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Is my mare being moody or what?

Hi Franklin,

I recently acquired a 9 year old pinto NSH mare about 4 months ago. When I purchased her, I knew she had "low miles" and about 90 days training. She had not been ridden in quite some time and was a nice pasture pet.

She and I are quite bonded and she will follow me everywhere. She has excellent ground manners--I can work her both offline and on with no issues. She has great movement and response. She is incredibly smart as well and a couple of times a week I vary our training sessions to include little "obstacles" for her to work through (such as cones and bars on the ground).

I have been riding her for about 3 months now. She's in a basic English snaffle and it appears what training she has had has been in the English disciplines--she knows nothing about neck reining or responses from Western-style riding. Which is fine with me because I have been riding English my whole life and don't know much about Western either. She's been doing great going through motions of gait changes and I have been working with her on picking up the right lead--she's more comfortable with the left--and head placement/collection.

My issue is (now that I've given you some lengthy background) I was gone for a week and she was not worked while I was gone. I went through our normal ground work warm up and then riding the day after I got back and she was great. The next day (and since – and this has been a week now) she's completely melted down. At first she wouldn't even go forward when I asked her (from the saddle). I got off and did more ground work and she was fine. I got back on and she wouldn't respond. I reluctantly put on my English spurs to add some pressure to her (never kicked or anything) and she started to move forward again.

Now in the last few rides, if I ask her to do anything more than a walk, she moves all over the place (off the rail) and her new game is to try to push me into the wall.

If I get off and work her from the ground she's great and if I just ask her to walk she's great. Anything more than that and she's all of a sudden terrible. I haven't changed anything in our warm up or training, just that I was gone for a week. I've checked her physically and she's not acting like there is a pinched nerve and her feet are good. The saddle fits her well too and it hasn't changed from when I rode her with it before I left.

I can't figure it out and hope that maybe you have some insight?

Thank you, Tara

Hi Tara,

Is the mare having an estrus cycle? Could be she is just in a moody state. When you say “the last few rides” is that over a few days or a week or longer? Depending on the individual horse, their mood swings during their estrus cycle can be more or less dramatic depending on the horse. In such cases some riders push the horse quite hard to say the needs to comply. If that tack is taken there can be a war. Some riders wait until the cycle is really over and begin work again. The estrus cycle moodiness is the reason many people will not own a mare. However, on the other side of that, a great mare may give you more effort, more heart and more loyalty than a great gelding. I have been fortunate to have had great geldings and mares.

Seems you have covered most all of the bases I would suggest (any pain being the most important). Consider cutting the horse some additional ‘slack’ and keeping things really, really easy for another week or two and then slowly see about bringing her back up to speed. Please let me know how it all goes.

Sincerely, Franklin

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