Dealing with an ex-racehorse

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Sabri
08 Jan 2016 04:40
Hi. Last year I bought a 14 year old Thoroughbred/PRE horse and she is amazing but she has had training in different areas primarily as a race horse. Besides that she has done Spanish dressage (western style), some classical dressage, reining and jumping. They told me I wouldn't be able to hack out alone as she panics because she associates it with being taken to a new home but I'm happy to say we have overcome that hurdle now with a lot of hard work. She used to get into a blind panic and start jumping around on the spot and even going backwards at fast trot almost canter speed. In those situations, I found the only option was get off and then get right back on again. It snaps her out of it whereas if I stay on, the panic gets worse.

The issue I have at the moment funnily enough is hacking out in a group, something she is used to and normally comfortable with. She doesn't like it if another horse goes faster (say we are in walk and another horse starts to trot) but when cantering in a group, she goes into racehorse mode and fights to get ahead, sometimes in a dangerous way and she does not listen. It doesn't always happen but I have noticed that when a particular horse joins us, she tends to fight me more to get ahead and she is always looking at what this horse is doing so if he gets a nose ahead of us, she will pull and start to jump around on the spot. She doesn't normally do this with other horses, even when I ride out with a friend and her stallion, we are able to canter/gallop side by side with only one incident where I temporarily lost control but regained it within a few strides.

When she bolts, pulling back on the reins is not an option at all as she puts her head up, goes against them and it drives her on even more. Many times it is not possible to get her to circle due to space or because of the speed for fear of her completely losing her balance and falling plus she is able to go at break neck speed with her head turned in. How would half-halts help me when preparing to canter? Is there a technique I can use to keep the situation under control before she bolts such as riding with more leg? Lately, I have been riding her out more alone and asking her to canter in short bursts then come back down with mixed success but showing improvement. I am now trying to be first in line when in a group so she isn't affected so much by other horses which worked the last time I rode out with the horse she has issues with but we did not canter, only trotted for a couple of kilometres. I also started to ride her for a few minutes in the school before going out but I have only been able to do that once as I have been ill since and have not ridden out but I was hoping that would help calm her.

Does anyone have any advice that might help me out please? She is ridden in a double jointed bit and a bungee the same as the previous owner because she is more comfortable with the sensation of constant contact. I just want to go out and enjoy the hack without the worry of losing control and risking her, myself or others getting hurt. Her saddle fits and her teeth are checked regularly so they are not the issue (I fear it is me!). Thanks in advance
HorseHeroGuru
16 Jan 2016 18:03
Hi Sabri

I am sorry to have taken so long to respond to your post – work, rain and mud have taken over my life recently.

It sounds as though you have gone a long way with your mare in just a year, working out solutions to the problems her past have given the pair of you. You should feel proud of how far you have come. The last problem of trying to keep her focused on you rather than on racing another horse is not going to be easy because you lose control and at high speed this can be scary and is unsafe.

The best advice I can offer is to watch Jason Webb’s video on here http://www.horsehero.com/5201/63149/58051. He provides practical solutions, which will help you gain control and solve your problem. The only thing I would add is that he is an expert horseman, so don’t feel as though you are a failure if you don’t achieve as rapid a change in your horse as he does.

Please watch the video a couple of times, try out his methods and then, if you have any more questions, write again

Good luck
Sabri
08 Feb 2016 00:11
Hi. Sorry, I didn't receive a notification about your response and thanks for getting back to me. I have watched the video and I will watch it a few more times to see what I can apply to my horse but it has been extremely useful.

Over the past few weeks we have been working on behaviour outside and we have made excellent progress. As an example, last week we received a new horse (an Irish Cob stallion) at our yard and I rode my horse to their yard to accompany them back to ours. It is a half hour hack, part of which is on the road, past a creepy house and then along a palm tree lined road that often spooks horses and we made it with absolutely no incident. On the way back, she did lose focus a little and had a bit of a tantrum but for once I managed to calm her down whilst still mounted and got her moving forward again with minimal fuss. She was not phased by the stallion at all and led him calmly to his new home (he's now hopelessly in love with her!). Since then there have been two more mini tantrums but each time they last less and I am able to handle it from the saddle which was impossible before so I am looking forward to upping the tempo soon to see how we cope.

Thanks again and hopefully I can report back with more good news soon :)
Sabri
06 May 2016 16:13
Hi again,
Well, I have good news, fantastic news actually! I have continued training and we have reached a point where she does not take off when we canter or gallop out on a hack, whether alone or in company. It is the most awesome feeling! There were times we would go out only in walk, other times we'd trot and we built up to canter slowly. We have cantered at the front of the line, in the middle and side by side but she maintains an even rhythm and doesn't lose control.

I have worked loads on my position in the arena and this has helped a lot when outside. The amount of progress is unbelievable and she proved herself again yesterday when I was late to meet up with the others for a hack so they left without me. I decided to go out by myself anyway and part way through I could see them approaching so I changed my route so we wouldn't bump into them. Bohemia didn't realize at first the other horses were on their way back to the stables until we reached higher ground. She spotted them from there and instead of going ballistic, she just stopped and stared for a few seconds, then I told her to go forward and she did. A few seconds later, I asked her to trot away from the others and she did without hesitating so I am so pleased with her, with both of us actually.

We'll continue working... :)
HorseHeroGuru
06 May 2016 18:52
Hi Sabri

You should feel very proud of yourself and your horse - well done and keep up the good work

HHG
 

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