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Horse is 'sour' under saddle.


I own an 18-year-old quarter horse mare and I've had her for only a year. Her previous owners rode her for sometime then stopped and left her in a field for years. When I first got her she would always come to me and she walked and trotted beautifully under saddle. I rode her over the winter but not that much in the spring because there was nowhere to ride. Now I've got her going again but once she sees me bring the English saddle out she runs to the far end of the field and makes me walk all the way out there to get her. Then when I ride her she drags her feet everywhere! When we walk she'll stumble on invisible things. The trot is a whole different thing!!! When I ask her firmly but kindly she throws her head and half trots half walks and she trips even more. THEN when I ask for canter it feels like she cross canters and she leans in really low. And she'll just stop without any cue and it takes a while to get her to go again. But the weird thing is when she walks and trots in her field its beautiful just like before. I hope you have some advice that would help!!! She is starting to be a not so fun horse to ride.

Thank you very much, Ashlee

P.S. After her old owners put her in the field she never had her hooves done for a while and they turned out. My farrier is fixing it though but could her out turned feet be sore?

Hi Ashlee,

The horse's feet are definitely part of the problem. If your feet hurt you wouldn't want to move too much either. I would have your veterinarian check the horse's teeth for problems as well. Also, having the horse's back checked for problems with pain would be appropriate as well as making certain your tack fits properly (saddle not pinching the horse at all). Rule out anything physical or organic first. Beyond that, it sounds like your horse has gotten Ĺ’sour€š from hanging in the pasture and not doing anything for too long.

Before you ride please, please do some ground exercises with your horse. If you do not have a round pen to play in, do please move the horse (lots of stops, backing, directional changes, etc.) on a lunge line for a good 20-30 minutes. Ground games are not just to exercise the horse and certainly not to tire the horse out. Your relationship with your horse begins on the ground and not in the saddle. Even feeding and grooming, while those things go a little distance to helping establish a relationship with the horse, it is appropriate action and activity on the ground that really bring your connection to full blossom. If you are not doing any ground play with your horse don't expect your relationship with the horse to move forward beyond the horse coming in for food. It is your responsibility to be your horse's leader similar to the way a parent "leads" the child (lovingly, yet firmly with as much confidence and skill as you can muster). If the horse were a dance partner, you both would probably do some stretching and some moving together before you went into a dance show. It is the same for your horse and its relationship with you. You MUST have appropriate action and activity on the ground to get connected to the horse. Without that connection, you really don't have much going with mare. She will not trust you as she needs to, nor listen to you and will continue to fend for herself, which she is doing. If you have questions about what to do with the horse on the ground, let me know. I have some DVD's in the offering that will help. I can also coach you on line or via the telephone, if your folks will allow that. Please let me know

Good luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin


I did find out that her teeth need to be done and that her back is fine and the saddle fits perfectly. I played with her on the lunge line for a couple of weeks and there is a BIG difference in her! After just the first few times on the lunge line she began to pick up her feet! She still trips alittle but not nearly as much as before. And good news came from my farrier! He is going to clip off all the extra toe he had to keep on for her turn out problem and he said after a couple more shoe changes and feet trimming she'll have straight feet!! And also the best part is once she hears the chain on the gate unlatch she pricks her ears and whinnies at me and comes straight to me no matter what I'm carrying!! But I won't start to ride her until you think is a good time and I will continue to play with her on the ground.

Thank - you very very much!!


Hi Ashlee,

Thank you for bringing in a vet to look over the horse. I am delighted to hear there is nothing serious going on with your horse. It takes a week or so for a horse to really get used to new trims on their feet. So, if she lunges well and she is showing no signs of lameness or pain, climb onboard and just ride in an enclosed area for a brief ride and see how it goes. Make certain you do some ground play for 20-30 minutes before you ride.

Let me know how it all goes. You are doing terrific.......

Sincerely, Franklin

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