Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How do you fix a light front end?

Since Sugar is my first young horse, sometimes our "corrective actions" for bad behaviors are more of a let's see if this works experiment.
She's a great horse on the ground, a little wonky still with standing still while tied, but I would say 90% of the time, all four feet stay where I put them. She's a great little horse to lead when no one lets her get away with grabbing a bite to eat here and there, but sometimes she does get worked up. I think a lot of it has to do with the attitude and nervous level of the handler (typically me). I am quick to get nervous, and she usually balances that out because she is not quick to get nervous.
However (you knew that was coming lol), Rally is buddy sour. That is a problem in itself, but when I take Sugar away he runs the fenceline, whirls this way and that, runs in and out of the barn, and whinnies almost constantly. Normally she ignores it, but sometimes lately she gets a little worked up (i guess that means she's buddy sour too??). Say I'm leading her away from the barn (halter and lead) she'll do that head toss thing mares do, and she'll pop up just a little. She did it twice and I growled at her, and she calmed down and walked patiently.
Last night, the perfect storm happened, I had a bad day, she decided to pull this little trick out of her bag and I had enough. She tried to toss her head back and forth, which I corrected with a tug on the the lead and therefore her halter. Then she popped up a little, I growled at her, and she walked a few more steps, then she popped up a little again, and I yanked down and towards myself with the lead. It wasn't a light yank, and I heard the halter snap down on her face. I felt really bad, and I wondered if that was too harsh. I know lots of people say never to yank on the halter, but what are your options from the ground when your horse does this?
 One good thing came out of the halter yanking, she didn't try that again. I did some groundwork with her right then and there, and took her to the round pen, and released her, where she decided to try and run that fence. (I had no lunge line, just a halter and lead)
So, I picked up the whip and sent her off. She chose a fast canter and also chose to buck a few times. I didn't really do anything about the buck. I did not pay attention to her unless she started to cut in. When she started to do a calm trot and drop her head and turn her ear towards me, I praised her with my voice and let the whip drag on the ground. I asked for a walk and she walked (sugar is mostly voice command trained). So I turned her around, and off she went at the almost gallop and bucking...same thing as before. When we were done with that, I did some ground work and turning and backing. She was nice and calm by then, so I took her back towards the barn.
What would you guys have done differently?


  1. I am no where near an expert, but I don't think what you did is wrong. In your situation, I have been taught to snap down on the halter, not hard but enough to get the horse's attention, and then assertively back the horse up at least 3 steps, wait and then start walking again. If the head tossing continues, you do the same routine, but make the horse stand for a minute or two before you start walking again. I want to point out here that standing directly in front of the horse can be dangerous, so all of this is done off to one side. I like that you worked her and that Sugar finally calmed down and behaved and you praised her. :-)

  2. Hey! Come have won an award. :-)

  3. I've been taught the same thing as Wolfie. It's worked wonders on Artemis, especially when we lead her away from her mother she tries to run ahead and tosses her head when you don't le ther. I tug down hard enough that she feels it and knows that I'm not happy, but not hard enough that it could hurt her.

    You've also won an award at my blog!

  4. Thank you both!!! I am off to visit both of your blogs.
    I had forgotten about the backing, I will try that. Thanks for the tips and encouragement. Some days, I fantasize about trading Sugar for a well trained older horse, but she's almost there!!!

  5. I do my best to never yank on the halter. If the horse starts to see you as something to be scared for then you've just added another log to the fire. You could teach her to lower her head and ask her to do it every time she pops up on you.

    You might also want to start tracking when she's acting like this- she could be in heat.