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Dealing with stubborn riding school horse

Discussion in 'Older Riders' started by annifur, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. annifur

    annifur New Member

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    Hello, I'm new here, fascinating forum. I learnt to ride as an adult in my 20s and I returned last autumn to riding aged early 60s. I've been having private lessons and now I've joined the Take Back the Reins class.

    The riding school where I go has lost some of the better horses to injuries lately and some of the more difficult ones are therefore coming my way. I've ridden a chestnut mare a couple of times and the private lesson I had last week on her was enough to put me right off. Everyone says she is difficult and in the group lesson she went around with her ears back resisting throughout.

    Last week I had a private half hour on her and I felt that she completely ignored me and would only respond if I whacked her or if the instructor persued her with a lunge whip. This was even walk to trot, canter was impossible. She shakes her head a lot and swishes her tail and at canter, if I stopped using my legs, she just stopped and in the downward transition, she just dropped into walk and slopped along. I felt really demoralised. I think the instructor, who owns the school, was a bit stressed because she isn't usually so unhelpful but she ended up saying that maybe I had weak legs and should use spurs, that the horse was stale but tough, that was her life and that out on hacks she would buck and throw people off and that the staff and teenagers could get her going.

    I have ridden horses who were dead in spirit but this one just feels she's switched off and she's saying 'why should I?' I don't think I'm especially weak, I go to the gym three times a week, swim and do a lot of other vigorous exercise. The other horse I've ended up on is a very long pony who finds it difficult to collect, he is also a bit lazy and when I rode him, I twisted my back which hurt for several days.

    I was really enjoying coming back to riding but now I'm wondering if it's too late. Any thoughts on how to ride a stubborn horse like this would be helpful and maybe about me and riding technique. I can't believe I need to be an Iron Woman, I think I'm fitter than most my age. Thanks. :-(
     
  2. Trewsers

    Trewsers Well-Known Member

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    Maybe the horse is unwell in some way and not just stubborn? Riding school horses are generally worked quite hard and ridden by all manner of people. Sometimes and quite understandably, they aren't just that switched on. I always try and see it from their point of view. I remember on one of my lessons as an adult asking my RI why a particular cob did what they did for her when she rode him but not for me. The answer was in her opinion that he could differentiate between a lesson learner and a regular / instructor. Sorry bit of a waffly answer there, but I always think that yes lesson horses can make you work that bit harder but not always, sometimes there are genuine other reasons. The reason may not be pain related - maybe the horse just does a lot of work? They have good days and bad days. I don't think you are too late coming back to riding. Just that some lesson horses do either make you work quite hard for a result - or might not be 100 percent physically. Doesn't sound very promising hearing that she bucks people off out hacking either!
     
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  3. Skib

    Skib Well-Known Member

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    I currently know lovely horses to hack at two schools but have been ages without a lesson horse. I wont pay for lessons if the RS cant provide the right horse. Or remove horses from me just when I have them nicely schooled. Dont give up riding. But be prepared to shop around and do a bit of chopping and changing. 6 lessons with a good teacher at a more distant school is something I have had in the past. And I may embark on a new search in the Spring. It isnt too late. But horses and teachers come and go from riding schools and RIs are reluctant to admit they havent the right horse for us serious mature students.
     
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  5. annifur

    annifur New Member

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    Thanks very much for your reply. I did stop and ask whether the horse was ok but the RI didn't think there was any problem. The saddle was fitted with a saddle blanket and a numnah but I would assume they have taken care with the fitting.

    I try to think of it from the horse's point of view too and it seems sad to see such a miserable, negative horse. I try to be soft in the saddle and light on the reins but the refusal to cooperate was so strong with this horse that I was taken aback. I simply couldn't keep up the pressure on her sides for more than half a circuit of the school and then she'd stop. In the stable, she's calm and compliant and interested in you so it's the schoolwork she hates. They do all have to work quite hard, it's a very busy stable. Maybe it's a miserable life.

    Ive been so enjoying coming back and I've felt a definite physical benefit so this experience wasn't good. Fingers crossed for next week!
     
  6. annifur

    annifur New Member

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    Thanks Skib. I must admit that when I wasn't blaming myself I was thinking that the horse wasn't really appropriate for the level I'm riding at, at the moment and that if I kept being given her or similar, I might complain and/or take my custom elsewhere.

    I've just commented how helpful I found your post on the 'cantering without losing strirrups' thread. There's nothing like frustration at the ride not working to make you more and more tense and almost try to lift the horse around the school all by yourself!
     
  7. Keren@serendipity

    Keren@serendipity Active Member

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    For the first year and a half my main lesson horse was a very lazy "why should I" horse. I struggled to have him moving forward in an active walk, a trot rather than jog, and canter was almost impossible. But my instructor could fly around on him doing advanced dressage
    They do know the difference in riders an what they can get away with
    I spent weeks where my only goal was to get him forward and in front of the leg.to start with i simply didnt have the muscle in my legs so needed to back it up with a whip, first a crop on the shoulder but then progressed to a dressage whip which helps them move more from behind. Anyway starting with tje warm up, demand an active walk, squeeze, kick, smack. As soon as he starts to slow, squeeze - an escalate if needed. Continue on their case like that and they soon learn that dawdling is unacceptable. He made me work very hard, but once id worked it out he was a wonderful horse and taught me bucketloads.

    Ive also occasionally ridden a couple of other lazy school horses, one an overweight mare who refuses to put any effort in, she will go round pullimg faces especially if i need to use the whip but as long as she responds i just ignore it. The other gets annoyed if you are constantly nagging him with your leg all the time, once good decent go with the whip at the start of rhe lesson and he will stay happily in front of the leg for the rest of the time.

    I do think you can still get good work out of a lazy horse, yiu just have to figure out how they work
     
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  8. Skib

    Skib Well-Known Member

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    I have posted a lot recently because NR seems to have returned to the issues that really interest me - difficulties facing older people learning to ride -

    But I would mention here the rewards of being allocated and outwitting the slowest and most reluctant RS horses. Dont despise those skills.
    When one goes to a new RS to hack one is likely to be given an arena test in walk trot and canter. I can now canter, but when a woman in her 70s goes for a RS test she is likely to be allocated the oldest safest horse.
    I was presented with such a horse last year at a local yard. RIs know the local schools and their horses, and when I got back home, the RI enquired about my test and which horse I had ridden. She told me that I need not have asked whether I had passed that test. It was a miracle that I had cantered that particular horse at all, let alone on both reins.
    It wasnt a miracle - I knew exactly what to do. But I have that skill now. I dont want to go on learning it - and that is why I say one needs to go off in search of the right horse for what one wants to learn next.
    There is a big difference too between the behavioural difficulties Keren describes and older or infirm horses. I would recommend asking to watch a lesson in which another student rides the horse - And it can be useful too to watch a teacher or professional ride the same horse.
    Riding schools are not always straight about things. They are businesses juggling time table to horses and intructors. One horse I was offered for dressage and liked as she had a fair turn of speed turned out to be the mare that was reserved for jumping lessons. Another I trained up, was suddenly needed for children so only available for adult lessons in winter term time.
     
  9. CharliesAngel

    CharliesAngel Well-Known Member

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    total bug bare of mine - id ask to ride something else. horses shouldn’t need constant pressure on their sides to keep going forward. Thats all down to schooling and it sounds as if this horse is just sour from having so many beginners on board. A good RS should maintain some level of schooling in their horses. Can you imagine how exhausting riding would be if you had to ride like that all the time? A well schooled horse should move off the leg and shouldn’t be having to use your legs to maintain forward motion; it should be a squeeze and off. Your legs are then used for other things like supporting your contact, lateral work, bending, turning. How can you effectively learn to do all these things if you are having to squeeze constantly to keep it moving ?! this is why a lot of RS (IMHO) dont produce riders ;)
     
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  10. annifur

    annifur New Member

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    Really appreciate these responses. I don't like hitting horses at all but I appreciate that a RS horse will try it on and I would expect a quick slap or too would act as a 'please pay attention' and then they should perform a little more responsively. I might ask to see the horse ridden by someone else because I don't remember ever experiencing such a clear sense of being way out of control, she was totally ignoring me, the only thing she wasn't doing was bucking and I felt that she might well head into that had the session been longer.

    I'm sure horses pick up your feelings too. When I rode this mare in the previous group lesson, I found myself hating her and suddenly thought I'd better stifle that feeling and get into a more positive mode because I'm sure they can feel your feelings. Thing is, once bewilderment and frustration take over along with feeling incompetent and stupid and the RI is running along behind you with a lunge whip which the horse is watching (instead of paying attention to the rider), then you just get more and more tense and how can it ever become a useful experience for anyone?
     
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  11. carthorse

    carthorse Well-Known Member

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    I'd be looking for another school, this one is unlikely to teach you anything you want to learn.
     
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  12. KP nut

    KP nut I'd rather be riding.

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    I won't ride a miserable horse who hates his job. Just no fun for either of us.

    My tip for improving responsiveness is to focus on the release. Think leg OFF at every opportunity. Don't nag. Many horses come to life that way. But some don't and I don't like fighting with horses.
     
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