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Scared horse dumped me in arena

Hello Franklin,

About 4 months ago I was given a six-year-old abused quarter horse mare who did not trust anyone or anything. I could not lead her without her needing to see what was behind her. She was hard to catch, and she trembled violently and practically stood tippy-toe when touched. She behaved as if she had been beaten about the face and everywhere else. It seems something strange was done to her back legs, but finally I can brush down the length of each one. She will also now stand for a bath. Things that calmed her were cookies to keep her mind on me and each good thing that she did in the round pen as she always seemed to be waiting for something bad to happen. Now when I stop her in the round pen and walk up to her to stroke her she will follow me to the center of the ring though she is still often ready to flee and doesn't always face me full on.

The good things have come about with the help of a trainer in my neighborhood who had the patience and sense to take time with both the mare and myself.

Now the mare is needing to be ridden. I have been on her three times. Each time she gets more and more wound up and feels to me like she is waiting for an explosion. It feels as if she thinks she is supposed to tear madly around the ring at a full gallop. Plus, she doesn't neck rein, but she understands leg signals. The last time I rode her she seemed to get more and more nervous each time I used my leg to signal her to turn. Finally, as we stood still, I reached down to swat a fly away and she did explode in fear. I have not ridden in years and ended up on the ground after a few seconds of trying to stay on her.

What can I do to help this horse in the arena? She needs lots of riding time.

Thanks much, I just found this site!

Hi Dianna,

Well, hate to say this, but you may need to find a very good younger rider, who is unafraid of falling. Any fear you have will be transferred to the horse, making it afraid. Your fear causes tension in your body which the animal picks up on. Generally, for the situation you are describing, I suggest being able to ride it out. In other words, forget restraining the horse at all. Allow it to tear around the arena for a while, as it will not want to do that forever. Infact, generally 3-4 times around a 60 foot arena/round pen is mostly all it will take for the horse to want to slow down. The rider simply stays as calm as possible and rides it out. For horses that bolt and run off, or for folks wanting to put a stop on a horse that runs off, or to learn to ride bridle-less, this is an accepted procedure. It will be a wild ride for a few minutes.

Next option is to only allow turns on the forehand, in both directions. This allows the rider to put a leg on the horse. The horse cannot bolt or buck when doing tight turns on the forehand. Rider tips (bumps) the nose up and in to one side, moves the inside leg back, and scoots the horse's butt in the opposite direction. Tight turns on the forehand. This also helps when on the trail and the horse gets afraid and attention goes off of the rider. This puts attention back on the rider as leader of action and director of motion. Good Luck.

Sincerely, Franklin
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