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    [RC] Help for "Un-ridable" Horse - Susan Bothern

    This past May we bought a 6 year old unregistered Arab gelding from an
    auction for $500. He's got a nice temperment, seems affectionate and
    personable on the
    > ground. . . He has a very hard mouth . . . I've been schooling him in the
    arena in a snaffle bit and it
    > seems to be improving. He also has 'dead sides'.

    Tamara, can't answer anything specific to endurance but I can talk about
    abused/difficult horses.  First was your friend a he or she?  First you need
    to eliminate pain from lameness, ill fitting shoes, bad saddle fit and poor
    riding.  Some horses will get irritated if using a flank girth.  You'll also
    need to rule out of back pain.  Any muscle spasms after unsaddling.  Does he
    respond/flinch when you massage his back?  How 'bout up by his poll?

    OK, what would
    I do.  I'd get off that horse's back and pretend he was 2.  Start with
    ground work, ground work, ground work.  Build your foundation.  Does he
    stand, tie, lead, pick up feet, bridle, saddle easily.  Does he longe on a
    line?  Does he know voice commands?  A horse like this will need time, slow
    work.  You will have to be more concerned about mental exhaustion and fear
    instead of physical tiredness.  Start with 5-10 minute intervals and build.
    Give yourself plenty of time -- 1 to 2 years -- to turn him into a nice
    riding horse.  Yes, if his confirmation is what you say and you build slowly
    he probably will make a good endurance horse.  Can't remember what article
    it is on Ride-Camp that talks about slowing down the training in order to
    have a good horse.  Build trust before riding and then when you ride break
    it into small increments.  On and off.  On for 5 mins.  Don't worry about
    quality of movement or speed.  Just establish that this is all I want from
    you.  Dead sides can recover but it takes TIME.  I'm assuming this horse has
    been spurred to death.  You might get a better response by using leg in a
    slightly different location.  If he responds to voice on the
    leadline/longeline then he'll respond to voice when you are on his back.
    Being an Arab, he probably doesn't need much leg.

    To soften the mouth I would go with a 3 piece snaffle such as a french-link
    O ring.  A roller in the middle will be fine.  Make sure it's a snaffle and
    not a leverage bit even though folks call them western snaffles, etc.

    You already know this horse has difficulties.  I'm questioning the reason
    for the trail ride, etc. by a different rider.  For the time being let this
    horse bond with one person.  With time you can introduce him to others, but
    let them start out with grooming & leading before riding.   A horse that's
    scared under saddle, not mean, doesn't need to be cowboyed or disciplined.
    Not saying you've done this.  But we've all met those folks who have "got to
    teach that stupid horse a lesson."  This won't work with this horse.  You
    may have to pretend he's a mare for awhile.  Persuasion.  Talk to him to
    calm him down.

    OK, one thing I do with really scared horses under saddle is teach a graze
    cue.  Controversial?  Yes, some folks don't believe a horse should eat with
    a bit in their mouth.  I disagree in this situation.  Teach a command to
    graze and a separate command to tell the horse it's time to go back to work.
    I use "graze" and "heads up".  Instead of focusing on moving forward when on
    this horse's back think about camping out.  So what if you sit there for 5
    minutes without the horse moving.  Learning to relax and stand still has

    This will not be a quick 100 day training project but a long term
    commitment.  The question is not can he excel at endurance so much as do I
    have the time, skill, knowledge and patience to spend with this horse?
    Again, I reiterate this is not a quick fix situation.  Only you can answer
    that.  The price at auction indicates that the previous owner either needed
    cash fast or knew something you didn't.  You must realize that depending
    upon this horse's treatment he may never be fully dependable.  If he gets
    scared, he's likely to fight for himself and not watch out for you.  Only
    time will tell.

    Best wishes,
    Susan B.