Kentucky almost 7 year old  Racking horse ridden on dirt road where they took up the tracks by novice rider.

Question: I've only had the horse for a week. she's a Palomino Mare.  From one day to the next you don't know if she will do what you want or not.  Yesterday she was fine
and did what I asked.  Today I tried to ride her and she didn't want to go where I wanted her to. I hit her on the back with my reins and she bucked and started going the other way so I turned her the way I wanted her to go and she started shaking her head and rearing.  Everyone I've talked to says shes a good horse and just needs to be rode, but I don't want to get killed in the process.  When you try to put a saddle on her she kicks her right hind leg up constantly and she does not want to take a bit. 

Where I live they have took up the train tracks behind my house so it is a great place to ride her but she stubs up and doesn't want to go up the hill.  I have no idea what to do and am starting to get really scared of her.  I don't want to sell her but leaving that as my last alternative! If anyone can please help me it would be greatly appreciated! 
She's a great racking mare when you can get her to mind! 


From Panelist Carol

Hi Lisa,

A lot of new horse owners have problems with their horses.  It could be that your horse is not trained very well or it could be that you are not communicating what you want her to do in a way that she can understand it.  I reccommend that you look up the Parelli natural horsemanship site on the web and take advantage of the help that they offer to new horse owners like you. 

I don't usually solicit personal business on this forum but if you would like for me to  evaluate your mare, I am located near Nashville, Tennessee and may not be too far.  The Parelli website is

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelist Liz


I might check that the saddle is fitting her. This is one possibility and is she in the same type bit that she is familiar with? If you find that this is not the problem. I would recommend getting some help such as  riding lessons. 

Someone that can help you to hook up with this horse, learn what her signals are and teach you to work together and avoid fights and handle challenges she may be doing to test you.  The very best horse can at times challenge a new rider or you may just be giving signals that are unfamiliar to her and she is getting confused and showing you the only way she can.


From Panelist Stella

One week is not a very long "period of adjustment." Remember that horses are more so creatures of habit than humans, and not machines; she is having to get used to new surroundings, new people, new food, possibly different daily routines on eating/working, new tack, different "feel" of how the rider is communicating, and when.

Put yourself in her position, if everything in your life suddenly totally changed - it would take you some time to adjust-physically and mentally - to again be "your best self." It may very well be that your saddle doesnt fit her properly, as far as her kicking at it; she may have been fine a day, then had some back muscle soreness from the saddle by the next day where it was put on the sore spots again; perhaps the saddle pinches more going 
uphill. Is the headgear you're using the same as what she was used to previously? If so, is it adjusted the same way? And even if it is, your hands may be different from the previous rider, as well as exactly how you're cuing. If you're not sure it fits or is adjusted properly, find someone knowledgeable to look at it for you to correct it.

While its true that horses often will "test" their new riders to see who's the boss, that usually happens AFTER the horse has adjusted and gotten used to new surroundings. Initially, its more a matter of simply not yet "having their bearings," understanding differences in cues, unsure of the surroundings, not yet trusting the owner/rider or clearly understanding whats expected.

It best to give the horse the benefit of the doubt the first few weeks. If she did not respond, the first question to ask is - did I give the cue correctly - and thats true for experienced riders, not just novices. If she refused going towards an area NEW TO HER....first check to see what there may be making her fearful of approaching. We tend to get familiar with our surroundings and eventually not really "see," and a good rider needs to hone their consciousness and empathy, develop a sense of seeing from the horse's 
viewpoint in choosing how best to communicate what we want, for the horse to both understand and be motivated to respond willingly and with trust.A better approach that would've gained her trust in you, when she first refused to go into the new area would have been to reassure her, let her stand calmly just facing it, letting her relax,give her a pat, and ask again, maybe several times to encourage her, rather than immediately hitting her. Remember that in a new home, the horse will respond to its natural survival instincts first,until the bond of trust and communication between it and the new owner can be established. Only then will it trust to put decisions for its own well-being in your hands.

Even though she's almost 7, being you mentioned you were told "she just needs to be rode" usually means she's still green and not very experienced, and likely not to dealing with lots of new places either. If a new horse refuses, then on continued quiet yet firm encouragement from the saddle, gets frantic, I'll assume there's something new to them in that area that is making them fearful, and being they dont know me yet well enough to trust me,get off and handlead them all around it, putting myself between them and whatever out there may be "the boogieman;" encouraging each timid step, yet establishing myself as their "fearless protector/leader." Then you can either mount right there, or repeat the entire scenario from the saddle. There may be several places you may need to do this, but its a good opportunity to establish your leadership position and gain trust by still "getting the job done" in a safe, non-frustrating, non-combative manner. On a really timid horse, it usually only takes 2-3 times til a new place may make them respond cautiously,need only a bit of gentle coaxing, but no longer overtly refuse....and then you're working as a team. And thats the most rewarding part of horse ownership,not the ride but the interrelationship, mutual responsiveness and trust.

You mentioned that you had "no idea what to do, and were starting to get scared of her"...well, your horse may be feeling exactly the same way! Try to have a fresh outlook by trying to see from her perspective, too;dont take things for granted, increase your awareness - visual,auditory,tactile,kinetic, the other non-verbal communication forms 
that are a born part of our own intelligence to take in information....and express ourselves (we just dont often pay attention to developing them enough!)and just check these things out, think things thru(from all sides!), and then apply common sense. While its always exciting to own a new horse, and want to reach all expectations envisioned asap, it may be too overwhelming  for the horse all at one time...take it step by'll get there. And what you gain in learning and developing yourself -not just as a rider, but a truly well-rounded person -in that process of getting tuned with your horse -is really a most valuable reward in itself.


From Panelist Nancy

Lisa, you are really apt to get hurt by this mare.  Rather than continuing trying to get along with her, I would suggest that you let the people who say she is "really a good horse and just needs to be rode" have her and they can ride her and you get a nice horse that is well trained and gentle.  If you do change horses, be sure and test ride the prospective horse very thoroughly.  Sorry for this answer to your problem, but I don't believe that a novice 
rider needs a horse like that.  That's probably why she was sold to begin with.

Nancy Cade

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