I have a question about the horse that I ride. She is about 14 years old, and I lease her from the instructor that I ride with. Up until recently, she hadn't been ridden a lot, because she was a little too much for the majority of the lesson students at the farm. I have been riding her for about two months now. She has started showing some different behaviors that are unlike her. She has been pinning her ears, not wanting to go forward. Recently, she has been bucking when I ask her for the canter. This behavior is unlike her, and I'm wondering how to tell if it is just an attitude or maybe there is a physical problem going on with her? Any suggestions? Thanks!
I will begin by saying that I'm not a vet and this advice should not be used in place of a vet's advice. You mention that the mare was out of work for a period of time. This brings two things to my mind right away.
The first would be that since she is coming off time off work, that she is giving you a little bit of attitude now that her life of luxury in her mind is over. She was probably just as happy hanging out and eating and grass in the field. That being said, she could be testing the waters to see if you really are in fact going to follow through and make her work. If this is the case, the behavior should go away rather quickly as you establish your routine and she learns you are not going to let her get away with anything. Though, it sounds like you have been riding her long enough now that she should have already established that. It really just depends on her personality, some mares are more temperamental than others.
My instinct on this one is that if she is in physical pain that it is probably related to the fact that she is muscle sore, from coming back into work. Is it possible that maybe you rushed it a bit with bringing her back into work? A lot of times, horses coming out of work will be excitable and full of energy. That can make it easy for us as riders to ride them harder than their muscles are ready for just yet.
Try and look back at your time with her and think about the progression of your progress with her? Do you think you eased her into work slowly increasing the time, working up to long trotting sets and to cantering? If you are asking her to go in a collected frame remember that is using muscles she probably doesn't have after a lot of time off.
I would also check your saddle fit as well. Make sure that your saddle fits the horse appropriately. Take notice if she seems girthy when you tack her up or if she seems back sore when you are grooming her back.
If you think that you may have pushed her a little too far too fast, it's no big deal. I would just give her some time off. Just spend time with her, grooming her, maybe give her a liniment bath, she will love that if she is muscle sore.
If after time off, she still picks up and is behaving the same way, first I would get your vet to give her a once over and just confirm that there is not a physical problem.
Once you get the go-ahead that she is in good shape. You need to think about changing up her routine to keep her interested. Maybe trail riding days, or throwing poles or small jumps down in the arena. Anything to keep her from feeling like she doing boring things like going around and around in circles.
Hopefully, this will help to improve her attitude! By offering a more varied riding routing and being aware of how hard you are pushing her( making sure you are taking it slow), hopefully, her attitude will be better. Hopefully, the changes in routine will help keep her more willing to work.
If after all of this she is still being resistant to work, I would suggest you take a lesson with your trainer and see what she thinks is the case. If she is familiar with the horse in general, she may have a better idea of what is going on. She may say that you need to just ride her through her grumpiness, in which case, that is best done under the watchful eye of your trainer or instructor.
Listen to what your horse's body language is telling you, be aware of what she is physically capable of and of course, never be afraid to ask for help or a second opinion.
Sounds like you are already on the right track in knowing that there is a problem and addressing it.