This blog title seems a bit strong considering I spend many hours each week answering questions and supplying information over the internet. The internet is a great tool but almost every question I receive involves at least two, living-breathing-thinking beings…typically a human and a horse. Some days I think giving mechanical advice would be easier; pull out the hard drive, replace the clutch…
But I have a passion for horses and the people that go with them. The difficulty is there are so many things involved in the questions that are asked; the riders experience level, the horses training level, the riders interpretation of what the horse was doing, soundness of the horse, soundness of the rider….
I try. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t. I am sharing the interaction below between myself and Caryn in hopes of illustrating this point.
“Stacy,I have a 9 year old Arabian gelding. My problem is he will not go ‘forward’ willingly and with enthusiasm. This applies mainly to the extended trot and canter. He is in very good condition and does not have any health or confirmation issues. He is a quieter temperament than most arabs I have ridden. Once he understands he accepts things very well – he is not lazy. He is sensitive – but not. I stopped riding with spurs about 3 years ago- didn’t make any difference. I think he is actually doing a mild version of sulling with me every time I use my legs or a dressage whip to move forward. I have tried making S’s and squares and getting his hind leg to come under and drive him out of the turn but that doesn’t seem to work for me. I have tried roll-backs but that is hard since I don’t have the forward to begin with. I think the simple answer to his problem is ask and if I don’t get a response ask harder but I can’t get that to work as I end up feeling like I am “beating” him (which I am) and he just accepts it. I cannot get much of a response when I use my leg or a dressage whip on him. I’ve been told he is passive-aggressive. He is a kind horse obviously and I love him so much and am frustrated that I am unable to communicate what I want to him – I am sure if I communicated it correctly he would willing go forward with enthusiam. One more thing – in the pasture with other hot arabs he is quietly dominant. When they run around he is usually not the one with the most fire – he is a little quieter in comparison to them. I hope you will help me. He is truly a beautiful animal from the inside out.”
Sorry this has taken me so long to get to, maybe you have already solved this issue!
What you are describing reminds me very much of a horse I knew when I was a teenager. For several years I worked at a resort for the shipping company, Maersk, where guests would come and visit for one week at a time. Most had little to no horse experience and I would teach them the basics in the arena and on the trail. One horse, Tate, was sweet but creative. For the first year or so he was fine. I also rode him to maintain his training but….
Tate began to figure out things about the different riders. One common statement made by the new riders was “I don’t want to hurt him” when instructed to use more leg for forward motion. It was a gradual change but after about two years Tate officially wouldn’t move for someone if he sensed that they were not committed. I could jump on and he would move forward on the slightest cue, then they would mount back up and…..nothing.
The interesting part, for those of us who worked there, was thinking back over the progression. It had been slow but by the end a guest could kick him-I mean REALLY kick him and he wouldn’t move. He had learned that he could out last them. And compared to being kicked by his pasture mates the humans best kicks were a joke. And really, who wants to KICK a horse a bunch of times when on vacation.
I am sure your horse didn’t have the same exposure but it does sound like he is applying the same kind of thinking. Unfortunately the answer is that you must outlast him, be more persistent than him. I would recommend going back to some groundwork and making the ‘kiss’ means lope cue. The verbal cue is the warning and then, if he doesn’t respond, follow through without guilt. Actually use the stick and string as firmly as you can. Don’t be surprised if he kicks out in protest at the string making it happen. Once he knows you’re serious he will respond instead of protesting. And you have been fair because you warned him.
After several days of success with the groundwork then you would move to mounted work. The difficulty will be that he is also likely to protest here.
Ride with Faith,
It was fascinating reading your reply to me – especially since it has been a year since I asked this question. I wanted to tell you what ended up happening with this horse so hopefully other horses don’t have to endure what my poor horse did. Also I would like to add that I am an experienced rider and this is not the first horse I have had that has had to “endure” pain because vets and trainers did not “listen”.
If you re-read my question to you, you will note there were so many conflicting statements that I made. I said he is not lazy, he is willing and learns quickly, and he is sensitive but he won’t go forward. What I didn’t say was that I am an experienced rider. Maybe that would have changed your answer and of course you were never able to see the horse AND I had told you he had no health issues. I should have said no apparent health issues.
Anyway – after extensive testing – ultrasounds, scoping, x-rays, belly taps, blood and liver counts – it was found that a small part of his intestine was inflamed. Kind of like Irritable Bowl Syndrome. As soon as we changed him to an all pelleted diet he improved daily. He immediately started moving forward and his movement was so gorgeous I had people hanging on the rail to watch him perform.
I am now struggling with feeding him as I know what makes him feel good but it is so hard on him not to be able to eat and graze like a horse is meant to. I am experimenting with different feeders and consumed with feeding him and keeping him healthy but the bottom line is he is and always was a willing beautiful animal but his poor tummy hurt and I nor anyone else suspected it. I feel so badly that I didn’t recognize it.
I had another phenomenal performance horse with PSSM. Although he was with vets and trainers for 3 years no-one figured it out. Again, this horse had a huge heart and simply endured.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me. I was so desperate when I wrote – and I so appreciate your answer. I hope I don’t sound ungrateful for your response which made perfect sense. I know you have a lot of influence and work with a lot of horses and I just had to respond to your response.
Thank you again,
I appreciated Caryn’s response to my response because it helps me to illustrate the complexity of internet Q &A’s. One of my standard questions is, “Have you had him checked by a vet? Is he sound? Have his teeth been done?”
I should do vet and dental referrals here….because it is true. Look for the physical issues.
But on the internet I have to trust the statement, “He is in very good condition and does not have any health or confirmation issues. He is a quieter temperament than most arabs I have ridden.” So I gave the most obvious advice. The advice that fits the largest percentage of horses….wrong in this case…but the most fitting due to the question.
As Caryn’s horse illustrates, you may have looked at the physical but don’t stop looking there. If you have issues keep asking question not only of trainers but of vets. Vets are no different than doctors. Some graduated at the top of their class…50% didn’t. Some specialize in lameness, others in breeding, others in nutrition. Some make mistakes.
To some it may sound cheesy but often it comes down to trusting your gut. Back in Episode 19 and Episode 22 & 23 when Jac had issues I wasn’t afraid to have him looked at and give him time off. If you don’t have enough experience to have a ‘gut feeling’ then keep going to the experts and for your sake and your horses don’t give up until you are satisfied.