Utah 3 year old quater/tenn walker with 40 days Pro Training ridden in snaffle in mountains by intermediate rider

Question: The Trainer got Starfire well started, I worked on his training daily until last fall then had to be out of town for quite a while now I'm trying to get him back to where he
was last fall, so we both can advance in our riding abilities. He now attempts to bolt and fly if your not watching him it can be an experience. I need to gain more control with him and prevent his nipping attempts, he was gelded last spring. Your suggestions please     thanks

From Panelist Liz

 Since you are happy with the initial training done on your horse and it sounds like it was good. I would see if you could take the horse back just for a spring tune up and see if you can get at least a couple of lessons a week with the trainer and your horse to help you
get back on track and be ready for the normal young horse situations that you are having now and also be shown what to do with these things that may come up in the future. 

With a young horse sometimes the next spring when we get them back up you need to go back though all the initial basics to refresh what they learned last year.  Nipping is a bad thing and needs to be addressed firmly. Set the rules that his head is not to be in your space and when he goes to nip give him a good tug on the halter and say no. If this does not work then give him a good poke with your finger in the muzzle when he comes in your space with his muzzle and again say no very sternly so he knows he has crossed his boundary. Please don't go to all out hitting the head as they just get good at ducking you and also start throwing their heads a lot anticipating the hand coming at them. When you give them that poke in the muzzle make it count. You can also use the back end of a whip and have it ready so every time he bring that head into you he is going to come in contact with that whip end in the muzzle. Also with a nipper, never play with his face or let other people either. To reward, rub a nipper on the neck but not on the face.


From Panelist Stella

Forty days training is still a very green horse, and whenever a youngster is laid off, its best to do exactly what is done with human children coming back from vacation, start out with "reviewing" the basics from scratch, to refresh the memory, and re-establish the relationship between horse and rider/handler. Three year olds are somewhat "coming into their own"- like adolesence, tend to be more outgoing and willing to try more ssertiveness 
than at age 2. While exactly this type of reaction is not necessarily common, it may be precipated by the fact that you say your saddle may be too small. It may not have bothered him as much at age 2, but by 3, his chest and shoulders have very likely broadened considerably, so it is possible that it's pinching, maybe more so with certain type movements. 

Since its an older saddle, check it thoroughly from the bottom as well, and make sure the 
tree isnt damaged in some way. Its best to use a smaller enclosed area, but if you have none, check around for a nearby "naturally" smaller open area, between a building and a copse  of trees, clearing, etc. Start with some groundwork lunging, without and with the saddle(pay attention to reactions with it, in case thats the bigger problem). Start the first day or 2 mounted(or more, as you- and he - feel most comfortable)just practicing walking, turning, stopping, and staying relaxed. Praise for good work, pay attention to how much pressure (less is better) it takes with hand and leg aids to elict a quiet response. Now that 
you have had a bad experience, take a deep breath and insure your movements are calm and relaxed, so that you dont transmit your uneasiness to him (he doesnt know he's the cause, just will cue off you, as he would off a lead horse in a herd).Alot of people dont realize that when they're tense or fearful, they communicate this with abrupt or stronger movements than needed, because their own muscles are more constricted, and the horse feel the difference. When you feel you're both ready, ask for some gaiting, slow and easy, then back to the walk; vary with stops, turning, etc. Then proceed to an open area, first preferably to one he's somewhat familiar with, perhaps from a previous handwalk, showing him unfamiliar objects gradually, etc. You need to teach mutual trust, slowly but surely, from the ground to the saddle, and starting slowly step-by-step works best. A firm foundation makes has a "snowball effect" later, as once good trust is established, all the learning that follows comes very easily and quickly.


Back to main page
Ask a Trainer