Sneak Peak excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners. Due for public release in 2010.
Red came to us after having been “broke” by a girl who had little experience and less heart. She gave up after this four-year-old filly began flipping immediately following her hopping in the saddle. Apparently this went on for awhile, and this steed learned she could immediately and successfully end the lesson
with this strategy.
We spent some time on the ground with Red, as it was apparent she needed some preliminary guidance that had been skipped. We also wanted to establish communication benchmarks. She was actually responsive and compliant when we proceeded to under-saddle lessons in the round pen. Once we moved out of the confines and routine of this space, however, the flipping penchant resurfaced. In this case, we were able to step off as she went past perpendicular and hop back into the saddle while she was still on the ground, staying with her as she returned to her feet. That was the last time she flipped.
We had another week or so of good progress with this filly before her behavior deteriorated, and this time, she decided to lay down after we stirruped up. She was flat out on the ground and wouldn’t move. We sat on her neck (this is usually referred to as sitting on their heads, but that’s not really where you want to put your weight – horses cannot get up without their head and neck to use for momentum and the back of the neck is the safest place to be for both you and your horse) to immobilize her with a strategy designed to discourage this behavior in the future.
Horses tend to panic when they can’t get up and trapping an intentional flipper immediately generally teaches these horses to never go there again. She didn’t care. Red lay there, on the ground, perfectly content being stuck. This was a first. There was something really wrong with this filly. We didn’t have
enough information to determine if there was some major underlying physical problem that was causing this behavior (she traveled sound and seemed to be unencumbered by pain, but we didn’t dig too deep) or if she just had a major screw loose.
Either way, this was one of the few we quickly determined was best to toss back. We called the owners and admitted defeat.
They decided to forgo any future starting attempts and bred her instead. We’ll let someone else tackle that progeny beauty when it’s time to start riding lessons.