Re-educating the troubled horse
I recently had someone inquire about a horse who has bucking issues. It was a person who did not have a lot of experience and had sent their horse to a well-known training program. When their horse returned, multiple times the horse started bucking when ridden.
So their question was if I would be able to help the horse, how long it would take, Etc. This is a very common inquiry that I get.
I thought it would be helpful to share my response to the owner as many people seem to have these issues. The following is my answer.
There are several options for rehabilitating a horse that has become troubled and is now physically dangerous.
Every horse is an individual, so when horses arrive for training, the first week is an “Assessment week,” which allows me time to evaluate his current fears, insecurities, ability and willingness to learn, any potential physical/pain issues, and then approach him in a way that rebuilds his trust in humans.
By the time a horse is committed to bucking, his original “quiet” pleas for help from the human have either been missed or ignored; whether intentional or not, most folk’s priorities are to “just go ride”, often not realizing how much “help” the horse needs from the rider.
Also, if you have limited experience, you need to keep in mind that even with a lot of quality training, you will need to “be on the same page” as your horse. Sending your horse to the trainer without understanding how/what he has learned, does the owner no good.
People also often think that once a horse is “trained” it will automatically maintain the knowledge or abilities; they don’t. Every experience with the horse is a “learning” opportunity for the horse; so again, whether you mean to or not, you may be “teaching” your horse many things you don’t realize.
Also many training programs are suited to the human, rather than individualizing the methods so that it is appropriate for that particular horse. Just like humans who all have different learning styles, so do horses. Which means that many horses “go through” training programs and the more training, the worse the horse feels about the “human experience,” he may come out with some knowledge, but often there is a lot of miscommunication and defensiveness felt by the horse if he didn’t naturally fit the “program”. But this typically doesn’t show up until the horse has spent time with a less confident person, and only then, does he offer his honest opinion or show his defensiveness with dramatic and dangerous behaviors.
As far as “how long” it takes to both undo a horse’s fear and defensiveness, and re-educate the horse, all depends on the severity of the horse’s current mental and emotional state. I offer training by the week to best suit the horse’s needs, yhe first week is assessment week, and then we go from there. I’m big on keeping owners in the loop with weekly email updates as to the progress reports on the horse.
I require all owners to participate for at least a week with me before taking their training horse for at least five sessions.
Once your horse arrives for training, they have priority to stay however long you need.