Teaching old pony new tricks??(12 Posts)
I have been offered a 'project horse' for very cheap: a well bred and good looking cob but with various issues mainly to do with fundamental lack of manners on the ground (barging, refusing to stand still, dragging people around) and under saddle (tanking off, bucking). I have dealt with a few horses with similar issues in the past but they have all been young, this latest horse is nearly 12. Is it possible to teach an older horse new manners or is it a challenge not worth taking on? The horse is fit and healthy and apart from lacking in manners, lovely, and has many positives, too.
Forgot to say that I know the horse and owner (used to be on same yard with them). The owner could easily sell the horse for a lot of money but wants him to go to a good home where he will not be mistreated because of his 'issues'.
I don't think there is anyway anyone can advise you on this in advance of seeing the horse and exactly what it does (even then you would need quite an experienced person to advise you).
What is causing the problems?
- the first thing I would look at would be a physical cause. I would get a vet out to check the usual suspects, e.g. teeth, back, saddle, lameness, etc.
- if all is well physically, I would look at lifestyle issues, e.g. reduce hard feed, increase turn out, increase exercise.
- then try to deal with each of the problems one at a time. Handling and ridden issues may disappear with a more confident rider, so how far is the current rider part of the problem?
Before you take on this horse I think you also need to consider what would be a reasonable price for him given his problems (from what you say he is currenly unselable and needs re-schooling which would cost the owner money), and do you have a solution in mind if you cannot overcome his problems, e.g. can you afford to retire him or would you have the heart to have him PTS?
Wow. I may have made him sound worse than he is, he's not a lunatic just quite rude and lacking in manners. I was mainly after other people's experiences of retraining older horses, as it is not something I have previously done. Physical issues, as far as I can tell, should not be an issue as the horse has been very well looked after (I still know people on the yard so don't just have to rely on the owners word), teeth, feet all up to date, saddle professionally fitted etc. I think it's probably just a matter of training and getting some consistency in his life etc but as he is a bit older was worried that because he's been allowed to behave badly for so much of his life he may be a bit of a lost cause.
Weeeell. My horse guru/best friend/fount of all knowledge, has done this once or twice. Her general approach is to strip the horse back to basics. Turn it away for a few months, if you have to handle it, start by working on manners on the ground, if not just leave it be for a while.
Check its teeth, back, general health, and then just start again. Routine, consistency, and ride it like its newly broken. start off with schooling and gentle hacking.
Try a tack change. Its saddle may have been fitted, doesnt mean it fits now. Is it over bitted? Just because its always had a pelham, doesnt mean it needs one. We inherited a bolty bucky type, wearing a three ring gag. It was a childs pony, and had been riden by a limp kid who couldnt stop it, so had been bitted up, it got frightened and tried to evade the new bit, was bitted up again as it was being strong, got more frightened and evasive, a downwards spiral to the gag and submission
terrified surrender. We took her out of the gag, put her in a french link snaffle and never had a problem with her.
Really, you just need to think outside the box!
So has it's owner just allowed it to do what it wants? If so you can probably fix it fairly sharpish by not allowing it to do what it wants and being very firm with it. But then, it depends how long it has been allowed to have it's own way. If it has always been this way then I think you may well have a struggle. If it was started properly and just picked up bad habits from it's current owner it will be easier to retrain.
As an example, we had a 6yo in to break and bring on a couple of years ago. This was a big horse who had always been out with youngsters and was used to having it's own way in every way. It took a long time to get the horse's trust and a longer time to get to the point of riding it out. It still isn't right, it's bargy, nappy and wants it's own way the whole time - a bit of a waste of space all in all. Sadly, this makes it dangerous too because if it has a tantrum ( a fairly regular occurrence) it loses all sense of self-preservation. We were all bloody glad to see the back of it and from what I hear, it hasn't improved with time.
Wellllllllll....is it a fundamentally nice horse that has discovered it can take the mickey? Then it should be perfectly possible to re-train, BUT if you want to re-sell there is a possibility it will revert if the new owner does not keep up the training. However it could also be a horse with a bit of a stubborn streak that has discovered it has the upper hand in terms of strength in which case it could be a lot harder to sort out! What is your feeling when you have ridden/handled it? If you can try ridding/handling it loads for a couple of weeks and then make a decision.
Depends really on whether it's training or temperament. DH's horse is a nice natured girl but she's very strong and knows it. He was a total novice when he got her so she took the piss. She's got better mannered as he's got more confident and firm with her. She's 15, and you can definitely teach older horses, but only if they're actually nice horses. Can you spend a bit of time with him?
From what I can remember from when we were on the same yard the horse does have a nice nature but is also very strong and stubborn and has been able to get it's own way a lot, precisely because he is so strong. The owner used to do a lot more with him but is now having to work away a lot and from what I have been told, the horse's behaviour has got worse. It used to be pretty much 100% to hack out, behaving even when other horses didn't, but has recently taken off a couple of times and even bucked someone off the other week. Am I mad even considering?
I think you need to have the horse on trial for a month to see if you can make any progress. All horses are extremely strong, but most haven't realised they can use their strength to get their own way. A horse that does know this is a whole kettle of fish different to a horse that is just a bit bargy and ignorant because it hasn't been taught better manners. I would be very wary tbh.
Also, are you pregnant right now (from your user name)? If so I would be even more wary, especially if the horse has learnt it can just buck a rider off if it doesn't want to do something.
Do you have access to an enclosed menage?If you have the time to do lots of schooling both lunging and riding you can probably make a big difference to this horse.
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