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Can a 15 yr. old plantation quail hunting horse be retrained?

My husband recently bought a TWH that was supposedly used as a plantation horse for quail hunting. He has two speeds walk and full speed ahead! In the round pen he knows all the verbal commands and seems to be relaxed. Once you get on him and start going faster than a walk you can't stop him with the bit or verbal commands. My husband has noticed that he seems to start getting anxious after a period of just walking and will make a blowing noise just before he starts to act up. I'm told these horses are trained to follow dogs and are ridden like this but can't see how anyone could stay on! We have tried several different bits and none seem to work. Our farrier suggested that maybe his mouth was tough and a side pull bridle might be better.

Any suggestions on what to do or how we can find out more about horses trained this way (so we can understand what we are dealing with) would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you, Stephanie

Hi Stephanie,

Well, I do not think a harsher bit is the answer. Remember its not about controling the horse, but rather trying find cooperation and partnership in the 'dance' of riding or on the ground activity with horses. The round pen is the way to retain this horse. Remember old habits are hard to break. Right??!! This horse is habituated to going a certain way. Changing this habit will take some time and patience.

In the round pen, after some fun time with you on the ground with him and you have a good connection going, begin to ride him. Let him walk nice and calmly with light contact on the rein. As soon as he begins to go faster than you want, use the inside rein to bend him in small circles around your inside leg, circle 2-3 times. Then have him do 2-3 rotations the other direction. He'll slow to walk I promise. Then, without stopping, ask him to walk off slowly again. As soon as he speeds up bend him again in small circles, bother directions, 2-3 rotations. Keep this exercise up until he just walks and does not go faster than you want. As soon as he does that put him away as a reward.

This will work but it may take a while. You must not go to riding on the trails again until he has gotten the lesson about going too fast. If he does not get it on the first day, before you put him away, stop this exercise and ask for something he can do easily, like walking moderate circles or just you lead him around on the ground and ask for simple moves he can do like, stopping, backing, etc. Once he does a couple of simple things then give praise and put him away. This way you always end on a positive note, even if you did not get all you wanted. This keeps the horse happy to work with you. It may take a few sessions. Remember old patterns are hard to change.

Once he gets this lesson good in the round pen, if he does this on the trail he will be good at a few bends around your leg and will walk. Good luck and let me know how it goes. I also do phone coaching if that interests you at all. Please let me know....

Sincerely, Franklin

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