tighter circle, that i keep my leg on, so that he conitnues in forward movement.
The other thing I should mention, in agreement with richandi, is the feed - not too much grain or processed protein feeds, but it sounds like your horse is only on grass, so that shouldnt be the problem.
I hope that helps!
By the way, I just had a lesson this morning, and he was just brilliant! The most calm, relaxed and happy he has been, and he actually seems to be really enjoying his work (I eventually want to showjump him, and so we are working on trot poles at the moment, and he just really seems to enjoy them!)

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When I started my horse with saddle and bridle I would mount and dismount often and not neccessarly ride about.This helped him be very calm and not to presume mounting meant work.

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You said your boyfriend rode her on a mountain expedition and when all the other horses where dead tired she was acting like she had more energy than she did when they started! How did he deal with her? Did he have any of the same issues you had with bucking etc. If not then how does he deal with her differently then what you do? A “hot” horse does not necessarily equate to a bucking, hard to handle horse. I have worked with hot bloods (Thoroughbreds and Arabians) and with proper ground work and dually training they can be as calm and collected as any other horse as long as you are likewise. By the same token if you are nervous then they tend to be more excitable then the warm bloods under similar circumstances. Knowing how she acts with different people (the same or otherwise) can help to find the problem and solution.

Equus Student
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It might be a good idea to let your horse have a run around the arena or round pen before you ride to give her an oppurtunity to burn off excess energy.

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How often do you work her? My experience with hot horses is that they need consistent, frequent work which seems to reassure and calm them, that is, 5-6 days a week. You can't expect anything out of her at 1-2 times a week -i don't know if that's what you do.
I also think that a little run around the arena might help if you wait for her to relax before taking her in and putting the saddle on -taking her in all excited won't help. Lastly, try to always finish what you do when she's calmed down -running in the arena, lungeing or riding.

julie m.
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Ruling out any saddle or mouth issues that might cause her misbehavior, I concur with the last two posts. Turn your horse loose in the arena if you have one, or in your round pen and ask for at least 10 minutes of movement before you ride her. It doesn't all have to be canter but it will allow her to kick up her heels and get the fresh off before she has to deal with you on her back. I have to do this with my Paint mare at least half the time, and she's 14 now--not a spring chicken. She is however fit and healthy and I take her energy level as a good sign. Also, the advantage to you moving your horse around before you get on her is similar to doing other groundwork before you mount up--you get her listening to you and you remind her that you are the one controlling her feet. Never mount before you feel you have her with you, listening to you and willing to work. It also sounds like she was taught (inadvertently or not) by her last owner that when the rider is up, it's time to GO! Be patient and when she tries to hare off on you, use her innate distractibility to your advantage and ask her to do something else-like a hip turn or a small figure eight. Then ask her to walk off. Make the wrong thing more work and the right thing easy. It will take time but horses, as Monty says, are brilliant in their narrow sphere of influence. Your girl will figure out that you just want her to walk off eventually. Oh, and once last piece of advice: get someone to help you with the mounting and dismounting if she's moving at all during those moments. There's a video here on the website for that. Keep safe and have fun! You have an adventure in learning ahead of you :)

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How about making a dummy rider and taking a lot of time with ground work?I took ages,on-line and loose in the round pen doing all sorts of things with an emotionally damaged horse who was wild in the extreme(runaway with no brakes or steering)and he became trusting and responsive.I also encouraged the one rein stop,first on-line.Rein to hip when riding.Releasing the instant he gave his head and disengaged his hindies.There are the great vids here on migrating to mounting block too.Since joining the online Uni I have started having more fun with mine on foot than riding! Hope you get steady progress :)