West Virginia, 5 year old Tennessee Walker with Professional Training. Ridden in D Ring Bit (training) in Western saddle and in pasture by Very experianced rider.

Question: Upon buying my horse, I rode in an inside arena.  He was very green, just started under saddle, but willing.  He was very poor, skinny.  I brought him home, gentled him, and put some weight on with the help of my Vet.  The first attempt to ride, he threw me and took off.  I took him to a trainer and he also experianced the same inside a round pen.  He said he was not responding to the bit, and had no brakes.  I should get rid of him. 
I do not agree.  What can I do now?

From Panelist Erica

I would be very careful with this horse and riding. Starting him from scratch may help with a particular method - there is so many ways to go about forming a relationship with him. You could try clicker, natural horsemanship, etc etc. He may have also been so traumatized under saddle prior to you getting him that he will never be able to trust someone on his back again. 

Good luck with him. :-)
Erica Frei

From Panelist Lee

A horse that reacts this violently to being ridden when healthy (we won't consider his reaction as a starveling) often has a physical reason as well as  a "training issue".  Does your saddle fit him?  Is his back sore for some other reason?  I would check those things out first, and perhaps have a good equine chiropractor examine him as well.  You may also be feeding him a high energy diet, without allowing him sufficient turn out and exercise to
use up that energy.  Cutting back a little on the calories and increase the turn out time can help.

What ground work has been done with this horse?  He may not have had much. That is a good place to start over in teaching him to accept a rider.  Lots of work on a longe or in a round pen, concentrating on slow walk, halt, reverse and slow walk will help. So will sacking out, ground driving, and other basic training.

A trainer, and I use the term loosely, who informs you that the horse has no brakes and is not responding to the bit is not, IMO, doing his job.  You sent him to a trainer so that the horse could learn those things.  If this guy can't teach him, then find someone else who can.

Basically, even though you rode him once upon a time when he was thin and lethargic, in a closed environment, he is not really even "green broke". Start over, as if he had never seen a saddle, with a trainer that knows how to deal with spoiled horses.

This will take some time.  Much longer than it would have taken to start him under saddle correctly the first time.

Good luck with this horse.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Liz


Once in a blue moon I get one of these. With out actually seeing the horse it's very hard to know what really is going on. But this is what I recommend  with out having this advantage. So much depends on how past things have been done with this horse.

I would  start this horse like it has never been trained. All the good ground work ,building trust and a bond with this horse. Getting voice commands and your choice of signals down clearly. I would then go to line driving this horse. Everything in a contained round pen in a
peaceful surrounding environment. I think this should all be done by the right person that understands and can read the physical signals given by a horse so they are sure of when to move forward and build on the lessons. IMO this is not a job for the inexperienced or a
conquering mentality. All this takes time and fixing a bad history with a horse can take a very long time so if it comes quicker then think of it as a bonus but do not push faster than this horse can handle.

If your willing to stick it out find that right person to do this. Then  when the horse is going like it should have them teach you what and how it was done and you  must build and bond with the horse as well.

If you can not do this then yes it may be time to find a different horse.


From Panelist Stella

Very often poor horses arent "themselves" mentally as well as physically, and have little energy to show anything other than submissive behavior. But even if this had not been the case(but much more important since it is!), its always best with a very green horse that has had a long lapse such as this since being ridden, to simply start completely from scratch with the training process. 

Remember that horses are creatures of habit, and he was likely not in training long enough to create this habit or expectation. If he was not feeling well, he likely retained very little memory of his previous few experiences - at least, positive aspects of it. This may even 
have been the reaction he would have had then, but not the energy to carry it out. Sometimes reactions such as this suggest a "hole" in the initial training to begin with, if you did, in fact, take your time preparing him in advance of your first ride after the long hiatus, and not just get on relatively "cold."

It sounds like the trainer may have expected too much of him, too soon, as well. The response seems to be one of fear and confusion - to escape, rather than disrespect.Try to find another trainer that is thorough and very patient, to rebuild this horse's initial foundation step-by-tiny step. Remember that it takes longer at first having to "erase" too,than working with a totally clean slate. However, once this main hurdle is overcome, 
things should proceed more and more quickly. It would be especially helpful if this was someone close enough to go visit regularly and observe/work along with the trainer, so that you could provide a continuum once the horse was home.


From Panelist Carol


Sounds as if you are quite determined to keep this horse.  What I think that you need to do is to completely re-start him.  You may need the help of a professional trainer to do this.  A round pen would be very helpful.  The good news is that you don't need a walking horse trainer, just a horse trainer who is good in basics.  If you feel that you can successfully re-start him yourself, unless you have already started sereral (more than a dozen) green horses yourself, the minimum that you need is a good study program.  There are several of these on the market usually with videos.  It is very important that you put your own safety first in this matter.  

Carol Camp Tosh

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