Fear causes race track filly to lunge forward

I have a 4 year old filly, that is off the race track. When I bought her the previous owner said she did not have any bad problems. After a few days of owing her, I found out that when she gets nervous or scared she lunges forward into whatever is in front of her and then throws ...I have a 4 year old filly, that is off the race track. When I bought her the previous owner said she did not have any bad problems. After a few days of owing her, I found out that when she gets nervous or scared she lunges forward into whatever is in front of her and then throws ...

Story originally posted by: Maggie FlowersHorseCity.com Training Director

Subject: Lunges forward

I have a 4 year old filly, that is off the race track. When I bought her the previous owner said she did not have any bad problems. After a few days of owing her, I found out that when she gets nervous or scared she lunges forward into whatever is in front of her and then throws her body backwards to the ground. Almost as if she is trying to hurt herself. I have been working her in the round pen, out and about on facing her fears. She is getting better, but I’m afraid when I begin to haul her it will start over again. I feel like this is a starting gate problem, but I’m not sure. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Dian

Hello Dian,

You are correct in that you have your hands full now and when you go to put her in the trailer. This is a starting gate phobia, one that is very dangerous and will be very difficult to get rid of. A mistake that people make is assuming that because the horse has run at the track, they are "broke." That’s just not correct. Sometimes retraining is harder, prolonged and dangerous because the horse has to relearn everything from scratch. What makes the difference is the horse’s blood ancestor’s disposition and intelligence, if she is very smart and predisposed to being calm, she’s going to fit in and do well in whatever job she has to do. The truth is that most of them are not that good and most rare is that calm disposition.

Many riders and trainers try to retrain racehorses with mechanical aids, when you should be using the natural aids: legs, voice, hands, etc. But basically, it take patience and a lot of work. Patience is the key to its retraining, beginning with a get-acquainted period. Time is the one main thing you must be prepared to spend. Spending a lot of time with the horse helps it to quiet down, learn to relax and begin to trust you. A horse off the track does not know a lot of things you may assume she should know such as how to balance, how to walk correctly and how to use their back ends. This is not instinctive, as is running is, but a matter of training and conditioning. She has to learn to get use to long stirrup, as many have never had even the slightest of touch to their sides. This is just an introduction to what you must foresee into your effort to retrain your horse.

Because of the commitment involved in retraining a horse from the track, I final suggestion…Don’t try it unless you know what you are doing or under the guidance of a professional trainer. This phobia your horse has could get you badly hurt if you make an error in judgement during the training process. Please seek professional help before you attempt anymore sessions.

Maggie Flowers