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Puttin Up With A
Really Grumpy Mare

She writes...


Since you seem to enjoy giving advice, I thought I might see if you have any for a problem I'm having...

When I ride my mare she listens pretty well at a walk, not great, but enough to look ok to an observer. The problem is that she really isnt going with what I want her to do most of the time. The only way I can get a good ride on her is to spend a while doing round pen work for a while and then riding.

She goes fairly well after round pen work. But the round pen isnt always avalible for me to use before I ride her, so sometimes I have to put up with a really grumpy mare.

When I ride her she isnt very responsive, takes a while to get her moving into a trot, and then she usually has her ears pinned back and head up at a trot. When we are walking I cant get more than a slow walk out of her most of the time.

She also is grumpy on the ground, if she hasnt had round pen work if I touch her anywhere around the girth, or lean over her back so that i'm leaning on one side of her and my arms are draped over the other side of her, she reacts very strongly, throwing her head up, biting the air, ears pinned.

Now I have bonded with her, and she is really well behaved after round pen work, even though I still have some problems riding her, but I feel like I will always have to have a round pen around to have a good ride.

I have tried working on a halter rope and a lunge line before riding, but didnt get as good results with them. I have had her checked to make sure she isnt hurting, and she isnt, and her saddle fits well.

So, any ideas?

He writes...

Bearing in mind I know nothing about this mare other than what I have read in this email, I can only say, I am an odds player. I look a situation over and take in all the conditions I can and then ask myself, based on what I know about this situation and my experience, what is the MOST LIKELY problem here.

The being somewhat better after work, head higher than it should be (at least that's what I think you're saying when you say "head up"), ears pinned back, biting air, extreme sensitivity to touch around the girth area, reluctance to do anything other than a slow walk all scream physical ailment - especially when they appear in this combination. Does that mean there IS a physical ailment? No.

Just that the odds are great enough I'd almost be willing to bet a month's pay there is.

You don't mention who you had look her over. I love my allopathic vet to death. When there is something obviously swollen, bleeding, hot, bruised, anything he can detect, he comes through just like he has for the last 20 years we've been using him. But the guy is pretty clueless about ribs being out, sacrums out of whack, cervical & spinal subluxations and a whole long list of skeletal maladjustments that will produce a horse like yours. I have seen vets examine horses with cervical and spinal vertebrae blatantly out of place and not notice it.

I'm nearly certain the mare has a physical ailment. If you have access to one, have an equine chiropractor examine the mare. If you don't, see if you can find a human chiropractor who has an interest in horses. I'd start looking around the withers and move out from there. Until the physical problems are taken care of, all the round penning in the world will not make her happy and easy going.

Even apparently well-fitting saddles can often not fit when sat in, when riding up and downhill, or moved a little to either side. But in your case, you seem to say she is grumpy even when handled from the ground, so I'd be tempted to rule out the saddle as a cause for now, except for the fact that everything you say points to an ill fitting saddle.

I suggest you do a search for ~~~> Saddle fitter <~~~ and see if you can find one to be of some assistance to you.

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