Balky? or just spoiled?

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Apr 21, 2009
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NW Minnesota
Bought a big buckskin mare about 5 years ago. She is a registered QH and has points in youth classes. Not a lot but enough so ya knew she was good when she wanted to be. I bought her just to trail ride and the young gal that had her rode her all over the place out in Vancouver BC area.
I took her on a few trail rides and she was pretty good, easy gaits, pretty calm and responsive to aids. I consider myself a pretty average rider. No cowboy for sure!
Anyhoo... one ride through some woodsy area with some friends, she started acting like she was freaked out about something in the woods. Would throw her head up, paw, and then start backing. I had a heckuva time getting her straightened out and made me nervous some too as some of the trails had a drop-off right along the path. I ain't one for bungee jumping or tumbling down hillsides on purpose let me tell ya!~
Anyway, I did get her straightened out on that ride and we finished uneventfully after the one little struggle. Then I took her on a longer trail ride in a group. Going down the road yakking, totally at ease and riding about 3 abreast, she suddenly stopped and started pawing. Then started backing up. I thumped her with my heels and pulled her in circles but she kept backing, or would stop and paw. I had the group continue on without me as I figured she'd maybe get anxious to get back with the other horses but NOPE.... kept pawing and backing. She finally settled down and continued on behind the group but we had ANOTHER episode before we got back to camp. Same kind of thing! Finally made it back to camp and she had another fit right alongside a barbwire fence so I got off and walked her around for awhile before I went back to the trailer. Next day we had a short ride and she was fine.
Then a friend of mine leased her for her daughter (who had ridden and shown for several years) and had her for about 4 months... brought her back and said she had turned into a total B-otch and wouldn't lope either in the outdoor arena or the indoor one, and was having her balky hissy-fits again.
So much for that.... I had thought regular riding with an experienced girl and her experienced family would do wonders for her but NOPE... she's worse when she gets home than she was when she left.
She's now been standing unused for the past couple years. I'm not anxious to get on her, don't want to get into a battle that I'm not sure I can win.
One other note, she's good to handle other than she'll fight being tied once in a while. I have to make sure she's got a good halter and stout rope when I tie her.

Any suggestions? (OTHER than sell her for dog-food) :???:

thanks for any help in advance
Sounds like she knows she can scare you and get away with it.
Have you talked to a trainer yet?
I know that once you are scared of a horse it is very difficult to get on any horse.
hiya ILH,

thanks for the response!
I have other horses to ride so her standing around hasn't been because I'm afraid of her, (ok maybe just a LITTLE as I don't relish the idea of her coming over on top of me!) just don't want to make the problem worse! but now my husband says too many horses mooching off our hay supply and if they're not being used, they can go stand around and do nothing on someone else's place! (yes honey I KNOW.... ) :cry2:

anyway, I did talk to the trainer that I like to use and he's been too booked up to take her. Both trainers and farriers are hard to come by in this area! I'm hoping he'll be able to take her sometime in the next 30 days. I was just hoping someone would have some "home-grown" ideas that were sensible for me to try. :help:
Have you checked her back for soreness? and how your saddle fits her? could be pain somewhere making her balk and act up. Once physical problems are ruled out, Id find a cowboy who day works to take her for a month or two. Let her get used sun up to sundown..most of those boys dont take Guf like that from their horses..they'll ride her through it. :)
How old is she? It sounds like something hurts-does she do anything like this in the pasture? Or if she's worked in the round pen? She could have smelled something.
A long time ago I was rideing with friends. We were rideing by a car with a deer on the fender-My horse wasn't afraid of deer or blood,but one of the other horses blew and spooked,so my horse thought there was a reason to be scared--he wasn't afraid of the smells,so it must be the CAR that was spooky!! From then on he was spooky around white cars :frowns:
LazyARanch":y2facy53 said:
Any suggestions? (OTHER than sell her for dog-food) :???:

thanks for any help in advance

She knows she has you buffaloed. She knew it the day she threw a fit, and you got off and walked her around. She is spoiled, and knows she can get away with it. Any plowed fields around you? If so, trot her up and down them until she has a good sweat up. Be prepared for her to balk and throw a fit after a round or two, because it is work for her and she does not want to work. If you can maintain control, and keep her working it will wear her out pretty darned fast and she will then be willing to listen to you. Sand draws will do the same thing. If no sand draws or plowed fields, take her for a 2 or 3 mile ride at a good spanking trot! The key with a horse like this is to wear her out, and keep her worn out long enough for her to realize that she is no longer the boss, and she does not make the rules. Be aware that she will fight it.
I am no expert in horse training whatsoever. I have a mare that I got about a year ago. She displayed much the same type of balky behavior at times. I'm thinking this isn't a health related type issue, I'm thinking msscamp is pretty much spot on with her assessment. Mine needed/needs lots of seat time. She has come around nicely. JMHO

Hopefully some more of the experienced horse folks and trainers on CT will weigh in with additional ideas for you.
Sounds like she is for sure balky from some previous training. Horses have memory triggers from their previous training that they never forget, problem is that you don't know were these triggers are because you did not do the original training on her, that is why no amount of hard riding will fix this problem because when ever you activate this trigger accidentially then you are in trouble. Could be raising your hands, leaning backwards, or who knows. Best chance you have is to retrain the horse like the original trainer did not. The best chance you have to fix a balky horse is to teach them to move forward from the voice and whip by teaching the horse lunging because even though lunging seems so simple and obvious to do most people skip doing much of it, so therefore you might have a good chance to fix something. Program the horse to scoot forward from voice and whip and then when the horse has a balky episode you can use those aids as a cue to move forward since the horse most likely is already balking at the legs. Even so it could be pretty difficult to get this right and make the horse a good pleasure horse but you might be able to make it good enough to sell.
Read a story long ago of a horse trained to rear for the movies when patted on the sholder in front of the saddle.. Another person in the Army discovered this by accident..Can't remember what happened from there... May go to to find out what it's in...
hayray":3fghw4yz said:
Horses have memory triggers from their previous training that they never forget, problem is that you don't know were these triggers are because you did not do the original training on her, that is why no amount of hard riding will fix this problem because when ever you activate this trigger accidentially then you are in trouble.

I disagree with this statement. Quite a number of years ago we purchased a mare that had been severely(sp?) abused - barbed wire for a bit, ran vertically up and down canal banks, other stuff that I have since forgotten. Let's just say that my first experience riding her was very, very interesting! However, with a little bit of patience, a firm hand on the reins, and a lot of riding and talking to her in moments that she was uncertain and wanted to regress to previous training, she overcame her previous training and went on to become one of our most reliable mares. If one really - and I do mean really - pays attention to his/her horse, they know what the behaviour of the horse is when he/she is at rest, and the triggers usually make themselves known. They tend to be fairly obvious in the tilt of the ears, the way the head is held, the tension, nervousness, agitation, etc., of the horse.
She was trying to bluff you the first time. That mare could sense that she got you pretty nervous by doing that.
I know, my son's horse tried a similar deal with me. Yes it did get me nervous. I just held tight and spun him in a circle one way and when he tried it again I spun him the other way. Kept that up til he decided he had enough and I was slightly dizzy. ;-)

I hate saying it, but as soon as you stepped off of that mare she won. Now she will do it everytime and worse until you get off again.
Get her to that trainer, now if she continues with you even after that sell her.
Just an update, got a call from my trainer tonight, he's taking her this weekend for a couple weeks and will see if she pulls her crap with him. So this is her last chance to get back on my good side!!

I'll keep you all posted, and thanks so much for all the good advice and suggestions!

I agree with QH mare would try and rush home. Continually turning her one way and then the other soon tired her of trying to do that. With a rein in each hand, bring a hand back to your hip and make her step all the way around short, then the other way, then back up for several steps. Also good for horses who don't want to go forward. They'll soon be pleased to walk anywhere as long as its in a straight line! My mare was placid though, never tried to rear or buck.
Thought I'd update you all on the big buckskin. I have her at the trainer's place. He said she's very smart, very well
broke BUT.... lazy and spoiled!! She rides GREAT in his round corral but if he takes her down the road she will pull
her crap on him too. He said if he tries to spin her in a circle to the left, she really will fight him. But if he pulls her to the right, she's more calm about it. I'm thinking I need to have her spine aligned or something. Kinda sounds like a pain reaction, being stiff and resistant to the left.

Other than the little fits she tries to pull, he's really impressed with her. So... I guess I either learn how to deal with them
or I sell her to someone who CAN (and NO, I wouldn't sell her without disclosing her problem).

Thanks for all the suggestions, I appreciate the brainstorming!!


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