Mare lunges out on roll backs and straights

I have been riding my Quarter Horse mare for about 1 and a half years. We have a special bond except when it comes to speed. She is about 25 and lunges out on roll backs and straight-a-ways. It takes all my effort to slow her down and still keep her at a moderate pace. The funny thing is, she only ...I have been riding my Quarter Horse mare for about 1 and a half years. We have a special bond except when it comes to speed. She is about 25 and lunges out on roll backs and straight-a-ways. It takes all my effort to slow her down and still keep her at a moderate pace. The funny thing is, she only ...

Story originally posted by: Maggie FlowersHorseCity.com Training Director

I have been riding my Quarter Horse mare for about 1 and a half years. We have a special bond except when it comes to speed. She is about 25 and lunges out on roll backs and straight-a-ways. It takes all my effort to slow her down and still keep her at a moderate pace. The funny thing is, she only does it for me. I have little children ride her all the time as a training horse and she never lunges out on them, but she doesn’t always listen to them either. How should I keep her from lunging? I always prepare for it and situate myself on her so she knows I don’t want her to just take off. But when I want her to gallop, it takes her forever to get up to the speed I want her at. What am I doing wrong with her?

Elissa Van Houten

Hello Elissa,

I really don’t think that you are doing anything wrong, not consciously, anyway. Some horses are experienced enough to know when there is an advanced rider on them and therefore know what will be expected from them. The problem comes because they have been doing the same thing with the same rider that they sometimes get into a rut, a bit bored if you will. Because of it, we tend to fall into an anticipatory frame of mind ourselves. You are anticipating her lunges and thus are correcting her before she has even begun to even think about what you think she will do. What you have actually done is taken her energy and enthusiasm away from her at that precise moment and then you turn around and ask her to give you what you just told not to do. I don’t know about you, but I her, would be confused and somewhat perturbed that you can’t make up your mind. She doesn’t show this attitude with the children because they aren’t confusing her and they don’t forcefully make her do anything. Children have soft hands.

What you might need to do here is first have her teeth and mouth checked to make sure that there is no underlined problem. Since you didn’t mention what type of bit you are presently using, I will assume you are using some type of snaffle. This being the case you need to work on refreshing the ‘give to bit pressure’ training.

Take your horse into a round pen or some kind of enclosed controlled area. Keeping your horse in a relaxed state, begin by asking for a slower pace she is not use to traveling. Ask her to slow by bringing your hands back toward your stomach to establish contact, but not to cue, let your reins touch the sides of her neck as you do. After the initial contact has been made, give her a couple of seconds to respond. Allow her to move out freely on a loose rein, if she begins to take advantage of this freedom, check her. Tap and release the reins to let her know that you are alert to her action and that you do not approve. One of your goals here is to try and redevelop a softer mouth in your mare. One where she will respond readily to the lightest touch of the reins. You want to introduce the slightest amount of hand pressure and at the same time regain the give to bit pressure. It seems to me that you, with your anticipation of her, have developed a slight hard hand. If you’ve been pulling hard all the time, every time because of this anticipation, then it’s soon like pulling on a telephone pole. That horse has no feeling for your hands, and she waits for the hard pull before she give you anything. Why? She has no reason to do it any other way.

When you begin to work on the roll backs, try and reintroduce the leg pressure cues more, keeping the reins as quiet as possible. You can do this, it may take a short while to re-establish this new mutual cooperation between the two of you. Taking the time now will ensure many pleasant riding hours. Good luck.

Maggie Flowers