Friday, July 22, 2011

Caitlin's Tennessee Walker - Jake

I received an e-mail from Caitlin who had boarded a couple horses and when she returned to pickup her horses she found them in degraded conditions (see picture left and video below). The property owner had also let a Mare die, who had just foaled, and Caitlin rescued the foal. Since then she is having behavior (buddy sour) problems with one of her horses.

Caitlin wrote “I recently came across some of your videos on you tube. They are so helpful and informative. I was particularly interested in the video about buddy sour horses. We recently moved our horses from a barn that was seriously abusing them. If you watch the video it will explain what they were stuck in and not allowed to get out. "

"But now since they have recovered and are at our place, my Tennessee Walker is incredibly buddy sour. I have tried the techniques you suggested. I have used these in the past when a horse has an issue. My walker has turning VERY headstrong. But now a horse that has never bucked and has never been flighty, is almost aggressive to get back to them. He is bucking when I try to correct his behavior or get too far from the others. Do you have any thoughts on this? Any resolutions? I love the horse so much and he was always such a pleasure to ride. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for being there to help people and horses! :)”

Caitlin, Excuse my language, but when I saw the video I was highly pissed off,….nobody should treat a horse or any other animal that way. You are lucky your horse did not founder. I hope everyone in your area knows about these abusers. I have seen many situations like that, mostly malnourishment, you never get used to it, and, you just can’t believe even a half smart human can do that. Good for you to rescue the foal and your horses when you did.

Glad to hear that your horses have recovered. A Tennessee Walker is a great horse. The paint horse in my website header was a Tennessee Walker and QH mix, and a great horse until I lost him. He too went to crow hopping and bucking when he was separated from other horses at first. There may be some other subtle issues with your horse as well. Does he try to walk off as you are mounting and/or before you get your seat?

I would start over,…..always a good place to go too. I would work him in the round pen each and every time before you ride him. Doesn’t have to be much, just to get him focused on you and for him to be seeing you as the leader. Some ground exercises,… lateral and vertical flexion exercises, disengaging his back end (which is essential to take away his "drive train") and other tasks and checks, a pre-ride check.

I think this buddy and barn sour problem is going to be a bigger problem if you only ride him once a week. Then when you ride out either by yourself or with other horses try this:

By yourself. Ride him or even lead him in hand away from the barn and other horses and before he starts to show signs of buddy or barn sourness, turn him around and walk back. Control his gait and walk back. Turn him around and do it again. Maybe each time you get a little more distance away. If you let the horse hurry back, at a fast walk, trot or canter, then he make think you’re buying into his anxiety away from the herd. You may only make micro improvements. Again, harder to improve if you only ride him once a week. If you are feeding him yourself, then you can do this each day and leading him a roper halter may also work.

When you ride with others they have to be on the same sheet as you and considerate of what you are trying to impart to your horse. Anyway, stop your horse and let the group walk feet ahead of you. The group needs to stop before your horse gets too anxious. Then you walk, and I mean walk, not fast walk or trot, to the group. Keep doing this leap frog thing trying to increase the distance between you and group each time.

If you are correcting your horse while he is separated from the herd it is easy to get to the point where you are also increasing his anxiety, now he’s away from the herd and getting some pressure. The other day I was riding a horse who was a little buddy sour, so when we were separated from the other horses and started to move back to them, he wanted to trot,…..I would stop him and have him walk off again. I was trying the lightest pressure possible and he got his release when I let him move again, albeit at a walk. Pretty soon he figured it out that I wasn’t going to let him hurry up, and more importantly that he didn't have to hurry up to catch up.

Take a look at his feed too. Make sure he isn't getting too much protein or carbs/sugars....this can make him a bit hot and ansty.

Horse also have a great sense of direction, so if you and the group are cantering back to the barn you may also be giving in to their anxiety about getting back to the herd or barn. Do you trotting and cantering away from the barn, and go back at a walk.

Safe journey,

Postscript: The Colt that Caitlin rescued and her Tennessee Walker, Jake:

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