Michigan 2 year old MFT with 60 days professional training ridden in Snaffle and Circle Y Western Saddle in Paddock & pasture by rider with 15 years experience but with no formal training

Question: I purchased a two year old Missouri Fox Trotter gelding approximately 2 months ago.  The breeder had sent him to a trainer in Missouri for sixty days where he was broke to ride on trails.  He has a very sweet and gentle disposition to work around. When I first brought him home he didn't flinch at anything.  Barking dogs, cars, mail boxes, etc.  

Because of his age, I have been working him lightly both in the paddock and on the trail.  Out of the blue, he's decided that he will occasionally arch his back and "goat" hop until he gets me off.  I haven't been able to identify what sparks this behavior.  I at first thought it was him feeling separated from the other horses but when we work the other horses and he's alone he could care less.  My second thought seems to be that he's fine if he can go along with the other horses (where you're not asking a lot of him) but seems to throw the
fit when you want him to concentrate and do what you want. I also feel that although he is broke to carry a rider he really is not broke to ride. 

He also seems to be very "jumpy" if you discipline him at all.  I have started to work him on a longe line asking him to mostly walk and whoa, basically trying to establish a relationship with him.  What exercises should I be doing with a horse this age that won't push him too fast but will get us past this very unacceptable behavior?

From Panelist Liz

 2 is to young to be starting a horse, put him out to pasture and let him grow up. He has already been put under to much physical pressure with this much training but it sound like the mental pressure of it is getting him to. I see this almost every day and give the same advice
and if they wait it does come together for the good of the horse and the owner.


From Panelist Erica

Check his saddle fit right away. Most unwanted behaviors such as bucking that suddenly show up, are a result of poor saddle fit or something similar. Also check his teeth and make sure the bit fits him properly and is in his mouth correctly. Also check your position in the saddle. Are you leaning back in the saddle or sitting more upright? These things can make a big difference. If the saddle, teeth, bit, rider position, etc check out and he keeps doing this, I would also have a Chiropractor (equine) out to check him. Be sure to give him the benefit of the doubt in a situation like this. You don't want to be disciplining a horse that is bucking and find out later it was because he was in pain.
After everything checks out okay, if he keeps doing the crow hops, try to push him forward with your legs and pull his head up. Use the front of the saddle to help brace your hand to hold the reins solidly so he cannot get his head down. Keep pushing him forward too so he cannot stop to buck. You don't have to be rough with him, but it is like anything - be firm and
consistent. Be ready for him to try crow hopping anytime you are on him and know an exact plan. You are right to start him out slowly now that he is under saddle, but you will eventually have to work through this. Good luck!
Erica Frei

From Panelist Stella

You are right,two months is certainly very little time, in which a horse cannot be thoroughly
greenbroke.There are likely differences from w hat he's used to as well....a different saddle  (maybe yours doesnt fit, and they usually dont show soreness of the back for a few weeks, unless extremely off fit and really painful); your own weight, relative from previous rider's...he is likely not fit yet, and maybe you're riding him longer than he is used to...young
horses like this are rarely ridden over an hour...the terrain may be different, and he's simply trying to tell you he's had all he can physically tolerate at this age and level of training. 

To rush a horse in early training is to skip a step or two in the "foundation" work, and wherever there's a "hole" in the foundation, sooner or later there will be a problem, that you have to go back to and address.Two year olds are just NOT physically or mentally ready to perform to the level of a more mature horse, and riders just need to have the discipline of patience THEMSELVES to take their time, take it slow, and wait it out. Otherwise, you can ruin a horse, physically or mentally, that can take years to undo...or possibly be permanent damage. And no, a 2yo's attention span to concentrate is not very long, that's just a stage of development and not the horse's fault...its just how nature is. Dont expect from a 2yo horse more than you would from an 8-10 year old child.

At this age, its best to keep alot of his work by himself, with a one-on-one relationship, to stay focused.....trailride with just one or two other horses, but have those riders aware to take their time and take it slow, since you have a 2 yo; consider his well-being as a youngster. Their muscles are simply NOT physically developed (and many joints not closed
yet) to handle what an older horse can.  He may be getting jumpy about discipline for a number of reasons...your signals may be rougher than he's used to; you are expecting too much from a 2yo, and disciplining when he is "trying," but unable to succeed due to age and inexperience....give a young animal some leeway...just stop, and start again; be encouraging, not discouraging in his efforts. You may sometimes be disciplining him because he doesnt
understand YOUR signals, YOUR communication may be different than the previous trainers', and thats all he knows for right now, til he learns yours... It is not unusual for horses (even humans!) to balk and wish to "vacate" the scene whenever they feel overwhelmed, and their likelihood of success in the tasks asked seems remote to them.....2 months is really a very short period of time for a young animal to adjust to new environment, new people, new work, etc all at one time. I think maybe your expectations are set too high for right now.....it seems like this is a nice, honest horse that would like to please you....and yes, when we get a new horse, we get excited, envision all kinds of wonderful things and a
bright future, which causes us to rush to get there already! But its too much on a young horse...take a deep breadth, slow down, think thru small stages to achieve, one at a time. In the case of youngsters, its the tortoise that will always win the race to realize your dreams for a bright future with the horse...... 

Stella Wise

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