Mare will only ride toward pasture mates - new problem

Two rides ago, my mare decided she wasn’t going to move one inch if it was away from where her pasture mates were. Whether they are hanging out in the barn or literally standing beside the fence of the arena, she will only go toward her friends. She will walk or trot toward friends, but she won’t go away. We don’t do much when we ride, and she is super smart. We usually just walk and trot around in the arena or pasture. I almost wonder if she is just bored and fed up with the pointlessness of our riding?? I fixed the problem the first time by leading her fairly far off the property where we would have a longer ride back to the barn. I knew she would at least go forward toward the barn where her friends were, and I hoped that from there, she would be more willing to do some other things. We finished strong by trotting in the field away from friends and then I let her be done for the day. Then I rode her a second time. It was infuriating. We were in the arena, and her friend was right next to her. I got her to trot toward her friend and make a full circle. Then when I tried to go the other way she walked maybe five steps. I knew I needed to push her forward and get her focused. I asked for a trot and she wouldn’t budge. I turned her in tiny circles but every time I asked her to walk out straight, she would only stop again. Eventually, instead of turning with her feet, she just turned her neck, not moving her feet at all. At that point I had really lost the argument. I thought it was maybe a tack issue, so I took off her saddle and rode her bareback. She did the same thing. Instead of kicking her hard I just starting to be really annoying with lots of little bumps and clucks until I could get one step. Then I’d praise her. Putting her to work and getting her going was not an option. Kicking her and smacking her did nothing. Verbally saying “trot” did nothing.
So possible options

  • wicked smart pony is incredibly bored
  • saddle doesn’t fit - I have ridden her 3 times in that saddle without this behavior, though. . . Maybe the saddle was up on her shoulder without me realizing, and then she just got irritated?
  • She’s suddenly buddy sour after about 4 years of never doing this.

Other info
-she leads politely - a newer development, so I would have to think her improvement means she respects me

  • she doesn’t want me to catch her, but if I don’t have a halter she is super friendly. Usually when I talk baby talk to her, she lets me catch her with the halter without too much running around - this has gotten progressively worse, while the leading part has gotten progressively better - weird
  • she lets me mount without too much of a fuss
  • nobody works with her but me most of the time. I had a friend come out a week and a half ago, who suggested I use the other saddle, and she rode the pony, too, in that saddle, as did I
  • I can do all kinds of fun stuff with her on the ground, and she really enjoys obstacles and such, but I don’t use them when I ride, because it’s just sticks and things, and so I worry they’ll fall apart or something.
  • she’s kind of bratty and independent to begin with, but such a good girl, at the end of the day, and she loves to learn

My current solutions for the past 3 sessions since our last ride

  • spend time with her, do fun leading stuff, make sure she trusts me on the ground, and keep it really fun and different - that’s worked really well!!
  • buy ground poles and make a couple of safe jumps for her - did this, but it’s been too rainy for us to ride. I made a sort of jumping course of a ground poles and then I also have 2 jumps I made - itty bitty cross rails. I hope that having something interesting to do in the arena will engage her better - I really do think she may just be incredibly bored
  • try better to make compromises and keep things interesting so she knows I am listening to her and speaking her language.

So what would y’all suggest? Do you think it’s a tack thing or a bratty thing? Do you think it’s boredom, herd bound issues, or our relationship as horse and rider? Any advise would be great!!!


I vote bratty and herdbound (don’t worry, they all have their moments :slight_smile: ). She tried it on for size, nothing bad happened to her so she has learned she doesn’t have to go away from her friends. Up the stakes a little bit - maybe separate her in turnout from the other horses, and certainly don’t return her to them immediately after a ride that goes badly.

Work her hard by/close too her friends then let her rest farther away. She will figure out real fast that friends mean hard work.

Hi, y’all!

Thanks so much for your advice! Since my post, I have put her back in her old, wider saddle, and she was walking again like normal. She is definitely having some bratty issues and herd bound issues. Since she found out while her saddle wasn’t fitting that she could get away with these things, it’s carried through into our next rides. I have noticed a couple of things that I didn’t pay attention to, before, while trying to look for answers.

  1. I am letting the alpha mare boss her around while I am there. I think that protecting my pony will maybe give her a more clear signal that although alpha mare protects her when I am not there, I am capable of protecting her and the whole herd when I am around. I think I need to make my role to her a bit clearer.

  2. I have noticed that taking her off the property makes her nervous but also she does a lot better. I think that mixing it up as much as possible is the best thing I can do right now

  3. I have also noticed that she doesn’t consistently come up to me in the field whether or not I have a halter or treats. I think that getting her to walk across the field to me of her own free will will help us a lot. I think there is probably something missing if she wont approach me, even though she lets me approach her. I need to make her feet move without having to try so hard, and she needs to want to spend time with me or, heck, what are we doing? so I am hoping that coming out on random days and getting her to travel some version of a distance to get an apple from me will help our relationship. I think it’s a bad sign if she can make me walk all the way across the pasture to come to her, but I can’t do the same with her.

  4. I need to make sure I am really clearly asking her to go forward. Little squeeze, little kick, then crop. eventually I hope she will go back to the little squeeze phase we were on a few rides ago.

Thoughts on my findings?

also while individual turn out isn’t possible at my barn, I can do the - work hard around friends - thing, and I am excited to try that and see how she goes. I think mixing it up all the time and doing trail rides will also help us! Also just doing lots of stuff on the ground!

Thanks so much!

It sounds like you might be a touch overhorsed and like your horse has figured out that she can more or less get away with the behavior with limited consequences. Certainly not the end of the world and very often the solution is getting a good professional involved. Is there anyone at your farm or local to you that could help? This would be the best solution, but if it isn’t feasible or if it is going to take a few weeks to get something set up, there are a few things you could try in the interim. Have you asked anyone else to sit on her and see if they experience the same issue? That could be very telling! Do you assert yourself in any other way besides voice/kicking. As George Morris says (I’m paraphrasing here!) “never go to battle unarmed”! If you’re not already, I would consider carrying a stick and wearing spurs and putting them to use if she remains unresponsive!

Best of luck!

Thanks so much for everyone’s feedback! One ride with a crop and that’s all we needed. Tiny tap on the shoulder three times and that is all she’s ever needed. Goes perfect now!