OP if you are intent on working with this horse I would recommend finding an outside trainer specializing in young/problem horses (since you have mentioned your coach does not recommend much can be done) to work with this horse on the ground. Once the horse begins to make progress you can start to work with the mare, reinforcing the foundations the trainer has enforced.
Call the owner NOW. Explain to her what has been going on... that horse has started behaving badly, it is spiraling out of control, you are scared of her, feel you are putting yourself in danger, etc. Chances are the owner has her horse's best interest in mind and will do her best to figure out an alternative that works.
The bottom line, however, is that you do have a contract that you must abide to. In horses, sh*t happens. Most of us have learned this the hard way Leases are a risk because there are a million things that can go wrong with personality issues, soundness issues, you name it. It may be that you end up having to support this mare until the contract is up. That is, after all, what you agreed to do. I don't necessarily blame the owner for misrepresenting the mare; you yourself say it was going wonderfully until recently when you admittedly were not able to spend the time with the mare that she required. This sounds to me like an inappropriate match that ran into some bad luck. Hopefully the owner will be reasonable and you can come to an agreement that ends in her not holding youy financially responsible for the remainder of the lease. However, I think it is entirely possible and not necessarily unreasonable for her to expect payment as per the contract. An agreement is an agreement.
My best advice is to talk to the owner ASAP and figure out what she is willing to do in order to A) help you have more success with the mare or B) take the mare back.
I think it is unreasonable to expect an amateur leasing a horse to assume the responsibility of remediating dangerous behavior. That job and its associated risks belongs to the owner or to a professional trainer hired by the owner.
if that was my quality young horse & I was out of the country for a year, I'd be sending that horse out to a professional for the next 30 days (at least) - & then insist that the leaser work with the professional until everyone is satisfied that the issue has been resolved.
This mare needs constant handling and correcting. I do not want to send her back, but it is always an option. My main concern is that she gets worse with disciplining and is 50/50 good/bad. How do I change her reaction to disciplining?
I suspect you are reacting too late - you need to correct/redirect her while she is still contemplating so that you can reward her (even if it's just a Good Girl) for doing the "right" things.
I just revisited this thread to check for updates. Everyone is giving good advice, but I can't help but be impossibly annoyed at the owner of this horse.
Horse people like the one OP is dealing with is the reason a lot of people warn against the horse folks. I know all of you here has heard some kind of warning against a horse person who is selling or leasing and the measures in which they will go to cover up potential issues. Why do people intentionally try to cover things up or keep secrets about their horse, especially if the well being of the horse and human are at risk? I cannot fathom the extent of this owner's irresponsibility and selfishness if she does not take back this mare at the request of the OP. Not only is she endangering the OP's physical being, but she is endangering the mare's maturing mentality and training.
Just be honest! If she wanted to lease the horse, include in the ad that she can be pushy, domineering and needs a strong human. I'm almost positive a willing, daring girl would come along for the challenge (especially for FREE). Heck, I would! Seriously fellow horse people, lets start the movement! Ha…
What evidence is there that the owner kept secrets?! She said the mare was green but good. She probably was until her routine changed and the handling became inconsistent. My guess is that the owner had good intentions, the OP seemed experienced enough-- and it happened to not work out. I don't see a lick of evidence to suggest the owner had bad motives. Maybe made a bad choice in selecting the OP-- but we all make mistakes. The horse is green and she's acting that way. I doubt the owner had any reason to anticipate this would happen.
Definitely check for pain, first and foremost. Back issues (ill fitting tack, perhaps), health issues, etc.
The more I think about it, the more I think about some of the horses that I have loved and left because I got tired of getting kicked, bitten, stepped on, etc. I have bought lots of young horses, and have to say that a horse with manners under tack AND ON THE GROUND is the best kind of horse to own. Otherwise you are always going to be working working working and hoping that no one gets hurt. Sometimes you don't realize how awful it is until you get a good one. Just be glad that it is not YOUR problem and send it back. There are a lot of horses looking for homes these days, so keep looking!
Just a quick update, I have been contacted by people that know this mare and the behavior I am now experience is not a new thing! Im not sure what to think, At the beginning we got along great and right now with me being the only one handling her, she's ok. She does have moments where she'll test and kick out, but for the most part we're good. Sometimes after her b*tch fit and discipline she looks at me like "huh, what just happened? Sorry " hard to explain! I'm planning on working through this as I have noticed an improvement with only me handling her, and she now has rules. I bring her in at 3 random times to groom, she is led with a chain, she does not move on the crossties unless ok'd by me. My problem is that I do not have an indoor and weather is making it unpredictable for riding outside. I'm planning on moving her to a barn with an indoor where we can go back to consistent work. I'm just a bit wary with starting her back, as the behavior I was told about under saddle is unnerving. I guess I will just lunge lunge lunge and take it slow and steady.
You need to STOP rationalizing her bad behavior ("she looks at me . . ."). Bad acting is just bad. There is absolutely no room for a horse having no respect for the person on the ground/in the tack. NONE. If you cannot handle this, take the horse back or get someone with years of experience in dealing with young or problem horses.
Also, this is NOT your problem. If it were me, I would take this bitch back, and find a horse to be enjoyed. There are plenty of project horses that are not dangerous.
Something I just feel obligated to point out...I applaud you for seeing this through....the owner is basically getting free training for her horse, and luckily this horse wound up with you. You sought help and asked for help and that speaks volumes about you as a person...in a very very good way. Due diligence is always key and tantamount to success. I like your slow and steady thought process. As a trainer, I run across lovelies such as this little girl. Now and then ya wonder what happened when they were born...because their brains don't always seem to be intact. Learning what triggers their unique behaviours is the journey. You be careful! You are higher on the food chain! ;-) Keep doing what you are doing, if you have access to a good trainer, use them. And one more piece of unsolicited advice...do everything within your power to ensure the opportunity to demonstrate less than stellar behaviour doesn't materialize. Prevention is worth a pound of cure. She is 5, some stuff is ingrained in her, minimize her "stuff." It may not ever all go away, but can be managed....would love to have her in my barn! ;-) Good luck. Listen to the other people who know this mare too, they, as you have found, will provide history so that you have something to work with. I do hope the owner is appreciative. Don't worry about the riding, make your point on the ground 150% first....and if you never climb in the saddle again on her, do not think you have failed for one second!!!! Be safe first and foremost! Take care....safe day!
I have a lot of thoughts about this, so here goes.
First of all... Anytime someone tells me they have a FIVE year old that is an angel I start questioning. Five years old is a baby, and it is the age of reckoning, and this is a mare, so sexual maturity has just struck. In plain english, I dont believe them. If attitude hasnt shown up yet, it will be doing so, soon
Regardless of her history, moving her and changing her life was/is the invitation for bad behaviour. It is typical IME that any horse, but particularly a young mare, need time to settle in and learn what the new rules/routine are. This is the time that you often need to be the hardest on a horse, not the easiest. Once you have blown this window of opportunity, while they re unsure and looking for leadership, it can be hard to regain ground.
So anyway. Was she misrepresented? I cant say, other than that I would have sent any young horse off with some serious caveats about what to expect and how to handle potential issues. Now you have a problem that you have to deal with so dont bother looking back, look forward. Decide if you want to deal with Miss Hot Pants and be honest . If you want a well broke really quiet horse, dont look at five year olds. Yes the exceptions are out there but regardless of the economy, not usually free . I would be remiss if i did not add that EVERY horse, no matter what age, sex, or accomplishments, will need you to keep its manners on it, heck even Nanny Pony needs a word every year or so. Be realistic. Turn her out until the end of your lease or hire someone to 1) put the screws to her when you cannot and 2) teach you how to do it yourself and consider it a valuable lesson about what a horse really is - a giant beast with a mind of its own. Good luck!
"Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
--- The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.
EqTrainer said it succintly and correctly! Her advice is to be heeded. And she is so right...every horse, no matter the age or accomplishments needs you to keep it in the Emily Post book of manners every single moment you are with them. They are unpredictable at ALL times. If I had a penny for every time an owner told me their horse is bombproof and so docile, I would be super wealthy by now. It is a horse!!!!!! It does what it does and it is capable of anything at any given moment in time. The trick is to think ahead, plan ahead and outsmart the little devils! ;-) Draw the line in the sand and maintain that line. Your side of the bed is yours and yours alone, never his! ;-) 5 year olds are not what I would lease or encourage one of my clients to lease, but the deed is done and contract signed....this is a life lesson with a horse. We have all had to learn the hard way about this or that horse. It comes with the territory. The human has to be God!!!! But a fair and just God! ;-) EqTrainer really said it the best!
Bethe, I'm curious, why would you applaud this poster for "seeing this through"? I'm just not sure I see the virtue of a slightly overfaced adult amateur providing free training on a leased difficult green mare, at some risk to her own health and confidence. Would you personally work with and train a horse like this for free? Would you spend your hard earned money to send a green horse belonging to someone else to a professional trainer?
Just speaking for myself, I'm perfectly capable of dealing with a mare like this, but if I were suddenly horseless and leased a mare that turned out to be like this, I'd send her back verrry quickly. I'm comfortable putting in the effort and taking risks on my own difficult young horses, but I wouldn't consider it reasonable for me to take on someone else's problem horse in a lease situation. That's just not how leases are supposed to work!
It isn't reasonable ESPECIALLY when that person in question may not have the skills and instincts to deal with a tougher horse and could get hurt. I think that the OP is entitled to put a higher priority on her own safety and confidence above any obligation to retrain someone else's horse for free.
When you take a free lease on a green horse and the owner goes out of the country for a year (military by any chance?)? With no way to get out from under if it proves unsuitable short of abandoning it?
Not a good place to be in...but I don't know that depending on the previous barns rumor mill is going to get the specific details that might help you. And none of us here knows the full story of who said what to whom, just the one side.
Generally, horses do better in regular programs with regular riding. Regular hormone help too-that may be a factor with this mare. There are quite a few reasons a still green younger horse could be acting like this but most of them go back to inconsistent/irregular handling.
I'd stick her full time with a trainer for 30-90 days (more is better) but, not OPs horse and probably financially out of the question. Soooo...turn her out until daily handling/riding is possible in spring.
Is there a written contract here? Is there any way to contact owner?
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
I had a pushy mare like this. Total Alpha personality. I did nothing but ground work with a dressage whip and a stud chain for a few weeks. Is she set a toe out of line or tried to pull the alpha card, she got in BIG trouble. Not abusive trouble, but "STAY THE HELL OUT OF MY DANCE SPACE" trouble. Lot's and lots of standing until she got it. No, you cannot take a step forward. No, you are not directing when and what direction you go. No, you walk shoulder to shoulder with me, not in front of or behind. It took awhile. It took a LOT of patience. Lots of growling, spanks with the whip (if she acted out when spanked I'd grow big and scary and growl at her making her back up a few steps.) When she was good, she got a treat. When she did as I asked, she got a treat. I took a mare who had been in a pasture her whole life unless she was thrown into a trailer and taken on a trail ride, had never had a bit in her mouth and never had any ground manners taught from a pushy PITA with some dangerous tendencies to a marshmallow that a small kid could lead. I was lucky to have a neighboring farm that had an interesting menagerie of animals, from alpacas to emus that let me hand-walk up and down her driveway. Eventually, she realized that A. All those weird animals weren't scary. B. Mom isn't putting up with my crap. C. If I cooperate and I'm good, I get a treat and I get turned out and mom will leave me alone! So much better than D. Let's sit out here for hours while I spook at the EMU 47 times, try to eat the dog (she did hate dogs and try to eat them) and pretend that the alpaca twitching it's ear is grounds for attempting to jump into mom's lap.
She was difficult. But I stuck with her, and was very proud of my achievement as well. I sold her on a few years later to a 13 year old girl who adored her. She was quite a packer at that point. I really miss that mare too, but life forced me to sell her
Good luck. I guess it depends on what you really want to do with this mare. Do you enjoy a challenge? Do you enjoy the feeling of accomplishment? In my case, the mare was one I had recently bought, and so it was in my best interest to make it work. I bought a beautiful mare out of a pasture with no idea what she was like. Her price was right and her bloodline was awesome, and the way she MOVED was amazing too. I bought her to do dressage, and she hated it. She LOVED to jump though, so I took up jumping and loved it too! She and I had a very close bond, and it was like we could read each others minds. She still would try to pull one over on me once in awhile, but all I had to do was get my "ears flat" face on and growl at her.
Good luck no matter what you choose to do with her.
As someone who owned a mare like the one being discussed, please allow me to weigh-in and share how I chose to resolve the issue.
A junior rider was looking for a horse and needed a "free lease". She was in an excellent barn and had a well-known trainer in the area working with her. The trainer liked my mare and so did the student. A contract was drawn up and we were all happy.
Then I received the call NOBODY wants to receive - my mare had reared and fallen backwards due to being off-balance, and had hurt herself, but thankfully the young girl was uninjured. As long as I had known and owned the mare, she never reared with me - never even considered it. The trainer was on the ground and was able to provide a lot of good feedback. It appeared to her that the rider gave the mare conflicting aids and the mare just tried to evade, but when she backed up, her butt hit the fence and she "freaked".
Still, I was very worried about this situation, and was ready to take my mare back. However, the girl's mother and the trainer and I decided to give the mare the time she needed to heal a wound she had received while having the rider ride one of the more sensitive horses owned by the trainer, to get her used to a sensitive ride.
As my mare began to heal, the rider became more intimidated at the thought of getting on her again. I offered to release them from the contract, and I sent my mare to a good friend who could work with her after she healed and determine the best placement for her after a thorough vet and training evaluation.
The young rider was able to lease another horse and enjoyed her last couple of junior years and my mare was safe. There were and still are, no hard feelings.
Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people. W. C. Fields
I have a 5 year old as well but a gelding. He has had 2 trainers and has one now. I do notice times when he tries to challenge me. Nothing serious just testing, and I then need to be very clear about my limits. These times usually come when he is learning new things and feeling pretty confident. I am always surprised by this behavior, after being so good it feels like going backwards.......but it is all part of baby horse training.
My other horse is 20 and I could do anything with him and I need to keep the two seperate in how I handle them. I don't take anything for granted with the baby, I blanketed him for the first time this year last night, he was great but still I took my time and gave him lots of praise for accepting the blanket....praise really helps him without it I know I would be further behind in his training.
I applaud the OP for wanting to see this through, as she doesn't sound like she's over-faced. She has stated the mare has improved with her handling, and IMO it sounds like the mare got the number of the barn worker while OP was out of commission, and has suddenly learned just how big and menacing she is. You can bet your @ss if a horse tried to cow-kick me while wrapped a leg I'd duck and run too!
I've dealt with alpha mares, and your best weapons/tools are a driving whip, stud chain, and long lead rope. OP says she throws a fit when disciplined...my first reaction was "Keep going!" If the OP isn't willing or able to go toe-to-toe with this monster, then someone needs to. The kind of CTJ where she lifts a toe, twitches an ear, or makes an ugly face, she regrets being on this earth.
I agree with the poster who turned her horse out, alone, and let them figure it out. Boot her up, and let her be stupid. Bring her in at night, and if possible, put her in an end stall with a stud wall, or by herself. Her privileges of having a herd should be seriously restricted until she pays OP more respect. Like Superminion said, make her work for EVERYTHING, including meals.
I'm intrigued by the OP's newfound knowledge of her bad behavior in the past. My trainer purchased an UL dressage horse a year and a half ago, and has never had major issues. She's recently been hearing loads of horror stories about the horse, including him being a confirmed rearer who would regularly excuse himself from the dressage arena. It's amazing how the right handler/trainer/living arrangement/feed/EVERYTHING can make a huge difference.
OP if you truly do find yourself overfaced and get to the end of your rope, you should definitely pursue ending the lease and NOT paying board because the horse was (as it sounds) not as advertised, based on your new knowledge.
"All your protestations aside, this has got to be on anyone's Top Ten list of Bad Horse Advice." - Ghazzu
Frankly, OP, it sounds like the mare is too dangerous to be boarded somewhere else, unless it's the barn of a trainer who knows exactly what to expect and is being paid to address the behavior. Hope you've been able to get in touch with the owner. Best of luck to you both (mare and you).