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Broke pony goes broke

I have a very well trained pony who has begun to exhibit bad behaviors. This morning, he lunged forward on the lead while going to the field. On one drive, he had a gigantic spook. On another ride, he lunged forward when a dog came near. None of this is typical behavior. I won’t take him driving right now because he’s unsafe. I’ll be doing a lot of ground driving.
Any help is appreciated.

Do you have trainer help on the ground?

Have you had a vet checkup about ulcers, back pain, or vision issues? All of these can make a horse spooky.

Has his routine changed recently? Has he had time off work?

Sounds like you need some basic ground work refresher like how to lead. Every single horse will rush to the field if you allow it.

What’s your own experience in training and schooling?

It’s important to realize that there are different aspects to horse behavior.

They never actually unlearn their real training.

But they can easily develop attitude, emotional, or behavior issues that mean they can’t and won’t listen to your cues at that moment.

Number One is pent up energy from not getting enough exercise. Longeing or free longeing until the horse settles is one way to work this off. Another issue is pain, whether hoof or gut or back. Horses can get upset when things hurt. Another issue is developing habits like being barn sour or buddy sour, or becoming afraid of a thing or trail or etc that was always fine before.

You need to diagnose the source of the issue before you can solve it. He hasn’t become “unbroke” but he has temporarily got more energy than you want.


Out of curiosity I went to look at @Kazie posting history to see if I could figure out the experience level and history here.

I see that you’ve had this pony a few years, you were an inexperienced horse person who bought an “anyone can drive” pony and have found him tired on hills, and developing spooking behavior in traffic after one incident. You got excellent advice on those past threads.

So here is something newbie horse owners often don’t recognize.

Horse behavior is not static. You can buy a fully trained horse and within a year have created a balky sulky spooky bolty monster simply because of how you have been handling and managing him.

I’m at a self board barn with no training program and I see this with virtually every new ammie or junior horse: things get worse before they get better. Sometimes very much worse, and never really better. I have been through this myself.

So your handling over the past several years has created issues for your horse that you don’t have the experience or skills to fix. There’s no shame in that. You need to find a good local ground work coach to review the basics, and then a good driving coach. Right now the key thing is fixing your skill levels because you are the problem, not the pony.


It’s hay season here and the trainer I use will be tied up for a while. As soon as she is able, I will have her help me.
Thanks for your advice.


It may be as Scribbler says a slide in understanding between you both. It may also be a Decline in health. Reading your original post my brain immediately went to check vision.

I hope things settle for both of you soon. Do keep us posted!


I will say, don’t overlook health either, a very good friend of mine has a mare that was a super solid trail horse. She started exhibiting odd behaviors a couple years back, huge spooks being one of them, and she was diagnosed with EPM in the fall last year. Not to say it’s EPM, could be vision related like @Brody mentioned or something else entirely.

Hopefully your trainer may have some additional insight. I agree it could easily be a training issue given the background, but always good to keep note of behavior changes as often times that can indicate a health issue too.


I had a pretty bombproof pony who suddenly starting spooking at things he’d been driven past for years. My vet said it was cataracts. I retired the pony. He seemed much happier just hanging out. I figure he deserved a nice retirement as he was well into his 30s when his vision started to get compromised. He died a few years later, but definitely seemed to enjoy his last years. He never did have much of a work ethic.