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Arabian Mare Doesn't Listen to my Requests

Hi, I have a 16 year old Arabian Mare. I got her a year ago, and when i got her she wouldnt do very much at all. She charged at you with her teeth bared when you put her in the round pin. I put a stop to this, but now when i am trying to get her to go from a canter back down to a trot, she throws her head and grabs the bit. She then gets really headstrong and is a mess the rest of the time i ride her. She is perfect at the trot until I ask her to canter and go back to a trot. When she throws her head, I pull on the reins and tell her to quit it. When i do this, not only doe she not respond, but she gets a bad attitude about it.
Can you help me? Thank you.

Hi Rachael,

Thank you for your email. Let me see if I can be of assistance.

It is great you have a round pen. Do more ground work in the round pen with speed transitions. Once she is good with speed changes at liberty and on a lunge line, you could put her bridle on her, without the reins. Get her good at the speed transitions carrying the bridle. No riding yet. Sounds like she has been jerked around by her mouth a lot and is hyper sensitive to it. The more you 'hit' her mouth the worse it gets. So, if you really want to 'soften' her mouth again, you will need to do this 'softening' w/o a bit in her mouth. Here is what this looks like. Put a good rope 'training' halter on her with the lead tied around her like reins. Do you know what a rope training halter is? Most tack shops carry them now and they are quite popular in the Western Riding world. A regular web or leather halter will work, but not quite as well. Take the horse in the round pen and hook a lunge line to the halter near where the lead is tied like reins. You will need someone with you. One person will lunge the horse, the other will ride. Get on board, have the person in the center of the ring ready to lunge her. The person on the ground doesn't do much except support what the rider is asking of the horse. The rider asks very gently for the horse to move off. First at a walk. Once the horse is walking, lift the rope/reins, sit down on the horse a bit more and ask gently HO!. The person on the ground merely supports the request by appropriately stopping their own movement. Remember this is a coordinated effort. Then ask the horse to move off again. Stop her the same way. Then move from a walk to a trot. Then ask for another stop gently with a soft voice command and lifting the rope and sitting down a bit.

Repeat this procedure until the horse is complying with these simple requests. If the horse runs off with you, let her go, don't try to pull her up at all. You just stay on board but ask the lunger to slow the horse down and eventually stop the horse. If you stay away from the horses mouth and can get her to begin to respond to a gentle lift of the rope and a verbal command, along with your 'seat and appropriate legs cues', that would be great. Gradually you want to progress to making speed transitions of various types (walk, trot, canter) with stops, going in both directions with the other person there to support with the lunge line from the ground. Fairly soon, depending how much you can do this, you can drop the other person from the process and you will be riding the horse with a halter and lead and she will be doing the speed and stop transitions you want.

Once this is accomplished, you have a few options. It is from this point I teach folks about Bridle-less Riding. You can get to the point of riding your horse w/o a bridle at all if you want to. I highly recommend this as it develops greater sensitivity in your horse and yourself as a rider. Also, you can go back to putting a bridle on her and endeavor not grab her with the reins. She will revert to the old behavior if you go back to grabbing her or hitting her with your hands (through the bridle and bit). Riding from your 'seat', sensitivity, patience and the willingness to release your current thoughts about 'control' when riding is what is required of you. What we really need to control is not the horse, but ourselves, our minds. By turning your horse lose as I have described, you will regain her trust of you as a rider and of having a bit in her mouth. If you cling to having to control her through domination, you will lose her again. What I am suggesting is rather a partnership within the dance of riding. A partnership where she willingly does what you request. This requires time and a commitment on your part, a rather big commitment to changing your mind about your horse and what is required to have her do as you are requesting. It sounds like she has had her share of abuse. She does not trust that you will not hurt her mouth. You need to regain her trust. There is no quick fix. It is rehabilitation, pure and simple. If you are able to empathize with her, you will understand more of what she is going through. She is NOT being stubborn, willful, mean or anything like that. She is showing fear. If you were afraid of being hurt by someone, what would that person have to do to help you back to a trusting place? Some of these things might be consistency, kindness always, a ton of patience, great communication, keeping things 'light' and not getting upset. These are the things one might attribute to a great parent or leader. That is who the horse is looking for, the great parent/leader. If you can embrace this paradigm around Equines you will develop the highest level of relationship with your horse, or any horse, that you can imagine. How do you feel when someone tries to control you? That is just how your horse feels about it too. As this is an older mare, who has carried her habitual fear a long time, it will take a solid committment of time.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer suggestions. Please let me know how it goes. I am interested and available for follow ups. I hope I have been able to help.

Aloha, Franklin

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