Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training/Abused horse


I work with this horse who was badly abused in the past and she has learnt to trust me after months of trying. At first we were only lunging her but she had gotten better so we started to back her and she was alright to start with until she spooked with me riding her and the saddle slipped then she started bucking and I came off and hit the school fence which spooked her. She still lets me sit on her but as soon as I ask her to do anything she spooks and takes off. I was given some advice to help me with her but she is now scared to go in both the indoor and outdoor school.

She is only 6 and quite a few people think she will only be a companion horse. I have 6 weeks to help her if not she has to go back to the rescue charity and it will break my heart. Is it worth continuing working with her if it is just going to be stuck in a field for the rest of her life. Is it really worth it?

Hi Jessie,

I apologize for the delay in response.

From what I am reading, it sounds like you started making some progress with her and life got in the way just a smidge and it's set you back a few steps. First off I want to say that every horse is worth it. It all depends on the amount of time and hard work you are willing to put into the horse. At the same time, if you are on a deadline, it can present some problems. There is a quote in Seabiscuit that I find very fitting for this situation and the quote is this: "You don't throw a whole life away just because it's banged up a little." This poor horse came from a rough situation, made some progress, had a scare, and is back to square one. I think you have a couple of options at this point.

#1: Hire a trainer WITH A GOOD REP who specializes in abused horses that can help her past her insecurities. If she can do everything else, can be sat on, but panics when you ask her to do something, it may take more than your experience to redirect that energy and stop the explosion when it happens.

#2: If she panics only when you ask her to do something, she may have paired her scare to you being there. So you might want to consider (if this hasn't already been suggested) having someone lunging her with you up there. She might have to work through that fear in a controlled manner. Same thing for the indoor arena.

#3: Keep working with her and solidify what she does know, and can do, without an over reaction. At the very least, if what she has learned from you is more than what she first arrived to you with, she's already better. If she has to go back, at least she's learned something and is en route to moving in a positive direction. If you're a rescue/rehab center that helps to rehome horses, or where ever you got her from rehomes horses, let them know that she's made some progress but the ideal candidate will be someone who can work with her and get her through her insecurities.

Understand though that sometimes abuse is so severe that a horse may never rebound completely the way you would like them to. As much as you would like for her not to just be a pasture pet, that may what she is capable of now and it's something you will have to come to terms with if she proves that she may never be a reliable riding horse. And that's okay too. Some horses can only be a pasture horse, but they will make great companions for older horses, minis, ponies, and other farm animals.

If she is a personal horse that you've acquired, and even if she's not, I would not give up on her and would encourage that you keep working with her for those 6 weeks. Is it worth it? Any positive experience is positive progress in some way to this horse. Her training should be a process, even if it's a slow process, not an event. Remember that she has had some harsh experiences and is coping with them the only way she knows how to. It's up to you to figure out how to change her mind.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to email back. :)

Good luck!


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Brittney Alexander


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.


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.

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