Restarting a very hot horse! Help!

:slight_smile: I’ll start off by describing my situation. I have a medium pony mare who is 12, and she has had some time off. I have only had her for a few years and have been in contact with her first owner, so I know that she came from a rough start, but not sure of her training in the in between years. I was told when I got her that she had some dressage training and had done some jumping, but since I have had her she hasn’t had much regular work. Most of the riding I do is hacking out and trail riding, and minimal ring work - my goal is not to show, just to have a safe and relaxed mount.

When I have ridden her, she gets hot when you put contact on the bit and ask her to stay at a slower pace, throwing her nose in the air. I have had luck by keeping her focused on what I am asking, as long as letting jumping isn’t involved. (Have had teeth and chiro look at her, so no physiological problems). Whenever jumping she melts down, rushing the jumps as fast as she possibly can and fights to take control from the rider, and remains hot for the rest of the ride. She loves to jump and is not fearful of the obstacles, but she tries to get around the course as fast as she can with her nose to the clouds when you try to control her striding.

I would like to restart her, and have started out with lunging. I would like to go back to basics with her and go from there. I have experience with starting young horses, but have never restarted a previously “broke” horse. Any tips on where I should start or what to work on to get her to be “less hot”, if that’s even possible. Help! :confused:

Update: I have cut out her grain, and lunge work has been going really well and we are having relaxed rides at a walk in the ring (doing lots of circles, and working off the leg).

No negative posts please, I am looking for advice, and open to all types of horsemanship.

Lots of turnout, with another horse or horses, if possible. Cut or eliminate her grain.

Hack her out as much as you can. Walking for hours is great.

Keep the exercise consistent, but try not to get her too fit.

As you bring her back, don’t over face her. Keep her within her comfort zone. Try to keep her in a routine so that she knows what to expect and does not get anxious about what is coming next.

As far as jumping is concerned, longeing over cavalleti will slow her down and make her think. Use gymnastic grids to build confidence. As she gets stronger and more balanced, she will get less anxious, more confident and less “hot.”

Thank you for the advice! Right now she is on 24 hours turnout with other horses, so no issues there.

I will definitely try cutting back her sweet feed, so that it is more of a treat as it isn’t an essential part of her diet.

Just wondering if there are any specific exercises you would recommend for when she does get worked up that will help relax her, or keep her focused on what we are doing? (Serpentines, circling, etc…) She is very smart and clearly knows her stuff, but somebody has obviously taught her that faster is better, and she sticks her nose in the air if you try to tell her otherwise. :stuck_out_tongue: very sassy mare.

[QUOTE=staciew;8636597]
Just wondering if there are any specific exercises you would recommend for when she does get worked up that will help relax her, or keep her focused on what we are doing? (Serpentines, circling, etc…) [/QUOTE]

You already said them. :slight_smile: Serpentines and circles are great.

When I first got my horse Red, oh boy did we butt heads for a while. There were several occasions where we’d be out riding for hours, yet never made it more than 1/2 mile from the barn because we were doing so many serpentines and circles!

If she tries to go faster than you asked, I especially like doing either because you only have to pick up on ONE direct rein at a time. Kinda “saves their mouth” in a sense too. If you are walking along and she hops up into a trot, don’t make a big deal of it, just pick up on a rein and do circles or serpentines until she breaks back down to a walk. Then let her walk on. She’ll probably break into a trot again, and that’s okay. Don’t make a big deal, pick up on a rein, circle/serpentine, until she’s back at a walk and then leave her be.

Repeat, repeat, and probably repeat some more!!! Just have more persistence (or stubborness!!) than your horse. :wink:

Correct her when she needs to be corrected, but with a high-energy reactive horse, keep everything relaxed and “no big deal” about it.

Obviously, don’t jump her for quite a while until you can get her general riding more under control and more relaxed. And more open to the idea of letting the rider call the shots.

The best advice I can give is to get inside her head. Ask yourself why she is doing what she is doing and react in such a way that she loses her fear.

But above all, DO NOT RUSH. Every time you try to do something which is outside her comfort zone, you go backwards. At the beginning it may take 2 or 3 months to establish a good walk or a relaxed trot, and you may feel like you will never have the horse you want. But each step will take less and less time because she is not just learning a movement, she is learning trust. And, with out trust, all you have is a mess.

No way should you be jumping, or even cantering. You need to do things on her timeline, not yours.

what bit is in her mouth ?

She has a plain o-ring snaffle in her mouth, and I also use a french link on her other bridle.

When I had gotten her, the lady I got her from said they were using a jointed slow twist eggbutt on her. :mad: I quickly figured out she has a very soft mouth so I quit using that immediately, so I’m wondering if someone with hard hands was rough on her mouth with the twist in it before? Making her throw her head up and run.

I found her first owner from years ago, that had done her training when she was a youngster and she said that they had always used an o-ring snaffle sweet iron bit, and actually sent me the bit they had used, which she said had been effective. Any other suggestions? And keep in mind, I have a hard time finding 4 1/2" bits that are out of the ordinary :slight_smile:

I got my thoroughbred when he was 3 and he was very hard mouthed. Didn’t like any contact and would just clench his jaw and push his head down to avoid it. Took me 3 years of bit experimenting. I just bought a neue schule verbidend and he’s a different horse! Totally accepting of the contact on the first ride and completely relaxed him. They’re pricey but worth every penny. If you don’t want to go that route or not initially, I would free lunge with side reins. Let him figure out what it means to accept contact without a rider. In terms of slowing down tons of little circles. Never go straight. Just keep constantly turning. Cavalettis are great. Land and turn. Keep him guessing. When he does slow down reward him with a loose rein going straight. As soon as he speeds up pick up the reins and turn. It will take a while but he’ll figure out its easier for him if he goes slow. When you do start jumping lots of gymnastics. Start with a pole or two, cross rail, vertical, oxer maybe at the end. Either bounce, one, or two strides in between. Walk until a few steps before the first pole so he can’t get too excited and fast. With only one or two strides between jumps there’s not much he can do to rush them. Good luck!

Walking forward without trotting! One of the hardest things for hot horses to do is to walk out, through their backs, swigning with your hips, without trying to rush. Typically, when I want something hot to slow down both pysically and mentally, half halts, circles, or anythign with any sort of pace beyond a walk, nothing else really get the point across until they understand what you want. This means going back to the walk in many cases. I open my hands wide (and usually down slightly, but depends on the horse), take a soft but moving feel (this is not a loop rein exercise) sit down but not driving, and try to get their back to start to swing with my seat, opening up their walk stride without getting faster.

This usually ends up in quick trott/prancing, for a bit, but if you throw in some large circles while walking and just easy shapes to break it up it does help. When they prance, trott, rush, I sit deep, but not driving, and just hold until they relax, then try to move my seat and their back again and rinse repeat. Once they can consistently walk open into a feel, and when I put my leg on, they open their step, but not rush into the trott, I got to the next gait and do that same until it works there and so on.

Some horses end up in the “walk” phase for a few rides because they are so panicked, anxious, have never been asked to just walk with an open stride into a soft, steady feel, they panick and sweat, and are convinced that something else entirely is happening. You will feel them relax, and it will only come in spurts in the beginning, but when they are really super hot, and have been screwed up a bit, you have to take it back to square one, get a good walk. Halt from the walk, walk forward without rushing from a halt. etc.

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I’ve made something of a hobby/habit of buying ponies with questionable/unknown pasts and though I’m not an exceptional rider, getting them ready for child riders through a lot of slow and patient work plus a fair bit of getting out and seeing the world. For a pony like this, I’d also incorporate a lot of hacking out in the form of hacking down the road (if possible) and trail riding. Sometimes jumping logs on the trail can feel very different to a pony who has been a bit “fried” in the arena and can be a nice way to reintroduce the concept.

I think the bit(s) you are using sound very appropriate, but I’ve recently had good luck with a medium thickness single jointed rubber snaffle on a few horses/ponies who have had unpleasant prior experiences with bits. My hypothesis is that since the rubber bit feels so different from the twisted wire/tom thumb curb/whatever they wore previously they are less likely to react negatively to it. Though of course it is an individual thing - my current “project pony” found the rubber bits to be too wide and is happiest in a french link.

Sounds like you really have the right idea with restarting and taking things slow. Have you done much work with ground poles? If she’s really hot and rushing over the ground poles, I would probably not jump until she can handle the poles calmly. I’ve had success with sort of scattering them randomly (but safely) around my riding area and not making a big deal of them - just incorporating them in along with whatever normal flat work for the day.

[QUOTE=staciew;8636887]She has a plain o-ring snaffle in her mouth, and I also use a french link on her other bridle.

When I had gotten her, the lady I got her from said they were using a jointed slow twist eggbutt on her. :mad: I quickly figured out she has a very soft mouth so I quit using that immediately, so I’m wondering if someone with hard hands was rough on her mouth with the twist in it before? Making her throw her head up and run.

I found her first owner from years ago, that had done her training when she was a youngster and she said that they had always used an o-ring snaffle sweet iron bit, and actually sent me the bit they had used, which she said had been effective. Any other suggestions? And keep in mind, I have a hard time finding 4 1/2" bits that are out of the ordinary :)[/QUOTE]

I’d get a trainer to help you. A slow twist is not necessarily severe bit and any bit can cause throwing the head when used incorrectly. Angry face over a slow twist? really- a twisted wire- I can see it, a slow twist…um. Or have nothing to do with the throwing of her head.

Have you had her teeth checked? How does she accept true contact? Does she come up through her back and accept the bit, does she just put her head down and go in a false way, does she run around with her head in the air.

To train or retrain a “hot” horse is to get the horse to focus on the job.Bits are important, but retraining requires so much more than bits (I tend to start simple and change if needed) as long as it fits correctly (doesn’t pinch, cause discomfort in the mouth etc) .

How does the horse focus on the ground? Is she hot in general? Ditch the sweet feed and go with a good low starch if she needs grain.

I guess the rambling of my post shows there is so much to take into consideration, not just bits.

This is a pony, correct?
Get her OFF all grain. If you have to put supplements in something, use a handful of alfalfa pellets. NO GRAIN. Ponies rareLy need grain unless they are in very hard work.
Lots of good advise above. I personally would plan on about a month of walking. Walk everywhere. Until she thinks her whole life under saddle is walking. Do a billion transitions and teach her to calmly do turn on the forehand. Only then proceed slowly to adding other gaits.

[QUOTE=Lord Helpus;8636826]The best advice I can give is to get inside her head. Ask yourself why she is doing what she is doing and react in such a way that she loses her fear.

But above all, DO NOT RUSH. Every time you try to do something which is outside her comfort zone, you go backwards. At the beginning it may take 2 or 3 months to establish a good walk or a relaxed trot, and you may feel like you will never have the horse you want. But each step will take less and less time because she is not just learning a movement, she is learning trust. And, with out trust, all you have is a mess.

No way should you be jumping, or even cantering. You need to do things on her timeline, not yours.[/QUOTE]

I just want to say, she has no fear when riding. She’s not spooking or tensing up over anything, she just sticks her nose in the air and bobs her head when you hold her back and tries to rush off. And chiro and teeth have been looked at and fine.

[QUOTE=Pennywell Bay;8638203]I’d get a trainer to help you. A slow twist is not necessarily severe bit and any bit can cause throwing the head when used incorrectly. Angry face over a slow twist? really- a twisted wire- I can see it, a slow twist…um. Or have nothing to do with the throwing of her head.

Have you had her teeth checked? How does she accept true contact? Does she come up through her back and accept the bit, does she just put her head down and go in a false way, does she run around with her head in the air.

To train or retrain a “hot” horse is to get the horse to focus on the job.Bits are important, but retraining requires so much more than bits (I tend to start simple and change if needed) as long as it fits correctly (doesn’t pinch, cause discomfort in the mouth etc) .

How does the horse focus on the ground? Is she hot in general? Ditch the sweet feed and go with a good low starch if she needs grain.

I guess the rambling of my post shows there is so much to take into consideration, not just bits.[/QUOTE]

Teeth have been checked and fine, and she accepts true contact when she is focused and not wound up, and will come up through the back and accept. But as soon as she gets wound up (ie. let her trot or canter on loose rein at all, or jumping) her head is in the air.

I have gone back to basics with her, putting her on the lunge w/t/c to warm up, and side reins w/t. Then hop on her at a walk, doing lots of circles and leg work. She seems to stay nice and calm as long as she is focused on her job, and kept busy.

She is hot in general, and has always been very mareish. I have just cut down on her sweetfeed to more of a treat, as she doesn’t require it. She is a super easy keeper.

Thanks! Most riding I do is hacking out and trail riding, so she doesn’t get a whole lot of ring work. I have actually just started doing more ring work with her to combat this hot headedness (lunging, circles and serpentines). Which has been positive so far, and I have already had some positive results! I plan on introducing ground poles in a couple weeks, and will keep you posted! :slight_smile:

Ponies can be a challenge … but have you tried a hackmore to see if she still reacts the same?? sometimes vets and chiropractors don’t see everything . How does she hack before you start jumping her?

I haven’t tried a hackamore, but I would definitely be open to the idea! And I have recently replied to some of the other posters, and have updated my original post with my progress :slight_smile:

Does your saddle fit?? Make sure its not pinching anywhere or too long for ponies back. My pony is a hot tamale and what helped him was a chambon on long lines and trail.rides. Lots of spiraling circles and transitions help. When head comes up we circle his happy “natural circle size”. But if his saddle doesn’t fit, he lets us know by dropping his back and sky gazing.

You may want to check out Clinton Anderson’s book - the one that features an english and a western rider with pictures - both horses were problem horses and it shows step by step how they re-trained them.
I used it to re-start a ottb and it made him quiet as can be and he bonded with me so much. Horses are always looking for you to be the leader - he has a “cruising lesson” that is great for slowing them down.

Thank you for the help!

I have experimented with different thicknesses of saddle pads, half pads and all the works, even tried a couple other saddles to see if she is any more or less comfortable. I found my saddle fits her the best with just an Ogilvy baby pad and no extra fluff.

I remember we had a horse at the farm years ago that liked to keep her head up and was notorious for breaking noses if you weren’t expecting it. They had put a chambon on her and it worked like a charm! I will give that a try! :slight_smile: