Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Mare balking and spinning

Hi Franklin:

I am at my wits end with my mare. She is very quiet and sweet on the ground, but once I get into the saddle the tables turn. She charges for the gate at great speed and will not HO at all. On top of that once I dismount and walk thru the gate and remount she will walk along OK for a while then decide she has had enough of this and refuse to go forward and dips and spins shakes her head and has a temper tantrum. Every ride has turned into a battle. She will be walking across the field then all of a sudden she dips and spins and becomes just about uncontrollable tossing her head and running in all different directions, not necessarily toward home. I feel this is becoming unsafe for both of us and am dreading even riding her. I try to ride her at least 3 times a week. She is only used for pleasure-haha- that is an understatement. Not pleasure if more like it. I would greatly appreciate any help or advice you can give me. I am not a beginner rider, but not novice either. I have a 3 year old gelding I can ride with no problem. What is up with the mare? She has had her teeth checked and floated and vet checked also with no physical problems. Just mental at this time.

"Battles Susan"

Hi Susan,

First may I inquire as to your name "BattlesSusan"? Sounds like this situation is living up to your name. I have discovered for myself that how we language things, including what we name them, reflects our beliefs and our lives in general. If we say we are going to 'work' a horse, it is just that, 'work'. If we say we are going to dance or play with a horse, it becomes that as well. Our language reflects our beliefs and attitudes. From your name I might get the impression that 'battles' are the norm for you, that battling is very important to you somehow and considered a constant part of what is happening. Anyway, thank you for allowing me to share my feelings about names and how we language what we do reflects how we think about them.

From your email I detect that most of what you do with your mare is about riding. Not uncommon.....I would like to suggest that your highest and best relationship with any horse is formed first and foremost on the ground. If a human develops this high level partnership with a horse on the ground, that will have a major positive impact on the relationship between that human and that horse when the horse is ridden. If it is mostly all about riding and what ground activity there is revolves around merely warming up the horse, there is no real conscious connection established and the horse is supposed to be compliant all the time and do as it is told. This is as unrealistic as a parent child relationship reaching a high level if the parent were to treat the child in a similar manner (do as you are told, period). A great relationship between any individuals takes time, great communication, release of control (this is the biggest one for humans with horses), high level leadership (shared guidance), kindness, compassion, earned respect and trust, and a host of additional wonderful things.

If you really want to have a horse that is more compliant and trusting, please consider releasing control and move into more intimacy of relationship. This mean better communication and mutual give and take. Horses that 'refuse' things, balk, etc. are displaying fear and nothing else. Fear is caused by a huge number of things for horses. Something is not right and the horse is telling you that the only way it can. I could be something physical (pain or discomfort with something causing fear of more pain), environmental (something in the vacinity that is scary and has not been addressed and therefore fear abounds) and/or mental fatigue from being dominated always and not heard. Imagine how it would be for you if nobody ever acknowledged your concerns or fears. You might get fatigued and frustrated causing fear within you as well. It is great you seem to have ruled out physical pain though vet checks.

You might attempt to spend more time on the ground with the mare and develop a higher realtionship through that. If a horse is acting out with me and I want their attention back on me, I generally put them to a task they can do that is simple, yet active. Something like yielding the hind quarters or front end, generally works pretty well for me. For you it might look like this; the instant you sense your horse is going to balk, put her immediately to the action of moving around an inside leg. Do this for several rotations in both directions. Then offer a moment or two of rest as a reward and then ask again for what you want. The instant the mare balks again , do the process again and as many times as neccessary. You are making the wrong thing hard and the right thing (what you want) much easier. This distracts the horse from its fear. You are showing leadership and guidance rather than trying to diciplin the horse and make it do what you want. You actually are giving the horse a choice. Better it be his choice to do as you request than being made to feel it is being 'bullied' into compliance. Do you get my point? Horses learn best by being given a choice. Don't we all?

Thanks a lot for your question and I hope I have offered some good suggestions for you as well as a few things to consider. May I refer to you as Sweet Sue, rather than Battles Sue?

Happy Holidays Sweet Susan, Sincerely, Franklin

Look for: