Problems with a Lesson Pony

Bunnylady

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I don't see how working a horse after he bit me or kicked me or hurt me is letting him get away with anything.

Now, what I don't see is how the horse is supposed to relate being worked, however hard (or not) the work is, to him biting or kicking. With horses, they talk about the "three second rule;" whatever you do about the horse's bad behavior, if it doesn't come within three seconds of whatever he did that he shouldn't have done, he will not understand that the two are in any way related. If the horse tries to bite you, within 3 seconds of that attempt, you must get in his face so bad that he thinks you are gonna rip it off, or else, in his mind, he got away with it. If you take him out to the ring and work him into the ground, all he learns is that going in the ring with you is exhausting, that's all - not even a hint of him having earned that workout by bad behavior. That's horses. (Please understand that because biting is a seriously dangerous behavior, I feel it warrants a very serious response. I'm not talking about hurting the horse, merely making the horse think you will).

I would not like to pay to be training your horse for you.
Here again, is something I don't understand. As I said, everyone who has any interaction with the horse is training it to some extent. Maybe if I use Syd as an example, you'll see what I mean.

At 40 inches (10 hands), Syd is an oversized miniature horse (both of her parents were registered minis). I've had her since she was a baby, and she's -uhhhhhh - pretty lively. About the time she turned 2 years old, she decided she wanted to be the boss mare, and started pushing the other animals in her paddock around. Unfortunately, she thought she could boss people around, too. She only tried it with me once, and my response was so definitive, she's never tried it again.

In horse society, young animals are naturally outranked by older ones. Horses recognize age in humans, too. When I felt they were both old enough, I got my daughter to start helping me work with Syd. I told her, "I can tell Syd how to behave around me. I can tell her how to behave around you when I'm here, but for you to be safe, you have to be able to tell her how to behave when I'm not here."

Fast forward a year or two, and I'm at our county fair. We normally have a lot of volunteers doing work all over the barn, but on this particular occasion, I'm picking out the extra-large stall that all three of my minis are in. They are all standing around, munching hay or otherwise minding their own business. The livestock superintendent walks by, and as she passes, she remarks, "aw, gee, look at Syd, being all good."

Uh, oh.. Cringing, I asked, "what has she been doing?"
"Oh, nothing, really," she replied. "It's just that we have a lot of kids who aren't used to horses, and she's been turning her backside and threatening to kick them when they come in to clean the stall. "

Notice, she said kids. Not everyone; Syd at that time was quite safe for the adults to handle or work around, it's just the ones she thought she might have a chance to push around that she was threatening. I told the super, "you tell them for me, that if they are in here with a rake or something and she threatens to kick, they have my permission to smack her on the butt with that rake. She has got to learn that she can't threaten people!"

Now, you might think it was unfair for me to expose those kids to a brat like that; that I ought to teach her better. But that's the rub - she wouldn't behave like that around me, she wouldn't dare, but one thing I couldn't teach was how she was to behave when the boss mare (me) wasn't there to enforce good behavior. In this situation, I needed them to do the correcting, because the behavior was only happening with them. Is that asking them to train my horse? I suppose it is, but nothing I could do would correct it, because it wasn't happening when I was there.:hu


As for the OP and this horse, well, theoretically the reason one takes lessons is to become a more skilled and confident horseperson. If this horse's behavior is scaring her, she's becoming less confident, not more, and that's not good for her. The horse is going to respond to her fear and uncertainty by upping the ante, and that's not good for him. The trainer needs to take the situation seriously, and deal with it appropriately.
 
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Mini Horses

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Bunnylady, I agree. Timing s critical! However, doesn't sound like the trainer is training for disciplinary actions, or suggesting it. That is why I feel it is not the riders responsibility. Not her horse and she is paying to use a safe horse. We both know that a horse is dangerous in these circumstances. If mine, I'd be in his face!!! I AM boss mare in all my pastures -- as you, in yours. There is a huge amount of confidence that is needed and this is being eroded there. Along with "reading" the horse.

Your last paragraph says it all. :old
 

Baymule

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I agree with what has been said. I am dumbfounded that your trainer is putting you in this situation. Forget about being nice to this idiot, flat out refuse to deal with this horse. It’s her problem, not yours. If she gets offended or blows you off again, there’s all the proof you need to switch trainers.

If a horse behaved like this to me, I would come unwound and make it a memorable occasion. I have had horses all my life and am confident in my leadership. You are a beginner and shouldn’t be put in this situation. Bad on your trainer for this.
 

frustratedearthmother

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A few years back we took our students on a fieldtrip/retreat that had riding stables. The kids loved it and I went on every guided ride with them. The first ride went really well and all the horses were well-behaved. Second ride a gorgeous, stout app gelding decided he didn't want to go. The guides were trying to tell the student, who had never been on a horse, what to do and how to get this horse turned around. It wasn't working and the guides weren't intervening. I rode over on my horse and rescued the student by leading the horse out of the bushes. Then we switched horses. Little app decided he really didn't like me because I'm about 50 lbs heavier than the student that was on him. No sooner than I had settled into the saddle he started crow-hopping and wanted to head towards a tree with a low hanging branch. About a half a second later he found himself going in tight circles with his head pulled around to my knee. He stopped acting a fool and I released the pressure. I headed him back to the trail and this dummy tried it again. He got more circles and a couple of slaps with the reins to keep him moving when he tried to freeze his feet. One more try and he decided it was easier to go on the trail ride. He was one of their newer horses and hadn't got with the program yet - this helped convince him. Best part of that whole experience was the look on my student's faces and the stories they told the next batch of students waiting for their ride, lol!
 

HomesteaderWife

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To keep it short, I am honestly amazed a horse that now knowingly has behavioral problems is still paired up with a newer rider (with no offense to you). Yes, learning how to handle a horse and handle yourself around them is important, but it doesn't seem you are there for HORSE TRAINING lessons..you're there to learn about riding with a trustworthy horse. It seems like the vet visit really got to him, and covering some ground manners with him and helping him understand not everyone is out to get him would be wise. I know alot of stables here have a sign saying something along the lines of not being responsible for accidents but....sheesh.
 

secuono

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I think it is part of your job to reprimand the horse. Otherwise, your paying to be beat up and not learning how to correct horses.
I'm going to tell off any horse on the end of my lead, wether it is mine, a strangers or my trainers. Heck, any horse not mine is going to be on a strict lead, since I don't know them and their behavior like I do my own.

I see three options-

Start correcting the horse, fast n hard, be serious. If you don't know how, which it seems like you don't, since you tunnel focus on hinds and don't see the fronts, demand ground lessons for yourself so that you can handle the horse. If trainer doesn't like you reprimanding him or learning how, then she can move you to another horse.

Flat out demand to use a different horse. You pay for the lessons, you choose to use a safer horse. It seems like she's not using him as a way to teach you anything, thus there is no reason to stay with that horse.

Lastly, you move to a different trainer.
 

LMK17

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Thanks for all the responses! Some good thoughts here!

I am just slightly torn over what to do. Like I said, I’m riding for fun, period. Naturally, I’d like to become as good of a horseperson as I reasonably can, but I’m a very casual, one lesson a week kind of rider right now, and I don’t intend to become any more “serious” about it any time soon. Although I certainly realize there is inherent risk in working with big animals and climbing onto their backs for a ride, I’m really not looking to assume any additional risk by tackling a crabby horse. I have my own farm and family to look after- if I get hurt doing something totally unnecessary, there’s no one to come and look after my own animals while I recover! Totally not worth it! (And I’ll add, on my own farm, I very carefully cull for temperament. If I feel I can’t safely work with an animal- or let my children around it- that critter gets a one-way ticket to town. Fast.)

On the other hand, this horse has taught me many things already, especially as they pertain to equine body language and discipline. A small part of me doesn’t want to miss out on other lessons that I can learn from dealing with this bad beast. And he is fun to ride. I’ve ridden other lesson ponies at this barn, and I just don’t find them to be as enjoyable as this guy.

I agree with everyone. If she feels you can "handle" the horse you need to actually be allowed and taught WHAT to do when he begins the attacks.
She definitely encourages me to keep him on a short leash. She once told me something along the lines of, “You just need to go in there with the attitude that you’re going to have to hit him. The first time he even thinks about misbehaving, get it over with and move on.” I have smacked him, and I’ve definitely given him several talkings-to. I feel like I could handle him; I’m just not all that interested in actually doing it.

I can’t say for sure, but I suspect she keeps assigning me this guy because I’m used to working with big animals (I have cattle, for example) and don’t get easily intimidated by him. Another time, when I was complaining about his behavior, she told me to just treat him like I would one of my own misbehaving animals. I responded with something along the lines of, “Kill him and put him in the freezer?!” I was in a bad mood that day.

Now, what I don't see is how the horse is supposed to relate being worked, however hard (or not) the work is, to him biting or kicking. With horses, they talk about the "three second rule;" whatever you do about the horse's bad behavior, if it doesn't come within three seconds of whatever he did that he shouldn't have done, he will not understand that the two are in any way related. If the horse tries to bite you, within 3 seconds of that attempt, you must get in his face so bad that he thinks you are gonna rip it off, or else, in his mind, he got away with it. If you take him out to the ring and work him into the ground, all he learns is that going in the ring with you is exhausting, that's all - not even a hint of him having earned that workout by bad behavior. That's horses. (Please understand that because biting is a seriously dangerous behavior, I feel it warrants a very serious response. I'm not talking about hurting the horse, merely making the horse think you will.
Bunnylady, I agree. Timing s critical! However, doesn't sound like the trainer is training for disciplinary actions, or suggesting it. That is why I feel it is not the riders responsibility. Not her horse and she is paying to use a safe horse. We both know that a horse is dangerous in these circumstances. If mine, I'd be in his face!!! I AM boss mare in all my pastures -- as you, in yours. There is a huge amount of confidence that is needed and this is being eroded there. Along with "reading" the horse.
If a horse behaved like this to me, I would come unwound and make it a memorable occasion. I have had horses all my life and am confident in my leadership. You are a beginner and shouldn’t be put in this situation. Bad on your trainer for this.
Well, when he has bitten or kicked or whatever, I have slapped him and then gotten in his face. (Though since he has continued to be a brat, perhaps I didn’t hit him hard enough nor yell at him enough?) Then I went right back to tacking him up and taking him out to work— So it’s not as though I *only* worked him. Rather, he got an immediate correction and also still had to go out and work. This is what the trainer has been having me do, and it makes sense to me. :hu

Probably I’m not reading him well. I think I might be ignoring/not noticing some of his less dangerous bad behaviors and opening the door to his escalating to biting or kicking since I allow him to “get away with” less dangerous posturing. I’ll need to work on that. I do think reading a horse is something that comes in time, and I do think I’m still too new to horses for the trainer to stand back and let me struggle with a known aggressive one. I think I would benefit from at least some hand-holding and her being nearby to say, “See that? Correct it.“

I think it is part of your job to reprimand the horse. Otherwise, your paying to be beat up and not learning how to correct horses...

Start correcting the horse, fast n hard, be serious. If you don't know how, which it seems like you don't, since you tunnel focus on hinds and don't see the fronts, demand ground lessons for yourself so that you can handle the horse. If trainer doesn't like you reprimanding him or learning how, then she can move you to another horse.
Yes, I’m sure I could do with some ground lessons myself. As for getting stepped on, I don’t exactly think it was a case of tunnel vision. Here was the set up: I had just finished tacking the brute and was leading him out of his stall. There were other horses and riders in the aisle in the barn, and as I was leading him through the stall gate, he started hopping around like he wanted to kick the gate behind him. He had done that same thing the week before and did kick the gate then. I was growling at him to settle down, while also trying to get him through the gate and then get the gate shut without anyone or anything getting kicked. Kind of several things were going on at once, and though I was trying to keep an eye on everything, I didn’t see the front hoof until it smashed down on me. Honest question- How could I have better handled that situation? Maybe just halted him halfway through the gate and held him until the calmed?

***

I’m going to talk to our trainer about all this. I am also leaning toward finding a new trainer. I’ve already talked to her about being knocked around by her horse, and I really don’t think she took his dangerous behavior seriously enough. I’d like to think that if I were in her shoes, even if I thought the client could handle the horse, I would have been quite alarmed to hear that he was being so disrespectful/dangerous and would have immediately stepped in to assess everything and help the client work with the animal. But in reality, the trainer has been really very carefree about the whole thing: “Oh, he must have you on his list at the moment. Other than with you, he’s been really good for about 3 weeks now,” was the response I got from her after he bit me. :oops:

I have two other questions, especially for those who have either provided lessons/training or have taken lessons:

What condition do you expect the shared/lesson tack to be in? One thing that has consistently bothered me about this barn is that much of the tack is simply a mess. Rusted buckles, mismatched stirrup leathers, and extremely worn saddles are pretty much the norm. I certainly wouldn’t expect the most beautiful gear to be used for lessons, but this stuff is pretty bad! What bothers me most is that the other week, as I was tightening a saddle, the very worn and badly stretched billet strap simply snapped. I couldn’t even use that saddle then because the third billet strap on that side had been previously broken and not replaced, yet the saddle had remained in use unrepaired. Aesthetics aside, such badly worn tack is obviously dangerous. (Granted, that particular saddle is worse than most.) Surely the trainer/owner has a duty to ensure that the tack is serviceable and safe!?

Also, how would you all suggest that a trainer approaches/trains children? What activities might a trainer incorporate into lessons to make them enjoyable for kids? As an adult, I really appreciate that this trainer insists on excellent form while riding. I have no problem at all being told, “That was sloppy. Do it again.” My children, however, are being bored to tears with lessons. (The kids are ages 7 & 10.) My son has taken to saying that he “hates horses” and that he never wants to ride again. (However, he has said he would be willing to try with a new teacher.) Even my horse-crazy daughter has become considerably less enthusiastic about them. Certainly proper form is important, and working with horses isn’t always fun and games, but surely a trainer can find a way to incorporate some sort of fun into a lesson, at least occasionally?
 

thistlebloom

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Probably I’m not reading him well. I think I might be ignoring/not noticing some of his less dangerous bad behaviors and opening the door to his escalating to biting or kicking since I allow him to “get away with” less dangerous posturing. I’ll need to work on that. I do think reading a horse is something that comes in time, and I do think I’m still too new to horses for the trainer to stand back and let me struggle with a known aggressive one. I think I would benefit from at least some hand-holding and her being nearby to say, “See that? Correct it.“
I think you are on point here. Horses usually don't escalate to a kick or bite without first sending more subtle signs. Being tuned in to and reading that subtlety takes some practice, and time, as you said. Time is the ticklish thing here though isn't it? Since it sounds like you intend this to be more of a casual, pleasant enterprise and you have only limited time to spend on it I don't have any criticism for the way you have handled it, or for your frustration at the trainers attitude.
As another poster said, every single time we interact with a horse we're training it ,even when we aren't actually physically handling it.



What condition do you expect the shared/lesson tack to be in? One thing that has consistently bothered me about this barn is that much of the tack is simply a mess. Rusted buckles, mismatched stirrup leathers, and extremely worn saddles are pretty much the norm. I certainly wouldn’t expect the most beautiful gear to be used for lessons, but this stuff is pretty bad! What bothers me most is that the other week, as I was tightening a saddle, the very worn and badly stretched billet strap simply snapped. I couldn’t even use that saddle then because the third billet strap on that side had been previously broken and not replaced, yet the saddle had remained in use unrepaired. Aesthetics aside, such badly worn tack is obviously dangerous. (Granted, that particular saddle is worse than most.) Surely the trainer/owner has a duty to ensure that the tack is serviceable and safe!?
I would expect the equipment to be in excellent repair. Not fancy, not necessarily spotless, but definitely not broken or so worn it couldn't be trusted. And yes, I believe the trainer has a duty to see to the equipment, as well as the horses, that they are as safe as can be expected when you are dealing with a sport where the "equipment" has a brain and emotions. I'm getting the impression that the attitude at this barn may be a little lackadaisical.
Maybe the trainer has more students than she can handle and still have time to see to the rest of her jobs responsibilities?


As to your kids lessons, in my opinion I think strict form should take a back seat to enjoying the animal you're on. If they aren't preparing for a show ring, let them do some fun stuff on horseback. It's a shame that your son has a bad impression of riding now.

I grew up with horses, and never took formal lessons until I was an adult. I found out things then that I had to unlearn in order to relearn correctly, but as a kid we had lots of fun on our horses! It takes mental discipline and a burning desire to improve to "do it" right. At least that was my experience. I see the kids around here riding and I admit I do cringe at their lack of good horsemanship, but I see myself at their age and I know that the rest will follow if they are first allowed to just enjoy being on a horses back and develop a relationship with a horse.
 

promiseacres

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Games and obstacles and patterns are great for lessons. Follow the leader, red light/green light and Simon says all can be done on horseback, among others. Setting up barrels, cones, ground poles as obstacles can all be fun and great learning tools to direct your horse around and through. Patterns you need to do, ie walk 5 steps, 2 circles to the left at a trot, then halt and reverse are fun too.
Obviously tack breaks, wear and tear does happen. But not a good sign. Trainer should be checking tack regularly and replacing before it breaks.
 

Baymule

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Your post has made me angry. This __________ (bad words) so called "trainer" is flippant towards your concerns of your own safety. She is ignoring your requests for a different horse, worse yet, she's blowing you off like you are some unimportant sub-life form. :smack

Yes, a horse can be "read" and bad behavior can be headed off before it manifests itself. Or the behavior can be down played and the horse immediately corrected. Or you can see it coming and get out of the way and save yourself from injury. You are admitting that you are not reading the horse's behavior, this cannot be taught in a casual lesson once a week. This can take years of being with horses, understanding their flight behavior, their herd hierarchy, lead mare, social behaviors and so on.

The tack is in dangerous condition. Never use it again. Period. It is time to leave this place. What if your children were placed in broken tack and were injured?

Slapping a horse like this one is ridiculous. You could smack him hard enough to make your hand sting, and it won't hurt him. This is an animal that the lead mare would BITE, KICK and RUN HIM AWAY FROM THE HERD. And your "trainer" says to slap him? A slap would only work if you and him were in tune to each other, he was NOT a accident waiting to happen, and if he actually listened to you, which he is not. This horse has your number and he doesn't respect you, or anybody.

She is ruining the joy for your children. That is where I got mad. How DARE she? I go mamma tiger where children are concerned. This alone should make you never go back, let alone the other incidents. She is picking them apart, being hyper critical and sucking the life out of them. These are your children, get them away from this ___________(more bad words).

I have horses and have had most of my life. I care not for form and how correct I ride. I call my style of riding Western Schlump. I schlump around for my own enjoyment. I have never shown and don't care. What I care about is the enjoyment I get out of riding. The enjoyment is being stolen from your children.

I may sound harsh here, if that hurts your feelings, I'll shut up and go away. I'm just really ticked off. Tell me to shut up and I will. :)
 
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