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Problems with getting on my stallion

Hello Franklin,

Thank you for helping out horse owners by answering our questions, you are a godsend =]

Back in April 2009 I adopted a 4 year old Mustang stallion. I have adopted four in the past and gentle, broke and rode them for years. All went pretty good and I never have encountered the problem I am having now.

I gentled him and did extensive ground work before ever moving on to the saddle, and taught him most everything he would need to know in the saddle before ever even getting on him. So far I have kept him a stallion because he has a wonderful personality, and is very respectful.

He did great under saddle and was progressing nicely, side passing, two track, walk trot canter both ways except for the right lead. (I had much trouble getting him to pick up the right lead. Not correct but right. He would always pick up the left.) and I saddled him up for his 20th ride. I was in a hurry (clearly my fault in hindsight) and forgot to put one of the pads I normally ride with over his withers (my saddle is slightly too wide, but I haven't had any problems since I put the additional pad. We never had any behavioral issues I just noticed the saddle was sitting to low over his withers.)

I am a heavier rider 5'9" and 250 lbs, and when I was getting on him, I was sore and not paying very close attention to how I was mounting. Instead of stepping up onto him, I pulled my self up using the pommel and cantle, (Big no no I know) and I believe the saddle pinched him since I did not use the second pad. He shot forward while I was halfway up  and started bucking, throwing me to the side and then kicking my knee accidentally. Being I had injured my knee pretty bad and had to go in for x-rays I was not able to do anything with him, and unfortunately had to put him up.

Now. I started saddling him and working him again, after allowing his back time to heal and not be sore. But now he completely blows up when ever he sees me over his wither through his off eye. I can stand in the stirrup as long as I don't lean where he can see me on his off eye. He is much better when mounting from the off side, he is still scared but tolerates me. I have been standing on a mounting block and leaning over him allowing him to adjust to seeing me with out pain through his other eye. He is tolerating it, but is terrified, very jumpy and not relaxing at all. I have also been sacking him out and getting him re-used to seeing things changing eyes over his back.

What can I do? I am scared of messing him up further, and I am very disappointed how fast everything went sour. I had been trailering him to different arenas riding him around mares, ponying horses off him and was an absolute dream to ride and work around. He is still fine on the ground and to saddle, fine around mares and in the trailer. I just cannot get on, and do not want to risk injuring myself or him.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Christi

Hi and Happy Thanksgiving Christi,

You have discovered how it can only take one bad experience to mess up months and months of solid training. Horses have great memories and learn quickly, especially about something scary or painful. Anyway, what I strongly suggest is that go back to the very basics and go as slowly as possible, with lots of reward for any effort at compliance. The best reward is a total release of any input of pressure or energy to the horse. An example would be: if the horse tolerates you leaning over it, put it away. The animal has tried to accomodate your request. Do this a few times and then ask for a bit more. Most training is done way too fast w/o a one-step-at-a-time procedure or enough complete removal of pressure as reward. You just might have to slow everything way, way down even more for this aspect of his training. It will take longer, but this is how habitual behavior is modified. Horses get into habits of behavior quickly and it can take quite a while to change these habits. Keep me posted. Sounds like you already have a lot of knowledge and experience. You can do this. Just take it slower, with more reward of total release of pressure (putting him away is the biggest reward). Just letting him stand quietly for 30 seconds or a minute is a great reward. Thanks for your kind words. Keep me posted please.

Sincerely, Franklin

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