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horse resisting going forward

Hi Franklin,

I'm contacting you about a 6 yr old arabian gelding at my barn. He's a show horse with a well accomplished arabian trainer. He's been correctly trained from long lines to under saddle work. However, when his owner rides him, he resists getting infront of her leg. His trainer as well as a couple others can get him to go, but even then he puts up a big fight (rearing, bucking, etc.). We've tried everything from reinforcing forwards with whips and teaching him to move forwards off of spurs. We can successfully move him forward on the ground (long lines, longing, etc.), but he is especially defiant undersaddle. His owner is a good, but not a very aggressive rider. He has won many times in the hunter divisions in the show arena, but it's a constant struggle! Do you have any suggestions on where to go from here?

Thanks, Nicole

Hi Nicole,

Lets see if I can offer a suggestion or two. To me, this sounds like rider error (the owner), as you say the trainer and a few others can get him to move out, but with some difficulty. The owner, who has the biggest difficulty, is reinforcing the problem and not the solution. Doing battle and making the horse do something is never really a good solution to equine reisistance. There is something going on for the horse that is being missed. Perhaps taking a step back and even re-starting the horse under saddle would make sense. It certainly couldn't hurt. Sometimes, pushing a horse too hard (Arabians tend to be very sensitive as I am sure you know) sets up some sort of battle. Please ask youselves if you are asking too much in some way of the horse for this particular stage of its training. Perhaps going back furthur to more basics for more time would help to develop more compliance and trust in the horse. Doing battle and forcing the situation certainly doe not support longevity in the horses trust of its owner or other riders. Nothing is really the horse's fault. Using whips, spurs and other aids to make a horse do something may work occasioanlly in the short run. But, as you well know, it works against compliance in the long run, because building trust as been over shadowed by trying to 'make it happen'. In ruling out any physical pain I assume you have checked the horse's mouth, neck, feet and anything else you can think of to look for pain. Also, a simple move like hind end yields when the horse acts out will generally get the horse's attention back on the rider. Rather than trying to force the horse forward, do some hind quarter leg yields to re-focus the horse. It can't hurt and generally stops unwanted behavior quickly. Once the horse settles you ask again for what you want. If behavior comes again you do not want, repeat the process and repeat it as much as needed. The horse usually figures out it is easier to do as requested than keep doing hind end yields. There is no force, no abuse, no 'show him who is boss'.

I have had good success with horse's that are resistent to anything requested appropriately, by going back to the basics of developing trust. What happens is that our agenda becomes a task we want the horse to do, instead of keeping the development of a trusting relationship as paramount. So, we lose sight of the horse's trust level and how to keep that on track.

Anyway, this is my take on those sort of situations. Consider going furthur back in the horse's training to begin yet again, to develop trust. Good Luck......

Sincerely, Franklin

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