Question: I am a 53-year-old woman. I’ve had a love of horses all my life. I had a horse for 5 months when I was 15 but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing, in fact just the opposite – I don’t. I recently found an abandoned year-old colt. Every day, twice a day, I go out to his very large pasture and call him by the name he’s used to. He usually always comes running to see me. I’ve only been doing this for 6 days now and I have to admit I’m nervous because he’s never been handled by anyone before and I’m new at all this and he’s new at all this too. I take out apples, carrots, bread and sugar cubes. He wants to eat and eat and I’m not sure but I think he just looks at me like the one that brings him good food but it’s working, I think. If I run along the fence he runs next to me, if I stop he stops, if I turn back he turns back with me. Once he ran ahead and couldn’t see me and came to find me. I’ve been getting into the pasture with him but again I’m really nervous but determined to make friends. He’s nervous too because he throws his head up a lot and makes this sound with his mouth like he’s tired. Today he paws the ground once and I got back in the pasture with him. He puts his ears back some times but then brings them forward too. Yesterday I was able to get a halter on him and I was so excited. It took three tries but I stood to his one side and I got it on. I went out and it’s still on. I don’t know what I’m doing to be honest but I’m hoping what I’m doing is the right things. I can’t walk through the pasture because I live in South Florida and we have a LOT of poisonous snakes and his pasture is really over grown with high grass and shrubs and it’s not safe for me to walk through that. I stand inside the gate how ever and in that very small space is where we have bonded or I hope we’ve bonded somewhat. I spend 2 hours talking to him and getting in and out of the pasture by climbing over the gate. It used to spook him but because I’m doing it so much he’s getting used to it. He’s trying to bully me for food though and maybe this is why I feel uneasy. He knows when I come I have food and he likes that. What can I do that can stop him from raising his head way over mine when I don’t give him the food and what does this mean when he’s doing this? He backs away from me too and I walk after him facing his face. If I turn around and walk away he’ll follow me though. I have gotten to pet him a lot and he almost fell asleep on me today scratching his ears. I don’t want to make mistakes that will get me kicked, or him not trusting me any more. Any suggestions would be appreciated. It has to be me doing some thing to make him raise his head way over mine and I’m short. If I bend down to pull grass, he’ll lower his head like he’s helping me. I don’t know if I’m reading this right either but he stretches out his neck as far as he can get it some times for food like he doesn’t want to come in close but I won’t give him a treat like that I make him come to me. He also wants to bite at my hand like he’s associating my hand for food. Am I making a mistake?
Answer from April Reeves: Rescuing a horse is never a mistake, but he is a colt, he is young and you are green. That is the only mistake. Unfortunately, it’s a big one, if you cannot find someone with really great credentials to help you. They need to be there physically to show you how to work with him. I can help from this end but this type of situation needs a hand that’s not afraid or lacking confidence.
Let’s go over some of the issues you have at the immediate moment.
Question: I have a four year old Morgan who was doing terrific in her training and then I hurt my back. I couldn’t ride, had her trainer working with her and an experienced rider exercising her. I had just started to get back to walking on her in early August when she started pinning her ears for everyone who got on her back and refusing to move forward. We had her saddles checked by a certified saddle fitter, had the vet come out and check her (she’s also a chiro/accupuncture expert) and we let her rest for over two weeks. I’ve stayed off her; only her trainer works with her but she still will sometimes put her ears back or kick out when she’s asked to move forward into trot. It’s now mid-October–what haven’t we thought of to solve this? She was doing so well all of last year and had moved into learning to canter before this started!
Answer from April Reeves: Hi SallyAnne. This is a common problem but not easily solved at this stage. There may be several things going on here to build this mare up to this point so I will go over them individually.
Question: Hi, I hope you can help. I have had my little cob for about 9 months, at first he was very bossy and wouldn’t even let me touch his face without trying to bite and ears flat back , he got loads better and now I can stroke and even brush his face, he is great to catch and comes when called , but lately, even when I go to greet him as he comes over when I get there, he puts his ears flat back and does that trying to send me away thing , he will try to bite if I persist in trying to touch him, unless I can get to scratch him in his fave spot. I spend a lot of time with him , he will not let me pick his feet up most of the time either, I know his previous owner and I know she would hurt him too , how can I get him to respect and trust me, I am rather nervous of him now but I love him and won’t let him down.
Answer from April Reeves: Hello Carol from the UK! I’m glad you spend a lot of time with this horse. It is the best therapy you can give him, short of a few ground lessons that I will give you that should keep you busy for about half a year.
One thing you didn’t mention was whether he was gelded or not. This would make the world of difference if he wasn’t castrated yet. Once that is done, his whole attitude will change. However, even as a young male he should still show respect and manners, as it will carry forward when he is gelded.
Question: We recently bought a 3-year-old horse for our daughter. I know it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do but the horse was very quiet and we were assured that he had no problems. He does seem quiet most of the time but every now and then when your not expecting it he will blow up. It’s not a bolt but more of a jumping straight in the air and then striking out. I think he is simply trying to avoid work, but I am worried that someone will get hurt. I am trying to decide if selling this horse now would be my best decision as with a more experienced person I’m sure he will be great, I just want something safe for my daughter (she is 14 and has 6 years experience riding). We are an experienced horse family but if this is likely to progress into a continuous problem I don’t know if we want to deal with it. Thanks for any advice.
Answer from April Reeves: This is one of my favorite questions as I deal with this every day. First, buying a young horse for a young girl who has had time in the saddle does not bother me. This horse does not sound aggressive enough to do any real damage, and in fact may become one of her better ‘teachers’. But the learning curve begins here, as there are differences between a horse below 7 and a horse above 7 that we will discover in this answer.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged behavior, collection, foundation training, gait, green horse, green rider, Groundwork, horse training, thoroughbred, young horse
Question: I had a question about building stalls, I don’t have a huge barn but its a pretty good size so I wanted to know what would be the smallest but safest size stall to build. I have four horses and we just moved and this barn doesn’t have them already built so we were going to but I just don’t want to make them too small. They would only be stalled at night and turned out in the day.
Also I have a four-year-old gelding who has never really been ridden but we’ve had him since he was born and is just as gentle and respectful as he can be. When we get on him he just stands still. I know he just doesn’t know what ‘giddy up’ means yet but how do I teach him that? What about lunging him – how do I get him to go in a circle and not backwards? Thanks
Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: In regards to the stalls, the smallest I would put a horse in (under 16 hands high) would be 10 by 10 feet. At 16 hands, 11 by 11 or 12 by 12 (best). A horse must be able to move around in a circle, and when a stall is too small, the horse ends up rotating on his hindquarters. Any repetitive movement to the joints and skeleton will eventually end up in pain and discomfort, leading to an unrideable horse. The horse also is not a cave dweller, so the larger the stall, the better mind you will have on your horse. I’m not an advocate of the tie stall – I think they are cruel. Horses should be able to lie down where they choose and move around.
Question: I have a Quarab mare and one main bad habit she has, is that she is herd bound. The people we got her from kept her out in the pasture with 6 other horses all the time and so now she doesn’t like it when I take my miniature horse away. She doesn’t usually care when I separate her from my miniature horse, but she cannot stand me taking my miniature horse away. I have been working with her on it, taking my mini horse away and walking her back and taking her farther and walking back, just so Twinkle (my horse) knows I will bring Sophie (mini horse) back.
We have a fence up and Twinkle is separated from Sophie but they can still talk and see each other. We had to recently put up a hot wire fence as well because Twinkle was leaning on the fence and trying to walk it, getting her legs stuck in the fence, which it is also good because she doesn’t freak out, she waits patiently for us to get her untied. I was wondering if there is any possible way I can get her to stop being herd bound? She is getting better but I still worry about the fence and her getting hurt.
I also have recently started riding her english. I want to be able to do cross-country and show jumping with her and if we work hard enough, possibly learn some dressage techniques. One bad thing, is that the previous owners galloped her a lot, so a lot of times she wants to run, run, run, or she doesn’t listen to my leg commands. If I ask her to trot, she will either burst into a gallop or trot for a second then go faster. I would like for her to be a better horse for English. She can be impatient and doesn’t listen well to “whoa” or only a “walk” or “trot” command. I will be getting a new English bit because the one I have for her does not work, she doesn’t respect it, but I would love for her to be a better well-behaved horse. I wasn’t sure if I could help get her to listen to my commands and whether or not I can train her to only trot when asked.
Is there a way I can train her myself, or is a professional trainer a better idea? We don’t have a lot of money for a professional trainer, but her and I having a great bond through english riding and my dream of jumping to happen.
Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: I first want to address the fence issue. No fence should allow a horse to get tangled. Although your horse is quiet about it right now, it’s a matter of time when that changes, and you lose the horse from serious leg injuries. I have a saying, “that horse never died before”.
Question: I have a filly named Kahlua and I need to be her trainer but I don’t know what to do with her. What can I do with my 1 year old horse?
Answer from April Reeves: A green horse and a green rider is not a good combination, so I will give you some suggestions on how to go about learning how to work with a young horse. It will take you time and dedication, but without it, any words I write here will not help you much. You need to see and feel it for yourself.
Question: I finally was able to save enough money to buy my first horse, after 12 years of riding. Things went great – found the horse of my dreams , a 16.2 Westphalen tb cross – a cute mover and a great personality. I got him home and started riding him. He was lightly broke so I didnt push things. He was always resistant to the leg, and every now and then he would stop on me but then hesitantly move forward. This escalated into moving forward, slamming on the breaks and backing up…any and all refusal to get out of work. He reared once (I didnt come off). I got him checked for ulcers , lameless ex-rays chiropractor, massages, saddle fitting.. everything! You name it…. I’ve done it… so as I saw the problem getting bigger I went back to ground work, longing every day with side reins, working him evenly on both sides and going after his “go” button by his flank. My trainer and I decided that after great progress on the ground, I could get on him again… well today we walked three steps then the backing refusal to go and the defiance started… I am so lost ….any help or advice would be a great help!
Answer from April Reeves: Although I don’t know exactly what you are doing or not doing during his ‘episodes’, there were several huge clues as to this problem escalating into what you now have.
The first ride
Question: I am going to get on my horse for the first time soon. She is 3 and I have been round penning her. She has had a snaffle on for the last 6 times and the saddle. She walks quietly and does not seem to be spooky. Should I get on in the round pen first and what other things should I be aware of?
Answer from April Reeves: You sound a bit hesitant to get on your filly. Here are a few things I would look for if someone asked me to get on a horse for the first time.
Max's First Ride
Question: I just bought a 4yr old quarter horse mare. She is so sweet she will follow you anywhere. She will let me sit on her but won’t move and I was told she never had a saddle or rider on her. How can I saddle break her and get her to start riding?
Answer from April Reeves: I don’t normally advise someone to break a horse that has no prior experience as it almost always ends up not in the horse’s best interest. Breaking and training is a long and somewhat dangerous procedure, and a green rider getting on and riding a green horse can get you both hurt very seriously.