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I bought a 18 year old Arabian gelding about two months ago. I have been going through the bonding process with grooming, treats and so on. He does well when I am longing him in the round pen, listens to me 90 percent of the time. I am a new horse owner and am still learning the ropes, taking riding lessons. When I tried to ride him in the a small pasture, he just kept pulling and trotting off the right. I assumed it was the bit and tried him in a bitless bridle until my riding instructor showed me how to fix the problem with him always turning off to the right. We still have to practice that correction maneuver, but it works. So, getting back to the bitless bridle, my instructor said to use it on him until I could get the hang of using my hands correctly so that I was not yanking on his mouth all the time.

He was responding very well in the bitless bridle in the round pen so I decided to take him out to the big pasture so I would have more room to work with him turning and doing figure eights. Well, my husband wanted to see me gallop, which I had done on him once before, and when I did... he took off and kept running and running. He finally slowed down enough for me to fall off of him and not get seriously hurt in the process. I had to control with the bitless bridle to stop him, I could feel him resist and run even faster. You would never believe he was 18 years old. Anyway, my riding instructor told me to not ride him without the bit. Now the problem that I have is that whenever I ride him in the round pen with the bit, he pulls his his down to the ground and just about pulls me forward off of him. I have made sure that I am not pulling on his mouth, taking up the slack, but no matter what I do, he continues to pull down. Is it me, the bit, or him? I am just using an eggbutt snaffle and I ride western. I was informed by his previous owner's husband that he was spoiled and that I needed to show him who was the boss.

M. C.


Here are a few thoughts that may be helpful.

1. The former owner's husband is correct about you needing to establish the "lead brood mare" relationship with your horse. Your gelding has only known you for two months, so he's still not positive that he can trust you with his life. Treats and grooming are nice, but they don't do anything to assure him that you are in command of every situation. Trust doesn't develop overnight and it sometimes requires a firm hand.

2. I'd worry about that business of him wanting to lower his head when you're not putting a lot of pressure on the reins. It may only mean that he wants to grab a mouthful of grass, but it's also often a sign that he's thinking about bucking. Keep his head up until you give him permission to graze... and only permit it when he's totally relaxed -- not tensed up.

3. Since you have contact with the former owner, ask what type of bit your boy is accustomed to having. You may also want to have your vet check him for sore spots. If he has suffered damage to his nose, the tension from the nose band on a bitless bridle may be causing pain.

4. Even if your hubby asks you to do it, why try to run before you can walk well? And if you're not actually in danger of falling off or running into a fence, stay on board when that Arab decides to run. He can't gallop forever, and you could get seriously hurt if you hit the ground wrong. At worse, you'll get some extra practice riding a gallop!

5. Finally, if you're like most beginning riders I've seen, you may have been TELLING him to keep running. When a horse starts going too fast, the normal human reaction is to lean forward in a "protective" curl -- which automatically shifts the legs and feet to the rear. Leaning forward and moving the legs back are both cues for the horse to increase speed. Instead, you need to settle back in the saddle, lean back a bit, and move your feet forward into what I call the "brake" position.

Even older horses like to stretch their legs once in a while, especially after they've warmed up a little. When ol' Willy was alive, after he was ridden for about 15 minutes he usually wanted to gallop or even extend into a rack. If I was working with an inexperienced rider, I'd usually have the student take a short break while I mounted up and let Willy burn off some of that pent-up energy. In your case, until you have a little more riding skill, you may want to return to the round pen, dismount, and let that guy run all-out in a controlled setting (and with you out of harm's way).

I hope that some of this is helpful -- and that I've communicated it clearly enough. This is the sort of thing that's a lot easier to evaluate and correct when I'm actually there and seeing it as it happens!

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