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Mare strange new behavior

Hello Franklin,

I've been fascinated by all the letters and advice I've read over the past 2 days and have learned a great deal and hoping to find an answer to my recent situation.

I have an 18 year old Hanovarian/thoroughbred mare that I bought 5 years ago. Short history - apparently was a 3 day eventer for a long while and then was passed around a couple of times to end up with me. She is beautiful, alpha and would rather be in the rodeo than an elegant dressage horse. Thanks to regumate and an outstanding trainer who started her all over again to get her body moving "correctly" I've only been "grounded" once a year since our initial inception to the rodeo circuit. If only her nose would light up or something on those days we could continue our riding together. I am just happy I did make great progress on her and was able to show her respectfully. I know many days she was just doing it to please me however at 51 being tossed in the air by a 16 1 dragon is the equivilent of being pushed off a moving 12 foot ladder. I swore after each of the last 2 dumpings it was the last and I would retire her (breeding is out of the question unless its a mini quarter horse- & I'd probably just end up with a short dragon). The problem is we're going around nicely and from nowhere she starts this and not just a popped buck, but full force. When she runs around first I'm ok because I can turn her and push her butt over and she stops. We will be going around fine and she'll just leap in place off the ground a foot and starts the bronco routine- yes she is 18!! Ok our dancing together is over but-

I try to lunge her just so she has exercise- she is out all day free roam- and the last two days she just plants her front feet out in front and stretches her back feet out wide in back and locks them- like she wants to urinate but doesn't and won't move. She doesn't have any problem with that - which was my first idea. I know she is trying to tell me something- she won't lunge, she isn't lame. She had acupuncture and massages after our last dumping as I thought something was hurting her. Have you ever seen this before?? This has happened 2 days in row and I'm baffled. She's a sweetie otherwise and I don't want to do anything to hurt her. Any ideas??


Hi Vicky,

Quite a story you have told me. I am glad you weren't hurt. Sounds like you have done the right things to essentually eliminate a possible issue of pain anywhere with the horse. That is always the best place to look first. So, now it is a behavorial issue. As she is 18, competed and then started to get passed around, I'd put money this behavior has surfaced before and was not addressed at the time. So, the horse is habituated to popping off big time occasionally when she 'hits her wall,' so to speak. Short version is to provide a consequence to behavior you do not want. Not punishment but rather work or a task. Unfortunately, she may not be telegraphing a signal to you that you can receive before the bucks. Does she? Does she hunch a bit or get an attitude change you can detect before she bucks? If so, put her to doing hind-quarter yielding immediately, both directions for several rotations. Then give her a short break to let her think about it. This sort of makes what you do not want hard for the horse to do. She is habitualted to this and is older. You know how difficult it is to modify habits we all have. Much easier to change the mind and habits of a child than an adult. This is sort of the same situation. We adults need a good reason to change a habit (like a health issue). Your mare may be the same. She needs a good reason to stop her behavior and hind end yields (no fun for the horse) are a good reason. However, you need to be able to spot the behavior before it really happens. This is the only way I know of to modify habituated behavior in an older horse, or any horse for that matter. Please be careful and keep me posted.......

Sincerely, Franklin

My girl (horse) is back. I've been riding normally for a week. But wanted to inform you the better part of all this is that the month I did not ride her contemplating whether to retire her or not I did an enormous amount of "ground play" with her so she would still get exercise. I believe it really helped our relationship and riding. I did alot of walking exercises and saw many things I don't notice when riding and so worked on stretching and bending. She really enjoyed our change in routine- for the past 5 years I have been doing pretty much the same workout routine with her other than going to shows and an occasional trail ride. I even playedwith her with a soccer ball- although she thought is was the bogey man at the beginning. Now she looks forward to our walking warm up and gives me her legs to stretch before we go anywhere.. Its good for both of us- I get to relax a bit before I start after work- and I think she can sense it when I do mount up. She also seems a bit more tolerant of my quirks in the saddle. The trust factor has increased enormously. I also practice pushing her butt over at the walk so hopefully it will become a conditioned response should the mood hit her again I won't have to think what to do. Shes in great shape and nobody really wanted me to give up on her. Thank you so much for the advice. It has been fun for me too to slow down and enjoy my horse in another way from strictly mounted work and still increase my knowledge at the same time.

Sincerely, Vicky

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