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The case of the stubborn stallion.

My husband and I have a 3-year-old stallion that we purchased "not broke" last winter. We have been working with him for the last three months or so trying to get him on the right track towards being trained. He is very sweet and for the most part doesn't show us aggression or temperament, even when around our two mares. We have worked with him in the round pen for quite a while and he does wonderful on a lunge line. He responds to commands and stops accordingly. He seems to trust us in the pen.

It didn't take long after we started to train him in the beginning for him to let my husband take him out down the road and on a few trails. We were working on cantering and control out of the round pen. After several successful trail rides with him and our older mare out together, one day he just decided to start being stubborn while on the trail. We probably were a little too aggressive with him that day, but we realized it and haven't been since. He still refuses to walk or do anything outside of the round pen on command with someone on his back (action command or verbal). Pressure does not faze him and a short whip behind him only makes him rear and buck. We can take him back into the round pen and he listens wonderfully still, but once you open the gate and he's outside the pen it's as if he has decided he simply doesn't want to do anything for us anymore. My husband has tried leaving the lunge line on and circling him outside of the pen when he isn't listening and he is still not motivated to behave for us. My husband is getting very frustrated as the training was going so well until these recent events.

Do you have any suggestions on how to make him want to behave and perform for us outside of the round pen?

Thanks, David and Brianna

Hi David and Brianna,

Sorry it has taken a few days to respond to your question. I have been traveling a lot lately and just arrived in England for a three-week tour teaching and training horses. Here are a few suggestions:

You do not need to be a disciplinarian. Hitting a stallion, or most any horse, will prompt the horse to fight back and/or develop fear and a lack of trust. You need to be smarter, not stronger than your horse. Horses are naturally lazy for their own self-preservation. Putting the horse to work is the most efficient way to develop what you do want in the horse and discourage what you do not want. What looks like stubbornness is usually fear based. We rush to judge the horse as being willful and disobedient when they are merely afraid of something we have missed. We then hit the horse and try to pressure it through their fear, which makes them more fearful.

If your horse balks at going forward you have several options. First thing you can do is cue him to back up with a bit of vigor. Back him up for 25-30 yards and then ask him to move forward calmly or to stand quietly. If he keeps balking, do the procedure again and again until he goes forward calmly. The second thing to try is to have him yield his hindquarters in both directions, 5-6 rotations in both directions and, again, with some vigor. Then ask him to move forward. If he balks, do the process again and again until he moves forward calmly.

You must practice both of these moves before you get out on the trail. Get him very good (and you too) at doing both of these requests. These techniques are not abusive and will get the job done efficiently and with little fuss and hassle once you (all three of you) get good at them. If you do not have the equestrian skills to ask for a hind-end yield or a front-end yield, tell me and I will help you with that. Let me know how it all goes. Remember to practice this in your arena or some other enclosed area before you go out on the trail. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely, Franklin

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