Tennessee, 9 year old  Tennessee Walker. Just bought this mare, have tried many kinds of headgear and english or western saddle, ridden in pasture.

Question:  Just bought this mare. I was told she was ridden on many trails. We
did ride her some before we bought her. Since we brought her home she will not
move. You can spur her, whip her and she just stands there and takes it. You
can lead her with someone on her and she will go in a biting rig. She is the
only horse so am wondering if she will only go with another horse. Have tried
walking bit, tom thumb, curb, double twisted wire, long shanks, short shanks.
she doesn't shake her head, rear or buck. She just won't move.

From Panelist Nancy

My guess to her not moving when you are on her is that she has probably had absolutely no training and doesn't know what to do - and also you are riding with too severe a bit for her and she is afraid to move.  If she has had no training the bits with leverage can be too much for her. 

She went when you rode her at the previous owner's place, but she was with another horse (I believe) and probably just knows to follow the other horse.  That's all some trail horses know.  Certainly never ride her with a walking horse bit, even later on.  They usually have WAY too much leverage.  You could stop an elephant with one!  Until she is working well, ride her only in a plain ring snaffle - or right now you might ride her only with the halter.  And don't whip her.  Give her the cue to walk with a squeeze with your legs 
and a LIGHT tap of the whip either on her shoulder or on her side behind your leg and then, if necessary, have someone lead her forward for a few steps.  Then pat her.  Continue with this until she understands that a squeeze with your legs means to move forward.  I'm sure she is confused and frightened and you don't want to make matters worse by whipping her and hurting her with a severe bit.  They weren't born with saddles and bridles on and knowing what we want, so we must EXPLAIN to them what we are asking of them. 

Think of yourself as a small child in a foreign school where you don't understand a word that is said to you and the teacher asking you to do something, but you don't know what, and so the teacher uses the whip to teach you.  What you would learn would be fear.  It would be an awful situation for you.  So you must be patient and think of ways to explain to your horse.

Nancy Cade

From Panelist Jonathan

This question reminds me that specific questions pertaining to the experience of the owner would answer most of the problems  with horses . The only time I have seen a situation as this, was when the  horse was more experienced than the rider . All the "spurs ,whips and wire bits"  will only convince this experienced horse of a lack of experience on your part and could result in a long term problem or the complete breakdown of any future communication between you and this fine animal . Until the rider is schooled this kind of horse will never comply , especially to this kind of treatment ! No horse of worth , would!

This reminds me of a true story I will share with you . My neighbor purchased two mules and when faced with her know it all TV cowboy boyfriend , this exact problem was created . So she called me . The answer was ground work and confidence building quality/bonding time for the TV cowboy and mule . Of course he only submitted to such a trivial approach (in his words) after I saddled the molly , took her for a ride , returned , 
placed him on her and watched him flounder there trying to get a step . Some horses know who they want to submit to and who they don't want to .  The mule knew that this guy was not a fit person to trust let alone go out into a strange new world with . As my Comanche trail partner says " there is a little mule in most horses and a little horse in most mules " i.e.: when a mule takes off running with you in a manner you thought impossible , and as 
with this case a horse refusing to go .

Normally I would leave you here with a strong finger pointing in the direction of the nearest trainer . But after taking a long walk and re-writing the above in a more diplomatic style , here is my suggestion .

After 2 or 3 months of letting this horse get acclimated to it's new home/owners and to shake off the trauma of this first encounter , begin with the approach stated above . Easy going , relationship building ground work . Horses are not a piece of machinery that we can pull out of the shed and have them submit by slapping them around . If we do , they will continue to protest in unique little ways that sometime border on extreme danger or they weren't worth what we paid for them.

Now after you are good buddies from all the quality time shared , begin from the saddle position with a game of patience . Cue the animal with separate reining , leg and shifting of your weight , asking for it to move off to the right . Hold the animals flexed head gently to the right until a step is GIVEN to you . Now ! That sounds simple , right! Well it can be , or it can turn into a real test of self-control ! Once you have won this pleasant experience , stop , praise , and begin again until the same positive results are accomplished .  After as many successful right hand turns of good communication as possible , without any negative vibes , QUIT ! Quitting on a positive note is 90 % of overcoming this particular problem . On the following morning ask the same on the other side in the same patient manner . Once you have satisfied this fine animal that you are acceptable as a rider to trust and listen to going in circles , you may ASK a forward request in the same manner at the end of the circular movement . 

Kinda like a continuation of the circle in a straight line instead . If no results , return to the successful circle requests . Try mixing it up a bit . Once a right and left hand circle is GIVEN go for a combo of right and then left . Make it fun for you and you will be making it fun for your horse . If you don't , and loose your patience , you loose the war . I guarantee it . 

Above all else , I must recommend a trainer . I solved the mule problem in two hours , after the TV cowboy  spent two and a half weeks . Sometimes , some situations validate the existence of trainers for hire .


From Panelist Lee

Usually when a horse won't move there is a physical reason.  What sort of saddles are you using? Do they fit her?  Does she have any problems with pain in her mouth, back, legs, hooves?   How are you asking her to move? Some horses have been trained to move out only with pressure in their mouths and will be confused if asked without rein contact on the bit. Others have been trained to move only *without* pressure in their mouths and will not
move if there is any rein contact on the bit.

There are two ways to deal with the "turning to a statue" problem. First make sure the saddle fits and that she does not have some physical problem that makes her reluctant to move.   Then:

1. On the longe line (either in a round pen, or in the corner of an arena)-- teach her to walk on the verbal command walk (I mean a slow ordinary walk). Do this first with no rider, just as if you were teaching a young horse to longe for training.  If you have never started a horse on the longe before, check out the step by step suggestions posted as answers to other questions on longe line work on this forum.  Be sure to repeat walk, and 'walk out' to ask her to speed up a little, reinforcing the verbal command with a snap of
the longe whip, *not* hitting her, but rather the ground or cracking it in the air behind her. Think of the whip as an extension of your hand and arm, snapping your fingers by popping behind her to motivate her to move.   When she responds well to the verbal command "walk" -- put a rider on her and longe her, at the walk, with the rider. The rider must sit still, not kicking or interfering with her in any way, as she walks on the longe. Practice this for a while until she is willing to move forward with some energy, on the verbal command *walk* with the weight of a rider. (May take several lessons.)

Now, mount up, first tacking her up with a mild bit under the halter you have been longeing her with.   Have a "handler" walk along  beside her, holding the longe line loose, but not working her on it and ask her to move out from the saddle, using  the verbal cue to "walk" when you ask her to go forward.  Sit still, straight, and balanced in the saddle as she walks.  If she stops, repeat the word "walk" until she moves out again.  Re-educating
her with a verbal cue may be all you need to do to "unstick" her. 

2.  Another method, since she does not seem to be a control problem, would be to try a mild (egg butt, D ring, no shanks) snaffle or Kimberwicke in her mouth, and again ask her to move.  This time, squeeze and release, both calves, sitting straight in the saddle, *not* leaning forward or kicking her, having only the weight of the reins in your hands.  If she "freezes up" use one rein, out and to the side, to ask her to turn in a wide circle, at
the same time pressing with the opposite leg (calf) to encourage her to go into the turn.  At least she will be moving, if only in a small circle! (this is a technique that works with young foals that are first learning to be led --if they won't go straight, untrack them to the side to get them moving).  If she seems to ignore your legs, or to freeze when you squeeze her with them, you might try using a long dressage type whip to tap her on the haunches (not on the shoulder) without reaching back with your hands as you do.  If you are sure of your seat and know you won't accidentally poke her with them, you could also try some mild, "dummy" spurs to see if they will motivate her to move --

Warning:  horses that "stick" sometimes come "unstuck" in a hurry, and  take off with a great deal of energy. Be prepared for that response! 

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelsit Erica

First, the bits you are using are quite severe. If I were trying to get a horse to move forward, I would first move to the least severe bit I can find (a simply snaffle with perhaps a rubber mouthpiece). Then, take ONE rein and take it to the side as though you are turning her - when she picks her foot up drop the rein and reward her vigorously. Then pick up the other rein and take it out the same way, release the rein and reward the second she picks up her foot. 

Eventually work your way up to her moving her foot to the side, then one full step, then two, three, four, etc. Moving back and forth. Do not do this with a curb bit. Curb bits are leverage bits and work off of the pain principal - i.e. enough pain is applied to get the job done. Although, in the right hands curbs can be very refined tools, but not hardly in the
beginner rider. Snaffle bits are directional bits and work off of direct pressure on the opposite side of the mouth, i.e. you pick up the left rein and the right side of the bit will push against the corner of the horse's lips. 

Once you get her moving consistently this way, slowly introduce your legs. In this I don't mean tapping at all yet, just resting your legs on and applying gentle pressure when you ask her to move with your reins. Eventually weaning her off the reins altogether as a go forward cue and using your legs solely. What has happened with her is that so much was used at one time consistently enough that she totally tuned it out. The less you use the more responsive your horse will be. 

Good luck with your horse. 

Erica Frei

From Panelist Liz


In this case I would give this horse plenty of time to settle in and get used to it's new surroundings. I would then start all over with ground work and make it fun and reward her often so she hooks up to you.

Not knowing this horse history it's hard to know if this is a training situation or the horse is just kind of in shut down mode to it's new home. Take your time , put the whips and spurs away as your not gaining any trust that way. Bigger bits and changing bits is not the answer either. Time, patience and soft kind handling are. Break things down in to steps . when you do get on have a ground person walk beside the horse like she is being led and then have them start taking a step at a time farther way from the horse. If the horse stops have the ground person step back close and try it again. Reward the horse with a rub on the neck and a positive"good girl" voice so she knows you are happy with any progress made.


From Panelist Stella
I'm assuming you had the horse vetted out in a prepurchase exam, and that there have been no radical changes of diet from her previous home to make her physically incomfortable from her system not quite adjusting yet. Ruling out those possibilities(is she acting depressed in the pasture, off feed, not mobile there either?), all horses will "try" their new owners to figure out "their place"...some very subtley, some more overtly, and stubbornness and "planting" is one of them - at least safer than others! And, it is perfectly possible that she is really only "greenbroke" at age 9 - maybe just more or less following other horses occasionally on trails, and has not much more than a 2 or 3 year old's experience.

Since you rode her before you bought her, try to select the type bit/headgear most similar(preferably the same!) as she was used to. Sometimes horses are just plain overwhelmed at all the changes of a new home, and the more similar you can make some things, the easily and willingly they'll adjust. Also, make sure your saddle is fitting her well, 
and not causing discomfort when she does move - that would be a good reason not to want to!

Sometimes, just "sitting them out" - simply having more patience than they do, works. Its best not to use the pasture they're turned out in; that's their territory, home, where they're boss; since she's not being dangerous, take her out of this area, maybe within sight, and facing towards it(so the motivation is to go home!) Just ask her to go forward, maybe 3-4 times, increasing the leg pressure...often, using the reins to turn the head, will cause a step to the side to retain balance; if you can get her to do that, praise her profusely. If not, you can find out who has more self-discipline, you or her, by "sitting her out,"periodically asking her to move towards home...eventually she will get bored and move on your command- praise the first step....but it may take a long long time to get that first one. If 
you've been giving up and getting off, she's been winning and the sit will be longer. Hopefully you've ended your sessions by having someone walking lead you to "end on a good note"... you dont get off until you've made her move for you in some way. If you havent, then maybe do have someone lead her, treat her like a young filly just starting(since just in case, she may be like one); praise her for moving; see if she'll do the same with the 
person walking by her, but without the leadline, and that she is responding to your cues(halt/start walking- practice this repeatedly in the session)more and more so than the groundhandler. Then have the groundhandler start "dropping back," slowing down. If this is done gradually- first, mid-neck,then by their shoulder; then level with rider, etc. its usually easier to keep the horse moving if this is more of a "security blanket," although you dont want to start until you are sure she's stopping - and starting! - from the rider's cues(make sure these are gentle, horses don't want to be ridden by rough-handed/legged people). It may take you several days, even a week, step by step, ending always on a good note(with her moving with a rider on)...the main thing is to be consistent, and PERSISTENT - and if she has been "trying you," you simply have to beat her at her own 
game, in the same quiet,(but firm) controlled way. When she realizes she's met her match, she will respect you and do as you ask, provided your cues are communicated clearly. Yes, she may try planting a few more times, but each time will be much shorter realizing you will consistently wait her out, and really do have more perseverence than she does.
Yes, you bought the horse for enjoyment and recreation, and a situation like this is a difficult, frustrating challenge - but what you learn about yourself -  testing and developing self-discipline, self-control, perseverence, strategizing - is a very valuable and ultimately inspirational lesson, very handy in many other aspects of life....that's something to think about at the moment you're tempted to give in to her and get off...to keep you from doing so! ( Once you do get her moving, you will find you'll be rewarded by feeling much more accomplished than just getting a horse to move...)



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