So disheartened with youngster and progress. Really don't know what to do.

(134 Posts)
peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 08:54:04

Hello everybody,

I could really use some points of view regarding my 6 year old (just gone 6) New Forest gelding. I am feeling so upset and worried right now, and don't really know where to turn...

Background: I bought him from a friend as a (nearly) 3 year old. She had him from 6 months, but sold him as she said he was going to be too much of a handful for her. Up until May last year she was caring for him at the other end of the country. Then I was able to move him closer to me and start doing a lot more with him. He was actually backed at 3, but his progress was very limited.

I've been working really hard with him for the past year. I wouldn't like to guess how much I've spent on lessons/having him lunged on the days I can't get to yard and so on. He was ridden at least 4 times a week over the winter, so has come into summer feeling pretty fit.

Progress has been sketchy to say the least. He can work well on a good day, but on a bad day he is an utter nightmare. He spooks, bucks, tanks off, you name it and he does it. In the last 2 months I have torn a leg muscle (still healing) after coming off in school, and 3 weeks ago I severely bruised my tail bone after he reared whilst trotting up the centre line.

Now he's had 3 weeks off as I was too crippled to ride, and he's come back to work even wilder than he was before. Last night he tanked off the entire length of a field with me, head down between his legs and bucking to the skies.

I really don't know what to do with him. sad I'm getting to the point where I'm scared to ride him as I feel it's a case of when, not if, he really hurts me. I am utterly miserable with the situation and honestly feel quite despairing. It takes me a three hour round trip (I'm in London, he's in Kent) to even get to see him. That makes it even more disheartening!

Everyone is telling me to persevere, but it's not their necks on the line! I'm on a micro budget too, so can't afford to send him away to re-break. As I mentioned; I've already spent a small inheritance on lessons and I still can't ride him safely half the time.

I love him desperately though, and I've always kept my horses all their lives. I feel like SUCH a failure for not being able to do anything with him. I'm nearly in tears typing this.

WWYD is you were me?

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 08:55:17

If you were me, sorry.

I should mention that he's recently had teeth done and fully checked over by vet. She couldn't identify any pain issues and said he's in the pink of health!

Truckingalong Thu 02-Jun-16 09:01:38

We have horses so that we can enjoy our sport and enjoy riding them or just being with them. You are getting none of this payback. It is absolutely not worth putting your neck on the line or making yourself miserable. Cut your losses. You don't have the time/money/ability (no shame in this btw - I wouldn't have either) and you are just not a match. Sell him - through an auction if need be - and get something you will enjoy working with.

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 09:14:09

I don't think I could sell him through Truckingalong. He's just too unpredictable to sell in good faith. I really don't want to sell him either. I do adore him despite his issues.

I was thinking more about is it time to just call it a day with regards to riding him? It feels like far too soon to give up on him. He's no age. It's so frustrating; on a good day he is so much fun to ride!

I do have another youngster as well. He's four now, and really needs starting. I've just got no time though as I'm pouring it all into my six year old. He's a totally different temperament though. Very chilled and laid back.

Grumpysfirstwife Thu 02-Jun-16 09:19:32

It does sound like you have done everything you are able to with him. Unfortunately paying for more training is possibly the only way to help with this although that isn't a guarantee it will improve.

I would consider selling as a companion or list him as unbroken so whoever buys him will understand that he needs to start from scratch.

Floralnomad Thu 02-Jun-16 09:27:52

Are all your horses so far away from where you live as honestly I can't see how it's sustainable , especially with youngsters . I think you have 4 options : spend the money to have him rebroken / reschooled , try and find someone to loan him to who will do the work for you ( not likely) , sell or keep as a field ornament .

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 09:40:13

I see them at least five times a week Floralnomad. I have no choice but to keep them further away. I can't afford it closer to London!

He was ridden at least four times a week over the winter; which I don't think is bad going tbh. I really don't mean to sound defensive, but I had a lot of "you're a bad owner for not working him every day" replies on another thread, and it really got my back up. I have put so much time and energy into him. Even my instructor says how stubborn I am for persevering. I don't expect him to be perfect. I appreciate he's only a baby still. I just had hoped for it not to still be such a constant battle at this stage.

I might have to look into asking my parents for an advance on my inheritance to have him sent away to rebreak. It's the only option I can honestly think of. It would take me literally years to save it up myself.

I feel like giving up entirely right now. I'm honestly that down about it.

Rollingdinosaur Thu 02-Jun-16 09:46:33

How often are you managing to ride him? With him so far away it must be really hard to get there regularly. I don't think you can carry on as you are. It is all very well persevering, but ultimately riding is a risk sport at the best of times, and it sound like it is just too dangerous for you to continue.

I don't think I would rule out selling him, although if you do I would be completely upfront and honest about his issues, so that anyone taking him on knows what they are getting into. It may be that what he needs is someone who can work him every day, until he gets a bit more settled. With the best will in the world, you are never going to be able to do that from so far away. If you really want to continue with him , then you could sell your other one, which would free up the money, and time to spend on him?

P1nkP0ppy Thu 02-Jun-16 09:50:58

Although you had him checked out by the vet, I would get a second opinion or a chiropractor as could be a back problem or ill-fitting saddle/sore mouth?
Presumably he's not having any hard feed?
I've never had any problems with New Forest ponies (and I've backed at least 30), so does seem odd, I really feel for you.

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 09:57:29

His mouth has just been done and dentist says it was fine. There were no issues potentially causing pain. His saddle has recently been refitted. I've got the physio coming next week to check him over, so will see what she says.

He doesn't get any hard feed. If anything he's too well! He's 14.2hh of solid muscle right now. He is so strong, and I'm only small which doesn't help either!

I've considered selling my other boy, but I am so reluctant to do that in case it turns out I actually can't sort the issues with NF. Then I've sold him for nothing.

I need an honest opinion from someone in real life, but it's hard to get one. I feel so guilty, like it's all my fault for being an awful owner.

sparechange Thu 02-Jun-16 10:08:31

Going back to the real basics, what bit have you got him in? Have you tried others? What does your instructor recommend?
What tack is he in?
Have you got access to a walker?
What is his turnout routine?

Sorry for all the questions but it would be good to know what else you've tried

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 10:23:55

No need to apologise sparechange. smile

He's in a sweet iron loose ring with copper lozenge. I'm really reluctant to start putting stronger bits in tbh. I don't feel it's a solution. He's in a drop noseband, but I'm careful to not overfasten. Saddle is GP Thorowgood.

He's out 24/7, and has been for the majority of his life.I'm not even sure if he would stable now tbh. No hard feed at this time of year (save a handful of Agrobs Muesli when he comes in) He gets quite porky come May/June.

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 10:30:26

Instructor says to just keep persisting. She says he's just a really strong willed, cheeky pony who doesn't like being told what to do. I can see her point. In lessons you sort out one trick he is pulling, and he immediately thinks of another one to try.

The head girl who lunges him for me more succinctly describes him as a "total b**stard"

I feel that at one point his behaviour was more high spirits and youth, as opposed to a real determination to get me off his back. I now feel that's changed though. The rearing that put me out of action for 3 weeks was a really nasty trick. He was going forward fine, and then straight up and sideways. Then last night when he was tanking off he was trying to get his head down as low as possible to bronc higher! He never used to do that.

To be honest it's scaring me, and I am not a nervous rider at all. People on the yard comment on how much bottle I've got to ride him all the time.

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 10:38:06

That last bit wasn't meant to sound like a boast btw. It's just I've never been scared to ride him until now. It's suddenly changed though, and it's really thrown me.

nagsandovalballs Thu 02-Jun-16 10:49:18

Talk to me about the second horse - who is he and what do you use him for? Do you enjoy riding him and/or does he meet your needs?

Being thought love here, you have 3 options before you:

- pay for a pro to sort out the nf (sounds like that would be tight)
- keep him as a lawn ornament
- if he is genuinely dangerous, nice summer in the field and then put him down

As you have alluded to, you can't do a patch up job and sell him as he will either be shoved form pilar to post and possibly have a miserable life or he will injure someone.

My mad German mare is coming right with a lot of hard work but she is mega talented and has it all to come and she isn't a nasty horse, just an emotionally fragile one.it has involved me riding her differently with a very open shoulder (and always with a neck strap!) and doing desensitisation work on the ground. She needs lots of loving and security and handholding through everything we do. If I am stressed or in a hurry I just leave the German (who picks up on it)and ride my irish event mare who is mrs chilled.

Possibly you need a strong man to ride this point and dominate him, As it sounds like he is being controlling and needs putting in his place?

I did have this total fucker of a pony when I was a kid - even injured a local jockey who tried to tame it. Could only catch it by pinning it in a corner with electric fence. Had tried months and months with all the treats, retraining, calm, adult riding, medical assessments. - nothing worked and it became an increasingly violent pony. Ultimately, he had to be put down as he was becoming a danger to himself, handlers and other horses.

Floralnomad Thu 02-Jun-16 10:53:08

I didn't mean to imply that you are a bad owner It just seems a long way to go !

sparechange Thu 02-Jun-16 11:10:40

Have you experimented with tack?
I know you don't want to over-bit him, but would you feel confident to ride him in double reins with a gag? Then it is just a last resort for when he starts mucking around.
Have you tried a flash or grackle? The latter can have a massive calming effect on some horses, but I don't know why
And martingales. Is he lunged in side reins? Do they make any difference?

Is there any improvement when he is exercised every day? Don't underestimate how much stamina Natives have got. If he is bored and underexercised, he will be nappy. Can you experiment for a couple of weeks but upping/doubling his exercise and seeing if that helps?

I second what Nags said that maybe you just need someone strong and heavy to school him a few times (in double reins with a gag!) and not take any nonsense. If he responds to that and improves, you know it is just bad manners on his part.
If he doesn't, then it is possibly a bigger problem than you can deal with, or pay to have dealt with, and you need to decide what the future is for him.

nagsandovalballs Thu 02-Jun-16 11:27:12

I should say, I had the big man sort out a pony issue - I had an awesome, mega event pony (pony teams etc) but as a Welsh sec d, he cd get very bolshy and arrogant. He had a party trick of broncing and spinning which would emerge abou every 3 months. He even bucked off my trainer (professional female event rider who rode at weg). We would then get my trainer's husband -, a 6'4 Swedish event rider who rides for his country - to get on and dominate the pony. It would sort him for another 3 months! Also comedy gold watching pony try to get 6'4 leggy wirey man off!

Don't be afraid of appropriate tack as per spares suggestion. I Had yet another pony that went best in a 4 ring gag. My current mares have gentle lozenge snaffles for all 3 phases.

I have never had easy mounts....

Point is,
The domination theory's a short term solution, but it can work.

Eve Thu 02-Jun-16 11:42:31

Have you thought of ulcers? Anything else pain related?

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 11:49:12

nagsandovalballs: My other boy is a four year old Dales. I've had him since he was 6 months. He's not backed yet. Mainly due to all my time so far being taken up trying to sort my NF. He's had tack on, been on lunge though. He's a sweet boy. A little nervy sometimes, but much more trainable in general than my NF. I mainly just ride for pleasure tbh. Although I would quite like to try my hand at a bit of dressage. They run competitions at my yard, but I don't feel my NF is even up to intro level. Not even after 9 months of lessons! sad

He's definitely not emotionally fragile. He's brave as a lion and stubborn as a mule. He will push his luck over and over and over again.

Getting a strong man to sort him out has crossed my mind tbh. I would need to find someone though. Then run it past my YO cos she doesn't allow outside trainers on the yard in general.

I will have a think about the tack issue. I'm not sure how he would react though. His main reaction to anything stopping him getting his own way is to bronc and throw a fit! Perhaps it is worth considering though.

Sparechange: It doesn't seem to calm him riding him more tbh. If anything I feel him coming out of winter fit has made it worse now the spring grass is through. I can't practically ride every day due to work/distance. He is ridden often though. This 3 weeks I've been off with a damaged back is the longest break yet. He has so much energy!

It's a vicious circle now because I'm really wary of riding him. There is no pleasure in it when he's in a one. It's a constant battle. I literally had to get off him yesterday because I knew I wasn't safe. sad I can't even motivate myself today.

Floralnomad: I know you didn't mean any offence. I'm just over-sensitive atm.

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 11:53:37

Eve. I mentioned to vet about ulcers. She did say we could check if their continues to be no improvement. There's really no other pain I could think of. He's perfectly sound. In fact he moves like a dream when he wants to work!

sparechange Thu 02-Jun-16 12:02:41

If he has too much energy, you need to get some of it out of him before you ride! If there isn't a horsewalker at the yard, you need to think about trying to lunge him before you ride.
What is he like being ridden on the lunge as well? Any better?

It is tough, OP,

The more I think about it, the more I think you need to try some different tack asap
Starting with either a running gag or 4 ring, ideally double reins, and a grackle. It should at least make it a lot harder for him to tank off with you.

I don't know if you need a specialist trainer as much as someone with a strong seat and patience who can just sit it out when he throws a fit. The bigger and heavier, the better!
I think you said the horse is just outside London? Are you on the Surrey/Berkshire/Kent Horse and Pony facebook groups?
You could be able to find someone on there who can help

Slingcrump Thu 02-Jun-16 12:17:45

Crikey, what an awful situation, I really feel for you.

Tbh I'm a bit shocked that your friend didn't give you a better head's up about this.

To be blunt, whatever solution you decide upon (selling being totally and utterly honest, re-homing to fearless talented adult (small bloke?) or rehoming as a companion, or as a last resort, pts) I think you definitely need to give yourself permission to give up and move on having tried your very best.

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour!

It sounds to me like some vital training 'window' was missed during his early development and if that's the case, it could be oo late for this particular individual. Rearing is not good. And it is so horrible when your heart sinks and you feel fearful every time you ride him.

Although your wish to hold on to him is entirely understandable and laudable, given the background, I think the situation could get worse if you persist.

It will be an awful loss but sometimes things work out this way with horse and life in general. You did your very best in the circumstances.

It won't be easy, but I hope you can find the best solution for him.

Having done that, go and enjoy your Dales!

Slingcrump Thu 02-Jun-16 12:19:38

Sorry, forgot to say, others probably have more experience with this sort of situation than I do, but I never think a more domineering riding style or changing tack ultimately solves the underlying problems when it comes down to basic temperament.

peskyfeelings Thu 02-Jun-16 12:23:38

I do often lunge before riding. I'm not the worlds best lunger, but I am getting better. He's a swine to lunge though, so I often end up more knackered than he does! Sadly I've not even been able to lunge while my back has been injured. He's so strong and I was in too much pain.

I've never ridden him on the lunge. Do you think it might help? My trainer is good, but I sometimes feel I don't get the variety of suggestions for things that might work as I could be. It's one of the reasons I feel so stuck.

The tanking off has never been so much of an issue as at was last night. In the past he's only ever shot off for a few yards and I've been able to bring him back. Last night was the first time I've really thought "Hell, I can't stop him" I'm just worried stronger bits and tack will just paper over the gaps in his schooling. Perhaps I am being too soft though.

I am in Kent. I will ask around on some of the facebook groups. I've always just assumed nobody would be mad enough to get on him, but perhaps there will be somebody out there. :0

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