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Riding untrained 6-year-old mare

From: Dani

Dear Jessica

I just bought a Thoroughbred/draught cross and need some advice. Unfornatally the last owner had a girl riding her, and from what I understand the girl just got on and ran around with her for an hour than popped her back out in pasture, so now every time I ride all the mare wants to do is run, run, run. I can't even put my leg on and ask her to bend into a corner without her flying off into a canter. I feel like I'm always having to hang on her mouth just to keep her at a walk. At the trot it's worse, she just keeps speeding up till we're doing super trot around the arena, she has no rhythm what so ever. To bring her back I either have to yank on her mouth or whip her around in a tight circle (both of which are evil) but I'm at a loss of what to do, if I ride with a loose rein she just plows around like a buldozer. Now I am trying to be forgiving she just turned 6 and is still a baby, and I really don't want to ruin her mouth at such a young age but how do I slow her down? Currently she is being ridden in a loose ring, what kind of bit should I ride her in.

Thanks Danielle

Hi Dani! I changed the subject line of your question, because you were asking about what bit to use, and the real question here is something else entirely: Are you prepared, and do you have enough knowledge and experience, to take on the training of a completely untrained horse?

The mare you've described is just that. She doesn't know what she is supposed to do, she has not been taught anything useful about what the rider's leg means, and in fact I very much doubt that she has been taught anything at all. Like many draught crosses, she seems to be pleasant and accepting, and was ridden by someone who (conveniently) only wanted to get on the mare's back and run. The mare obviously did that to the rider's satisfaction - so she is obviously cooperative when she understands what's wanted. What the rider asked her to do was easy for her - unbalanced, untrained horses find it very difficult to bend and move slowly and in rhythm, and find it very EASY to go fast in a straight line or on very wide turns (e.g., around the pasture). It wasn't a very useful thing to ask her to do, but it was something she COULD do. The things you're asking her to do are things that she (a) doesn't understand, (b) hasn't been taught to do, and (c) at this point, is probably not physically capable of doing.

Speeding up, leaning on the bridle, lack of rhythm, and the inability to bend are ALL issues that speak to the fundamental problem: She isn't trained. These are issues of balance and strength and education, and she needs to acquire all three. There are bits that will hurt her in one way or another, and will teach her to be afraid of the bit, the bridle, and you, but I don't think you should even consider hardware as an option. With a large, untrained animal, certain kinds of pain can be used to restrain the animal, but restraint is not training, and what your mare needs is training. Yanking on her mouth to slow or stop her will only hurt her; trying to pull her into sharp turns and circles may cause her to fall (and possibly land on top of your leg).

Don't think in terms of being "forgiving" - your mare hasn't done anything wrong, and there's nothing to forgive. Instead, you need to revise your expectations of her. She is, at this point, ready to BEGIN training from the ground up. Think of her as a completely green three-year-old that is out of its field and dealing with humans for the first time, and deal with her accordingly. Her ability to balance herself and carry a rider, and her understanding of legs and reins are somewhere between 0 and -10. If she really were a three-year-old just out of its field, she would be at 0 - as it is, she has had some experience (not useful experience, though) has been badly, ineptly, and inappropriately ridden, and as a result has developed certain expectations of humans and what humans want, so she will actually need MORE training and MORE help - and a slower pace - than would an untouched three-year-old.

It sounds to me as though what you really want is a horse you can get on and enjoy riding immediately. This is not that horse. If you want to keep this mare and help her develop into a nice riding horse, you will either have to send her to a good trainer whilst you take some lessons, or find a trainer/instructor who is willing to teach you to train your horse. The combination of a green horse and a novice trainer is not a good one, and can be dangerous to both, so get the best help you can find - and get all the lessons you can. Good luck!


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