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.