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Sudden changes in behavior, won't accept bit, nervous when saddling and bridling

I have two problems dealing with horses:

Situation #1:
My friend just put a deposit down on a gelding named Sultan. Sultan is a 4 year old throughbred, ex-race horse. Cara, my friend, was the 1st to ride him and she really likes Sultan. She worked on him and trained him to a intermediate-advanced level. He has always been sweet to her, but with any other person, he would strike out at, paw at the ground, and threaten to bite. He sometimes lunges forward towards them, but with Cara, his ears prick up and hes a sweetheart, the personality changed as soon as she was seen. Naturally, liking Sultan, and him being good with her, she wants to buy him. They are a perfect match and she's been looking for a horse. Just the other day, his behavior all of a sudden changed. He lunged at her and bit her on the arm. He treated her like any other person. It seemed like he didntt even relieze who she was. What should she do?

Situation #2:
I like to ride this little mare named Panama. She is a sweetheart, but when it comes to putting on the saddle, she gets a little squirmy. She doesn't seem nervous, just a little wiggly. Her ears are up and shes still the playful little mare she always is. When it comes to putting on the bridle though, she gets really nervous. She tosses her head up and runs to the corner. She puts her head right into it and wont come out, no matter what you try to do. She doesn'tt do it to be mean, and its not attitude. Her ears don't pin, they just listen to what you are doing. You can pat her, walk behind her or do whatever you want with her, she won't kick, or lift up her foot, or anything. She's just frightened. Once the bridle is finally on, she doesn't do anything, but chews on the bit. What should I do?

Also, when I trot her, she wiggles around alot. She can't really steer straight. How can you help this?


Hello Karen,

Situation #1:
For a horse that only responds well to one human, that human needs to work with the horse and coach other people when both are with the horse. Inconsistency in equine communication skills, attitudes, confidence levels and a host of other things contribute to this. If your friend is a good teacher and well as horse person, she must be with the horse and have the other human with her working with the horse at the same time. This process must be repeated for as many other humans who are not skilled horse people who will be handling the horse. The second aspect to "Situation #1" is a bit trickier. Perhaps your friend did something different to shake the horse's trust on that day. Perhaps the horse had some pain going on your friend did not know about. Perhaps she changed the routine somehow. Something was different (maybe just the weather). This behavior would be easy to modify if your friend was more skilled with horses. It requires the ability to: First, not be intimidated; Second; have the knowledge and skill to once again become the trusted leader for the horse by being able to appropriately ask the horse for some simple actions that allow the human to be the leader. Once some simple direction for movement is given to the horse that the horse can and will comply with, the situation will be remedied. Hind quarter yields, either on the ground or in the saddle, are one of my favorite movements to ask of a horse to get myself quickly set as the leader. This is a basic horsemanship skill. If you do not know what I am speaking of I suggest you and your friend view some beginning training tapes that show this and other basic ground skill moves. Many trainers offer them through equine magazines. I have some in my shopping corral within my website that would prove extremely valuable to you. Most folks only want free advise and are unwilling to spend even a little money for very valuable information it has taken a trainer a lifetime to acquire. A good training DVD is a real shortcut to some great education.

Situation #2:
For horses that are hard to saddle and bridle I always suggest folks look for pain in the mouth and back first and foremost. If the horse's teeth need tending, it is in pain, and you can forget any success with training. If the horse's back is hurting (the saddle does not fit well or it had a saddle that caused it pain over time) that will always cause the problem you are seeing. If it can be ruled out that there is no current pain in the horse's back or mouth, it may be anticipating pain through the habitual reoccurance of pain. For this I handle a horse's mouth with my hand a lot for a while. I handle the girth area with a soft cloth. Forget your agenda of putting on the bridle and saddle for a little while and have the horse's sense of safety, trust and freedom from pain be your agenda. This is done by more patience on your part and the acquiring of more skill and education. Once you can handle the horse's mouth with your hand, you simply put your hand through the bridle and let it sit on your arm while you handle the horse's mouth with the hand with the bridle hanging above it. This gets the horse used to being having the bridle near his head. Next step is to train the horse to lower his head. I have written about this extensively and info can be found easily within the help center of my website (use the search engine feature in the help center). You can easily train a horse to lower his head into a halter or bridle using my techniques (all trainers use vairations of this same technique). Next step is to ask the horse to accept the bit. For the saddling, handle the girth area and get the horse use to having that done before you try to put the saddle on. I have particular techniques for these steps that are too lengthly to describe in a simple email (there is a huge amount of information on girthy horses and horses hard to bridle, easily accessable, within my help center in the website). By this time so much preliminary preperation has been done that it should be no big deal. When the horse accepts and takes the bit, I very quickly reward him by lowering the bit out of the mouth (always being careful not to hit the horse's teeth with the metal). I may ask him to take the bit in and allow it to come out several times before I actually put the bridle over his head. This process, when done correctly and skillfully really only takes a few minutes. However, most folks do not have the acquired knowledge and skills and really need to see it done (another reason for educational DVD's). Trail and error only makes the situation worse for all parties.

For your horse either being nervous at the trot or not tracking properly I would ask....are you riding from your seat and legs? Are you on the bit too much? How light and soft are your hands? Is the saddle fit exacly right (pain issues)? Have your done some ground play to warm the horse's back and get some good connection going before riding? Horses that are nervous, jiggy, wiggly, etc. (if there is no pain) are generally insecure about their rider and that human's ability to ride the horse skillfully and in a balanced and centered way. Its like carrying someone on your back who is unbalanced, using their legs/body inappropriately, putting you off balance, scaring you, causing pain and discomfort and more.

If I sound criticle, I appologize. Having been a trainer for 40 years, I have learned one main thing about the is never the horse's fault. Any problem with a horse stems from a lack of something with the human. Many humans only want to stay with their old paradigms about horses (take control and show them who is the boss and make them do it). They want a 'quick fix,' are not really willing to change their minds or learn, and, are short on patience. Your email style was very efficient, organized, direct and formal (void of greeting or the possibility or gratitude). I understand it was just your email and perhaps a communication style. If you are approaching your horse this way, a softening in approach and attitude might be helpful. Again, I mean no offense. But I learn a lot about a humans approach to their horse by the way they approach me with questions. Anyway, my intention here is to offer help and be of service. Please take the information given here in that spirit of someone trying to provide 'help.' Use the website search feature, please. Answers to your questions can be found there for free and in more detail. However, the best thing is to get yourself educated. Let your horse's sense of safety, trust and well being go before your agenda of riding. In the long run both you and your horse will feel better about each other, be happier together, be closer and have a mutually successful relationship.

Sincerely, Franklin

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