FreeStyle Q&A with Linda Parelli
MY HORSE SUDDENLY REARS AND BUCKS FOR NO REASON
Q: I have been following the Level 1 pack lessons and am now at Passenger Lessons. Every now and then my horse slows or stops suddenly, and does this buck-rear-buck on the spot thing. It really feels like she’s trying to get me OFF her back. And a couple of times she’s almost succeeded! I have played the Seven Games beforehand until she is left brain, she plays find the saddle with enthusiasm, and I have cinched politely in three stages. It happens very randomly, at walk and trot, and I don’t know if there’s a specific thing causing it? Looking forward to knowing how to proceed. Thank You!
A: You have a sassy little horse who still knows she’s in charge when you get on board, not to mention that she was not very far along in the riding department when you got her. With all these dramatic reactions she’s pushing your buttons, getting you tight or making you stop asking her to do what you’re asking her to do! I doubt she’s afraid.
You need a couple of strategies here:
1. Don’t react! Just rub her and relax every time she slows or stops and chances are she will not go as far as bucking or rearing, which can just be a reaction to your reaction! It will diminish the sassy behavior whereas getting tight or spanking makes it worse. Remember that as a passenger you have to do what the horse does, so when she slows down you need to do the same, immediately! If not, this alone will annoy her because it will feel like pressure.
2. Get off right away and play some games pretty energetically: sideways, backwards, fast squeezes. This will assert your leadership a bit more. Even if it means having to get off several times in one session, do so. The idea is to interrupt her pattern more than anything else.
We can often be more effective on the ground than riding at this stage of our development, so don’t hesitate to get off and do that.. it’s not failure, it’s savvy. Unless you have supreme confidence and experience, it will be hard for you to stay on board and do what’s necessary so it rarely gets better!
MY HORSE IS GREAT ON THE GROUND AND A NIGHTMARE UNDER SADDLE
Q: My bossy mare threatens me (using her own 4 phases, of course!) when I ask her to move forward while being ridden. I have tried three different saddles, so I don’t think she’s uncomfortable/sore, nor is she lame. I play the Seven Games (usually for 1/2 hour) before riding, and although she’s respectful on the ground, she’s a nightmare under saddle. I must admit, it took us a while to get through the Seven Games when I started with her. She was pretty annoyed about me being in charge! The circling game was the toughest, but thanks to your advice on playing with a bossy horse over a fence, she now moves out with impulsion and respect! But riding is a different story. When I smile with all four cheeks, she pins her ears. When I squeeze with my legs, she stomps her foot and tries to bite. When I smooch and squeeze, she cow kicks. When I slap myself with the rope, she rears. Finally, she’ll move, but she tests me every 5 minutes. She’s become very successful at training me not to ride her.
Should I forget about riding, and move on to Level 2? Or do I need to go to PHASE 5,7,8,9 and call her bluff (or become pulverized?!!) Thanks for your time! (By the way, the trailer loading DVD is phenomenal! I had tremendous success!) Sincerely, Determined to be the alpha!
A: I enjoyed your question and no, let’s not get pulverized!! This horse obviously needs you to have a lot more savvy for riding and well done for get- ting this far with her. I would definitely go on to Level 2 and even Level 3 on the ground because you’ll have more knowledge and strategies to bring her respect, trust and understanding to better levels. These challenging horses are a great test of savvy and I congratulate you for how you phrased your question with such understanding. Think about building the relationship with her and not so much of having to ride her just yet. In the end, it’s all about trust, communication and understanding, on the ground and on their back.
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