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Horse kicks out and resists to go forward

I bought a non raced TB two years ago, while riding him, he completely resists some times trotting and all of the time cantering. to not do his job, he will buck, kick out, pin his ears, tail swish, anything but trot. I have tried Spurs, crops, everything. He is on ulcer medications ect. I have a ton of riding experience, a professional even struggles to get him going also. When he is jumping around, there is no problem and also when he is away at a show just fine. At home he resists any kind of flatting especially cantering. Wondering if there is some medication or something that could be wrong I could fix. Please help

IMO I think you should have him checked for ulcers - whatever he’s on just may not be working or may not be the right dose.

Can you describe what other measures you have taken to be sure it’s not pain- related? Saddle fit checked, teeth, hocks, etc.

We have a horse like that at the barn and the problem is his back hurts him due to kissing spines.

Have the vet out asap. Ulcers, back pain, lameness could all be a casuse. ALSO, have him checked for Lymes. My friend had a pony that did and his lyme titer was through the roof. After a round of minocycline he was good as new.
If that all checks out okay, have the chiropractor out and maybe a saddle fitter. If it is determined that it is a behavioral thing, is there a field you could ride in or trails for a while. Sometimes my OTTB gets pissy when I drill her too much on ring work and all she really needs is to just do some trot/canter/gallop sets in the fields to refresh her mentally. (both my horses get that way especially in winter when the footing gets bad and the only place to ride is the ring.

Sometimes they’re just snots. :stuck_out_tongue:

Do your flatwork with poles. Try not to pick a fight and over-reward when he goes forward.

FWIW, I had a mare that came to me the same way. I tip-toed around the issue for about nine months. Got her working most of the time but still didn’t respect my leg entirely. Decided I needed to get past it and spent three days in a row cantering her around the ring until she went forward. There was a lot of bucking, ear pinning, etc, but I just kept my leg on until she went forward (no stick or spurs). By the end of day three, I was exhausted, but now she goes forward when I add leg!

I had one this summer that I bought who was just lovely. Decent horse at the track made around $40k. Nicely forward on the trails and out of the ring but in the ring it was painful. At first he was just slow but then came the ear pinning, kicking out and bucking because he was a sales horse being shown to customers he just got away with it. Did a vet work up, bloodtest and chiro. Chiro helped but overall he just had a bit of go ahead and make me :slight_smile: I went back to installing the buttons on the lunge line. Whip means forward and a cluck mean forward. Then I went back to work undersaddle and if he even thought about getting behind my leg he got a hard whack. I use a neck strap and am just prepared they MUST go regardless of what they do. He wasn’t mean about it just being a bit of a red headed pig. If he didn’t want your leg touching him he kicked out and that got him a nice tap with the whip.

It really only took a few crack down sessions and he was respecting the forward aids. I also did have a ground person with a lunge whip in case I needed back up. I have used that on horses that get stuck. Thankfully this horse wasn’t at all mean and had no tendencies to do anything worse than stop or kick out so it wa a relatively easy fix.

If there’s not a vet reason (pain) because he goes well in other situations like at shows, then I think he does not respect your leg. In fact, you’ve actually trained him to kick out at the whip or leg, because probably you give him a little release at the same time (you are thinking you are helping open the door to forward, by releasing but in fact you’re rewarding the resistance and it’s not working).

He needs several come to jesus moments. If he kicks out at the “forward” aid, you need immediate huge punishment/whack/snap whatever. Do NOT release the reins during that correction.

It’s not you, it’s him.

Where does he want to go when he does this? The gate/back to his field/back to his stall. My guess is wherever there is no pressure.

Does he understand contact well? If not, are you on his face (pressure on both reins) a lot?

I would get rid of no on the ground first if that is an issue. If he moves forward well in groundwork, then move onto your undersaddle work.

Undersaddle, don’t steer him. Don’t touch his face, get him moving forward, and when he heads to (I would put money on) the gate/home/where he wants to rest, put him to work (I disengage the hind end, and bug them with legs and a crop if need be). Let him decide to leave the spot that he once thought that he would really like to be. This might take one ride, this might take ten rides. It depends on the horse, but I guarantee you if you let the horse make the mistake and find the answer, they will learn. Rather than you trying to micromanage where he’s going and trying to prevent him from making the mistake at all.

Once you get rid of him thinking he knows where to find the pressure-free spots in the ring, then you can start to steer, teach straightness, teach the bits leading up to collection, etc.

Get that horse thinking forward is a good idea!

If there’s not a vet reason (pain) because he goes well in other situations like at shows, then I think he does not respect your leg. In fact, you’ve actually trained him to kick out at the whip or leg, because probably you give him a little release at the same time (you are thinking you are helping open the door to forward, by releasing but in fact you’re rewarding the resistance and it’s not working).

He needs several come to jesus moments. If he kicks out at the “forward” aid, you need immediate huge punishment/whack/snap whatever. Do NOT release the reins during that correction.

It’s not you, it’s him.[/QUOTE]

This is dangerous advice to a rider and horse that hasn’t been seen and to the potentially unlimited of people who could read this on the net.

In 2 separate instances I have witnessed a horse go up and over backwards, each time because a horse was held and kicked.

The horse is kicked, goes forward, hits the bit and has nowhere to go but up. They do so with such force that they overbalance.

The first time 2 kids at ponyclub swapped ponies to ride home. One rider a kicker, one rider was not.

The kicker kicked. The pony went up and over, landed on the rider who was killed instantly.

This divided the community as the parents of the dead child wanted the pony labelled dangerous and destroyed. Those that understood knew that it was not the ponies fault.

The next time I saw it was probably 20 years later, at an Instructor’s Camp. One girl borrowed a mare who was in the paddock and doing nothing.

This poor mare was put into the School for a week. She was really going well until the day she reared and went over backwards on her rider. Luckily she landed on her rump first, went sideways and just mised the rider. Who sat there, grey, shaking and a noise coming out of her mouth for at least 15 minutes.

Apparently the mare was going so well that she was even picking up the voice commands in tbe lessons. The ride was in trot and when the Instructor called out Halt. Everyone else and the mare halted. However the rider had not asked for halt so instead of thanking her for covering up her mistake she kicked her to reprimand but didn’t let go of the reins so as the mare wouldn’t go forward into the horse in front.

It happens quicker than the blink of an eye.

If you dont know what you are doing AND if the horse doesnt know any different then the reins mean stop and the legs mean forward and should not be used together until the horse has been taught by an experienced rider and it is better for the rider to learn on an experienced horse.


A couple of ideas: we had a horse that loved to jump, but was terrible for flatwork. We interpersed jumps with her flatwork, and eventually she got over the problem. We had another horse that would not go forward no matter what–and if you got after him with a crop, he’d just get worse. For that horse we turned him around with clicker training–he learned that going forward he got a treat. He went from being unrideable to winning in the showring.

Assuming there is nothing physical, I order ye to the round pen!

The horse has to learn that go means go forward. Not stop, not go up, not kick out. The round pen is a good place to do this because you can drive the horse from the ground and, when mounted, you can focus on making the horse go forward without really having to worry about steering too much.

First, get that horse moving and working on a lunge line in side reins so he has to use himself and learns to move forward into contact.
If you haven’t done lunging before, get your instructor to help you and show you how to do it. I’m not talking about just running him around. Get a really good moving trot and, once you are getting that a good forward moving, correct canter. If he tries to stop or buck or go up, just send him forward. The only reward he gets for any form of balking is more work. He only gets to stop moving when he is going correctly and mannerly and you tell him to stop.

Once you are getting a reliable forward, have your instructor lunge him with you riding him so you can reinforce the verbal and lunge aids with the correct leg and rein aids. You are now retraining him what the go aids are. Once he is doing that, remove the lunge and ride in the round pen without the person lunging to confirm your aids. Once you are getting a reliable forward, go to the regular ring and insist on forward. If you get the balking and kicking and the whip doesn’t get a forward, go back to the lunge ring.

At the beginning, you might simply need to get off the horse and do nothing but ground work and lunging for a couple weeks, but once you get past the initial hump, you should find that you can limit the lunging to days when your horse needs a short 10 minute attitude adjustment before riding.

I would put money on this horse being in pain or discomfort of some kind. You really need a vet to look at him, especially before you attempt to up the pressure while riding him even more. Everything you’ve posted suggests that he is in pain.

The fact that he doesn’t act this way while jumping doesn’t mean he isn’t in pain. Sometimes the excitement of jumping causes enough of an adrenaline rush that horses will kind of blow through pain - especially true of Thoroughbreds.

We always try to understand the reasons of this resistance believing horses do not lie. I find one can get through to a horse with kindness and sympathy, along with firmness more successfully than the come to Jesus meetings. Our aim is to develop a working partner, not a horse that is fearful. Go back a few steps and proceed slowly. Some TB’s will get stuck, wait it out and ask again
and some horses just get overfaced too fast too soon…the work comes upon them faster than they can process. JMHO…

I had a similar issue last winter with my fairly new horse. Turned out to be somewhat personality [he gets grumpy indoors] but was mostly saddle fit. A better fitting saddle fixed 90% of our issues.

Just my 2 cents!

My gelding did this in front of people…while they waited for me to go on a trail ride.

I have been riding him almost daily for about a month. We were going well and progressing nicely. We went on a trail ride on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. For the first time we cantered and GALLOPED down the trail with everyone and it was utterly fantastic, this was a moment that made trainer so happy, to see we had progressed so far!

On that Friday we were going on another one and I took him out, got him ready, got on and we went along at a walk fine to warm up, asked for a trot, got a few strides then I got the pinned ears, the tail swishing, the cow kicking every time I gave him leg.

It was SO embarrassing as his previous owner was with us and was looking forward to seeing him gallop down the trail, I had them go on the trail ride and I worked him til I got a step forward and then got off.

The next time I put him in the round pen with some ground poles to see if there was an issue nope, he was great. Took him to the arena with trainer and got on. Same thing, No forward motion. Trainer says “Do you want me to get on him?” I said No, cause I needed to get him over the hump, if you get on him he will behave perfect for you. So she instructed me to turn his nose to my toe and spin him around, plenty of leg to encourage him around. The idea was to make the the right thing to do easy (walk forward) and the wrong thing to do uncomfortable (not go forward and spin) we got really good at turning on the haunches, we could put a reining horse to shame by the time we were done. He did walk forward and trotted forward, at that point I didn’t try to steer him, I just wanted the forward motion.

It took about two rides of this ‘fight’ taking place before he decided going forward was the best idea. Trainer says that some horses get to the next level no problem, but some reject the idea that things are getting harder and they are getting fitter, especially with lazy horses like he is.

He had his previous owner cowed and would pull this each time they tried to progress forward and she would cry and get off. Hopefully he won’t try it again and will recall that I will fight and we will spin and spin and spin.

So my advice it to grab some mane, a crop or spurs and make him do some serious circles til he decides going forward is way better then turning reining circles.

I have experienced behavior like this with my gelding. It is his go-to disobedience for fear, laziness, or just plain testing you; however, when he absolutely refuses to work (or puts up a bigger fight about not working than he reasonably should), I know it is more than a training issue. In his case, he has had the trifecta of Lyme, ulcers and saddle fit. The one thing I found with his ulcers is that omeprazole, while helpful, did not fully help his ulcer symptoms. I had to add sucralfate to his treatment protocol.

Jumping was not really an issue – in fact, it was one of the rewards I used to incentivize him to go forward. I tried many different training methods (including looking at my own riding), but at the end of the day, I have concluded that if a fairly knowledgeable rider can’t get a fairly sane horse to work, physical problems are likely to blame.

Which all comes down to listening to the horse.

If a horse won’t go it is called ‘napping’.

My boy is very good, this week on the lunge I said trot and he didn’t trot. I know immediately something is wrong. He is footsore from the apprentice farriers so I will have to say something next time.