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Bratty Behavior In Horses

Recently, I gave a training clinic with this very title at a horse expo. Since I do not travel with my own horses, I am reliant on the expo producers to find appropriate horses for my presentations. For this, I requested trained horses that had become disobedient, out-of-control, and prone to fits. Be careful what you wish for!


As usual, I first laid eyes on my demonstration horses and their riders about five minutes before the presentation. I was adjusting my microphone, my helmet and my stirrups and preparing to mount the horse I had ordered for myself to ride—a well-trained and experienced western horse, when an Appaloosa mare made her dramatic entrance at the arena gate.


She was stomping mad, threatening to rear and running all over the handler as the rider attempted to mount amidst this turmoil. The mare’s eyes were rolled back in her head and I’m pretty sure there was smoke coming out her nostrils.


By pulling the mare in a frantic circle around her, the rider was able to do a perilous mount-in-motion and miraculously landed squarely in the saddle, immediately jamming her feet into the stirrups. Clearly, they had all done this before. But as the rider took up the reins and the header stepped away, the mare made it very clear that she wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything. She was rearing (a blatant refusal to move forward), and stomping the ground. All this, while I mounted my horse and the announcer was introducing me to the audience of over a thousand people.


My mic went live as I was instructing the header to lead the horse to the far end of the arena and stay with the rider until the mare settled. My opening remarks to the audience, in the midst of all this drama, was that I was ambivalent about the title of this presentation. I knew everyone would have an idea of what “bratty” behavior is, which is why I picked the term. But the title seems to place blame on the horse, when anyone who has ever known bratty children can tell you, it’s not the child’s fault; it’s often the result of poor parenting.


In the case of the spotted mare, although her blatant disobedience may have been the result of poor handling in the past, we needed to get some stuff sorted out right away. As I coached the current rider, I explained to the audience what an obedient horse is: one that goes in the direction you ask, at the speed you dictate, without any argument. This mare was far, far from obedient.


I had the rider start turning the mare away from the gate and into the fence, constantly changing direction. This simple exercise can have a huge impact on a disobedient horse. First and foremost, it keeps forward motion going. And as this mare had aptly demonstrated when they tried to get her into the arena, forward motion is the basis of all training. If the horse won’t move forward, you cannot train it.

Changing direction also gets your horse in a more compliant and submissive frame of mind—it’s a technique horses employ when establishing dominance in the herd– controlling the horse’s direction by herding him one way, then the other.


And most importantly, when you change direction by always turning the horse away from the gate (or away from the direction she wants to go), it is reinforcing that you dictate the direction, not her. If you allow her to turn toward the gate, she is momentarily rewarded by getting a little bit closer to her objective.  In short order, the mare began to settle down and go to work. Now it was time to work on the rider.


First, the rider needed to sit back, take a deep breath and relax! Riding difficult horses always leads to defensive posturing in the rider, which leads to defensive posturing in the horse. With horses, it is usually a good idea to sit back, take a deep breath and relax. Start riding your horse as if she is behaving normally, and she soon will. Ride her as if you think she is about to explode, and she will. This is good advice for all riders in all difficult situations.


Secondly, the rider needed to have much greater awareness of the horse’s motivations and actions, instead of just fighting with her. From the moment the mare laid eyes on the temporary arena built inside an enormous trade show hall full of thousands of people and hundreds of booths, she made it clear she wanted no part of it and was refusing to go inside. She had one goal—leave this place now! Understandable, yes, but unacceptable in a trained horse. Either you call all the shots or the horse calls them all; either you are the leader, or the horse is. It was up to the rider to take control.


It was obvious in everything the mare did—looking at the gate, veering toward the gate, whinnying at the horses outside the gate, speeding up when going toward the gate, balking when turning away. When you turn the horse toward the gate, she thinks she is getting closer to her goal and her antics are working.  Every time you turn her away from the gate, you are controlling her direction and turning her away from her objective; her antics are no longer working and you are establishing more control.


Soon the mare was relaxing, putting her head down and becoming compliant while I talked about the most common mistakes riders make when faced with a fractious horse—mainly pulling back incessantly on two reins at the same time. This will cause fractious behavior faster than anything I know. When you want the horse to move forward, you must reach forward. When you want the horse to bend his neck and turn, you have to release the outside rein. How could something so simple, be so hard to do for a rider that is nervous and feels like she is losing control?


The rider did an excellent job of listening to my coaching, all the while she is just trying to stay on the topside of her fiery mare and get control of the situation—this in front of thousands of people who are forming their own opinions of her horse and her. Brave woman. Soon the mare was going straight and relaxed on a loose rein and we began to work on dictating the path more precisely, now that the mare was being cooperative.


About 75 minutes into the 90 minute clinic, the mare was doing so well that I looked around the arena to see what other challenge we could offer her. There was a tarp and a few ground poles, so I asked the rider to take the mare over the poles and next to the tarp to see if she would remain straight and obedient to the path the rider dictated. She crossed the poles just fine but as soon as she headed toward the tarp, the mare steamed up and became defiant. Turns out, earlier this day the mare had been in a trail obstacle clinic and in 90 minutes of fighting with her, they never got her over the tarp. With 15 minutes left, now was not the time to start a seemingly insurmountable challenge with this mare that was just now starting to work well. Fundamental horse training lesson– don’t start something you can’t finish and always end on a good note.


I told the rider, “Don’t point her in a direction that makes her think you are asking her to go over the tarp, but take her in an obvious line next to the tarp and insist that she goes straight. After 2 or 3 passes, the mare was walking obediently next to the tarp. Then an amazing thing happened. The mare began to look at the tarp as she obediently walked next to it. It was clear that she was drawn to it.

It was a defining moment. My horse and I sauntered over to the tarp and stood on it casually as I talked, trying to send vibes to the horse how great it was to be standing on the tarp. It was increasingly obvious that she wanted to go over the tarp and eventually, it was as if she couldn’t stop herself; she had to go over. And over she did, as the crowd erupted into cheers, spooking all the horses momentarily.


What timing! It was the end of my presentation and the mare had made an exceptional turnaround. I told the rider what I’d do if it were my horse— I’d get off, praise her like she just won the Olympics and lead her out of the arena. Leave on a high-note. She had been fighting with the mare for so long, that the mare had forgotten how great it felt to be a good horse. She needed to know how good it feels.


I ended my presentation with my head swimming. What just happened? And what can I learn from it? Once again a horse was teaching me something really important. And once again, it was a simple lesson and one I’ve learned from challenging mares before. Don’t pick a fight with a horse.


By asking the mare to stay obedient but not walk over the tarp, just next to it, we had taken away the fight. She’d been fighting about this tarp for some time, and fighting solely for the sake of winning. But it takes two participants to fight. Once we took away the argument, she was immediately onto a new line of thought. Then her willingness kicked in.


I don’t know what happened after the horse and rider left; I didn’t see them again. I wish I had the chance to debrief her and tell her what a great job she did and to let me know how things progress with her mare. But I’m certain she learned something and I am hopeful that she and her mare have a better understanding of each other now. I know I learned something. And I enjoyed every minute of it.


Enjoy the ride,



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  1. Yer welcome and Merry Christmas back! I’m learning too! It is very hard to have confidence at “our age”…Though I’ve never had a western saddle in my life- I daily bless the increased stability that allows me to concentrate on how to stay on when things get a bit dicy! Seems our “partners” need to “fail” in order for us to learn how to go through things with them and learn all the “warning signals”…

    Since I am starting a newbie…I always give her the benefit of the doubt…and as we’ve progressed-she has naturally-done a few doubtful things! 🙂 BUT-learning a new horse that is trained by someone else and isn’t clear to us yet-can be unsettling in a different way…are they really being “bratty” or is there something else going on??.

    You are so right! Confidence makes such a difference. On the flip side-I’d forgotten how long it can take a newbie to carry our weight and natural fulcrum with confidence themselves…

    Being a visual/metaphorical learner-I gained a lot from the Sally Swift books. Remembering all her illustrations to help riders sit up and be engagingly “loose” are so helpful-and get my mind off of what I might be fearing! My all time favorite is the “marionette” visualization.

    I realized several rides ago-that because of the relative shortness of my reins (even with a grazing extension)-I was almost forced to lean forward to stay off of her mouth if I had to pick them up and do any directives…so-despite the fact that I’m not thrilled with a lot of extra rein-I tried some longer ones-and remembered the marionette. There was an amazing change right away…Her head plunged down, she was relaxed and I was once more able to follow her movements in an upright and relaxed manner. Subsequent rides yielded a much “softer and willing” mouth, relaxed and low poll and her naturally great swinging stride at the pace I wanted…nothing else was changed but the length of the reins…and here I was-fooling myself that I was being so “soft” to begin with..which I was-but in a forward leaning position…she was having a hard time balancing that way.

    I am doubly blessed in my rescues…they rescue me and that is a fact…though-I must admit-I’m pretty picky…there has to be some immediate connection to a lovely soul that isn’t too damaged in there! Life’s too short and the ground is hard! 🙂

  2. Easy to get distracted during the holidays .. Thanks for the info ! always something to be learned. I don’t think the saddle is a problem (no pinch ) but I’ve heard the felt on this pad (20X 3/4 inch ) could be slippery so I’m getting a different pad this spring. The former rider / person I brought her from said she had no issues from her like I’ve described. I watched her video’s on several horse’s and she is a natural & correct rider with confidence . So I think my mare knows the difference with my lack of confidence . Course I’ve been tossed to the ground a couple times & ride expecting that even on the safest of mounts SO I need to put that behind me because I am a better rider then that. Just need to remind myself all the time. Bless your heart for rescuing .. Love the Morgan looks . Merry Christmas 🙂

  3. PS-sorry-I get side tracked…I have learned a lot from the books “No More Pain Saddle Fitting” or some such title-written by a woman Veterinarian. There is one specifically for western saddles and the first one is an overall general overview with an emphasis on English saddles-but still with a lot of great information.

    Lots of pictures of how a horse moves when they are avoiding pain. We had so many issues with my old gelding (he is also a “rescue”) …old style Morgan with a very short back, large massive wither and shoulders and a loin that rises and spreads almost directly from the middle of the back. He truly needs a custom saddle-but that is an investment beyond our use for him-so we ride him “bareback” with joy…and sometimes I end up on the ground with his big sweet head shaking in disgust at my apparent lack of ability to stay in the middle! 🙂

    Not quite at that trust level with this newbie though! 🙂
    Contented Holidays! Oh-and the only place I’ve been able to find a real wool “fluffy” pad was Outfitters supply. I put it on over a very thin wool liner pad. It maintains its loft, and has held up well.

  4. Sounds like she has an awesome owner! 🙂 Getting to know a new horse takes soo long! I’m glad she gives you plenty of warning-to me-that sounds as if she is benevolent by nature. My mother had a mare-who she bred (not a good idea! 🙂 )…both the mare and that future gelding were mellow doll babies most of the time-but would truly blow up out of the blue…no warning, and explosively.

    They were both very dominant personalities in any herd-despite their rather diminutive sizes. I’ve kind of kept that in mind as I observe the ones that have that edgy fight in them are often the personalities that push back…something I do not enjoy much. Their behaviors were probably valuable in herd life (get out of here NOW!)…but “challenging” to domestic usage. 🙂

    I’ve heard different things about a flex tree-especially in connection with the weight of the rider? The fact that it rolls might be something to look into on the fit???

    After having so many saddle fit issues with my old gelding-(I ride him now in a Cashel soft saddle..oh yes-which does roll-but he’s happier so we deal with it)…I took my little filly to the guy around here that has a saddle dealership with several American companies. We tried on about fifteen raw trees-and the Tennessee Walker one fit her like a glove (which would make sense since she is an arab/foxtrotter cross). We ordered one with a seat that fit me and when it came-I took the western stirrups off and put my English leathers on with my safety stirrups (getting drug is my biggest fear). For a “semi-custom” saddle-it came in around $850.00… and as we progress through new challenges I have to admit-it is a real treat to know that saddle sits right where it is supposed to, never has sored her up and has something to grab when I have to do the circling bit…which is less and less. I figured it was her “purchase price”, as she was essentially free as a rescue! 🙂

    We all have our unique ways to justify our horse habit don’t we? 😉 You are so right-we do learn from them all the time-which is why they are so satisfying to be around.
    good luck.

  5. Thanks for your comment / suggestions. I really am hoping I can figure her out or a cause . I know for a fact I’m tense at the beginning of a ride like mentioned above because I’m anticipating her move to refuse. Question is WHEN > So I’m already planning to end that & just relax. I wonder if being raised on a ranch if she was treated in a cowboy way during that time. She is willing as long as I stay relaxed an ask. At times she Acts like she is ready to battle a fight (tense) She has changed a lot now she is familiar with me & surrounds , farrier/ vet / she is smart / quiet while saddling/ walks unless asked for more . Saddle fit … I have a circle y flex ( wide) , nice pad, felt cinch . If it isn’t tight it tends to roll . Not sure why ? Maybe Julie would know . Didn’t notice it the fall-2012 when I got her. Our stalls are set up so she can have open access to a paddock / pasture any time she wants . I free stand brush her in her stall or if I’m picking her paddock she follows me / calls to me whenever I come out our door. I may do a blood test this spring to see if her mineral levels are off since I have read that can cause irritatabilty .Giving her Red Cell for the winter / like a vitamin . Your right she isn’t trying to get me off her back but just end the ride at her choice then perhaps go a different direction just fine. That’s the part I don’t get .. Her GPS might be off for going back to camp. LOL I can tell when she is going to be radical & that’s when I started carrying my lunge line . 3 days of riding / camping with 4 or more days off is a good life for a horse/ weather permitting/ family obligations too. Yes I do try to prepare a horse for day riding. Under stand this .. I’m not a hard rider (walk mostly ) and take breaks so my husband enjoys trail riding too. I’m trying to figure her out . Majority say she doesn’t have enough respect for me .
    The lady I brought her from claims she didn’t have this behavior towards her but I gotta believe she tried and the correction discipline got her respect. Even the trainer that rode her 1 hr to 1 1/2 hrs daily for two wks this past June said he had a battle with her . He won and never she repeated it after he corrected her & yes according to him she seriously tried to pitch him. I’m taking the safe route from the ground when the evil radical monster shows up . Yes she is a lot of fun & I enjoy riding her but don’t enjoy the point she refuses me or question .. if she is going to refuse me. The gal I brought her from said her previous owner was 80 & Dr. ordered him not to ride so he sold her. Not sure if she brought directly from him or a sale in SD. She is calling me tonight so I am inquiring about anything / or method of help she can offer me. This couple buys & sells a lot of horse all yr. some cheap or for big money Always nice looking horses. One currently is from a Reining champion / Starlight . If the information she gives me is worth sharing I will . Thanks again for your thoughts. Glad your gelding has a smile of comfort ! So much to learn from them

  6. My second comment is on the mare out of South Dakota who is basically erratic in her dependability…If you like her and feel it is not her basic personality, but seems “provably” linked to hormonal issues…you might try spaying her?

    Also-If she is willing most of the time-but changes so quickly-check your saddle fit…going down or up-your position in the saddle close to an obstacle or whatever…even a short little jaunt can make a slightly off saddle fit-or girth pinch-unbearable. She doesn’t seem unwilling to work-just not where you want to go?

    She may have a hip/poll issue to which a good chiropractic treatment might help.
    On the other hand-I would be definitely interested in what the previous owner has to say…and I find it slightly suspicious they were willing to bring her and drop her off…but didn’t seem to give you much information to begin with? Has she always been a “bait and switch” personality? Why did they choose to sell essentially-a well broke, nice aged good mare?

    Lastly-do you build up to your heavy riding season expectations or do you (like all of us have been guilty of!), load her up and head to the hills for a first camping trip…riding three or four or more hours right off the bat several days in a row? Have you done any just plain old bonding stuff with this mare? Like hanging out in the pasture with her lying down and snoozing? Or just taking her out for a grooming and putting her back?

    Some horses of course-like that better than others-but it is good to remind ourselves that they have their days and moods and get stiff, sore and bored too. It bothers me though-that she isn’t just trying to get you off her back-she is giving you trouble on the ground as well…I would definitely get her checked out for pain…from any source.

    My old gelding got a huge “smile” on his face when I switched from a good cotton straight cinch to a wide, non-reinforced “roping style” mohair girth that was just two inches longer…brought the buckles up onto the low part of the pad and spread out the tension on his sternum…changed his whole stride…go figure.

  7. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. I think I’ll go back to the beginning article and bring in a thought or two on the behavior of the mare-even prior to mounting…I too-am middle aged, a bit stiff and not near the rider I used to be-but even when I was “up and running”…I would have taken that mare OUT, and gone back to square one on standing still while mounting. The “brattiness” that continued was an extension-was it not? of the behaviors on display before anybody even got on??

    We are at our most vulnerable at mounting and dismounting. I do my best to make it very comfortable for my horses-with appropriate padding and judicious saddle fit, girth snugness, clean tack and mounting “from on high.” I’ve rehabbed a couple of “dancers and walk offers”, and am now starting with a “newbie”-but standing quietly for saddling and mounting is square one.

    Seems like even though the “lesson” ended with her quietly going over the tarp…there is a big chunk of her initial behaviors that make it harder for this horse and rider to even start on the right foot for any given lesson? Just a thought.

  8. When I read this article I thought it was about me & my mare ! Now I realize she is not the only Bratt . I got her Oct 16, 2012 she is 8 yrs old from a South Dakota ranch that I brought from an individual that hauled her here . Rode 3 times the end of our riding season. Our first riding season together started 2013 and was looking forward to riding this quiet pretty bay roan & well trained. Early Spring 2013 I wondered what I brought as she raced by me in her paddock giving me the evil eye , pinned ears, tail spinning & heels in the air aimed at me while I stood holding her halter attempting to catch her. Beat that battle but wondered if I would ever be able to ride her. Not knowing her well I had a friend/ trainer take her a couple weeks. Our first few days camping & riding went well then it started. Refusing to leave camp, go down certain trails . Funny part was she would refuse a trail and when I turned around and headed back she was willing to ride down other trails so I would still get a 3-4 hr ride. One day I could tell she wouldn’t leave camp and ended up riding her in and out of vacant camp sites around picket poles, around the camp for nearly 2.1/2 hr’s . Someone asked if I was trying to wear her out or myself. My response was ” I hoped she would leave camp the next day ” well she did without questions of any kind. She was a totally different horse that day. That was a good DAY ! During some of these times she got real radical and started blowing up at the beginning of the trail right in camp / wouldn’t lead from the ground and nearly fell over back wards trying to lead her. Too dangerous for me to even consider riding out … popping up in front , turning into trees etc. Any thing to avoid going straight . What seemed strange is she would start out fine at times then decide 15-30 min. down the trail not to go any further. I thought if the theory is keeping their feet moving while directing them to prove leadership & to be safe I started carrying my longe line so I could work her when she refused me. One day I ended up longing her at 3 different spots on a trail that left camp. The 3rd time I failed even after I rode her ( cantered) back to the 2nd spot and back to the 3rd spot several times. I was so frustrated with my failure again so my husband & I rode back to the 2nd spot that I longed her where there was a unapproved trail people were taking so I asked her to go on it and she did. She actually wanted to follow them. My last camping trip with her was just the two of us for 3 days at a new place for her. 2 Days she did amazing .. over a long bridge without hesitation , thru water / creek , dog trails with riders calling loud directions to their dog and rushing towards us at a canter without flipping out or moving a foot while we watched . The 3 rd day it started … just all of a sudden starting turning to go back to camp. I whipped her into a circle / gave her my heels and heading her the direction I asked. Finally she quit and my shorter ride got longer to let her know I wasn’t accepting her decision. Since then I’ve had a couple short rides at a county park near by without issue of any kind. At the beginning / spring I blamed her hormones and the trainer thought the more I rode her the more she would improve but it didn’t . He had someone that would be interested in her If I wanted to sell her. Well I know there’s a good horse in her but not certain we are on the same page yet. Your comments have me encouraged to keep working with her. I’m going on 69 in Feb 2014 and Hope to have success this coming riding season . My first thoughts about this were I don’t want to fight with her all the time so I’m hoping this coming summer is better. Someone did advise me to longe her in the round pen / work her several times a wk to keep her respect . Perhaps that was the key . On the ground she is great and follows me every where & respectful <3

    • Anonymous-BE CAREFUL over there. I’m 63 and we don’t need trouble at our ages. My first thought is this isn’t the horse for you at this stage in life. Who needs it? You need to have FUN. Some issues are ok but geez, this sounds like zero fun. We’ll see if Julie comments. But do be careful. I have to work through sort of fight issues with my horse too but his games aren’t dangerous. When I really need him to come through he quits the games (like when he got into bees this summer-he even controlled himself and stood still until I could get off-and I had a healing broken ankle at the time) You need to have fun this next summer. Life is short. We don’t know how many summers we’ll be able to ride, physically. Good luck!

    • I’ve considered that myself & appreciate your honesty . Wonder why she persist with her refusal . Is she bored , low in minerals /selenium , hormones. I tried her on Smart Pak -Sweet mare Harmony & thought there was some change & would do it early this spring with all the great reviews about it . The trainer thought it was because I’m not an aggressive rider . I intend to speak to the gal I brought her from to learn some methods she did working with her to gain back that quiet respectful mare I brought. She said she is willing to share that information. This mare is everything I enjoy but her lack of interest when it counts . At least it did lessen as time went on so I was encouraged that I got her respect enough to go forward.

  9. What a great story. Thanks Julie. I would love for Julie to talk more about “picking a fight” and allowing disobedience. I have a Spanish mustang who loves to “fight” (maybe too strong a word-it is a game to him). There are times I have to do what it takes for him to do what is asked (and it sometimes takes a LOT) and other times it seems better to avoid a fight and approach more like what happened in this story. Sometimes I get unsure of the best course of action. I’d love to hear more.

  10. Hi Julie,
    Its been about 7 years now since I rode in your clinic at Pierce College in California.
    I had only had my “new to me” 11 year old mare for about 2 weeks. I was getting back to full time
    riding after taking many years off raising my kids. My mare went sideways across the arena every time we went past the loud speaker. After the whole morning clinic of doing this, I asked you to get on her in the afternoon. I had been trying to pull my horse toward the direction she wanted to avoid.
    I watched you and learned how to properly correct her.
    I still remember over- hearing you say to some other people-“wait until Liz hears we are working in the other arena tomorrow” I am happy to say that the lessons to both horse and rider transferred to the new location. Pastiche did not run sideways from the loud speaker in the new arena. We have continued to learn together and my mare is significantly more relaxed and so am I.
    That clinic was such a great start.

  11. Thanks, Julie! This came at the perfect time for me because, for some odd reason, the last few weeks I’ve ridden Blue, he’s decided that at some point during the ride he’s not going any further. In fact, when I urge him on, he’d rather back up. At first I laughed at his antics, and thought maybe I should just turn myself around and ride him backwards. I eventually get him going where I want, but the battle is getting old. Now I’ll try just spending more time training before trail riding.

  12. I feel for the rider in this post and I can say I’ve been in her shoes as well. I see the rider in the story commented above and agreed that her horse was having issues and she didn’t care about other people’s opinions and I say good for her! I know everyone has their opinions but what people don’t always understand is that what they are seeing might not be a horse being bratty maybe there is something else going on. I ride a horse now that is the definition of bratty named Tater. The horse I took to the Colorado Horse Expo in March of this year to ride with Julie was not. He was a quiet, well mannered 9 year old Appy gelding trail horse extraordinaire named Hombre that was used to indoor arenas and new places, he always took them in stride. What came off the trailer that day was anything but that. He never calmed down that day and performed horribly in the warm up pen and the arena in front of lots of people that I’m sure were sitting there thinking what a brat he was. It was the first time ever that I thought he was going to throw me, he was literally out of his mind. The class was about loping and while he did lope pretty nicely he swished his tail every time I asked, something that had been happening for about a year on and off. Julie commented on the tail swishing and said that she thought that he had probably been over-trained on at the lope. I wanted to talk to her afterward but, she was gone and I was dealing with a horse who was mentally shot but that one comment has been with me ever since. Hombre was never over trained at anything, I know that for a fact and he was always easy to get loping. After the clinic I started seeing more erratic behavior both mentally and physical from; lameness issues, loss of muscling in his hind end, collapsing when I put a saddle on him (no, his back was not sore) and not being able to lay down. He was seen by my vet, a chiropractor, CSU, Littleton Large Animal. It was determined that he had severe arthritis in his lower front legs and his hocks. His neck had a couple of vertebra that were a little off but, nothing too serious. We tested for PSSM, HYPP even though it’s not his bloodline. I was questioning EPM even though my vet said it’s not in Colorado. He was given vitamin E, magnesium, bute, and a variety of other Rx’s and nothing had any effect and he continued to go downhill. I pulled out all the stops to figure this out and save him if only so he could be my pasture horse to no avail, I had to put him down in August of this year because his suffering was apparent and I don’t think he had been able to lay down for over a year and mentally he was not the same horse. There was no explanation in the end especially for why he couldn’t lay down, there was no explanation for any of what happened. The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is that in the Winter of 2012 he fell over backwards thru a fence and landed flat on his back and hit his head hard while messing around with my other horses. That one event seemed to be the onset of everything. In the end I guess what I’m trying to say is watch people ride with an open mind and heart because what you think you’re seeing might not be what you think. Happy Holidays! Sharla Coday

    • so so sorry for your loss. I agree that your animal lets you know that something is wrong and more often than not it is physical. Strap-hangers as I refer to other observers, don’t have the big picture and should reserve them comments to positive ones only. I hope you get past his loss.

    • Anon, So sorry for your loss…Yes, ride with an open mind and heart you never know what someone else is experiencing. It’s so hard to know what’s going on with a horse that’s ‘out of his mind’. When I’m at a complete loss to know whats going on with a horse, I contact an animal communicator, sometimes Maryanne Simonds or Nancy at Seaintuit. We are sometimes blind to what is right in front of us, but your intuition that it was the falling incident that caused his pain was probably right on. I’ve found that cranio-sacral and myo -facial treatments can help release these sorts of injuries. Good luck with your other horses!

  13. This is a great learning tool for anybody since it seems like any horse can have a bad day (just like us). Thanks Julie!!!

  14. Thank you for this blog…I am so encouraged now! I have a 7 yr old mare I’ve been working with (when I have time…3 days a week) for the last 2 years. She is smart, learns quickly, but can be a little spooky. I had a “trainer” come a couple days ago to do a small clinic with 2 of my friends and me. My young mare was a little excited to see new horses, but not too bad. However, when the trainer came to do ground work with my mare, she anticipated her to be showing bad behavior and treated her as such…did a lot quick turns, jerked her around, “wacked” her with the stick, didn’t give my mare time to figure what she was asking, then told me I had a “hot” horse who needed more work. To say the least, I was mad! My mare does need more work, but not from this “trainer”. I appreciate your instruction in this blog on exercises to work through the horse’s anxiety or rebellion with more positive leadership…my horse does respond much better to that. Thank you!

  15. Kristen! Good job. I’d say bravery is a big part of it! And maybe determination too. Thank you for riding with me. –Julie

  16. This article was about me and my horse and while bravery may be part of it, I never much cared what other people’s opinions are of me or my horse. I knew this was the reaction she was going to have and I was prepared for it. My main objective was how do I help her get over her fear of new surroundings and how do we move forward? Every day is a work in progress but I refuse to give up. One day we will get there. What is a destination without the journey?

    • Congratulations Kristen! I trained my boy myself and had many of these situations. I wish I had Julie to help me, but I muddled my way through. He is a wonderful and very willing partner now. I love your last line. It is all about the journey. I wish you continued success in your journey.

    • Awesome article!! My heart goes out to you Kristen your perseverance paid off and you and your mare are learning together. And you inspired one of the best trainers and you inspired me. I have an Appy gelding exactly like your mare. And what I just read give me hope that there is a good horse in there somewhere. Keep up the good work girl and thank you for your bravery to share this.

    • Fantastic work, Kristen!!!

    • Good for you. I, too, have a difficult mare so I can relate.

    • Kristen,
      Keep up the great work with your mare and never loose that positive attitude! Great horse trainers have an uncanny understanding of horse behavior and are wonderful communicators. They also teach you that horses behavior is often channeled by their fears and getting them past that fear requires the human to bridge the void between the species and to learn their language before you can expect them to understand what you want of them. This article is right on with the work I’m doing with my young OTTB and reinforces the techniques I’m using to get him to move forward in scary situations. However, in your session, Julie explains what occurs in those stressful moments and the correct response on the rider’s part. Thank you for bringing your mare to Julie’s clinic and thanks to Julie for producing these great articles.

  17. Julie as you will recall my horse Loxley has exhibited many of these behaviors in your clinics and elsewhere, so I read this cover to cover with keen interest. What a wonderful happy ending. Brave woman indeed that rider, I know all too well how hard it is to be out there with a spectacle. Loxley and I are working through these exercises every day both riding and on the ground and finding some consistent forward motion and improvement. Thanks for all you’ve done to help us change and stay on the right path! We miss you in Southern California!

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