Q&A Questions and Answers:
I have a four year old mare whose attention span is almost zero. I have been round penning her and longeing her. She is getting better, and before I mount I have to do either of the above as she turns circles if I do not. She has thrown other people, but seems to understand that I will not let her take control - that I am the one in control. When we first leave the property she seems almost like a drunk weaving down the road, but the further away we get from the other horses the more at ease she seems to become. Should I isolate her from the herd or ??????
I have another horse who I round pen who after five minutes of round penning stands square and that I have no problems with. I can't understand what I am doing wrong with this horse, as I am trying different ways to hold her attention and some days succeed, but others don't.
Any suggestions on what I can do with her would be appreciated.
Hey, training horses is a lot like raising kids! They all respond differently to instruction, and some take a lot more patience and correction than others.
Without seeing you and your mare in action, it's a bit hard to do more than guess about this. One thing that seems obvious is that she suffers some separation anxiety when leaving the herd. Isolating her from the herd will probably make the situation worse. See question number 10 for more on this topic.
I suspect that you tend to use the reins to steer, rather than your legs, and that she may be getting mixed signals from the reins and the more or less unrelated actions of your legs. Try this little exercise in the arena: First, smooth the sand so you'll be able to see your tracks easily. Mount up and ride diagonally across the arena, headed as straight as you can toward a fence post on the other side. Try to guide your horse entirely with your legs. When you reach the other side, turn around and study your tracks. How straight did you travel? Work your horse between various fence posts until you are satisfied with your ability to guide her with your legs.
It may be that she's one of those wonderful horses that are super sensitive to leg pressure. I say "wonderful" because they can be a real delight to ride once you learn how to cue them. Sort of like a sports car with extra sensitive steering after you've spent all day in a pickup truck with no power steering fluid. It just takes a little time to get used to it.
I also suspect that you may be one of those active folks who have a hard time just standing still. With a very sensitive, highly responsive horse, you may be unconsciously telling her that climbing into the saddle is your signal to get moving. Go back to those first saddling lessons where you put a foot in the stirrup, put a little pressure on it, remove your foot and walk away before she even has a chance to move. Once you're satisfied with that, mount up and simply sit your saddle for a minute or two. Praise her as long as she's standing still. If she moves out of position, immediately bring her back to the original location and make her stand again. I've had some exciting moments when a horse didn't want to comply like this, but I just stick with it until the horse decides that it's easier and more enjoyable to follow my cues.
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