Looking for some brainstorming from the COTH hive-mind.
I bought a 12 year old mare that was supposedly started, and then she just sat for 6 years - apparently she was a reactive youngster. I bought her as a project/breeding prospect: I knew I’d be putting a lot of work into her. She’s sweet, smart, well-bred (Hanoverian/Russian Latvian), and she passed a PPE. Her breeder also did Clinton Anderson work with her. I have done more groundwork with her, but not the high-pressure CA stuff - just baby basics: stop, go, stay out of my space, don’t barge through me, pick up your feet. Her stifles are weak, but she was a pasture-puff. She gets ponied at the trot in straight lines to build her strength. Her feet were a mess, she now has front shoes on and I’m waiting one more cycle for enough foot to grow to put hinds on. I work with a trainer.
Red flags I noticed as I started working with her: violent reaction to pressure on her head. She broke crossties and flew backwards if she stepped on her lead or if she hit the end of the rope in ground work. She also flew backwards when we first tested the bridle. We can now bridle without an issue but it took me a solid month and a half. We also spent many hours wandering around and hand grazing and stepping on a long lead rope and learning to give to pressure. I taught her basic neck flexions from the ground in a side-pull. She still sucks her tongue back from the bit, and she sucks her tongue back whenever she gets stressed. She no longer flies backwards at pressure, but is sensitive to it. She can tie in her stall. She lunges and longlines.
On her first 2 weeks under saddle, we had no issues. She was relaxed, you could put a foot in the stirrup, flex her head slightly left and right with the reins when you stand on the mounting block, pet her on her belly, hang over her back, swing a leg over, walk and halt on a lunge without an issue. We asked for trot and got one revolution and then a stop and kick with her right hind. We took a few steps back in the program, and just did up-downs for a few days (get on/get off) and she was fine. Added walking and she started kicking again. She now scowls and kicks if you attempt to even touch her when you stand on the mounting block, and even more scowling and kicking if you touch her on the right side standing on the mounting block.
Things we have investigated and ruled out: saddle fit (it’s perfect), kissing spine (nothing on xrays or scanning or palpating), ulcers (no other ulcerish behavior: you can groom her, touch her belly, she eats normally), mare-ishness (we started her on regumate and when she first scowled at legs on her side 2.5 week ago). Bodyworker noticed that her right hip was very tight, she was muscle sore, and that she had SI pain. We’re working on all of this.
What am I missing? Did we go too fast? Do I just need to kick on? Get her out of the round pen? Ditch the saddle? Ditch the bridle and go bitless? She hates her new job/life?
TL;DR: 12 year old mare is being restarted slowly, and stops and kicks when rider is in the saddle on the lunge. Normal triggers have been addressed to no effect. What’s next?