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Horse lays down while you are riding him

Hi Franklin,

I am considering buying a 10 year old quarter horse gelding from a local gentleman. He brought the horse "Bam Bam" out to my property this last Saturday and he told me the reason he was selling the horse was because he had laid down with his young son riding him about 8 months ago and it scared the boy and he wouldn't ride him any more after that. The gentleman said he had ridden the horse himself right after that and that the horse never attempted laying down again but he hadn't been ridden again in the last 8 months or so.

Being warned, I was on guard and the first evening we had him at the farm I saddled him and we rode along with my daughter's 14 year old TWH gelding and everything went fine. 2 days later (tonight Monday Aug 8th) we went riding again in the same pasture and after about 15 minutes the horse came to a halt and went right down. Now Bam Bam is about 15-1/2 to 16 hands and pretty heavy and I am 6' 3" so as he went down I quickly stepped off and he laid down on his side and wallowed a second and then stood back up. I spoke calmly to him and rubbed him and got back on and we rode for another 10 minutes or so and he came to a halt and down again he went. I'm not sure I did the correct thing but as he was laying down on his side I choked up on his reins and pressed them down on the ground and as he tried to upright himself he couldn't because I had him held pretty tightly to the ground with the short reins. He didn't seem to like that very much and after 2 or 3 seconds of holding him there I let him get back up. I rubbed him and spoke to him calmly and remounted him and we rode about another 5 minutes and I would have ridden him more but it was nearly dark so we went back to the barn where I unsaddled him and gave him his grooming and feed.

My daughter's TWH was there with my daughter and a niece watching the whole thing but her TWH didn't spook at all.

I really like this quarter horse and want to keep him. I'm willing to take the time and effort to work with him. He appears to be a real sweetheart of a horse. Can you give me any ideas on how to remedy this laying down habit of his?

He doesn't appear to have any medical conditions and I am not cinching his saddle too tight at all. He's easy to take the bit and no problem to saddle at all. He loves to be the "leader" when we are riding with my daughter's TWH and usually wants to stay at least 1 length ahead of him no matter what the pace is. So far I haven't taken him out riding all by himself if that is a concern or issue.

Thanks for any and all help you can lend, Jim

Hi Jim,

Horses attempting to lay down while being ridden is not all that uncommon. It is an easy habit to break though by simply not allowing it. The remedy is fairly simple. Don't let him. It is easy to stop a horse from laying down. As soon as the horse slows and signals he is going to lay down (dropping its head and maybe beginning to buckle at the front knees), merely pull straight up sharply on one side of the reins. Actually it is more like bumping the horse with the bit on one side by a sharp tug on the rein. Apply some leg (a solid heal in the side) when you do it and, low and behold, the horse will stop his attempt to lay down. Doing this several times generally cures the problem. It is such a simple solution, I am surprised folks just don't do it when the horse signals he is going to try to lay down. Its not a big deal really.

The reasons horses do this are: hot and itchy on a warm day, swetty, the rider is not actively riding the horse (the rider has little to no connection with the horse he is riding and is not 'leading the dance' of riding), the rider is too passive on the horse, the rider is too inexperienced to recognize what is happening and just lets the horse lay down and/or the rider doesn't care what the horse does and just lets him do as he likes. Frequently a child will be riding the horse when this happens. The horse gets away with it and it becomes somewhat habitual. I have seen this many times in stable horses (trail ride horses) and generally the wrangler just 'gets after the horse' (runs up to it and pops a rein at it) and the horse stops the attempt or simply gets up. It is scary for a child when it happens, but generally the rider is simply able to step off the horse. It frequently happens rather slowly so there is time to correct the horse. Occasionally the horse goes down rather quickly. Either way, bumping the horse up with one rein and a few kicks does the trick. Even popping the horse on the butt with the rein will stop the behavior. The thing is to stop the horse before it gets down on the ground. It is not a serious problem and can be easily remedied. Simply do not allow the horse to do it.

Sincerely, Franklin

Hi Franklin,

You are a prince among gentlemen!

I appreciate your advice and I will heed it. Since the previous owner's son was the main rider and he was probably 12 at the time I think Bam Bam is just acting as he pleases because the young boy wouldn't/couldn't do anything to correct him.

I took him out again alone tonight without the TWH in tow and kept him busy and he never even hardly slowed down.

As a matter of fact, I had a heck of a time keeping him under a trot. Since we are new to each other I was afraid to just let him have his head and break into a solid run. As strong as he is I don't know if I could stay on him if he really let it go. :)

Anyway......a good walk/trot around the fields tonight and convincing him that when I said move right with the reins I really meant right.....he's headstrong and is going to take some time to convince him that I'm in for the long haul and am not going to give up on this big boy.

I really appreciate your time and I see that you have a place in Maui. My inlaws went there last year for vacation and we went to Kauai for 10 days in June this year. My first time in the islands and I did see some beautiful horses along the roadside around the island.

Thanks once again,


Hi Jim.

Thanks for your kind words. Additionally, a simple way to keep a horse in check without pulliing on the reins constantly is to use the 'bump' with one rein on one side as I told you to do when he looks to lie down. If the horse speeds up when you don't want, bump him with one rein (short, sharp tug straight up with one rein). Do it repeatedly until he slows and then stop doing it. The horse will understand you are trying to slow him down. Practice doing circles a lot and you will develop the ability to really control his speed. It is easier to school the horse and yourself at a circle than straight ahead riding. After you can slow lope him and trot when you want in a circle, it will be vastly easier to ride him in a straight line. You will also become a better rider by working in circles for a while. Good Luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

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