Reader Question – Horse wants to trot home on trail rides

Recently I had a reader question about a good horse who just wants to get home quickly after a ride.  The question has a few different parts, so my answers will be in pink.

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Hello Deanna,

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I have recently bought my first horse about 2 months ago. I’m new to horse riding and owning… learning as I go. I have a 10 year old Arabian mare, who is wonderful. She’s very broke, and allows me to do so much with her… unfortunately, I feel like I’m making mistakes and giving her mixed signals a lot. She is starting to develop tiny problems (not at all a worry.. yet), and I’m hoping you might have some suggestions for me. Here are the problems I’ve noticed:

1. She’s getting used to the 2 or 3 acre field across from our house, and she’s started to trot when we’re headed back to the house – even when we’re not finished with riding. I stop her, and try to make her walk, but it’s getting to be a contant battle, with her trotting, me whoaing, her instantly trotting again, me whoaing, etc… I’ve started to circle her as soon as I whoa, but it doesn’t seem to be helping either. In fact she seems to get a little agitated by it.

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2. She also wants to instantly start walking (or trotting) again when we stop. She’s stops on a dime, but doesn’t want to stay there.

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Hi Tina,

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Thanks for the question and congratulations on the new horse.  I’ve never been a fan of circling a horse that doesn’t want to relax, I agree with you and believe it adds to the agitation.  There are few tricks you can try, but from the sounds of it I think your mare will benefit the most if you punish her with work.

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This is how you can do that:

  1.  When the battle begins, first ask her to stop as you have been doing.  She will give you the same response she has been giving you where she will stop, and then right away try and go again.  
  2. As soon as she won’t stand still, do what she wants to do, trot her, but trot her away from the barn and in circles, figure eights, whatever, just occupy her mind with work.  Trot her hard and really make her work collected and driving forward.    
  3. Then, ask her to whoa, and relax she probably won’t want to stand just yet so repeat.
  4. Repeat until she stops and stands facing home and does not try and trot.
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It will take some time and repetition but she will soon learn that if she wants to trot when you want her to walk, she will trot and it won’t be so pleasant.  Horses are so lazy, they don’t usually want to trot to get a work out, they want to trot to get home!  This will take a lot of work on your part, and if you are not sore the next day or so later from pushing her at the trot, then you didn’t work her hard enough.

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3. I’ve got her in a hackamore, because that’s what the previous owner rode all her horses in. (I don’t believe that she had my arabian long though – she buys horses and resales them) I’m worried about pulling too hard on the reins (I’m scared of hurting her face), so I’m every soft handed when I deal with her. I’ve been getting a little more forceful, but I don’t know if she’s sensing my hesitation and maybe her defiance lately is because of that. I haven’t tried her in a bit yet… actually I’m a little worried about this also, since I’ve never done it before.

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I’m glad that you are concerned with hurting her mouth, that is very good.  Horse’s mouths are very sensitive we should always keep that in mind when riding.  But, just put a bit in her mouth, I’m sure she will be fine.  Try out some different ones starting with a D Ring Snaffle, and adjust the severity from there.  Keep in mind the thinner the bit the more severe.  So start out with thicker mouth piece.  At 10 years old she probably is used to a bit too, so it won’t be a problem.  You can always go back to the hackamore later, once you have ironed out some of her issues.

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I have a general rule of thumb for my students and horses.  I like to use the lightest bit possible that does not make for my students to have to pull so hard on the horse’s mouth to make it work.  Sometimes, if a bit is too light, you will have to get aggressive with your hands to make it work, and that is not a good thing.  In a case like that I would prefer to use a little stronger bit.
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I’ve done alot of reading, and I’ve been taking very good care of her. Hooves trimmed, vetted, good nutritien, etc.
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Any suggestions would be appreciated. I’d love to have someone to bounce ideas off of… almost like a mentor.

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Thanks again,
Tina

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So far, it sounds like you are doing a great job taking care of your horse.  It’s no fun to be in it alone, and it’s nice to have someone who can help out when you get stuck.  I currently do have a mentor program at our Riding Academy, I am in the future going to be offering it online.  Until then, feel free to ask any questions you may have.  Good luck Tina, and I hope this helps!  Please keep me posted on your progress.

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Deanna

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About Deanna Castro

Deanna Castro has been training horses and riders professionally for over 18 years. She trains riders in Horsemanship, Western Pleasure, Showmanship and Trail Riding. Deanna is married to Native American Horse Trainer Fredi Castro and she is the author of "Six Weeks to a Better Horse".
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