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Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training/3 yr old mustang filly rearing/bucking when led

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Back story; 3 years ago my now husband talked me into adopting a kiger mustang from the BLM. We did, a little 2 month old. She has done fairly well. We were lucky enough that my older, gentle DraftX became her surrogate momma and taught her decent manners. We handled her often when she was small. I have owned horses and rode competitively since I was a child. I have also raised my own baby, who I have now owned for 21 years. I attended JWU for equine studies and worked at a facility in up state NY that bred and trained both track horses and jumpers. I have broken horses myself and worked with trouble horses. I have never owned a mustang. I don't pretend to be a "trainer", only an experienced horse person. My husband is a little bit of a know-it-all, or at least he says he is until it comes time to actually handle her, then he will admit that he is not as knowledgeable. We now have a 6 month old daughter, so I was not able to devote as much hands on attention to Sage as I should have, and my husband didn't either. She is not a "bad" little mare. She has never kicked, bitten, stuck at or otherwise tried to hurt anyone. She can be caught, brushed, handled generally although I am always carfeul around her. I just don't trust her yet. Yesyerday we went out to "begin" her training. Starting with ground work. I believe that she should be just walked around, handled, brushed that sort of thing for a little bit before we just throw her in a round pen and chase her in a circle. She did very well, but as we started walking further from her pen she began to rear and buck a little on the end of the lead. She did not appear to be agitated or attack me at all and really just hopped a bit. My question is whether or not it is a good idea to treat her as I would anyother horse who tried to rear on me; maybe use a chain ( carefully wrapped around her halter of course ) and disipline her, or if I should react differently because she is a mustang. I don't want this behavior to continue and while my husband feels like I can be "over confidant", really I am simply patient. I do not over react and I am very calm and quiet when it comes to horses. When she began to rear and hop, we walked in another direction and she did it once or twice more, but still not terrible or agressive and we finished our walk on a good note. I would appreciate any advice you have working with young mustangs.

Thank You
Erica

Answer
Hi Erica,

My name is Brittney and I found your question in the question pool and I am happy to help you with your question. First off, congratulations on your decision to adopt a mustang, and an even bigger congratulations on the birth of your baby girl. :) Reading through your question, a few things stuck out to me.

1. You mentioned that your husband talked you into adopting Sage. Was this because YOU wanted the horse, or was it because HE wanted the horse?

If the horse was adopted for your husband, then she should be primarily his responsibility. After adopting the mare, you have found that he doesn't want to do any work with her, and have realized that he's all big talk until he has to work with her....and then the work is pawned off on you. If this is his horse and this is the case, then this is NOT the horse for him. He should have done, and STILL be doing, research on horse training methods, learning about feel and timing, how a horse operates (mentally, physically, emotionally) etc.

2. Her bucking and rearing the further you get from the barn tells me that, while she's been handled, she's not used to or comfortable walking away from the barn, which means she's just fearful of leaving, or she is now barn or buddy sour. Another possibility as to why could be that if your husband, or someone less experienced than you, has taken her out and she's had that reaction, they have taken her back to the barn, in which case she has learned that acting out is the right answer and has now relied on it to get out of work.

The answer to your overall question: YES!! TREAT HER LIKE ANY OTHER HORSE!!!!! She is a horse, regardless of whether she's a mustang or a stall bred Thoroughbred. If you put her in a pasture with 15 other Thoroughbred, they don't care that she's a mustang. She's just another horse to them, and they will treat her as such. As horse is a horse and it's all they know to be. I would not use a chain on her. My assumption is that she's somewhere between 8 months & 1 yr/6 months. I would stay away from stud chains right now. She's still very young and at an age where re-schooling with gentler methods would be your best bet. Go with a rope halter. It has almost the same effect if you have to snap her with it without it being metal. You can do almost any training program with a rope halter. I just don't recommend lunging in one, unless the horse is not on the end of a long line.

When she starts acting out, rather than walking in another direction, direct that energy into a different exercise. She wants to buck or rear, move her forward into a circle. She can't think about bucking or rearing if her feet are going forward. After a few laps around you. Ask her to halt, take up your slack and continue to walk. If she acts up again, do it again. Make the right answer easy and the wrong answer hard. Eventually, she's going to figure out that bucking and rearing during the walk is more work than just walking quietly. Start a routine with her. Take her out, brush her, work her in the round pen, take her back.

It sounds like, while you have experience with horses, you are walking on eggshells around this horse, which is why you may not trust her. Don't. She will feed into it and figure you out, and eventually will gain the upper hand. Just treat her like you would any other horse. She's cute and small right now, but by the time she's 3 or 4, she will weigh in between 800 & 1100 lbs (depending on how big she gets) and you don't need her acting out by that time. Nip it in the butt now.

I hope this helps you a little bit more. Please feel free to email back if you need anymore clarification on something, or have any other questions. :)

Good luck!  

Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training

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Brittney Alexander

Expertise

I can answer any question about English riding (pleasure and equitation), Western pleasure, transitioning into bitless riding, behavior, what to look for/how to buy a horse, & schooling issues. I can also answer questions about leasing contracts, as well as dealing with issues with boarders, barn managers, barn staff. Trying to find jobs with horses, or exercise riding jobs? I can answer questions about that too.

Experience

14 years total experience 4 years of initial professional training (as a rider) 7 years experience as an exercise rider 3 years experience as a trainer Currently working as a full time stable hand/groom & assistant barn manager I'm still learning everyday as working with horses is a learning experience everyday.

Education/Credentials
Veterinary Assistant Certified

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Consistently place in the top 3 in any event.

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