QUESTION: I have had this 9 year old horse for about a year. He was fine when I first got him but then the last 6 months, he kicks at me or swings his rump into me when I go to saddle him up and does the same when I try to get on? He is western, ranch trained and I am not very experienced with horses. So I just don't saddle him or ride anymore. How do I make him stop being bad?

ANSWER: If a person purchases a horse and it comes with a bad habit, we know it was the previous owner. If the horse develops the habit quite some time afterwards, we know it is something we, the new owners are doing wrong.

The usual reason for this is something is causing the horse pain. All to often we tend to just think the horse is being BAD when in fact the horse is simply trying to prevent something hurting it. If it is the saddle pinching the horse or not fitting the horse properly they soon learn to attempt to stop being saddled. If it is the rider pulling the saddle crooked when they mount, again this irritates the horses back so the horse quickly learns again to associate the saddle and mounting with being hurt.

Sometimes it is the rider not riding a balanced seat (such as bouncing around and/or out of position on the horses back) thus causing muscle pain during the ride but the horse blames the saddle and/or knows once the person gets on, he is going to be hurting.

Occasionally the horse may not be in pain, just not want to be ridden. The horse causes a fuss, and just like you have done, the rider lets the horse WIN THE BATTLE and does not saddle or mount or go for a ride on the horse. The rider in that case has actually taught the horse that if it misbehaves, it will not have to be ridden!!! A hard habit to break and takes a "Professional Horse Trainer" to retrain the horse.

The trainer must access not only the horse but your saddle, bridle/bit, saddle pad/blanket, cinches and YOU too to help solve the problem. NOTE: The trainer can cure the horse but if the owner does not take Horse Care/Riding Instructions, the horse will quickly revert to it's old habits once back home. The rider needs to learn and be trained as well as the horse.

First is to find out if the saddle/equipment is causing any pain in this horse. Many saddles may fit one horse but not the next one. Or the saddle pad or cinches are dirty with mud and sweat which really hurts the horse too. Or it is the wrong saddle pad (blanket) for that saddle or that horse's back.

Second is to learn how to saddle a horse and mount a horse while standing at the horses shoulder, not beside it. A horse cannot kick or swing into a person who is mounting correctly. This is for a Western Saddle which many people use.

To mount a horse correctly, your left hip should be beside the horses left shoulder. The horses nose should be tipped towards you so if it moves, the hind end will automatically swing away from you, not into you. By having the nose tipped towards you, the horse also cannot BOLT ahead, instead will have to circle you. You grasp the stirrup, place your foot in the stirrup, your left hand can rest firmly on the horses neck directly in front of the saddle, your right hand then will grasp the horn of the saddle and you will swing yourself up. By pushing off with your right leg and using your left hand more than your right to help. If your mounting by grabbing the front of the saddle in your left hand and grabbing the back of the saddle with your right hand, "Then You Are Pulling The Saddle Crooked" on the horses poor back when you swing up.

The horses head should be tied while saddling OR the horses nose should be tipped towards you so again if the horse moves, its hind end automatically swings away from you, not into you. Again the safety zone is standing beside the horses shoulder and swinging the saddle in one smooth, gentle motion up onto its back. Not Plunking it hard up there on the horses back. For people with lesser arm strength, make sure the cinches and right stirrup are folded over top the saddle seat so they do not bang or slam the horses right side or right front leg. The right stirrup can be hooked over the saddle horn for this.

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