Problem Horse Advice

I am interested in helping a friend. She has no computer. I recently bought a racking horse that was sold to me with a number of lies attached. The horse was too much for me as I am in my 60's. Another girl at our boarding stable fell in love with him.

He is a beautiful black with a long flowing tail and mane. Rather then give him to a dealer to sell, I sold him to her. Now I am really concerned. When she goes out on trails, he is fine until the trip home, then he wants to run, or stand with his head turned. She has had to walk home with him. The horse has had training. I have his papers but cannot contact the owners before the lady I purchased him from. She had him for 5 years. He was without other horses and she only trail rode him. She told me he only walked on trails but obviously she ran him. He neck reins, is great with the farrier, and is easy to work with. He hates a mounting block.

I feel responsible and want to help her as she really loves him. He is out of the Go Boy line. I would be willing to purchase her literature is you have some helpful information. I bought a nice Tennessee walking mare that was better for a person my age and from a person who was truthful.

Please give me advice!

Hi Janet,

Please don't despair-the problems you describe aren't at all unusual. Most of the time the problems exhibited by our horses are a result of something we are, or are not, doing. The root of a problem may be behavioral, rooted in temperaments and/or bad riding habits, or it may be caused by a physical problem. Often it's a combination of these factors at play, and we need to examine each area to see what can be improved. The place to start is always to make sure the horse isn't trying to avoid pain somewhere in his body-or simply trying to communicate the fact that he's in pain to his rider. After all, he can't turn around and say, "Gosh, your weight in this awful saddle is killing me. . .can you lean forward and shift a bit to the left?" Instead, he rushes for the barn because he knows that there, the weight, and saddle, will be removed-much the same way you might rush home from shopping if you were wearing a pair of shoes that caused pain. Of course, if the problem is severe enough, and the horse sensitive enough, he may try to rid himself of the rider in an even less friendly fashion.

If a horse suffers pain or discomfort under saddle, it will be futile to try to fix his behavioral problems until the physical aspects are dealt with. You would be astounded to know how often a behavioral problem is completely resolved simply by discovering and eliminating physical problems. You would be equally amazed to learn how many 'behavioral' problems are actually pain issues!

You don't say if this horse is hard to ride away from the barn? If not, then that, and the fact that he hates a mounting block, indicate that the owner may be dealing with pain issues caused from his saddle. Encourage her to read the articles on bits and saddles on our site and to do some experimenting with different gear. Particularly I would encourage her to check her saddle fit, and make sure there are no pressure points on the horse's back. (Actually, if she's riding in a standard western saddle with a rigid tree, I would assume there are problems in this area.) If the saddle fit isn't too dramatically bad, then an investment in our Supracor saddle pad could make a world of difference in this situation. Yes, it's a relatively expensive pad in spite of our deep discount-but an inexpensive solution to many pain related problems. Next, have the horse's teeth checked, and make certain the bit she's using has enough authority to give good control of the horse, but is gentle and tactful enough to communicate to him without causing pain. Of course if you've perused our web site, you already know what bit I'm going to recommend: The 2nd Generation Imus Comfort Gait Bit.

My (educated) guess is that once these issues are dealt with, this horse will become much easier to ride-though he may now have some bad habits that he will need to unlearn. She should always only WALK him toward the barn. If possible, she should trailer away from home base, and work with him in a place where he can't race for home. Lots of arena work, doing circles, figure eights, and other suppling exercises will condition him to soften up to her riding aids--and a soft horse is not a resistant horse. After she brings him home from a ride he should stand in his stall tied, saddle on, with nothing to eat for 10 minutes or so. This is so that he won't associate getting home with too many wonderful things: getting unsaddled, fed, and groomed and petted. Instead, make his time out on the trail rewarding. He should be stopped every so often and offered a rest. Perhaps take the bit out of his mouth and let him get a nibble of grass while the rider enjoys a break.
I think if the rider goes through these steps, the problem may be resolved in a relatively fast, easy manner.
Many happy-and smooth-trails!