“My horse has two personalities – please help!”
“I’ve had my horse for over a year now and things are getting worse not better. Sometimes when I ride her she’s as good as gold but other times she bucks and rears and bolts back to the donkeys in the field next door! My parents want to sell her but I’m not ready to give up on her. Help!”
This doesn’t sound much fun for either of you! Often problems like this come up because neither the horse or the rider know which one of them is supposed to be in charge. (Note to all riders out there – it’s meant to be you!) You seem determined to sort out these problems and enjoy your horse so here are a few ideas.
My first thought is that you should find a local instructor who will come to you for a few lessons. This will allow them to watch what happens – and give you some good ideas of things you can do to stop what is clearly becoming a bad habit. Every rider benefits from having someone on the ground to notice problems and little things they may be doing wrong. This will help you to feel more confident and it will help your horse to understand that she must do as you ask.
Once you have an extra pair of experienced eyes with you you can also look into possible causes of these issues. It may be that she is uncomfortable with her bit or teeth, her back may be sore or your saddle may need checking. Having said that, she may just have found out how to try it on with you – you’ve both had time to get to know each other’s weaknesses by now.
Another common cause of difficult behaviour is over feeding. Check out her feed quantities and the type of feed you’re giving her. Cut out anything that is high energy – such as oats, high energy mixes, sugar beet etc. and stick to a standard non-heating mix. More fibre is always better for horses that get a bit hyper – soaked hay is less heating than haylage too.
You don’t say what bit you’re using – or the type of nose band she has. A flash nose band is ideal because it will stop her opening her mouth and ignoring your rein aids. A thin jointed snaffle or a dutch gag (bubble bit) are ideal to use with a flash and they’ll give you more control than a standard eggbutt snaffle. A snaffle with ‘cheeks’ will help you to turn her if she tries to turn back to her donkey friends (but make sure you use plenty of leg to back it up). For more advice on bits and nosebands check out this post
Unfortunately, lunging her to tire her out before you ride is also helping her to get fitter! It’s a tricky one. Lunging her should be a calm and controlled session rather than cantering her for twenty minutes. If she’s just running rings round you then it will actually have the opposite effect because she will just get more and more excited.
When you do ride make sure you keep her busy. Ride lots of turns, circles and transitions so she never gets a chance to think of other options. The more she has to focus on you and what you’re asking her to do the less likely she’ll be to run back to the gate. There’s a really useful 99p schooling guide in my shop that will give you a lot of ideas to use to keep her busy check it out here
I hope some of these ideas are useful. Feel free to come back with any questions you have. Best of luck!