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Big bucking, unpredictable 4 year old English Shire filly

Hi Franklin,

Well here goes my problem with this horse. First let me say this I am no green horn around horses. I have raised Arabians for about 20 years. I purchased this English Shire due to the fact that they are called gentle giants. As far as the dance is considered on the ground. She loads well, ties well, showers well, when its time for trimming thats really good also.

I probably should have started her when she was 2 years old instead of 4 due to her size. She is about 18/2 hands high, weighs about 1800 pounds. Eye's are set far apart, has a very nice personallity for a horse I thought. The reason that I didn't start training her earlier was because I had by-pass surgery X 6. Doing well now but the training got a lot harder. First let me say this. I did about three mos. of ground training with this horse I am a big believer in ground work if you want a good horse. So I taught her to lunge and move through the gates such as walk, trot, jog, canter first. which took about three weeks to four weeks. She was especially lazy at first and then came around to trotting, and cantering at the lung. Now does it like its old had stuff. I then felt she was ready for me to place a saddle on her. I sacked her out like I always do until she gets the jumps out of her head and realizes that this is not going to hurt her. This part did not take a long time. I touched her all over with this saddle pad from the first time I did it she did not show any anger or being afriad of what was going on. So I decided to go ahead and saddle her up ears facing forward was not afraid a bit. You would have thought this would have maid her nervous but she was as steady as a rock. Okay so I take her out in the arena indoors. She was okay I took two lung lines as my lines and clucked to get her to move forward.

With the lines through the stirrup irons I proceeded to long line her she worked well no ear pinning, tail swishing, everytime I did this never any problem at all. I thought I had a good trust going on here. I did this everyday for 2 mos and to include I tied two tires to the saddle one on each side. That didn't loosen her up even so I thought she was going to be a peice of cake when I go to ride her. Never seemed to show any signs of being unhappy. From cinching her, to taking a bit I am using a snaffle bit that is not a strong bit. So during this 2 month period everyday I would saddle her, pat her all over her rump to gain even more trust in me. Put weight in the stirrups. So that she would be used to weight in the stirrup. So this day I thought it was time to get up on this big girl. I stepped one leg in the stirrup the left one first and mind you she stands like a rock by a step that helped me reach her saddle stirrup but as soon as I got my foot over her and just touched the stirrup on the other side she bolted like being shot out of a cannon ripped the reins out of my hands and was bounced around like a quarter, and in about 5 seconds I was flying by the trusts, and then went to the ground face first now mind you I am 59 years old have been riding since I was 12 years old. I thougth well if that is how your going to be I will put you with a couple of guys that I have heard about threw my Vet on training her to drive. So I sent her their she was a stupid horse to try getting up on her again. She laid down in the driving harness, on those two guys. Then they got her into a breaking card and she proceded to raise cain and break up there cart threw the course of all of this she still is calm as can be. So they through her, and sat on her head. Hooked up to the Shire owner. She gave them a run for their money. Now I had heard of this young guy not to far from me. He road her for about 3 mos. Know this breed of horse I didnt know that they used them for breeding bucking horses for the rodeo. She was their for almost 6 mon. Brought her back and road one maybe two times without a problem.

Then one day I thought well she worked nice. So lets ride her everything started out normal. I turned her head toward the right and all at once she pulled the reins from my hands and had the ride of my life. Buckin big time. Wasn't on her back about 5 seconds she had me on the saddle horn broke two ribs and was black from naval all the way around to middle of my back.

What do you think is wrong? It really has me scratchin my head. What have I missed reading?

Hi Lyle,

WOW! What a story. It would seem you are lucky you were not hurt worse. You and I are about the same age and I sure wouldn't want to have gone through what you did. In all my years of training horses I have not encountered a draft breed like that who pulled that kind of 'stuff'. It may have really helped if she had been 'started' sooner. As you know, they habituate quickly. Perhaps look to where you got her from for some information on her particular breeding line. Were they or have they used this line for rodeo stock? Great bucking horses are frequestly bred from specific lines.

You know, Monty Roberts uses a 'dummy' of some sort that is the size & weight of an adult human. Somehow he affixes it to the saddle and lets the colts 'do their thing' before whatever younger person he has working with him, rides the colts. I still ride colts I start (mustangs, ex-races horses, 2-4 year old starters). So, when I first heard of how Monty was doing this with the 'dummy', I wasn't impressed. Hearing your story, I think I can see a good application of putting something on your horse that is the size, weight and shape of a human. I know Monty is available to describe the dummy he uses.

I do an extreme amount of bending in tight circles when riding 'first timers'. Expecially bigger breeds. If the horse is prone to buck, they usually can't very well unless going straight. So I may keep one rein up to bend the horse (both directions) for quite a while before going straight ahead. This gives me a chance to get a horse used to feeling leg pressure on their sides, which may prompt a buck as well. Sounds like your horse gets triggered by leg pressure on the off side or when the pressure is on both sides. Also, sounds like he is aware of his size and ability to physically 'control' the situation when it suits him. Also, although moderate in temperament most of the time, he has little respect for humans in many situations. For this I always recommend more ground work (more ground driving, lunging around and over things, sending the horse in and out of things, lots of backing and yielding front and hind end, lunging over low jumps, anything you can think of by way of games and exercises on the ground).

It really does sound like you know your 'stuff'. I really can't determine anything you have missed from they way you have described the situation in your email. I have yet to encounter a horse that did not 'come around' for me. This includes horses (stallions) that other trainers consider too dangerous to handle. I have yet to give up on a horse. Your horse does seem to offer special challenges. If you have a friend with a cattle ranch, how about putting this horse to trailing cattle for a few months. I have known this to settle a lot of horses and handle many behavioral problems with horses. As you know, horses need a job, it would seem your horse does not have one at this point. If you can find a cow outfit with a couple of good wranglers, I would give them the horse for a season or a few months and let that horse be ridden everyday, all day. Forget the harness stuff for a while and forget pleasure riding her for a while. Find a way to really put the horse to work for a hefty period of time. Even giving her to a feedlot for a while (so she is ridden daily for long hours) might be a good idea. If you get reports the horse continues with this unpredictable behaviour, she may be worth good money as a 'professional' bucking horse and have a good life with it. Consider the possibilities...BE CAREFUL! and the best of luck to you.

Sincerely, Franklin

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