Chapter Seven

Turning a sour mount

There are a number of circumstances that can make a mount

sour. One who has been drilled too hard in the arena and given

little opportunity to relax in different surroundings can often

be transformed by backing off of the flatwork and jumping.

Simply choosing a varied routine that gets them fit and supple

on the trails or in other new and interesting environments can

quickly improve your mount’s attitude. If your horse is sore and

hasn’t been forced to the point of resenting the mere appearance

of a rider, giving him time off to heal and adopting a subsequent

sensitivity to their pain can work wonders. Some horses

are inadvertently taught to refuse. If there’s been a pattern of

curtailing every lesson as soon as the horse starts acting surly

toward requests, this behavior will escalate, and the horse will

object more frequently and dramatically to even simple tasks.

These equines can usually be corrected with the aid of a seasoned

and clever trainer, but this will often require that you

watch on the sidelines initially, proceeding with closely monitored

riding lessons after the horse is sufficiently schooled to

discourage this behavior.

If you’re dealing with a horse that has learned to resent with a

vengeance the competitive arena for which they were intended,

however, it might be time to find another project. While turning

these animals to a point where they get the job done is possible,

they’re generally not very much fun to work with or be around.

Plus, their attitudes leave them performing short of their potential.

If they’ve turned mean, they add a considerable degree of

danger to the mix. Mean horses that have learned that violence

and refusal is their only recourse for avoiding pain are almost

impossible to completely turn. You can make a lot of progress

with them and often diffuse much of the mean behavior, but

if they are sour and have been taught that belligerence is their

only relief, they may be tough to tackle.

With any sour horse, it’s important to be creative and responsive

in how you approach the training and communication



All deemed Studley a lost cause, except his insightful, reticent

trainer who wasn’t ready to admit defeat with this horse and

his green owners, who were enamored by the idea of having a

racehorse stallion. The moment he arrived, we began to question

our creative capabilities with this monster, not to mention

our sanity. As noted earlier (see Chapter Six — Turning Mean to

Green), he was a vicious stud who had a history of maiming the

humans he encountered and a quarrelsome attitude that rendered

training attempts at the track impossible. After we developed

a strategy and system that, over time, was effective at dissipating

the meanness, moving from a survival to a success focus

to address his sour nature became a priority. Ultimately, it

was clear we’d have to work around his bad attitude to get this

beast fit enough for speed training.

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