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Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training/bad ground manners; spooks and spins

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I own a 7 yr. old Quarterhorse that I purchased at 3 1/2 yrs.old. He had terrible ground manners when I bought him, although well trained and a joy to ride under saddle. He did not respect your space AT ALL while leading..would just rear straight up if he didn't want to do something..nibbled and nipped at you constantly..and just was a plain bully on the ground.(he has never reared under saddle, and actually stopped rearing once he got into serious training under saddle) And for some reason, this behavior didn't transfer to the saddle. And he actually has a VERY loving and affectionate personality, except when LEADING him. He has been eventing successfully at the lower levels for 2 1/2 years..and is always in the ribbons. That's the good part.Now the bad. After all this time, I am STILL afraid to lead him anywhere without a stud chain and whip! I am always anticipating that he will spook or jump..right on top of me!! No respect for my space at all.Usually he will just wheel around to face me. I realize this is a respect issue and have tried to work on a lunge line with a whip (don't have a round pen). He will be good, then just stop and face me and refuse to move. He just backs up, and sometimes turns his butt to me and threatens to kick. He has my number. The only issue I have in the saddle...is when he spooks, he drops a shoulder and spins 180 degrees..lightening fast!! Not often..and I have never come off, but close. I am a strong rider..but never feel that I can totally relax on him. QUESTION: Does the spook and spinning have anything to do with his bad ground manners?? Or is that just the way he will always react to a spook?? I feel like with some help, I can get a handel on the ground work, but if his reaction to a spook is always to whirl 180 degrees..I might have to sell him..but I don't want to!! He's such a talented horse. HELP!!!

ANSWER: Hi Terri,
No....I would say your horse has not been "well trained". You are absolutly right in the fact that he has no respect for you. This horse has missed all the basic fundamentals of training. I work with horses for 30 days or until I feel they are ready and have my respect before I even get on them. From what I have read....this horse could hurt you at any time. It's just a matter of time before it happens. I would send your horse to a qualified trainer to have all the "HOLES" in it's training filled before you get hurt.
Answers to your questions:
Yes...the spooking and the spinning have everything to do with the lack of ground manners.
No....he doesn't have to be that way for the rest of his life.
I would not attempt this by yourself. Get some professional help before you get hurt.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi.. and thankyou for your advice. Greatly appreciated. This situation is totally my fault for not working on his ground manners at the beginning...After purchasing him,I just started riding in lots of dressage and jumping lessons (I'm a novice level eventer)...and totally ignored his bad ground manners. I want to mention that for the last 2 days, for the 1st time, I followed your instructions on lunging and for the 2nd day in a row...he was fabulous!! I really meant business...was very consistent..and I believe it was the first time he took me seriously as the boss! I am going to continue this every day and see how it goes. I realize these things take time. QUESTION: You mention that you should keep a 4 ft. "hoola hoop" boundary that the horse should not enter unless invited. But what about just leading? Shouldn't his head be near my shoulder? How far away from me should he be? I've been leading horses for years...but with this situation..are there some special consideration I should adhere to..to be safe??

Answer
Good job for getting right out there and working with your horse. I'm glad it's working for you. Safety is the primary concern. It doesn't do any good to have a beautiful animal like the horse and be laid up in ICU or worse because of it's terrible ground manners. Everything starts on the ground. If you can't handle your horse from the ground...you will never be able to handle it once on it's back.
The 4ft safety space (hula hoop) is for your protection. And it is moveable. Where ever you go..so does the hula hoop. I don't like a horse to lead right next to my shoulder. That would mean he would be right on top of me while I was walking. He could step on me, paw at me or jump on top of me if he should spook. This doesn't mean he won't come into my space if I ask him to. But ONLY when I ask. Any other time...stay away from me and respect my personal space. I also will not lead by the lead snap. I lead a horse with slack in the lead line and he is still 4ft away. You also want him to lead very easy and pay attention to you. If I stop..he stops. If I back...he backs. I want to act like I am leading him with toilet paper. I don't even want to feel him back there. If I feel him on the lead rope? That means I have some resistance somewhere.
Keep up the good work. Sounds like you're on the right track. But always stay safe. You have to survive the experience to enjoy your horse.  

Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training

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Bobby Passons

Expertise

I can answer questions concerning horse training, foundation work, colt starting, western riding, rider confidence and problematic horses.

Experience

20 years in horse training. Starting colts, problematic horses, rider confidence and Western riding. I have specialized in training good/safe trail horses. Shown in western pleasure, halter and trail classes. I worked in West Texas gathering wild cattle.

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AQHA, APHA, NREMT

Education/Credentials
degree in prehospital medicine.

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