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Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
Aug 13, 2012 He is little but Mighty......Mighty BAD! Misbehaving Mini
Aug 6, 2012 I don't know "Wither" this fits or does it make Her Ass look Fat? Saddle Fit
July 30, 2012 I get mad sometimes but he looks mad all the time! The sour eared horse
July 23, 2012 It Certainly Rained on My Parade! Lexington, judging
July 20, 2012 I want my Saddle to be Full of Sit? saddle size
July 16, 2012 I Just Want to Go for a Walk! Insuring the walk
July 9, 2012 It would be much more fun if we were going Steady! Unsteady head carriage
July 2, 2012 Nightmare on any Street! We meet the horse from Hell

July - December 2012's POSTS
August 13, 2012

He is little but Mighty......Mighty BAD!
(Misbehaving Mini)

Dear Sir

I have a miniature horse gelding named Clayborn he is a sweetheart but I've noticed that he has some behaviors that I find dangerous such as striking, bolting, biting, circling when you lead him, rearing, halter-pulling. heard-bound, balking bucking and pushing up against you, I have tried a couple methods but none seem to work he is kept with 4 other miniatures that I own the other three belong to a friend two quarter horses and a Shetland pony I am wondering if these aren't caused by the other horses, both spoiled and at times vicious and extremely dangerous at times with the same habits above along with a few more should I keep my minis with them or remove them? By the time a horse is acting dangerous, no matter how big or small he is, I was wondering if mental or emotional issues might contribute to these problems. Any advice you might have would be welcomed and not just with my minis but with the quarter horses again thank you.

Tip of the Day – After being kicked by a horse, it matters little how small or large the hoof was except for how big an ice pack you will need.

Thank you so much for your question. With so regal a sounding name as Claiborne it seems horrible for him to have adopted such uncouth, undignified and unmannerly behaviors. He, indeed, sounds like a one horse wrecking crew! No amount of "cuteness" could possibly make up for the vices you describe.

To be sure, the "herd" environment you mention him to be living in could well be having an effect on your tiny gentleman. As with all herd animals, the laws of nature come into play to some extent. Pecking order, survival of the fittest, dog eat dog etc, can have a way of bolstering the bluster of the smaller of the herd members as sort of a self defense tool. Those so vertically challenged as he, often resort to aggressive actions so as not so easily be taken advantage of by the larger members with their herd mentality. This being said, that is still not a free pass for his current interaction with you and other humans. Also, I would suspect some other factors have entered into creating these problems and instead of nature, I fear it is human nature.

Those adorable minis and ponies so coveted by children and adults alike are more often than not bombarded with love and affection while being starved for a little discipline. Although, nearly all of us understand the concept that a cute puppy will not "housebreak" itself, correcting and teaching some respect to these little equines seems to be more difficult for many to conceptualize. Unfortunately, it is often only after one finds out how sharp the teeth are, how strong the kick is and how hard and high those front legs can punch, that they realize the situation is out of control. If you have not already found those things out, you are very lucky. Today is the day to start turning things around.

First, it will be virtually impossible to correct these issues other than in a one–on-one situation for at least a week or two. If you can get him in a stall, that would be best. Alone with him you have an opportunity to teach him to come when you call him...Yes that is what I said... And more importantly, have his complete attention while you work with him. No matter what size the horse, we can utilize three tools at our disposal to completely control the equine even with their superior strength. Number one is our intelligence, the second a walled enclosure and lastly, our ability to use the leverage of a lead shank to control the horse's head. Those three tools have, in one way or another, been the basis for all horse training since horses were first domesticated. Today, from the Pat Parrielis to the Bob Bafferts, they are still in use.

First task, he must learn to immediately submit to pressure from you on his halter. If you pull on the lead, he must come forward and follow, if you push he must back and he must turn the direction you ask. It is much like leash training a dog. A reward to encourage him to come forward, (A repeated whistle or call of his name followed by a reward or treat each time you ask him to come forward will eventually lead to a horse that will come when called, even when at liberty) firm pressure when asking to back even to the point of discomfort and the same for turning left and right with these also followed by some reward. Make these training sessions short, 5-10 minutes twice a day for a week or two, make him uncomfortable for any transgressions and well rewarded for the good things and you will be shocked at how remarkable your progress will be. When he is performing all perfectly, there is no end to the things you will be able to teach him so he not just a lawn ornament but a productive member of your extended family. At that point you should be able to turn him back out with the occasional refresher course always in mind.

I thank you so much for your wonderful question and do hope I have given you some food for thought. I wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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August 6, 2012

I don't know "Wither" this fits or does it make Her Ass look Fat?
(Saddle Fit)

Hi, I have two questions I'd like to ask.

Basically I recently got an unregistered saddlebred mare (think she's out of Razzle Dazzle Royale) who was trained as a 4yr old and then had a foal or two she's supposed to be 7 years old now. Because she has had foals she is 'out of shape' for a saddlebred. I have a 21inch Blue Ribbon cutback saddle and I don't know how to tell if it fits or not. I know the size is fine but two people who know nothing about cutbacks said it didn't fit. I was wondering how do I tell and if it doesn't what are my options? I thought most cutbacks were the same fit?

My other question is, what's the best way to go about starting this horse back up riding? The lady I got her from knew nothing about saddlebreds but walked round on her and that was it. She is a very nervous,forward going mare. I have been 'lunging' in tack but that's it. Any tips on where to start? I've seen rescue saddlebreds and others being ridden in a german martingale, do I need to ride her in this?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Tip of the Day - Unlike skirts, coats, shoes, slacks and dresses, when it comes to saddles, although it may fit you, "off the rack", it might not fit your horse.

Thank you for your interesting question. What really impresses me is the fact that unlike 99% of the riders today, your first concern is not how nice your saddle looks or how wonderful you look on it but you are more interested in if it fits your horse. That is the type of thought process a horseman uses not one hobbyists usually possess.

Saddle fit? The criteria, size and fit, for those sitting upon the saddle, has less to do with the width of one's posterior than the length of the thigh bone. Correct position dictates the size of the saddle. When displaying the proper position (a straight line bisecting the shoulder, hip and heel) there should be a full palm width from the end of the cantle to the base of the spine with the knees on top of the stirrup leathers and never in front of the skirt with the stirrup iron contacting your foot, when hanging down out of the stirrup, immediately below the ankle bone. Sitting like that, in the "sweet spot" of the saddle, is the most comfortable for you and your horse.

There are, however, many more variables that apply to how the saddle should fit what it is placed upon. First and foremost for the American Saddlebred, Saddle Seat, rider... How the gullet and pommel fit the wither. The ASB, being an historically high withered rather than a mutton withered one such as a Quarter Horse, can easily and painfully suffer "pinched" withers with an ill fitting gullet and cut back. The pommel should fit very generously around the wither area. Secondly, care should be taken to assure the saddle has the proper length and breadth of tree to properly fit the horse's back. Bars of the tree extending the cantle too far back or those too short can cause some difficulty as well as a tree too narrow causing things such as fistulas. Here the shape of the horse's back, short, long, soft, low, will have a great deal to do with the proper fit. A time tested and very simple way to indentify the fit can be accomplished by folding a "bath" towel to saddle pad size placing it on the horse saddle over it. Ride the horse for some time at all gaits. Dismount and take everything off. Areas of possible stress will be damp or wet while all else will be dry. If it appears the wither or kidney area are in distress, rethink your saddle.

Putting a horse back to work should be no problem. It appears you have taken the first step with the lunging in the "bittens". Long lines, jogging in the cart, riding in a snaffle, all should be part of your horse's return. I, myself, can think of no reason to use a German martingale at this time in your training but whatever works for your horse should be fine. Just, take it slow and easy.

I hope this has been of some help to you and thank you so much for your question. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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July 30, 2012

I get mad sometimes but he looks mad all the time!
(The sour eared horse)

Mr. Lavery,

I am contacting you for your advice on a horse that I have had for about a year. He showed litely last year and litely as a junior horse. A large percent of the time he will have unhappy ears. He will put them forward when entertained with bag or noise maker. He is a 6 y.o. ASB gelding. He is very talented with his legs, goes a big square trot, moves nice off of his hocks, flaxen mane and tail. Overall, is a really nice looking horse, except with his ears. At home I will jog him or line him with an occasional saddle ride. I show him in park classes and easily could trim is mane. I need some tips for improving his ears at shows. I plan to keep him fresh by not working him at the show, or work him away from the paddock and show ring. I also, plan to shield his stall, with hopes to keep a fresh excitement to the show ring. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated... Thank you for your time,

Tip of the Day – Although given little mention in class criteria, alert and forward "looking" ears are an extremely important part of a show horse's overall appearance, often separating the winner of a class from the rest.

Thank you for your great question. It is rare that I come up short with an answer to questions concerning horses and their training but in this instance, that might be the case. As the Tip of the Day suggests, a "sour" eared horse is at great disadvantage in the show ring. It suggests a horse not happy with his work like a singer or dancer with no charisma just going through the motions. Even with all the talent in the world, without that extra spark of enthusiasm, no "star" is born. As a judge I can attest to the truth of this analogy. A sour eared horse is rarely a winner and one with ears "Pinned" back, almost never. Today there are regulations regarding artificial appliances concerning ears. In the distant past, "wired", pierced and tied ears, headstalls with nails, even atropine to blur the eyes, (though not prevalent, certainly not a rarity) were all used in hopes of improving ear carriage. Some of these were ingenious, most ineffective, all, certainly desperate measures but accentuating the importance of forward ears.

That all being said, I wish I could suggest some kind of quick fix but I cannot. Of course, as with all issues dealing with an unnatural behavior in a horse, searching for a cause is the first place to start. Possible things that can impact the ears include: A bored or over worked horse, soundness, dental issues, back problems, ill fitting saddles or bridles, tired horse, unfit horse, rider abuse (heavy rider or heavy hands), other horses, loud noise, extreme heat or cold etc., etc., etc. I am certain you have ruled most of these out and I compliment you on the thought you have given to your "new" training program.

I plan to keep him fresh by not working him at the show, or work him away from the paddock and show ring. I also, plan to shield his stall, with hopes to keep a fresh excitement to the show ring.

I can think of little to add to your plans as a "fresh" horse should be a happy horse except, if he displays a good memory, perhaps "entertaining" him for a trip or two in the show ring the night before he shows.

The downside to all this is that occasionally you will run across a horse who for whatever reason; habit, personality, former training, will not use their ears no matter what you might try. I have had 2 out of maybe 3000 in my career and could not find a reason why, nor could I change them. If this is the case...

That is about all I can think of and I apologize I could not be of more help. I thank you again for your question and wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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July 23, 2012

It Certainly Rained on My Parade!

Mr. Lavery,

I really enjoy your website and the questions you answer. I have a question for you but it is not really a training question. I am asking you because you seem to always give very honest answers and that is what I would like. I showed equitation and performance from the 80's thru 2000. Last week was my first trip back to the Jr. League show since 2004. I cannot begin to tell you how saddened I was to see what that once great horse show has become. Aside from the light entries, cancelled classes and erratic judging, I never remember the footing to be that appalling. Don't get me wrong, I have showed there in the rain but never on footing, that bad and it seemed they did nothing to try and improve it all week. The judging was just perplexing. When they would show the cards, the one Judge, Mr. (Name withheld), seemed to seldom have the same winner or horses in the same order or even similar to the either of the others. In fact, there was little agreement among the three all week, with the exception that a few exhibitors seemed unable to do anything wrong in the classes they entered. I guess my question is, "Did I see all this right and if so, how could this happen to such a great show?"

I can understand if you don't want to answer this, I hope this was not out of line but I am really confused by it all. Thanks so much for your time.

Tip of the Day – Successful horse shows, especially outdoor ones, are not at all like "Topsy"..They don't just "grow". They need serious help!

OMG! Your description of this year's Jr. League show reads like a Judy Blackwell editorial of years gone by. She knew her stuff and was always brutally honest when writing about horse shows, judges and managers in her "Horses" magazine. (It was the 70's and unlike the editors of today, the term "politically correct" was one I am certain she had never heard.) FYI, you most certainly are not out of line, you do not sound confused and I have never had any problem giving my opinion. So here it is...

To get right to your question, yes, I believe much of what you say is the way it was. Although I showed there, regularly, for nearly 40 years, I did not attend this year's show in person. I was able to watch each session, for free this year, thanks to wonderful Richfield Video and talked daily with trainers, owners and even some officials about the show and the conditions. The entries were light. Along with one and two horse classes, there was not even a 3 Gaited Championship. There certainly can be no doubt the footing was absolutely atrocious. All and all you are correct, although it still took a top horse to win a Blue Ribbon, it did not appear to even imitate the depth of the world class show it has been in the recent past. Much of the blame for these issues must fall on the footing. As the Tip of the Day suggests, having a successful outdoor show, while at the mercy of the elements, is not an easy task. Midway through his tenure as manager, Jim LaHood, tired of the annual "mud and muck", switched his footing to wood chips and pretty much solved the footing problem as well as can be expected. The show became even more nationally prominent and successful each year after and even our finely dressed ladies were able to navigate to their box seats or their $2000.00 tables with nary a spec of mud on their designer dresses and shoes. The Red Mile takes its name from the red clay surface but underneath is a brick base creating a "pan" of limited drainage compounded by the continuous "banked" angle of the track. Most any horseman would know that piling sand on a track such as that would be tantamount to disaster. I was also told, it appeared that little or nothing was done to"improve" (should read "correct") the footing after the rain. Dangerous footing coupled with the arbitrary rule that closes entries and qualifications for the World Championship before Lexington is over, left little incentive for conscientious trainers and owners to put their wonderful animals at risk. Sad but true.

Speaking to your issues with the judging; much of your concern can be blamed on the venue itself. I have judged this show and am aware that because of the extreme length of the ring, the very narrow turns and up and downhill sides, it is a rarity for most horses to make a consistent horse show around the entire ring. Therefore, a judge standing near the in gate sees a completely different show than a judge standing near the South end. The same holds true with one judge looking "up" towards the grandstand and another looking "down" to the infield rail. The lighting, although not really a factor this year because of the very short sessions, is also not conducive to the most efficient judging as the grandstand lights are blinding and the infield rail very dark. The UPHA recommended judging/scoring system, currently being used, takes all this in account and in fact, depends on each judge having a different view of the class. It actually is a good thing if the cards don't always match, the system will sort it out and the horse making the best performance usually wins.

As far as your issues with particular judges, remember, judging is ultimately subjective and there is no way to legislate a person's opinion. You also might have noticed that a few stables are seemingly "filled" with truly great horses while more may have just one or two and the majority none. Most often the Blue Ribbons seem to seek only the top horses.

That all being said and now on a personal note, let me also remind you of how thankful we all should be to an organization such as the Jr. League who has presented this wonderful show for so many years. The ladies of that organization have tirelessly strived to insure American Saddlebreds, Hackneys and Standardbreds, have a world class competition to be proud of and part of. As "even best laid plans" can sometimes go awry, this year's edition should not be considered as any example of the world class editions of the past or those to come in the future. Lexington Jr. League is an outdoor spectacle without comparison in the equine community, a one of a kind original with a lot of life left in her.

The current judging system is by far the very best and most equitable we have ever had. It levels the playing field by giving all an equal chance, minimizing personalities, insuring all of the ring is being watched and tabulating the results in a most non-biased and timely fashion.

Lastly, for those who would insist upon rushing to practicality over ambiance, I would remind you of the National Horse Show's move from Madison Square Garden to the Meadowlands and who could forget Rock Creek at Freedom Hall.

Thank you so much for your question, I hope I have given you some food for thought. I hope to see you at the Red Mile for the Jr. League next year.

LF Lavery

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July 16, 2012

I Just Want to Go for a Walk!
(Insuring the walk)


I just purchased an older gaited gelding that was shown 3 gaited park to put into my lesson program. When I went to look at him he was a true gentleman longlined well for the owner, and when I rode him he was great, flat walked with no problem. His only fault at the time was he would stop and park out if he got nervous, or there was any commotion in the barn but he would walk off when asked. Now that we have him home he REFUSES to walk! He acts as if he was never taught how. He will do whatever possible to get himself out of walking, runs sideways, tries to throw me onto the rail, and it never fails he stops and parks when we get to the end near the gate. Once he parks out it is near impossible to get him to go forward, all the usual aids have no effect on him. Turning him works, but 2 strides and he plants himself again. Then when he does go to walk out of the park he tries to back out of it, dropping his withers and back underneath me ( which feels like he is going to rear although he doesnt). Once we get him forward again, He wants to rack or trot full speed down the straight rail.

I need some advice on this guy! If you just let him go he actrually is a pretty good boy, settles right in to a relaxed trot that a student would be able to ride with no problem. Always takes his leads, and for the most part only goes to slow gait when asked. He holds his head nicely and is pretty light in the bridle( except when walking he is very strong, when he actually does walk). I have tried just about every bit I own and he feels and acts just about the same in all of them, straight and draw reins, germans... still nothing! He long lines great and is very relaxed, flat walks and drops his head down for me. I Lease a facility and our Indoor is quite small 100x40, but I'd say we are only able to use about 80ft of the long rail, but once he gets going the size of the ring doesnt really seem to bother him. Let me know what you thnk im stumped by this one!

Tip of the Day – Attempting to make a horse walk has about as much chance for success as telling one's wife what to do.

Thank you so much for your question. Although most of us usually think very little about it, when something like this occurs, walking seems to really gain a lot more importance. As Martha Stewart might say, "Walking, it's a good thing." It would appear that your gelding is not subscribing to this way of thinking and that, indeed, is a bad thing. The act of walking allows a horse to "rest", a rider to rest and collect his thoughts... and his horse. The walk is the very basis to setting up smooth transitions to the other gaits. Although the most natural of the horse's gaits, whether through circumstance, poor training or lack of it, soundness or equipment issues, the walk sometimes becomes a gait the horse becomes uncomfortable at. This appears to be what has happened in your situation. It is possible biting, dental issues, soundness or even ill fitting equipment can play a part and should be considered, I would guess you are dealing with a training issue. Something traumatic has happened to him or he has been taught or just allowed to get away with this behavior. At this juncture attempting to MAKE the horse walk will serve little purpose. Instead, you job is to find ways to ALLOW him to walk. As alluded to in the Tip of the Day, all the holding, pulling, talking, shouting, etc, will serve no purpose but to stir and excite the horse even further. Surely you have seen this in the show ring and have found this to be true yourself. To walk, properly, he must be comfortable enough, confident enough and relaxed enough to perform this gait on a loose rein. This is not easy to accomplish but it can be done.

From your great description, it seems you have an invaluable tool at your disposal, the long lines. As you mentioned, the horse walks well in them and he rode nearly perfect the day you bought him, after the seller FIRST long lined him. Have you been continuing this procedure when you ride, that might be a place to start? Daily work in long lines and ultimately the cart with much time spent calmly walking as far and in as varied places as possible may be the key to relaxing this horse. Soft vocal encouragement at the walk such as "easy", "walk" repeated when needed. Bending and twisting, circling with a very calm demeanor, soft hands and slow deliberate work will serve you well. On the other hand, his "balking" or slowness to comply when asked to move from a stop or stopping without a command must be met with an immediate reprimand. It is just as important he recognizes the cue to walk relaxed as it is for him to recognize your "Cluck" or pressure from your legs to go forward. As in driving a car, there must be a brake and there must be an accelerator. Be swift but do not be timid with your reprimand he must respect you when you ask.

When you feel he is walking well and relaxed in the lines, moves forward immediately upon your signal and is no longer stopping on his own, then I would continue the same program in the cart. When he is also working well in the cart, anywhere you take him, I would again go back to riding. Walk under saddle in the same manner you have in the lines. Calm and relaxed but ready to make balking uncomfortable. A weekly refresher course in the lines or the cart might also be a great idea.

This will take some time but if you are patient and persistent, I feel sure you will see progress. Thank you so much for your question and please let me know if I can be of further help. I wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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July 9, 2012

It would be much more fun if we were going Steady!
(Unsteady head carriage)

Hi there. I've been reading your training questions/answers for a long time and love going through the archives to find what I'm looking for. However, I feel that you may be able to help with my question better if you actually see a video of my horse and give me some advice based on that.

To give you some background info: I'm an amateur with a country pleasure horse that I've had for 3 years now. I haven't had him in training at all, but I just recently started taking lessons on him once a week. I have also taken lessons at a training facility for the past 7 years. He is 13 and has had no lameness or health issues since I've had him. (Knock on wood.)

My question is how do I get him more consistent in his bridle? He throws his head up every few steps when being worked, though it happens more when he is being worked in the double bridle. I have tried changing the tightness of his curb chain, changing the placement of his curb bit in his mouth, shortening/letting out the reins, pushing him up more, etc. His teeth were checked last week by our vet and are fine and he has no soundness or pain issues. It seems that no matter how steady I try to be he always ends up flipping his head up eventually. I'm not sure if it is me or something that he has just learned over the past 3 years. Here is a video that may help you see what I am talking about. Thank you!

Tip of the Day – It is neither attractive nor desirable when a horse's head carriage has more positions than a compass

Thank you so much for your question and for including the video. Although your description was excellent, you have no idea how much easier it is for me to give you a succinct answer when I have the luxury of actually seeing the behavior. To begin, let me compliment you on your riding. You not only look nice, your seat and hands seem to be functioning in the correct and true sense of equitation. Your horse is very attractive as well and whoever was "coaching" you was right on the money. That being said, here are my thoughts and suggestions.

As I have said over and over again when dealing with issues of the horse's mouth, dental conditions should be addressed before all other avenues. I am pleased to see you started there as well but, I, personally, would find it hard to accept the vet's statement that his teeth were fine. A horse's teeth could be floated as often as 3 times a year as that is how quickly the edges of the molars can become worn and uncomfortable. For certain, they should be floated twice a year and, at the very least, once a year to insure some degree of comfort. Often, even great vets do not excel as equine dentists. It might well be time for a second opinion in the dental department as your horse's behavior is a classic symptom of dental issues.

As I have already mentioned, you ride very well and I really appreciate someone who separates their seat from their hands so well as to ride as light handed as you do. With this horse, however, this may be working against you. It is seldom that I suggest someone make their horse stronger in the bridle but that is what I am going to suggest to you. If you will study the You Tube video, I think you will see that the curb rein is so loose that it is actually swinging back and forth in his mouth. To steady his head, you must remove the "slop" from the curb bit and steady him on the snaffle. To do this you must "drive" him forward and up to the bridle. He acts as if he is quite satisfied with the status quo and is waiting for you to ask him for more. Using your legs, a whip, help from the ground, you must encourage him to trot with a great deal more authority rather than just "coasting" around as he does in the video. Speed is not the issue it is making him engage his hindquarters and push up to the bridle. I by no means suggest this be a pulling contest but to achieve your goal, he must have a bit more support and security from your hands. In my opinion, the best way to accomplish this is working in the snaffle bridle. Harness can be a wonderful tool if he jogs. Riding in the snaffle is your ticket to a steady headset as once he wears the snaffle perfectly; the curb should be no problem. Along those lines, Seal-tex on the curb and curb chain may help you and perhaps a shorter shanked bit could also make the job a little easier.

I really feel that should give this a try, you will be very pleasantly surprised at the change it will make in your ride. Thank you once again for your question, I only hope I have been able to give you some useful ideas. I wish you good luck and good riding and look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book.

LF Lavery

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July 2, 2012

Nightmare on any Street!
(We meet the horse from Hell)

Dear Mr. Lavery

I am writing to you, fighting back tears. I have long enjoyed your website and while I feel a bad speaking ill of our horse, I am so frustrated and I hope you can give me some help or direction.

We have a 5 year old ASB show horse who I find very hard to love. We got him 6 months ago and although we were assured by the woman whose barn he had been in (a very well respected member of the Saddlebred world) that he would be perfect for our daughter, both my husband and I had been in this business years ago and we know the level of honesty often exhibited when horse are being sold so we knew that we might have some work to do. What we didn't know is what a handful we would be getting!

This horse does not like to have his feet picked - he jerks his front feet away from you and tries to kick with his back ones. He doesn't like to be bridled; he either lifts his head in the air and looks down his nose, or, if one is tall enough to still bridle him, he slings his head around, sending the bridle flying. He likes to chew on anything in his vicinity. Tack, buckets, his stall, people. Greasing his feet requires an extra person. He has to be tranquilized to be clipped, and shoeing is quite the challenge. The only saddlebred farrier in the area offered to buy him from us so that he could put a bullet in him. I think he was joking...

He tips his water bucket repeatedly and rubs his tail. He kicks when you try to put guards or chains on his back feet. He dances and paws and cavorts in the crossties. He does not tolerate the hose or fly spray. He is head shy on the right side so does not want that side of his head brushed or rubbed. He does not hand walk peaceably. He just doesn't seem to like to be groomed or petted. We have had horses with some of these issues - just not a horse with ALL of them! And he seems to develop new ones periodically. By the way, he does all this without flattening his ears back.

Knowing that he cannot be permitted to get away with all these habits, we have found ways to work around them, though they are still annoying. We bought a special water bucket., a $30 bib helps keep the person grooming him intact, (slapping him on the neck for nipping seemed to make it worse - more of a game maybe?), a firm clamp on his nose allows my husband to put the bridle on, and quiet persistence has helped a little with picking his feet and the right side of his head. We rub on fly stuff and sponge him instead of hosing.

The real issue(s) are harder. The horse himself is tough and if he "gets mad", he is even worse. My husband works him six or seven days a week since if he is worked less often; he is too much of a handful. I had the vet check him out thoroughly and also had the vet float his teeth in April, though the vet said he didn't really need it. I haven't had a chiropractor out; am not even sure there is one in our area. The horse is sound and is actually quite a talented animal when he is going right (fourth and fifth ribbons at a couple of tough shows with previous trainers). He hauls well and seems to enjoy being at a horse show. For the most part, he long lines nicely though sometimes he acts a little squirrely and has to be reminded it is time to work, and he drives satisfactorily. We usually line and drive him alternately since he gets sour if he is worked the same way repeatedly! He gets ridden about once a week.

Of his working problems, at this point the main problem is his canter. He has a big, fast, reaching canter. He is fairly agreeable with the first canter, (though he jumps into it and bucks a little initially) but about three quarters of the time, he does NOT want to take his second canter lead. He fights. He throws his head. He spins, He goes off his front feet ( almost a rear but I always swore I would never keep a horse who reared so I am praying he isn't going to do a full rear next). If he finally takes a canter, it is usually on the wrong lead and he must be stopped and restarted which sometimes he does and sometimes he fights again. We have tried several different bits with him though none seems to help with this issue. He has quite a soft mouth and doesn't appreciate or need a lot of hold. My husband (who trained Saddlebreds for years, years ago) thinks he has some sort of problem with the left side of his mouth. It is asking him for the canter that is problematic. We tend to ride him in bell boots and chains with guards on behind. I don't know if this is important, but his previous trainer attempted to gait him but was unsuccessful.

My husband had a "knockdown-drag out" with him this evening with both of them ending up angry, exhausted and dripping with sweat. Lots of bad language peppered the air. Though neither man nor equine ended up on the ground, it was frightening to watch, especially as this is supposed to be a first show horse for our daughter! She is convinced that she loves him and would be devastated if I took him away from her, claiming she doesn't want another horse and she will no longer want to ride and show.

My daughter does ride this horse at the walk and trot and he has behaved well with her though he occasionally wanders off the rail even though she is visibly trying to keep him on the rail. He tests her, I think, to see what he can get away with. He doesn't like a whip even being carried so that isn't helpful. I shudder to think about my child trying to canter this animal. She is not an aggressive rider, and we seem to have ended up with a challenging horse. It has been a difficult six months and I cannot tell you how frustrated, disappointed and saddened I am. Rather than bringing us all together in this sport, this animal is creating a great deal of angst amongst all of us and is threatening to derail our reawakening love of this breed and the sport.

Do you think that this cantering issue can be corrected? Does it sound like a training issue? A rider issue? Do we need to ride him more? Ride him less? Canter him incessantly? If he does have a problem in his mouth, what does that mean?

Do you think, combined with everything else I have described, that this animal is unfixable and we should get rid of him? Am I crazy for even trying to make this horse work for a teenage girl just out of academy?

I do not have a video but if you want me to, I can make one and send it. I am in the Northeast, so too far for you to easily come to my farm. I know this is your business, so please let me know what I owe you to help answer my question(s). Any suggestions you have for me would be so appreciated!

PS - As an aside, do all the ground issues sound like dominance issues? The gelding is more difficulty with me than with my husband or even my daughter, and I am trying to change how I act around him by being quieter and calmer.

Tip of the Day –Even "Bunny Huggers" might be quick to buy a shotgun.... the second or third time the rabbit bites them.

Thank you for your question. I am close to speechless and can only think of clichés and such. "Holy crap Batman!", "OMG", "WTF?" are just a few that come to mind. I am so glad you enjoy my website but please know what I work with is simply a computer keyboard.... NOT... a magic wand! Over the years, I have seen, dealt with and heard about some truly bad horses. In fact, I was pretty much convinced I had seen it all but none of these horses could begin to start the one you describe. My dear, you very well might own..THE HORSE FROM HELL! Individually, each bad behavior you describe can usually be dealt with fairly easily. However, dealing with all these issues, collectively, is mind boggling. On a positive note, 2 ounces of lead, though weighing hardly anything, when placed correctly in his left ear can usually affect a dramatic attitude adjustment. It sounds as if your blacksmith can instruct you on exactly how to place the lead in the ear!

Seriously, I must admit I am really surprised you did not explore turning him back when you first realized this horse was not as represented and certainly not suitable for your daughter. Each time I found myself in a situation where for whatever reason I was dissatisfied or even in trouble with a horse I had purchased, my first call was always to the previous trainer. First, perhaps it was something I was or was not doing that the trainer could pick up on and assist me with. (After all, he or she had the horse good enough for me to want to buy him.) Secondly, if there was no help there, that was the time to discuss other options such as taking the horse back. (6 months is a bit too long for this option) None the less, if I were you, I would still give the trainer a call and explain the situation and ask for some advice. It has been my experience that trainers who purposely misrepresent and stick innocent buyers with outlaws are usually never very well respected, as you say your seller was, in the American Saddlebred industry. Most trainers will work with you as their reputation can spell success or failure in this business. So give it a try. What have you got to lose?

It is evident from your description we are not dealing with a "green" horse that is unsure about what you want of him. That would be an entirely different matter and would require an entirely different course of action. Had you not mentioned that you have been professional horsemen, I might have assumed you were novices and had simply allowed this to get out of hand to the point the horse is "answering the phone" when someone calls your barn. Knowing that not to be the case, I am certain I will not have to go into great detail about a course of action. You are, I am sure, familiar with the tools often used to discourage poor behavior and to put us on a more equal footing with a 1000 pound animal. A humanely applied twitch, a correctly placed chain lead shank, a harsh word and an intelligently thought out and perfectly timed "tap" with a crop, can have remarkable results.

As to affecting some correction to this long list of bad behaviors, starting with the first one and continuing right on through the list, nearly every one of them will require a second person and some very firm and timely handling. For instance, picking up the feet. The horse not on crossties but in the area he would usually be groomed should be headed by the helper with the lead shank placed across the horse's nose or under the lip. When the incorrect behavior is displayed, it should be answered with a sharp "jerk" and a calm but harsh word such as "no" or "Here". (The word itself is not important so long as it is always the same word. It is the tone that is important.) Were this a young colt we were correcting, our emphasis would be on reward rather than punishment. Your student however, is far beyond that stage and needs to be re-taught a little respect so the emphasis is on timely correction. Spend 2-5 minutes on this procedure repeating the correction each time he rebels. The instant he cooperates, reward him in some fashion such as a kind voice, petting him, even a treat and then quit for the day. You are gaining his respect which will be critical to dealing with the rest of the issues. Along those lines, I would use this procedure with all issues you describe dealing with grooming and shoeing.

The bridling problems should be approached differently and will take a good deal of time. He is obviously "head shy" and this is not an issue that needs correction but rather desensitizing. By that I mean teaching respect is not the answer, instead, we need to gain his trust. Here, a gentle voice and hours of gently rubbing your hands on his neck, face and eventually his ears until he drops his head when you push on the poll. (A treat in the left hand and the right hand on the poll sometimes is very helpful to accomplish this) When this occurs, you will have gained his trust and he will be easy to bridle.

As far as the training issues, if I were training this horse:

I would have him checked for a blind or broken wolf tooth. (4-5 year old horses need their teeth floated more than others of any age)

I would turn him out, 24/7, no grain only grass and hay until he was training satisfactorily.

I would canter him in a biting rig on a lunge line, then in long lines and when that was going well, in the cart.

I would lunge him before I rode him and make each ride without an issue. (Although correcting him is important, fighting him serves no purpose.)

If I owned this horse:

I would seriously consider if he is worth the trouble and if he is what I would want for my daughter should I correct most of his issues. I somehow doubt even owning Wing Commander would be worth having all the heartaches this horse has already caused you.

Without actually seeing these behaviors, that is about all I can think of to say in this limited space. There can be no doubt he is dominating the day. You also might find you have answered many of your own questions if you reread your letter. That tells me how well you have analyzed the situation and that is the most important part of correcting it. There is no charge for this response my reward will be if you feel I have been of some help and I get to read of your progress in my Guest Book. I do feel your pain but I am certain, if you decide to follow through, you will be able to make some changes if you are diligent and very patient implementing these suggestions. How many changes I cannot say. Remember, he did not get this way overnight nor will be perfect by tomorrow morning. I thank you again for your question and wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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