River is a 9yr old gelding that came from a rescue centre. He is fearful, lacks confidence and can be quite dangerous, both rearing and kicking out with the hind leg. Here are his tendencies and the recommendations for the owner.
I spent 2 sessions with River, and found he would counterbend on the circle, preparing himself to kick out or run off if feeling threatened.
He was particularly bad on his off-side, and really didn’t want anyone over there at all.
Upon working on his off-side, I found he would freeze, like a deer in headlights, giving the appearance of acceptance. When pushed, he would explode, rearing and kicking.
I always try to piece together a back story for the horses I work, and it seems plausible he stood (frozen) for most things during the breaking process. This gave the apperance of a quiet horse, and then he probably exploded with a rider, possibly hurting someone.
He is extremely defensive, and it seems he was handled quite aggressively. Perhaps after dislodging his rider, he was treated as a danger, which he became.
Unlocking his off-side, and getting true acceptance changed his demeanour dramatically, setting him up to move forward in a positive manner.
Here are my notes about River, and the recommendations for his owner on how to proceed.
Uncomfortable/unconfident on off (his right) side. This causes tendencies to kick with off hind. Tries to keep in (his) left eye.
Obedient when things are calm and slow , tendencies to back and rear when stressed, or challenged.
When backs, keeps option to bolt forward in his left eye open.
Counter bends on circle, causing potentially dangerous situations. Quite attentive when bent properly.
Tries to drift back to other horses, then wont come forward, or allow you on his right side, if you persist he rears.
Must maintain safe distance.
What to work on:
Maintaining a safe distance at all times.
-If you need to stop what you are doing to back him up, do it.
-work on pushing the shoulder out on the circle, but be particularly careful on his right side.
-if he manages to pull you into a bad spot, stop and lead him back to a safe area. Try to zig-zag him forward, and if that fails, twirl the rope at his girth while directing him forward with your other hand. Try to do this in his left side, work on doing this on the right side in controlled situations so it will eventually not be a problem.
Work on backing up, and standing there for a bit.
-Watch the creeping forward.
-He only comes in when you invite him.
Work on circles.
-back him to get space.
-push the face sideways so hes standing on the circle.
-lead/direct with one hand, and twirl the rope at the girth to make him go, or speed up
-quick pull and release with leading hand to slow him
-esp careful on his right side
-push shoulder if hes getting to close
-change direction every 3rd circle or so
-focus on the butt to get him to face you, back him if needed, change directions
-sometimes get him to face you, but then go the same way to keep him from anticipating.
You will do these things in an area where he remains calm. If you can do circles at walk and trot, and he remains calm, move further away from the other horses.
You will keep moving away from the others over time, keeping calmness until you can go anywhere you want with no explosion, tension or bad behaviour.
If you have a bad day, go back to the last thing you could do successfully. If things get dangerous, or you are feeling out of control, do something you can both win at, and put him away.
There is always another day!!!
Gauge his mood when you take him out. If he is exceptionally wound up, and you don’t feel up to it, leave it. Just remember at some point you will have to work through the badness, as he will challenge you, and you will have to use the techniques you learned to gain his respect and build your own confidence.
If things are good more often then not, start making it interesting. Introduce objects, obstacles, and interesting places. I can help give you ideas when you reach that point.