North Carolina, 12 year old Spotted Saddle Horse with 90 days professional training. Ridden in a bar bit  (wolf's tooth being pulled today) with Western & Aussie saddles in Arena, Round Pen, lighted areas, etc. by Moderate level rider with 27 years experience.

Question: I do not want to be too wordy.  The biggest problem I see is that she does not pay attention while under saddle.  She does have a tender mouth but I think this comes from that Wolfs tooth.  My vet is taking care of today. I will be going to a D-Ring Snaffle.

She does great on ground work, in a round pen but when under saddle / on trail, she seams to do too much looking around, like she is scared of something going to jump out on the trail after her.  She is very alert.  Not that she is jumpy or ready to bolt (this she has not done). I have taken a lot of time to make sure I'm not pushing her too much.  And I know her surroundings and owner is new. 

What can I do to calm her down and relax. 

From Panelist Stella

Even though she's 12, there are plenty of 12 year olds with no more experience, particularly with new surroundings, than a 3 or 4 year old. By nature, some horses are more self-confident and bolder than others (usually those higher up the herd social ladder), some depend very much on their riders for confidence (those lower in the herd, used to the higher ups for protection more than self-confidence), which means she needs to learn to 
know and trust you completely, which takes time. For many, 3 months isn't enough, it may take twice as long or a bit more, and also depends how often you work with her. Once she fully trusts you with added positive experiences under her belt(girth!), she will take her confidence from you even in more brand new places, such as trailering to different areas.

It may also be that she was always ridden in company, and you are riding by yourself that is making the difference now. Or, simply has a very narrow circle of experience, and ridden very infrequently other than one place. Just keep setting up, little by little, new experiences for her with some forethought to avoid any possible negative situations or ones that she may perceive as too overwhelming.

But it does sound like she's a very honest horse trying her best to please you....continue having patience, keep giving her encouragement and your confidence,reward her efforts, and I bet it all works out very well for the both of you!


From Panelist Erica

Keep her busy and focused on what you are going to ask her next. Work on transitions, turning, stops, softening, etc. Keeping her so busy that she doesn't have time to notice everything in the arena but you.

Erica Frei

From Panelist Jonathan

First of all I get a feeling you are not quit reading this horse as she may truly be . Take a step back and really look at her . Seems like you may be on a time schedual she is not aware of . From what you have written I get the impression she is paying very close attention , just not to you . 

This is a very good trail horse trait in my book , not the part about not paying attention to you ;). I don't like it when a horse I'm rideing in the mountains is caught off guard and tries to bolt from sleeping rather than watching . Give her credit for her traits and you may have a better chance at bringing her around to what your looking for . Just remeber horse relations are full of compromises sometimes . A 12 year old mare usually is set rather deep in her ways . She is not a young blank piece of paper and I don't believe it will be to your benefit to try and have anything but a mutually beneficial relationship . Got to give , in order to get sometimes with the mares .

Yes , there is plenty you can do to calm her . Start with patience and a whole lot of it . You make her sound like she is full of energy and life , don't deminish these wonderfull traits . When I get a new horse , I let them get acclimated for at least 6 months before I expect them to know who I am and where they belong . Give her time and lots of it . It 
will pay back big in the end .

As to the wolf teeth ! I know they are history by now , but I read a article in a national mag I'd like to share with you . A race track vet (if I remember correctly) was quoted as stating that there is no physical way for the bit to hit a horses wolf teeth and he felt the 
procedure was unwarrented . I believe him and all my animals have there wolf teeth . No problems yet . As to a " D ring snaffle " I have to disagree with you strongly . A broken bit is inherently more irretating than a fat clean straight bit . If her mouth is so "tender" I would do everything to keep it that way . I would go to a hackamore untill you to came to a understanding and then see if you really want to go back in her mouth .

Good luck , she sounds like fun .


From Panelist Liz


It sound like you are doing all the right things now.

Depending on this horses history it could take a while for her to really settle in and relax to a new home and rider. I think time and being relaxed and confident your self will do a lot
for helping her. In some case I have found horses can be this way because they have
never had a confident reliable handler  and rider that they felt they can put there trust in and just relax and let the rider guide them, hence always being on the watch and going in to self survival mode.

Build a relationship and get her trust , lots of praise and hopefully she will do what I call "come to you" and relax.


From Panelist Laura

There are a couple of things you can try to help calm her down.  Do a lot of dog walking on a loose rein and encourage her to lower her head while going slow.  Stop, keep her on a loose rein, let her relax (pet her) and then go forward.

When you ask for more speed or a change in gait, collect her back up and whenever she gets nervous or doesn't pay attention to you, jiggle one rein a little to get her attention or ask her to step out a little faster.  When she swings her head around to look at something, gently pull it back forward with one rein.  You may need to do this several times each ride until she learns to not gawk at everything.  Check to be sure your hands are not flopping 
around causing her to turn her head everytime you move your hands.  



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