have been reading and referencing your books for years.
have recently been given a 20 year old Morgan mare (the previous owner liked how
I was able to ride her with no problem as she had her for 7 years and did nothing
with her). She is a great horse but has a few issues that I dont know how
to appropriately fix. I have been working on her ground manners and they have
The big issue is her mouth.
The lady who gave her to me said that her grandkids rode her and only in a hackamore.
I rode her in one and she had no respect for it so I tried a bit. I can ride her
and semi-work with her. I use my seat and legs to get most of the response like
you recommend but she does not hear ANY communication in the mouth and hasnt
quite figured out about leg pressure yet. She will not bend or give to the bit.
We are working on this currently and have gotten a bit better.
had the vet out and she has had her teeth floated and the vet also commented that
she had scarring that looked like past bit abuse. How can I get this mare to better
respond to the bit other than upgrading the severity of it? Also, not knowing
her past, it seems that all she wants to do is go, go ,go and not slow down until
she is dead tired, how do I fix that without riding her into the ground first?
I really like this horse and would love to be able for my husband and daughter
to ride without her issue, but with their lack of experience and riding skills
I cant until she becomes more responsive. If you need further clarification
on anything please dont hesitate to ask.
Thanks for your help, Karen S
Please tell me what kind of bit you tried.
Did you try bending her to the left and right when you are standing still, mounted?
What did she do?
Also what kind of hackamore you tried
and what she did - pushed through, wouldn't bend........
me what you are feeding her.
Anything else that would
be helpful? Then I'll give you some suggestions.
for getting back to me!!
I have tried the
following bits, a plain D-ring snaffle, a full cheek with a slight twist to the
mouth piece, a full cheek Dr. Bristol and the hack was from her original owner
and it is one with a 1 ½ leather band over the nose with a
curb chain. With the hack, she didnt regard it at all and I havent
tried it since. I have been contemplating trying a kimberwicke with a low port,
a short shank tom thumb and a side pull. I can ride her with the plain snaffle,
but getting her to whoa or slow down which is also what I am trying to accomplish
takes a lot of seat, back bracing and VERY firm hands, which the kids cant
do yet because they arent as heavy as an adult and I dont really like.
I have done the bending exercises both on the ground and in the saddle. I also
feel that I have to be in her mouth constantly. She is more stiff to right than
the left and very reluctant to even try. When she does respond is just a bit with
her nose. When we practice after the first few times she seems to get better,
I also think she has no idea what I am asking her to do. I have also worked with
her and lowering her head with poll pressure which she does readily.
I am feeding her 2 flakes of orchard grass hay twice per day as well as a 50%-50%
mix of 12% sweet feed and complete pellets twice a day at 3 quarts each. Also
1 cup rice bran twice a day and 1 quart (dry measure) beet pulp in the evening.
Her weight is good and due to age slightly sway backed.
is also up to date on her vet care, farrier work, vaccinations and worming. I
had her teeth floated about 2 months ago and the vet thinks she may have been
bit abused due to scarring in her mouth. I have also been working on her ground
manners and is now less pushy, but still gets antsy when I bring the saddle and
pad out, we are still working on that. She is easy to bridle and have had no issues
there. I have also corrected her walking off while mounting. I think a lot of
her problem is that her prior owner let her do what she wanted and was not corrected.
She was a very beginning rider and I think she was too much horse. Let me know
if you need any more specifics.
I'm going to respond to things in the order
of importance according to my experience. Keep in mind, I can't see your horse
- her weight or condition or how she reacts when handled or ridden.
of all, unless you are riding her very hard every day and/or she is a very hard
keeper, it sounds like she is getting a lot of grain - too much in my opinion.
Grain is energy and part of her pushiness and wanting to "go, go, go"
is probably related to her feed. I'd gradually change her ration to almost all
the grass hay she wants (preferably in 3 meals) plus a beet pulp mash twice a
day that has added to it any supplements she requires - due to her age, I'd probably
give her an antioxidant vitamin blend.
I applaud your
focus on her ground training and manners. That is where all of the saddle work
will start to get better. You've made some good progress but here's what I would
a rope halter that fits her well, that is, stays up on her poll and is positioned
as I recommend in my books and DVD (at the end of this email, I'll insert links
to the appropriate articles, books and DVD so you can view the Table of Contents).
Use this halter to establish better in hand manners, such as trot to walk, walk
to halt and trot to halt, also whoa on the long line. Between these lessons, you
will want to work on lateral bending her in hand. The key to vertical bending
(for stopping) is lateral bending, to the side. I like to take a horse into my
arena, stop the horse along the rail, then stand near the girth area and apply
pressure to the lead rope so the horse curls her head around to me. This is something
the horse will learn by degrees and you will earn bending and suppleness in degrees.
Another good exercise is longeing her on a 15 foot lead rope at the walk where
you are standing 15 feet from the arena rail. That way, at one time in every circle
she will have to pass by the rail. The exercise is for you to have her change
direction from left to right and right to left at various points in the circle.
This will teach her to bend.
Once she has a lot of
respect for this halter, you can choose to ride her with it (preferably in a small
enclosed area such as a round pen first) or you could move to a bitless bridle.
This is different than a mechanical hackamore. Only after all of this has been
accomplished, would I begin again with a bit and I'd start out with a D ring or
full cheek snaffle at that time.
far as antsy when the pad and saddle are brought out, I'd work a lot on "sacking
out" - plan to take a lot of time with this because horses usually get worse
before they get better but you don't want to quit until they are relaxed about
it. If you fashion your sacking out program to follow these guidelines, adapting
to the particular article and portion of her body where she is antsy about it,
you will have success.
Proceed like this:
one item and one area of her body to work on. If she flinches or moves away when
you put the pad on her back, then put the pad on and take it off repeatedly until
she no longer flinches or moves away. This may take many repetitions and your
arm might get tired. You'll know she is relaxed about it when she lowers her head
and exhales or licks her lips.
Do this for every
item and every part of her body she requires.
have raised many issues and although you have accomplished a great deal, there
is much work yet to be done. Try to break things down into small, doable goals
so you will see progress. You'll find that if you are thorough and successful
with one small issue, it will carry over into the next problem area, so eventually
it will require less and less effort to control the horse - she will have a change
in attitude overall.
Best of luck,
to Think Like a Horse
Horsekeeping Tips DVD
There are also a lot of
good ground training exercises illustrated in Trailering
When you get to riding, refer to