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November-December 2009's POSTS
December 20, 2009

Can't Seem to get Past the First Step
(Dealing with a horse that is Barn or Pasture Sour)

I just got a 12 year old asb mare. She is well trained, but has had some time off. She isn't what I call friendly with the other horses, but when I ride she doesnt like to leave the pasture area. She seems to need to pay more attention to me. I dont have an arena let alone an indoor. She doesn't rear, but she dances uncontrolably and refuses to turn away from the pasture. I never had this problem before. When I get her away from the pasture she almost forgets to panic, but then.... I cant afford a trainer and have always managed to get a nice horse on my own. I want to take lessons but I would like to have this under control before I spend alot of cash on getting ready for show season. I NEVER let her win this battle, I have been settling for a tiny amount of relaxed before ending our riding session. As long as I have control before I quit, it can't get worse? Right? I would love to get some ideas. Please help!!!

Tip of the Day - Taking that really long trail ride can take a lot less time than you might think....If you can't get your horse to take the first step!

Thank you so much for your question. What you have described is usually called Barn or Pasture Sour. The names make little sense to me as the behavior has to do with the fact the horse really loves his or her pasture or barn! Nonetheless, not being able to go, where you want to go, can be a very aggravating issue to deal with unless you simply enjoy watching your mare stand around. Even though there are many things about horses no one can figure out, there are many things we know to be true:

Horses can balk when in pain! Any discomfort may cause some horses to "quit"
Horses are beasts of habit! They can learn bad habits just as quickly as good ones.
Horses are "Herd" animals! They seek comfort in the company of other horses.
Horses' IQ's are not that high!

Thankfully, we can fool them into doing our bidding.
(Intellect usually wins over brute force against these "giants")

As with all unwanted behaviors, we must ask ourselves, is there a physical cause? Is it a caused by a lack of or poor earlier training? Is it a willful manifestation as in she is doing it because she can? Here is what I would recommend.

1. Ruling out soundness, soreness, dental issues and improper or ill fitting equipment, is the first step to resolving issues such as this. A vet, farrier, and equine dentist are essential in helping you through this first step. Additionally, they are essential if you wish to properly deal and care for any horse, even one without a problem.

2. Identifying previous mistakes or poor training with your horse is a great way to start. Here you should be able to determine how much and how credible her early training was. Test her on the basics then proceed accordingly. You also never want to reinforce a bad behavior and your plan "I NEVER let her win this battle, I have been settling for a tiny amount of relaxed before ending our riding session." is exactly the correct procedure for dealing with this issue and I commend you for figuring that out. Never lose sight of this "Prime Directive" as you deal with this behavior! Also keep in mind, the "reward" of relaxation at the end of the session is just as important as the "correction" of not letting her win!!

3. If you are asking her to leave a "buddy" in her pasture....forget it! The herd instinct is one of the hardest to disrupt especially at this stage of the training. Try to remove the buddy so that you are only dealing with her alone in the pasture.

4. If ya' can't beat 'em...fool 'em! For the next few weeks, do not get on the mare anywhere near that pasture. Lead her to what she might feel as a new or neutral place. One that gives her little security. One where she must depend upon you for direction. Each time you mount to ride, go to another new place ( if only 50 yards away or facing in a different direction) We are breaking habits, remember, not encouraging them! Conversely, when ending the ride, do not ride to the pasture. Dismount somewhere else and then lead her to the pasture.

I have a great deal of confidence that if you follow these suggestions, you will make very good progress turning this issue around. Like all things with horses it will not happen overnight. Here is a little homework assignment for you to give you some more insight concerning this problem:

So, there is a game plan. I hope it has given you some food for thought. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

"We welcome, in our guest book, reader's comments about this or any other topic."

December 6, 2009

Should I Loosen His "Belt"
(Dealing with a girth bound horse)


I recently bought a gelding that is a son of Paddys Irish Whiskey and out of a mare by Tanquery Gin. His papers were amazing, and the man I bought him from (yes I listened and bought him online), said he was a little bit cinchy, but rode great. He is a five year old. He was described as a green broke ranch gelding. I bought him with the intention of putting him with a trainer. He is being ridden western because I had hoped to make him a heel horse. The first time I led him he was VERY nervous. I reached for his head and he pulled away as if I were about to hurt him. He was scared of anything I had in my had. I thought it looked as though he had never even been ridden. I cinched him up and he FROZE. His ears were perked forward and his eyes were wide. It was like I just did something totally foreign. His weight shifted back onto his haunches, and his front legs were stiff and spread in front of him as if something were about to jump out in front of him. I tried to lead him forward and he wouldn’t budge an inch. I pulled him to the side and he managed to unlock and turn. He then walked on for a few feet. I mounted with no difficulty and he rode around like a typical green broke colt would. I was concerned, so I pulled his papers out of the plastic sleeve and found a sticky note attached to the back. It was a note to the man I purchased him from. It said he had tried to flip over backwards when they loaded him into a trailer with the saddle. It stated that the owner should practice loading and unloading him several times without the saddle. I immediately took him to a local trainer who has a gentle hand and informed him of the problem. He was not at all encouraging. He said he would ride him and let me know. He is afraid the horse’s reaction shows he is going to flip and rear up when being ridden. Is this something that can be fixed? Do I need to put him up for sale now and cut my losses? I would appreciate ANY help or advise on the matter. I am a novice rider at best and I do not want to cause anymore problems. This guy is such an athlete and already has a nice stop!

Tip of the Day - When dealing with a "cinchy" horse...your first step can often be a very "tall" one!

Thank you so much for your question. I can certainly understand your disenchantment with your new equine acquisition. Not being able to lead or ship him kind of limits your productivity. It is not often I meet people who would buy a horse, online, sight unseen. To be sure, buying any product, let alone a horse, this way can be a real dice toss! I have a cousin who sells used cars.. Would you mind if I gave him your Email address? Seriously, as I do not have the luxury of observing these behaviors in person, relying on your excellent description, I would have to conclude he is, in fact, not a little cinchy, but a whole lot cinchy! This can sometimes be the symptom of a physical problem but is usually an acquired behavior that is the result of poor handling in his past. It can likely be dealt with. There are the other issues you describe that sound very much like confidence ones usually caused by some previous, careless or abusive treatment. These also can usually be dealt with. Make no mistake, completely correcting these problems may not be the outcome but living with the issues is well within the realm of possibilities.

The confidence issues such as pulling his head away and acting scared and nervous will simply take a good bit of patient time and gentle contact to establish his trust. Never rush anything while grooming, or tacking the horse up. Use plenty of soft reassuring words and touches. Work to touch his ears, muzzle, neck, tail etc. In a matter of time you will gain his trust and respect.

Unless you are Larry Mahan, cinching up the western saddle is the trigger for an unwanted behavior. No girth can be drawn tighter with less effort than the western cinch. NEVER pull that cinch tight until after the horse has walked some distance, lunged or stood for a very long period of time. The posture you describe is text book classic for the cinch bound horse telling you it is way too tight. You are fortunate that his reaction has merely been to “freeze”. Bucking and rearing are often displayed. I would guess the tight cinch also was the culprit with the shipping problems.

Remember..if you have any balance what so ever, it is not necessary to “cut the horse in half” to not fall off! I would suggest you approach this issue in this fashion every time you ride: Do not use a web or rope cinch but one that is padded in some way. Have a very thick and soft saddle pad. Make certain the saddle is setting far enough forward to insure the cinch is just behind the front legs but not so far forward that the pommel is pinching the wither. When you first saddle, tighten the cinch just enough to help keep the saddle in place (make sure you could put your flat hand easily under the cinch) Walk your horse several yards. Make your cinch a little bit more snug. Walk some more or, preferably, lunge him at the trot for a few minutes. Tighten it a bit more, lead him at the walk a few more yards and then get on. If he plants his feet again..loosen the cinch a bit. After he has ridden for a while you may further tighten it, if you think it necessary.

I feel confident that this approach will have a very positive effect on your horse’s issues if you make it a routine. Turning the horse out before you ride may also facilitate things.

In closing, I must tell you that I doubt that any professional trainer would pick a horse such as this for a novice rider. I believe the trainer you mentioned was trying to point you in the right direction. If, however, you wish to try to make this horse work, it is reasonable it could happen. Having a trainer help you at this time would make your odds of success even better. Please remember, no horse is worth putting your safety in jeopardy and because of the cost, owning a horse certainly ought to be fun!

I hope this has given you a bit of insight and maybe useful information in your endeavour. I look forward to reading, in the Guest Book, of your progress. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

We welcome reader comments, on this or any other training topic, in our Guest Book.

November 29, 2009

What's Wrong with the Worlds Champion?
(Human nature at its most confusing)

I am just curious to hear what you say about the mare’s hocks. Does she not have talent there? Her pictures show hock action but people on the trot forum say she didn't have them in person. I do not remember this at Louisville. What I remember is that she was so high up front and a bit in consistent due to youth and gameness. Is there such a thing as being so over collected (chin on neck) that she cannot use her hocks as well because at times she appears to be sitting on her hind end in Howie’s photos. Also her photos show that her neck looks thick. I did not particularly remember this either at Louisville that she was thick in the neck.

I am not sure I am saying the right things to convey my meaning. Does she need to be lightened up a bit in the bridle to make her have more even motion in back with the front which is certainly very extreme. I love her just the way she is, but everyone seems to want to pick her apart.

Tip of the Day - People who like to pick nice horses apart often find that much easier than trying to beat them!

Although, we do not usually discuss horses by name, I think it will be alright in this case as I think your question really has more to do with human nature than livestock and the horse in question has already really spoken for herself in a very grand fashion! I completely understand your confusion concerning the Da Vinci Code, as I too have heard all these same remarks from people that seem to forget she is a WC, has only been shown in four classes at the two best shows in America and has won 3 classes and was second once with a first place vote while competing against other great and seasoned champions. Additionally, she performed at this World Class level for two very talented but completely different trainers. It, of course, is very easy for some, people such as a few of those who lurk on forums such as you mention, to find fault with something they might never attain. The horse business is funny, everyone always seems to be pulling for the underdog until they start winning. Then the criticism begins!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words some are good, some are bad... none, however, can capture the charisma that some horses radiate in person. As far as her hocks go, one need only compare her's to those of the horses she has competed against!

She may not be as fine as a deer, but if she is thick...I like thick! Her headset is a very unique gift of God, as it seems to be in an extremely unusual place whether she is really in the bridle or completely out of it. With very little foot, her motion shows God has further gifted her with great natural ability. I would guess those thousands of people who have stood up and screamed their adoration for her must know that it is very easy to pick any horse apart but finding one that has so much together, is rare indeed. Those kind of ovations are reserved for these kinds of horses! I have yet to see the perfect horse and I am certain I never will but like you, I like this one just the way she is.

I hope I have given you some food for thought. I know you sent this as a personal question, but if you don't mind, I will publish this as I think it is excellent commentary on a sad aspect of our business.

I hope you have found this enlightening and wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

We welcome reader comments, on this or any other training topic,in our Guest Book.

November 22, 2009

There is No Academy Award for This Bogie!

Hi Lonnie,

I just got my first horse. His name is Bogie and he's an 8 year old, 16.2 hh thoroughbred gelding and I'm having a little issue with him. He's extremely testy. I can ask him to walk on with no problem. It takes A LOT of work for me to get him to move from the walk to the trot, and when he does go, he will sometimes speed up and when I try to half halt him to collect him a little, he just stops, even though I keep applying my leg. And the canter........forget it. I haven't been able to get him to canter for a few days. I've only had him for 3 days. When I try to ask him for it, Bogie pins his ears, tosses his head, kicks out a leg (or two). When I check him with the bit (either by 1/2 halting or pulling up a little), he stops. He hasn't bucked yet, but I don't want him to even think about getting that far. I know he's just testing me, but what would you recommend that might help to foster unity between my horse and I so we can work together and not against each other? I have taken him over low cross rails, and that's the only time I've been able to get him to canter....once he hit the ground, but I don't want this young adolescent behavior to get in the way of a future jumping lesson.

Also, I was told that he cow kicks from time to time and kicks back and that when this has happened, that it was directed at his handler. As of right now, I'm not willing to work near his tail or clean his back feet....which could have bad results later. When I get closer to his flanks, he will pick up the back leg that's closest to me. His tail is swishing but his ears aren't pinned.....just facing me listening. I know this could be a precursor to a kick and I want to be able to ride him with my friends at a nearby farm without worrying about him causing an injury to himself, another horse, or a friend, or me. Could this behavior be the result of bad handling from a previous owner? What would you recommend for this issue?

Pictures of Bogie are attached.

Thanks in advance!

Tip of the Day - When asked by the tenderfoot if the horse kicks, the Old Cowboy responded........ "He's got legs don't he!"

Thanks for your question. Congratulations on the acquisition of your first horse. It sure sounds as if you got much more than you bargained for. I see by the nice photos that Bogie is a very handsome guy. It sounds as if "handsome is as handsome does" when it comes to Bogie, however. (Like his "namesake", a real gangster) The various and numerous behaviors you describe are of course extremely undesirable and potentially dangerous. I am not sure what part of the country you are from but around here, we seldom use the term adolescent behavior when talking about an eight year old horse. Most of what you describe can certainly be the result of poor handling by a previous "owner" as you have already surmised. Some may be the product of a willful equine mind, as well. If not corrected now...it will certainly escalate in the future. Let's see if we can tackle some of his issues.

Although I do not have the advantage of seeing some of these behaviors in person, your mobility issues (walking, trotting, cantering, stopping,etc) might well have a very simple explanation or at least something that could give him a reason for demonstrating these behaviors. Any horse must be comfortable in his mouth to perform correctly. That is, no dental issues, a properly fitting bridle with a bit of a shape, length and style that will allow the mouth to function when closed with the tongue acting as a cushion for the delicate bars of the jaw. As you can see in this picture you sent me it is evident this is not happening and in fact, the tongue is sucked up and not even visible.

Very few horses would want to "step" forward to the bridle and do the gaits with the bit resting on the bars. Additionally, the position of the cavesson allows for serious pinching of the skin at the corners of the mouth when the bit is activated causing further discomfort. I would think dental issues might be in play and should be addressed. Raising the bit a hole or two might also help with the tongue. I would raise the cavesson several holes to alleviate the pinching of the skin between it and the bit.

As far as his manners when you are working around him, your job is to correct them, not hide from them. At the exact and appropriate time, a loud harsh word or strong tap with a crop is called for to discourage these behaviors. Note: If you have any question as to when is the exact and appropriate time, you need to seek some professional help as this type of correction handled improperly can actually encourage bad behavior and can put you in harm's way. Once you have demonstrated to Bogie that you are the boss, you should be able to pursue a more friendly bonding with him.

Thanks once again for your question I hope I have been of some help. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

We welcome your comments, in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic.


From Kari,
I just read about Bogie, and all I can think is pain, pain, pain. A chiropractic exam might be a good idea to rule out back or neck pain. Back pain could be accounting for the cow kicking and the hesitation to collect and canter. Bogie may not be testing; he could just be trying to tell his owner that something hurts. Bad.

Admin reply:

Thank you so much for your very insightful comments. I thought them to be excellent and thoughts I perhaps should have included in my answer. I therefore have had it placed on the main page as I think it important to always consider all options when dealing with adverse behavior. However, no matter what the cause I have serious doubt that Bogie is the proper first horse for this girl. Many of his issues would be hard pressed to be related to pain. And, the fact another girl rides him well .......Thank you for posting in the guest book. It is refreshing to meet someone with their "Horse" thinking cap on. You could work a horse for me ANYTIME!!


November 18, 2009

Have You Hugged a Bunny Today?
(Antiquated Breaking Methods)

I know a trainer at a major breeding/training farm who thinks it is a good idea to bring colts in out of the field tie to a wall tie their left front leggup turn their head right until they fall down then hold them down until they giveup their fight. do you think this is agood pratice.

Tip of the Day If breaking the horse correctly describes your training program... you are doing it wrong!

At last, a man after my own heart. Ever since the advent of those damn "Alphabet" organizations like PETA and SPCA and the Humane Society, we just don't feel comfortable talking, in public, about great training methods like this. These are the tried and true procedures once depended upon. Like dentistry, before Novocain, surgery before anesthetic, panic attacks before tranquilizer, smoking before cancer, boxing before gloves, driving before seatbelts, jumping out of the plane before parachutes. I long to go back to those days when corporal punishment "ruled" the schools and throwing weanlings and yearlings down in the dirt and tying them up until they "cried Uncle", (that'll teach 'em a lesson) really meant something!!!


Although I realize archaic methods such as you describe might once have been the norm, well, used by some. Once was a long, long time ago. The snub ring is long gone in most stables and shackles and ropes are never used on "babies". Most true trainers like to think they can use their intellect to deal with weanlings and yearlings and reserve "force" only for those mature individuals who have become so "user un-friendly" that logic is wasted on them.

To answer your question, I see not only no need but absolutely no benefit to the procedures you describe when dealing with young horses. Not only does treatment such as this open the door for psychological damage the chances of permanent physical injury are great with these fragile young bodies. Although I am on record as a very "tough love" advocate who is willing to deliver needed punishment when dealing with unwanted behaviors, I can see no logic in punishment for no reason. I secretly hope this is a joke and someone has put you up to this as if it is not, it means this treatment is being dealt out to these innocent young equines.

Thank you very much for your question. I hope I have answered it and given you some food for thought. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

We welcome your comments, in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic.

November 6, 2009

This Topic Keeps Rearing Its Ugly Head!!!

hey i hope you can help me

I have a 10 year old gelding gaited horse that has developed a rearing problem after being worked four or five minutes. This horse started this with his lady rider and has progressed to anyone who rides him. He knows this is easier than being worked. His teeth have been checked twice, no sign of lameness and he doesn't have a sore back. He's just through working once he starts this. This email is probably not for the bunny huggers on the internet. I have trained horses for forty years and have not had this problem that i couldn't fix. It doesn't matter where he's at barn, pasture, or shows. I resorted to while rideing a good sized stick bettween the ears and several good whippings. Turning him in circles when he starts to rear doesn't work, when you stop turning him he rears again and then wont move.

This horse has been shown for several years and has won everywhere. He is to good of a horse to have this problem end his career.

I truly hope you have some sort of advice or point me in a direction that could end this problem Thank you

Tip of the Day - It is not a good thing when they tell you your horse is going high... and they are not talking about his motion.

Rearing is one behavior that I have little advice for. Apparently you have not been reading the questions on this site for very long as the subject of rearing has come up many, many times. Each time my answer is pretty much the same.....Forget about it!!!

I feel that way because it is the most dangerous vice a saddle horse can have. It can cause physical harm at the least and is potentially deadly. Although the some of the "Horse Whisperers" claim they can correct it, I do not believe there is a cure and feel it always has the potential to resurface. Additionally, you are quite right..."Bunny Huggers" would not even want to hear of the techniques that have been used to try to affect a "cure". Kindness and rearing are incompatible words when dealing with this issue. In my career, I dealt with probably twenty rearers with only four truly good at it and serious about it. There was little hope for those four, I do not believe anything would repress the rearing let alone feel you had stopped it. I was able to function with the other six in very controlled situations although I never let anyone other than myself ride them. I was younger then and they all, except two, belonged to clients who were paying me to train and show their horses. Upon selling them, every buyer was told about their history and potential danger! The one horse of the bunch that I feel I corrected as well as possible (as he never again reared) is the subject of an amusing story on my site. You might get a good laugh as well as learning the details of one method of addressing this vice. It is also a wonderful example of what not to do! Here is the link:

Ridgeviews Magic Colonel

I f you still 'want to give "rehabilitation" a try here are some ideas for you.

The very first is to, of course, call the previous trainer who successfully showed him. He has the edge on you as he knows this horse perhaps better than you and can perhaps tell you something simple you may have overlooked. As a great friend and trainer told me once when I was in a similar situation, " It is what you learn after you know it all that counts!" From that day forward I never balked at asking advice from anyone I thought might be of help.

From reading your letter, it is obvious to me you are approaching the situation correctly. As with any unwelcome behavior, one must first search for the cause. Could it be ; Soundness, to include anything making the horse uncomfortable enough for this behavior to manifest itself. , You apparently have ruled this out. Lack of or Improper Training, this is a good bet to be partially responsible as the horse has perhaps learned to rear as a defense to improper training or as a reaction to misused or improper equipment and/or was never corrected before this became a habit. Behavioral, as in the horse is doing it willfully because he can or has a mental deficiency. The circumstances sound as though we can "hang our hats here"!

Lack of training would signal a back to the basics program starting from "scratch" if you will. Slowly, carefully and methodically, Biting rig, long Lines etc. Certainly a long process that must be carefully handled making no mistakes such as those that might have prompted this condition. Unfortunately, this is the only way I know to go about it as you will have to undo what has been done previously. As you progress, be constantly on the lookout for any "trigger" that may cause the issue. Hopefully you will find one and then deal with it as that will eliminate the necessity of going further. If not, its on to the next step.

The willful, rearing, horse must be dealt with unlike any other horse. Sugar cubes and carrots will be of little use at this juncture. You must find some process by which you not only can control this 1000 pound beast but dominate him. Correction may seem more like punishment here but that is what is called for. He must be taught that the act of rearing earns a reaction that is more than just uncomfortable as in my little story, which I hope you have read by now. Water can often affect a change in the behavior when used to make the horse terribly uncomfortable. A pond is not the only way to accomplish this. There are many other ways to deliver the water.

Immobilization such, as with the "W's", certainly an archaic tool but called for to deal with this issue, can encourage the horse's respect by making him very uncomfortable. Taking his mobility away from him for a period of time, can give him some time to ponder the error of his ways. Corporal punishment can be used but I am certain it has probably been misused in the past and probably has added to the problems.

Other ways to create a hostile environment when this issue raises its head, are as many as your imagination can think of. You must find ways to create the correction without putting your safety or your horse's in jeopardy. The final question,.. is all of this worth it? Will the end product be what you need and want?

Here are some other posts that deal with this issue:

I hope this has given you some insight in dealing with this issue although, I have a feeling, you had surmised all of this before writing me Feel free to contact me again if you would like some more detailed assistance in the future. Be safe, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

We welcome your comments, in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic.

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
Dec 20, 2009 Can't Seem to get Past the First Step Dealing with a horse that is Barn or Pasture Sour
Dec 6, 2009 Should I Loosen His "Belt" Dealing with a girth bound horse
Nov 29, 2009 What's Wrong with the Worlds Champion? Human nature at its most confusing
Nov 22, 2009 There is No Academy Award for This Bogie! Going forward, fitting a bridle, tongue
Nov 18.2009 Have You Hugged a Bunny Today? Antiquated beaking methods
Nov 6, 2009 This Topic Keeps Rearing Its Ugly Head!!! Rearing

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