Some horse training questions ( Pictures added - pg. 2)

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Chickerdoodle13, May 21, 2008.

  1. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

    Mar 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Hey there guys! I'm finally deciding to get down and work with my horse as much as I can. We've been out on the trails a few times the past few weeks and he has some habits I would like to break him of. He's a good horse for the most part and very smart, but I need to be pointed in the right direction. He's a "rescue" mexican ranch horse and has come a LONG way since we've had him, but unfortunately with all the mistreatment he's had throughout his life, he has picked up some bad habits.

    The first thing I would like to know: This horse is a bit cinchy. He doesn't bite when you cinch up, but turns his head and pins his ears like he wants to. This only happens when you first go to tighten, but when it's already tightened a bit he is fine. We've never been bitten but we have to watch him. Is there any way to break him of this? When you look at him he turns away like he expects to be hit, but it is VERY rare that we hit our horses, so this must've been from his past. I would love to tighten him up without having to watch my back!

    Second thing: He's pretty good when you go to mount him (Stands still) but every once in awhile after you mount, he has a bout of shaking his head. He gets a little crazy and just throws his head all over the place and walks around like he wants to do something. In the arena, he will do this the first few laps around at the walk and it can be kind of scary sometimes because it feels like he will buck even though he never has. After he gets warmed up, he is fine for the most part. Sometimes he shakes his head at the lope, but I want to work with him at the walk first, so I won't get ahead of myself. What can I do to correct this?

    Also, any other training tips you have for me would be great! I would love to be able to lounge him for exercise when I cannot ride, and I would also like to do ground work. He has excellent ground manners, but I would love to refine this a bit. He is kind of head strong and I want him to learn that I am the boss. We also need to work on getting him used to bicycles and tractors.

    Thanks in advance for all your help!
    Last edited: May 24, 2008
  2. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

    Mar 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    I did do some research tonight regarding the cinchy-ness, and it may very well be caused by the past experiences due to the pain of being cinched up in one full pull. I'm almost positive that is how the mexican ranchers would saddle the horses and it is no doubt painful. According to the article I read, he is just expressing his fear of me doing that to him, even though I cinch up in several steps. He has gotten better over the two years we have had him, but the article suggested working with him over and over again just putting the saddle on. It said to tighten a little, then walk him, and tighten a little more. I may try this tomorrow and for a few days and see how it works. Perhaps this could be the answer!

    He also has a big patch of white on this shoulder from a past ill fitting saddle. I'm sure with all the riding he was expected to do on the ranch, he ended up with a sore back on many occasions. I have a feeling many of his problems may stem from his fear of having back pain. Our saddles fit well (Just got a new one and I pad him up with a good pad), but tomorrow I will check his back for any sore spots. We did just have the vet over a week ago and he has no medical issues, lameness, or extremely sore areas, so that is good. I think I just need time with him. I'm really liking the natural horsemanship program, so I will look into that as far as training!
  3. luvsmycritters

    luvsmycritters In the Brooder

    Jul 26, 2007
    have this teeth checked , is it you as a rider ( are you pulling on the reins to much or where you hold the reins ... maybe to high ) have your vet out but get on him while he's there and ride him around . maybe then he can spot the problem . good luck and keep riding hope everything works out for you
  4. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

    Mar 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    We do get our horses' teeth checked and floated by an equine dentist every year. When we first got Stetson two years ago, he was shaking his head even worse than now. We had his teeth floated shortly after and they told us it was the first time he had ever had it done. He was around six or seven when we bought him. The dentist removed two wolf teeth (I think), as those should have come out LOOOOONG ago! After that, he did calm down a little, but he still shakes his head every now and then. For the most part, he is wonderful! On the trail, he will lope beautifully, without shaking the head. Only now and again he will shake his head and act ansty after mounting. I try to hold the reins very loose, but I just do not know how to correct this issue.

    We did switch from a tom thumb to a very mild d ring snaffle bit (I believe it is d ring and not full cheek, but I could be wrong) Anyways, that did help ALOT. I mean, this horse has a multitude of issues, all stemming from his past in Mexico. He actually has two cuts (scars) on his tongue from the harsh bits and training methods the mexicans used. He has been through a lot and I am sure a lot of his issues are either from fear of experiencing pain or just lack of trust with us. I plan to do more bonding exercises with him, but I am definitely interested in hearing more advice! I know we have several wonderful horse people on here!
  5. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

    Apr 20, 2007
    Ontario, Canada
    I would certainly bet that most, *possibly* all, of the cinchiness is a habit/memory. Working with him, repeatedly, specifically on standing still while being saddled and not making rude gestures (HIM not making 'em, I mean [​IMG]) would certainly help.

    However, I am wondering whether he still has some lingering physical issues that are causing him legitimate discomfort, at least sometimes. Your description of wild head-shaking and feeling like he's about to buck is very suggestive of that. (Unless it's him having gotten his tongue over the bit...?)

    It could be a saddle fit issue, or it could be a lingering chiropractic- or massage-type thing. I would NOT take the vet's not finding anything to mean much at all -- IME, hardly any vets are much good at back pain. I'm not knocking vets, they just can't be equally expert at everything at once, you know? [​IMG]

    So what I would do is first, exhaustively doublecheck saddle fit yourself, as best you can -- there are some good resources online that can walk you through a reasonable process. Also, if you have access to another plausibly-fitting saddle for him, try riding him in that a few times and see if the behavior either diminishes or gets worse, because that would give you an important clue (if it goes away, it was mostly a saddle fit problem; if the behavior gets worse, it could be either the saddle or a muscle/spine type problem). I would suggest that even if all the saddle fit type checks seem ok, you do not absolutely write off the possibility in your mind. It is NEVER possible to PROVE ABSOLUTELY that a horse isn't bothered by his saddle. All we can do is to look hard for evidence, and if we don't find any then move on to Plan B with saddle-fit problems being demoted to "less likely possibility".

    Then, assuming the answer does not seem to lie in saddle fit, I would talk to a lot of people in my area to try to select a REALLY REALLY GOOD horse chiropractor or massage person. "Really really good" is probably more important, at this stage, than which kind of practitioner it is, although from what you describe my guess would be a chiropractor is the more likely one to fix any problem. Have them out to see what they can see and do. You might be surprised.

    If he has any bit issues while being ridden, you might (if you have access to appropriate bits to try) see how he goes in a french-link snaffle, preferably the kind with the fat round 'peanut' in the middle not just a flat plate, or even a metal mullen-mouth (unjointed) snaffle.

    If you are interested in doing groundwork with him, and have respect/trust/communication issues, you might see if you can get a copy of "True Horsemanship Through Feel" by the late Bill Dorrance with Leslie Desmond. If you can, spend a bunch of time doing the ground exercises; they consist largely of, like standing in one place and then getting the horse to move one foot back a step, but do not dismiss them as moronically simple or "oh, I'm past that stage with him"-- it is actually an EXCELLENT program to get you and the horse on the same wavelength. And I say that *not* as any sort of NH cultist at all, in fact I'm more of a classical dressage and formerly-h/j/eventing person [​IMG]

    Good luck and have fun,

  6. 2468Chickensrgr8

    2468Chickensrgr8 Songster

    Nov 7, 2007
    Good Morning
    Our mare liked to walk away when we went to get on her and our coach had us do an excersise with her....I would use a mounting block and step up and hold the horn of the saddle and if she didnt move I would reward her by using a soothing voice and pat her if she did move I had to move fast and get her to work backing her up or going forward and used a stern voice .We would do this 10 times or more until she caught on and then I would pull the saddle and either reward her or make her work if she didnt. Then I would have to stand a little in the stir up and do this for 10 or more times and reward or make her work until she catches on and then get onto the saddle and then quickly off and reward her and or make her work....and then get on and sit and then reward her......Its a loooong work out for you ...I had to do this each time and had to plan for a long period of time to get on her.....Now our mare she looks forward to the stroke for a reward and a happy voice from me...You know your may need some one holding her for you when you do this......hope this helps...Happy Trails
  7. nccatnip

    nccatnip Songster

    Aug 5, 2007
    Piedmont area NC
    Here are some great resources for training- go to the grey links for training challenge and training logs under the title. Great Stuff and good company!!!!
    Most are in the same position you are.
  8. bluerose

    bluerose Songster

    Oct 21, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Cinchiness: can be caused by stomach irritation. Also some horses just don't like cinches without some comfort to them- so ie a fleece/felt cinch.

    You may have a well fitting saddle- but if the pad is too thick- it WILL MAKE THE SADDLE FIT IMPROPERLY. Western saddles also have a habit of poking in places they shouldn't (shoulder, hip) or resting too heavily in others (in the back just over the spine)... and also bridging... not a good thing at all.

    Has the saddle been checked by someone who knows what they are doing?

    Headshaking, walking off at the mounting block... that can be saddle issues.

    He also sounds mildly cold-backed to me- you might be better off putting the girth on, then hand-walking him for a few minutes, then tightening halfway, then doing some groundwork, then finishing the girth and mounting. You may have luck lunging him lightly after the girth is tightened and then mounting- the point is to warm up his muscles before getting on.

    Bodywork can never hurt- either chiro, massage, or acupuncture. Also stretches are good- leg stretches and neck stretches, as well as belly/back lifts.

    Good luck.
  9. WrenAli

    WrenAli Songster

    May 4, 2008
    Lebanon, OR
    I have a OTTB mare that has past cinching issues and she will bite at us when cinching her. The best way to work through this is to cinch in steps and make it pleasant.

    If you cinch the girth up so it will keep the saddle in place and then walk around with him and just go do stuff with him. Maybe brush him some more. The after he is relaxed, has sighed, licked his lips or something, tighten it up some more. But not all the way. Repeat what you did before then once he is relaxed you can cinch him up the rest of the way. It worked wonders on our mare. Also a cookie in between cinchings can help to.

    As for the shaking head I agree with everyone else. Have your saddle check and have him looked over by a reputable chiropractor. Also try riding him in a hackamore or rope halter. Get completely out of his mouth and see if that helps. As it could also be an old mouth injury.

    Just a note: Having the wolf teeth removed is optional unless it is interfering with the bit. I have 2 horses undersaddle that have their wolf teeth and I have no problem with them.

    If you are looking into a NH program to get into I highly recommend Parelli. It is what I do with all my horses and the horses I train and it works wonders. I have been able to do things with my horses I never could have with the trainers I worked with before.

    Good luck with your horse!
  10. Chickerdoodle13

    Chickerdoodle13 The truth is out there...

    Mar 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Thanks for all the advice guys. I am definitely going to work with him on the cinchiness.

    As for the head shaking, he has done this ever since we got him, in ALL different kinds of saddles. The other thing that throws me off is that he will only do the head shaking sometimes. Only half the times does he do it after mounting, and it seems he does it mostly after kissing to him to get into the lope. In the arena, he is the worst. However, if you use only leg pressure to move him, he's usually a little better, but it does not solve the problem.

    We just bought a new saddle. It's a wintec 17 inch full quarter horse bars. I read a few websites and this seems like it's a pretty good fit. I have to be careful how I place it (so it is not too far back or forward) but I can fit two or so fingers under the pommel when I am mounted, and the tree is not digging into him. We have a pad with a little extra padding for the withers because he really has high bony withers.

    We used to ride him in a billy cook, which is what was recommended and used by his previous owners. Same problem. We've tried him in a circle Y and again, same issue. I don't think it is the saddle, but it is something I always worry about with any horse. Seems like saddle fitting is such a tough aspect. Most websites make it sound like no saddle ever fits properly. I did read one website that cleared things up a little bit and said a good saddle is one that is not cheap, fits your horse, and can be used on other horses, not necessarily something that fits your horse PERFECTLY. I always wondered why the ranchers don't have issues using one saddle for a hundred horses, yet it seems like I am having such a problem!

    The only time he did not do the head shaking thing was when we rode him before we bought him. We rode him for several days and loped, jogged, etc with him. Never a problem. As soon as we brought him home, the head shaking started. We worked a lot of his other issues out of him, but I just can't figure this one out.

    As for a chiropractor, I'm not even sure where I would begin looking for one. Unfortunately my dad does not believe in things like that, and it would be difficult getting him to spend the money (Which would be upwards of around $200 - $300 for just one visit, and that's just from my experience with horse massage therapists!) It's not that we couldn't afford it, but my dad sees it as a useless expense, especially with the price of gas and hay the way it is now!

    We do know in the past he has worn some very ill fitting saddles, so maybe that has something to do with it? When he shakes his head, he turns away like you will hit him, so I don't think this is a new behavior. Like I mentioned before, we never hit the horses, so that is not something he picked up from us.

    So I guess my question is, is this head shaking something that ONLY occurs from an ill fitting saddle? Could it just be him acting up? He is very head strong sometimes, and always wants to be in charge. Is there any way to train him to stop the head shaking if this is the case?

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