Re backing a supposedly unbacked horse :(

Joined
7 January 2021
Messages
3
Five months ago I purchased a supposedly unbacked, unbroken filly who is almost four. she is brilliant on the ground and will lunge and long reign , is fine with the bridal bit saddle on including stirrups flapping.
The issue is mounting her , she has ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION of letting you mount her.
She will go backwards forwards circle Try to run away from you anything to avoid you getting on. She will stand at a mounting block but as soon as I step foot onto it , it is the same scenario.
Even with a leg up the issue is the same , on a lunge line or not is also the same .

I have after a lot of persistence over the course of eight weeks managed to get on her one time resulting in a huge bronco and me hitting the dirt . To which I “painfully” laughed off and tried again , after another half an hour and darkness setting in I had to give in.

I have just bought her to the mounting block - with no intention of getting on - just asking her to stand whilst I just step on and off etc and she will do occasionally after no less than half an hour , i reward her as soon as she does , but the next time it is back to square one.

She will allow me to lay over her back in the stable tacked up , but she is not happy about it her whole body language is uncomfortable.

I have a feeling that somebody has indeed tried to start her and has given her a very bad experience as it feel like she is waiting for something bad to happen

I want her to be able to enjoy it I have no intentions of scaring her further. I have never screamed shouted or smacked her or done anything to make her experience a more frightening one.

She has been vetted and has no medical issues. Teeth feet and back also fine.

So my question is where do I go from here how do I show her that it could be a really positive experience , I have tried painstakingly slowly but I just don’t seem to be getting anywhere .

Sorry for the long winded post I am just at a loss and I feel like I’m giving everything I have and getting absolutely nothing back .

Please no nasty comments :(
 

CanteringCarrot

Well-Known Member
Joined
1 April 2018
Messages
3,634
Well, if there are no health and/or pain issues, and it is strictly training, I sort of let the horse dictate things a bit. It's a slower process with a lot of confidence building. My gelding was like this but now I can stand on a mounting block somewhere in the school, call him over, and he lines himself up for me to get on. So it is possible. Mine was totally nervous and unsure.

I always had someone helping me. My OH is really good for this. I did lots of lead horse to the block, pat, walk around, do something else, go back, relax, pat.

Then I would stand on the block, relax, reward. Start fidling with things, relax, reward.

I acted like it was no big thing. If he spooked or side stepped while I was playing with the stirrup leathers I just continued, non chalant, and rewarded the instant he relaxed or accepted what I was doing.

The problem was when I would swing my leg over or when there was weight on him and he would have to walk away from the block, he would run, mostly sideways, but he didn't buck so this was easier. I would sort of lay over the saddle, OH would ask him to walk forward and I would cling like a monkey (and not let go) to the saddle while horse shuffled sideways and forward. OH would calm him to a stop, I would pat, and slide off. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Eventually he was not reactive to this. So OH had horse on lunge line and I got on. Went quite well. Scooted a bit if I would move around on top of him, touch him behind the saddle, by the saddle flap or whatnot. I just kept doing it like it was no big thing. He got used to it and less flighty about it.

I had OH at his head or in the vicinity a few times after but it was basically smooth sailing from there. He stands anywhere for mounting and better than most horses I know. Like a rock. It was just getting him used to stuff, being calm, patient, rewarding and showing him it was no big thing.

We also played with an exercise ball. The inflatable kind. Rolled it around him, put it on his back and let it roll off and soon he realized he could focus on me and relax. It toned down his sensitivity to stuff on or around him. Which transitioned to other tricks and ground work which really brought out more confidence and fun for him.

But you've got to have a good second person for some of it and have your wits about you. Fortunately I was young and quick. You've got to know the body language and not over face them. It can seem boring or slow, but if you lay the foundation properly now, you will be thankful later.

The bronco stuff is what concerns me though. Makes me think horse uncomfortable somewhere or had a really, really, poor experience.

Some use a dummy, but I've not done this, so don't have the experience to comment on that.

It takes as long as it takes.
 

scats

Well-Known Member
Joined
11 September 2007
Messages
7,735
Be very careful. Some time ago, I was horrified to find a friend had sold her unrideable horse as unbacked. It wasn’t. It decked everyone who sat on it and clearly had a major problem but they never investigated it further than a poke by the back man. It put the new owner in hospital with a horrendous injury.
It passed through the sales a few times and was never heard of again. I hope to god it was shot

Is it worth investigating your horse further incase there is something underlying? Failing that, I’d get a pros opinion.
 

milliepops

Wears headscarf aggressively
Joined
26 July 2008
Messages
27,105
It is harder to re start a horse that had a negative experience than it is to start from nothing, IMO.

If my horse had bucked, it would've been a different thing. He was just really nervous and unsure. No acrobatics.
Yeah the rodeoing is a bit of a red flag. I've done some unsure ones that have been backed badly and its gone wrong. but they were not intending to unseat a rider, they just didn't really know what was supposed to happen so had weird reactions sometimes.

I think I'd want to re-review the physical stuff at this point and then try and find a very experienced sympathetic pro to help untangle it.
 

HeyMich

Well-Known Member
Joined
29 October 2015
Messages
1,858
Location
Sunny Stirlingshire
I'm thinking badly fitted saddle (causing pain when sat on) or kissing spines or similar, again triggered by the weight of a rider. A vetting may pick up on this, but if the horse wasn't ridden at the vetting (as sold as unbacked) then it may easily be missed. I'd be calling the vet if I were you. Good luck x
 

TheMule

Well-Known Member
Joined
14 October 2009
Messages
4,499
I've had two genuinely untried horses do this (IE, I knew their histories so knew no-one had done anything with them) Everything absolutely easy and going well until that first quiet lean over and then all hell broke loose.
Both got sent away for pro help, both became rideable but actaully remained pretty reactive and eventually were given up with. I'm pretty sure they both had something physical going on as they were lovely, sweet horses by nature.
 

HayleyUK

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 July 2005
Messages
1,517
Location
Cheshire
I had a 4yo a bit like this. Was a dream to lightly back but then suddenly started randomly standing up in the school.

She has stifle issues, we turned her out to mature a bit more bit when she came back in to work it quickly got to the point my ass touched the saddle and off she went up/broncing.

Id want to do a full physical exam with X-rays and scans before I carried on. If she’s hurting somewhere, you’ll only reinforce the idea that being ridden is uncomfortable
 

Milliechaz

Well-Known Member
Joined
18 April 2013
Messages
138
I've been in a similar position and after 6 years had to just give up. We tried everything, vet work ups, behaviourists, well respected pro trainers (3 of) and just me and hubby persevering in the end and we never ever got over it. He just wasn't wired to ride. Disappointing as he was amazingly bred, all relatives were HOYs winners and he was stunning but he personally just wasn't "right" in some way. Ended up being a field ornament until we lost him. I would never ever have passed him on.
 

itroteverywhere

Well-Known Member
Joined
15 March 2010
Messages
127
I totally agree that a full work up and saddle check is in order to check for pain. I'm sure I read a study that said that a lot of horses develop ulcers during the backing process because it can be stressful for them - it could be something as simple as that.

Assuming it is "just" a training issue, if it were me, I would spend time breaking things down into even smaller chunks and really invest a considerable amount of time in the ground work.

Can you pin point exactly when the problems start? There could be issues with the feeling of weight, the shifting of weight, the feel of having the reins being picked up (if you're backing with a bridle on), the feel of having something touching its sides, the feeling of having something touching one side and then suddenly out of the blue touching the other side, being able to see the rider out of the corner of its eye... the list goes on. You need to spend time working on each potential issue so you can rule things out and build confidence.
 

Henry02

Well-Known Member
Joined
30 September 2011
Messages
458
If it was me... look at getting a saddler out to ensure the saddle is the best fit possible (perhaps use someone different to normal for another POV). Perhaps also physio/chiro. Have teeth been done recently?

Do loads and loads of desensitisation with the horse. Flapping stirrups, slapping them all over, getting them used to you standing above them and moving about.

if still bad after doing the above, I’d be going into the vets with a view of checking for KS and ulcers
 

bigboyrocky

Well-Known Member
Joined
6 April 2008
Messages
2,448
If you're able to rule out pain first, I'd be tempted to ditch the mounting block and work with someone legging you up, I sometimes think the mounting block and making them stand adds unnecessary pressure too soon in their learning. I usually do it in a more open space e.g. the arena.

As its not gone well so far I'd be tempted to 'start again', go back to real basics and go even slower... after you've lunged, just spend some time with your arms over the saddle, jumping up and down next to her as if you would when you get a leg up. Do that for a few days until she stops being reactive.
Then do the same again but progress to getting someone to give you a lift and work towards leaning over her.
After a few sessions of that do the same but get someone to ask her to take a step forwards whilst you're led over, ideally in a circle around them.
Then once she's really confident doing that, progress to your left stirrup in and you can gradually start bringing your weight above her.
Then from that position and whilst walking round (once she's confident) slowly bring yourself upright and eventually bring your leg over. Obviously its super important that you don't kick her in the ass and keep your balance when you do this!

I backed my very reactive (not normal at all 🤣) boy and the key was not moving onto the next stage until he was fully comfortable, and if ever worried, going back a stage again. I always repeated the whole process each day for a long time too. I then found the next bits trot/canter etc the easy bit! Good luck.
 

Palindrome

Well-Known Member
Joined
19 July 2012
Messages
1,343
I use food for everything with mine, so in your situation I would have someone holding a bucket of pony nuts at her head while you lean over. If she is happy with that then progress to the handler with the feed bucket walking with her following, etc...
If she does not start to relax after say 5 or 6 times of doing that, I would think there is perhaps a physical problem.
 

Pascal96

Well-Known Member
Joined
28 November 2009
Messages
82
As other have do get a vet to check her over. A friend of mine had a similar problem with a young horse absolutely fine until they came to try and ride her and when investigated it turned out that she had damaged withers and there was no way she could ever be ridden, but she made a lovely mum and bred some good youngsters.
 

SEL

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 February 2016
Messages
8,395
Location
Buckinghamshire
I've got one who was dumped in a field after going over backwards the first time they got on her. That was human error and wasn't too bad to rectify - but she did turn out to have pssm and is what I would call cold backed so I don't really let anyone else on her.

Because of her history I spent a lot of time waggling tarps, flags etc at her to see what caused the explosiveness. I think 50:50 training and pain and tbh I had a niggle it was something physical quite early on.
 

TPO

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 November 2008
Messages
8,001
Location
A ray of sunshine 🌞
Echo all the recommendations of a veterinary work up.

If there is nothing of note then a second opinion on tack and teeth before sending to a pro.

By your account you have done everything correctly and, if there are no physical issues, (please don't take this the wrong way) then you've reached the bottom of your "tool box". There is nothing to be gained doing trial and error with a reactive horse like this and risking yourself. Pros have a massive toolbox and by the nature of their job have a variety of "quirky" horses through their stables unlike most every day owners.

Personally I'd look for a slightly non-mainstrain pro like Guy Robertson, Joe Midgely, Michael Pearce or Jason Webb. They all have websites detailing what they do. I'm not sure if he still takes horses in but also Richard Maxwell.
 
Joined
7 January 2021
Messages
3
Have you any way to track her history to make sure she's not been a failure at someone else's attempt to back.some deep detective work may be in order.
I know her history from breeder to me , I think this is a case of the truth being left out that she hasn’t ever been tried
 
Joined
7 January 2021
Messages
3
Echo all the recommendations of a veterinary work up.

If there is nothing of note then a second opinion on tack and teeth before sending to a pro.

By your account you have done everything correctly and, if there are no physical issues, (please don't take this the wrong way) then you've reached the bottom of your "tool box". There is nothing to be gained doing trial and error with a reactive horse like this and risking yourself. Pros have a massive toolbox and by the nature of their job have a variety of "quirky" horses through their stables unlike most every day owners.

Personally I'd look for a slightly non-mainstrain pro like Guy Robertson, Joe Midgely, Michael Pearce or Jason Webb. They all have websites detailing what they do. I'm not sure if he still takes horses in but also Richard Maxwell.
Yes after vet etc , I will see where I am at , No offence taken 😊 , I have already thought of sending her to a pro , I have contacted a few including Jason who is booked until October this year , I will maybe try some of your other suggestions , Thankyou
 

foxy1

Well-Known Member
Joined
3 March 2009
Messages
1,777
Tom Mitchell used to work for/with Jason Webb and has now set up a training yard on his own now. He may have space sooner and is quite a bit cheaper than Jason.
 

Frumpoon

Well-Known Member
Joined
7 May 2011
Messages
1,929
I had a horse like this - vet checks, physio, back, rib and hock X-rays clear, ultrasound of internal organs clear, the lot!!!!!

Finally shelled out for a bone scan and discovered facet joint arthritis of the lumbar spine region - incredibly painful for the horse but would never in a thousand years shown up on a normal back xray
 

paddi22

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 December 2010
Messages
5,950
I reback rescue horses and some can take weeks of work just to get them to stand beside a mounting block. It can be an incredibly slow process for some of them, you have to go at their pace and never increase pressure until they are at a stage where they are nearly bored by what you are doing. I have ones in the field that I literally lead up to a block and put a leg resting on them for a few minutes and then turn them out again - and that can go on for weeks, I just wait for the stage where the horse isn't reacting at all. If it's your only horse that can be incredibly frustrating as people naturally want to progress, but the horse honestly dictates the pace and sometimes it is two steps backs at times.


Also if you weren't confident you can sit broncs then you are better off and safer to send to a gentle pro because some of them, once they know a buck works, it becomes embedded as an evasion response and they become dangerous.
 

tristar

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 August 2010
Messages
5,634
I reback rescue horses and some can take weeks of work just to get them to stand beside a mounting block. It can be an incredibly slow process for some of them, you have to go at their pace and never increase pressure until they are at a stage where they are nearly bored by what you are doing. I have ones in the field that I literally lead up to a block and put a leg resting on them for a few minutes and then turn them out again - and that can go on for weeks, I just wait for the stage where the horse isn't reacting at all. If it's your only horse that can be incredibly frustrating as people naturally want to progress, but the horse honestly dictates the pace and sometimes it is two steps backs at times.


Also if you weren't confident you can sit broncs then you are better off and safer to send to a gentle pro because some of them, once they know a buck works, it becomes embedded as an evasion response and they become dangerous.


all that, would never try t get on until standing rock still, it shows confidence and submission one of the first lessons and anyway good manners

they talk with body language so listen, tension is talking, when they are ready to be be mounted they `tell` you
 

paddi22

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 December 2010
Messages
5,950
It can be very tough trying to retrain a horse like this, but the benefit is that once you get over it's biggest issue and you build that level of trust with a horse, it really makes the rest of the process easier and you can end up with a really fantastic partnership as the horse has really learnt to trust you. Some of the trickiest ones to back at the start were an absolute joy to train after.

Can you pin point exactly the second the horse starts to react?

You mentioned the horse is fine with saddle and stirrups flapping, but it's when it thinks someone is going to mount it it acts up? and this behaviour appears as soon as it nears a mounting block?
Can you figure out what the horse is thinking, like is it scared of feeling weight on its back? is it reacting to movement above it or at a certain point in its peripheral vision? is it anticipating stress as soon as a rider is on it?

If it was my horse I'd take it back a few steps and just work on getting it happy to stand beside a mounting block with me beside it. For stressed mounting block ones I would spend a week feeding them beside it and just leaving them alone. then I'd make it just a few treats in a bucket and I'd gradually over a few days would walk up the steps. and really be scratching the horse in its favourite places to break the association of the mounting block being scary, then get on the top step and start to pat the back. then gradually lean over putting no weight. then put a tiny bit of weight. then start rubbing them and patting them a bit more strongly. Then lift a leg up and rest on the back. next stage is to gradually inch the leg over over. but if a horse looks worried, moves away or it's breathing or head carriage changes a lot, then I go back a stage and leave it on a good note. You want to know that the horse is ok with what you are asking it to do. If I'm not 99% confident a horse is going to react the right way then I don't push it.

It can take an absolute age with some of them and it can be tricky to tell if it's a physical issue or a mental one. If you could it would also be handy to borrow a breakers dummy just to test how the horse reacts to it.
 

Lyle

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 October 2010
Messages
968
Look up the Jeffries method. It involves lying on the horse bareback, working up to lying parallel along their back, rubbing the horse all over, pusing your way back and off. It is done in a safe yard/roundpen with a good halter and long rope. I wouldn't be sitting on a horse until they are totally comfortable with being laid on and rubbed all over, rider sliding off, seeing arms and legs being waved behind them etc. Lying down on the horse is the safest way, sitting up is really the point of no return! I do a LOT of work off the top of the fence in the roundyard, moving their feet around and only letting them rest when standing next to the fence. Lots of rubbing, moving, slapping saddle, waving arms behind head, swing leg to simulate mount, but I'm keeping one foot and hand firmly on the fence. The best advice I was given, is try and get bucked off from the ground first! Preparation is key, creeping around and being quiet will only set them up to get a fright the minute the rider twitches and arm or leg.
 

sport horse

Well-Known Member
Joined
23 January 2002
Messages
1,734
I have bred and backed many young horses - because I bred them I know all their history for certain. I have had one or two that were seriously difficult and I have always sent them on to a professional backer BEFORE spending too long and failing - every bad experience makes it more difficult for the pro to do their job.

I can tell you that the most difficult of all of them unexpectedly turned out to be a star and competed and won at international level show jumping. Do not despair just get good help and until you can I would leave the horse ane not work it.
 
Top