Driving didn't go well yesterday....

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GlacierRidge

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So I've been driving my 36" gelding, Magic, for three years now. Nothing fancy, not competitively, just for fun and pleasure. I did the work myself, and was quite proud of what we accomplished. We've driven mostly on quiet country roads, in the yard, and in fields nearby (flat ones!). He is such a good boy, that one year I even drove him in town while my son went trick or treating. He's so calm, does his job so well, that I put little devil horns on him, grabbed some pooper scoopers, put some safety night gear on him, and brought some friends for safety just in case, and he loved every minute of it, as did all the kids who encountered us. We trailered him to a strange place, with strange looking children, but I knew him, trusted him, and he didn't make one wrong move. Never has.

Now yesterday was a disaster! I start every driving session the same. I groom him, pick feet, fly spray him (same stuff he's used to), harness him up and ground drive to make sure he's going well. Then I hitch him, and ground drive again, with the cart. Hop in, things are going well....then all of a sudden he just decided he was going to stop. Now he's not a spooky type horse, but there were two changes. One, my son has a new soccer goal that was on the front porch of the house. Magic didn't seem to look at it, but I'm wondering if he was nervous about it. Secondly, my son had used the hose, and left it on (with an attachment that shuts it off), but it was sputtering water at the spigot. I am wondering if these things got Magic started....because the remainder of the time, he refused to move forward. No matter what. He backed, he reared, he went sideways, but refused to go forward. He threw a FIT. The water was turned off, and I led him to a different area of the yard. Same thing. We butted heads for quite awhile...I couldn't end our session like this. He did nothing but rear, back, fight, toss his head....

No bugs, I checked every part of the harness, checked his mouth (his teeth were done early spring), bit, checked for rocks in his feet, checked under his tail for burrs, whatever....I could find no reason for his behavior. And nothing would make him go forward. Except leading him. My son would get him started, but then all he wanted to do was trot, angrily, and if I slowed him to a walk, he stopped again. Was very frustrating. If nothing physically is wrong...if this happens again....what's a person to do? Unhitch, and start with the groundwork from scratch?

He was fine....once we were done and cooled him off, I put him back where he belonged, he rolled, as usual, and went on playing with his buddy, tearing around as usual. If he hadn't been feeling well....I'm sure he wouldn't have been acting like that. But he was acting just as normal as any other day.

I just wanted to see how I should handle this next time, if there is a next time. It's not like he's green and doesn't know what's being asked. I really think he was just being a brat yesterday. Because his behavior before and afterward was just fine. But he also behaved fine at first....I just don't think anything was wrong with the harness and cart.....but I can't be 100% on that I guess. I couldn't FIND anything wrong. I harnessed and hitched him the same way I always do..... and I didn't have anything too tight.

But he decided something was wrong.....
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Angie
 

hobbyhorse23

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First of all, you should still be proud of all you've accomplished. You've got a safe, sane driving horse and clearly you are the sort of responsible driver who always looks for reasons behind any misbehavior and thinks first of discomfort or anxiety as potential causes. Good for you!!
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There is no way we can judge over the internet what may have actually set him off, but I will say that horses don't do this sort of thing out of the blue without a reason. The reason may seem silly to us once we learn it, but they have a reason! Maybe there was something in the woods that you'll never know was there. Maybe he had a sliver under his fur that the breastcollar was hitting. Maybe he had a metallic taste in his mouth or a fairy was buzzing around his ear and taunting him. Who knows?
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Did you check the tires on the cart? If you had a flat he wouldn't have noticed it while ground-driving in the cart (technically a no-no, by the way) but it would have made it very hard for him to pull forward once you got in and he might have reacted by stopping. Just something to consider!

If nothing physically is wrong...if this happens again....what's a person to do? Unhitch, and start with the groundwork from scratch?
First step with a sudden and violent behavior change like this is exactly what you did- get out and check every single thing you can think of before attempting any sort of correction or force. Second- observe, observe, observe. Is he looking in one particular direction all the time, refusing to bend only to the left or only to the right, always hopping forward on the same foreleg, or rearing only when the traces tighten? Is there a bug-zapper or other sound that could be irritating or spooking him? Look, listen, smell, and feel! Touch his fur under all the harness and make sure there are no hot places or places he doesn't want you touching. Exactly how does he react, and when? We're looking for clues to what he's doing. If nothing presents itself no matter how creatively you think or how many variables you experiment with and he's still doing this, take a step backwards until you can end on a good note. Get out of the cart and have someone lead him forward until he's going calmly. Does he do that? Hint: if so, his problem is related to having weight in the cart. You can try climbing back in or having someone else climb in and see what he does, but you may want to just stop there for the night. If he's still freaking out in the cart with no one in it and someone leading, unhitch and ground-drive. Go back one step at a time until he succeeds and then STOP. If he can't ground-drive calmly, have someone lead him while you ground-drive. If that doesn't work, walk to his head and lead him through some simple exercises until he's listening and thinking again. Then stop. You may only get one calm circuit of the yard or a perfect stop for three seconds. It doesn't matter- take that as your good note and quit!
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Try again the next day from the beginning and see how he does. If the problem comes up again and there's no further hint of what's wrong, you probably ought to consider calling a vet or trusted trainer and getting their input before driving again. If he's fine, you can figure it was something specific that was bugging him and whatever it is has passed.

I know it's really frustrating when this sort of thing happens, but even good horses are going to have their days. Reassure yourself that you did the right thing and try not to get too frustrated when there's still so much we can do to find out why he's acting that way.

Take care!

Leia
 
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Sanny

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Something was definitely going on. Pretty much everything horses do is for a reason and the calm/sensible horses especially should send up a red flag if their behavior changes this dramatically out of the blue. I've had horses react like this when something was messed up on their harness or when something physically is wrong with them. It sounds like you eliminated both of those options so the next thing I would look at is he sensed something he felt put you or him or both of you in danger that you didn't. I had a calm and sensible riding pony when I was growing up that refused to ride down the road - something we had done a hundred times before. He totally acted up and eventually bucked me off twice. I gave up on riding that day and couldn't understand what was wrong. I was mad at him and super frustrated until we found out from a neighbor that a black bear and her cub and been up and down the road that day around the time I wanted to go riding and the bears were going through their garbage cans that afternoon.

Had one of my really good driving horses totally act up in a driving class and found out someone had messed with his harness and the adjustments on his bridle were off and uneven and he is one we always check and double check that everything is perfect.
 

Marty

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I went through two weeks of solid H e ** with my Quarter Horse a few years ago. Totally freaking out, tearing down the walls in his stall, crashing gates and running like a maniac through fences to the point he had to be sedated before he killed himself.

Come to find out, he SMELLED blood.

Someone had killed a deer and some wild pigs across the road with knives.

We found them and burried them and poured amonia all around the grave. Problem solved.

Trust your horses senses. Something was wrong out there today that upset your little guy and he was scared.

I'm glad you didn't get hurt.
 

Marsha Cassada

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Could he be buddy-sour? Mine went through a stage where he refused to drive out of the gate away from the buddy. It took me quite a while to work through that (I got a lot of good ideas on the Forum about how to deal with that). And I am not sure why he suddenly turned into a velcro-horse, as he was usually very happy to go out.
 

willowoodstables

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Agree with Leia..also check his back and stifles/hocks. Any horse I have been driving that suddenly refused to go forward has ended up with either sore stifles/hocks or back. It takes a while for the soreness to actually show in their gait, but they are feeling it when they have to engage the rear to move them and the cart. If all else fails, back to square one, but with a mentor/trainer if you can.

For instance, Winston stood on his hind legs the last class I showed him, never showed sore, but alas after x-rays he does have some joint issues and a fracture!!!! Never ever took a bad step, just when I asked him to step off, it hurt obviously and we went at least 15 feet on the hind legs ..it hurt to engage and step off the rear.

Kim
 

HGFarm

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I dont think it would have been the hose..... I think something was pinching, hooked wrong or something.... sounds like something was bothering him and if he stopped, it didnt. I would try it again, sounds to me like he is well broke enough, that I dont think he did this for no reason. Pinching in the cinch area? Under his tail? Cart sitting oddly? Hard to say, but I think he was trying to tell you something- he just didnt know how else to tell you, LOL

Or I agree with the other comment - is he horse sour with another, or possibly was hurting somewhere?
 

RebelsHope

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Hello fellow Cheesehead!!

Sorry you had such a cruddy drive!! I am just join to agree with everyone else. You did all the right things. It may be a non issue your next drive or you may need to do some more detective work. Good luck to you!
 

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