Sassy Aussie asked in PetsHorses · 8 years ago

What is the best way to handle high strung horses?

I ride mostly on the trails at a barn that does not use groundwork or do much in the arena or lunge to "take the edge off." There are some highly strung horses there that we use for guided trail rides. I am a competent rider, but I wouldn't say that I am the most experienced, I have ridden horses that act up, buck, jig, toss heads, etc. Please don't say lessons, I cannot afford them and I already know how to ride.

Usually when a horse acts up I turn them in tight circles. I can't really make them speed up like I would for bucking, because I lead inexperienced riders who could not control their horses if I did.

My main question is how to calm down a nervous, prancy horse. Also, when we have to stop, there are some horses that you stop, and then they walk off when you give a loose rein or back up when you stop them again.


The horses I speak of are not mine. Only people who work there get to ride these particular horses, there are other horses for customer use. The barn owner is an old cowboy who does not allow groundwork or lunging unless you own the horse. Also my question is about when riding a horse, how do you calm it when it gets nervous. I need methods for when RIDING what do other people find that works for them.

19 Answers

  • 8 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Okay, this sounds all far too familiar to where I worked this summer. In short, we leased 15 horses that were not trained for trail, or for children to ride them. And they were taken on trail, with children. It was a dangerous situation on top of a dangerous situation.

    You really have two options. Pick a horse that you can ride and you can care about, and try not to worry about everyone else. Its tough, but at you know that "your" horse is being taken care of. Or you quit, which is what I eventually did, since the only thing that my company cared about was taking the horses out on trails, even when we tried to train the kids to ride the horses, even when the horses were lame. Only thing those horses were there for was to go on trail. Someone needs to get hurt for them to understand that this is dangerous, and you need to open the doors and just not care that that will happen (yes, it really came to that for me... terrible isnt it?)

    It would be plain impossible if you try to get a novice rider to calm down an excited horse. We all know that horses can sense their riders, and most novices are clinging on with their legs and arms and that idea will just make the horses more nervous.

    In regards to your question (please don't disregard what I said about the danger part, I ignored what people said too)

    You need to put that horses mind on something. If your going and he is prancy go in serpentines, even weaving up and down the trail. Keep his mind engaged, its really easy to just go along for the ride when working with trail riding horse. See if you can get him collected under you - fiddle with the bit, does he respond? If your horse is nervous, he needs some stability - he needs the same rider, he needs the same routine when you go out on trail, he really needs a confidence booster. Having new people all the time, usually screaming kids, and chaos doesn't help these types of horses. He needs a rider that will help him through it - if you can, I would suggest this horse be the one you stake a claim to. He may be a challenge for you, but you can rest assured that his problems are being dealt with and he will become a better horse because of it.

    Good luck. If if the dangerous outweighs the safety, quit. There will be no way to cover your *** if something happens on your watch.

  • 8 years ago

    I had the same experience once. My nerves couldn't take it anymore so I had to leave. I did though manage to do some correction on a few of these horses but with ground work and lots of riding. Some of the problem are the other riders such as the owners.

    They may be experience and ride like anyone would but with no thoughts of the inexperience riders coming after them. It is their horse though. The problem is you have, of right now, no control over the horses training.

    That being said. If you ever talk to the owners, try and see if they would pay or let you ride their horses a few hours a day or every other day. If they do. When a horse gets pushy stop him and see if he'll stand. If not do figure eights and stop him facing in the direction you were going.

    Do this until he stands for a few seconds. You choice how long. When you go to get off and he continues to or starts to walk have him circle you. Stop him, get on, make him stand, get off and do over if he walks. Do this until he stands when dismounting.

    The problem is one would have to ride one of these horses to determine the right diagnosis. One may work with one horse and not another. Like I said I had the same problem having novice riders try and ride hipper horses. I think I was about to get an ulcer.

    When your hands are tied and you know what is about to happen. The problem is there is absolutely nothing you can do until the wreck is over you you examine the situation. Casualties. I'm sorry but your in a tight situation. Good luck.

  • 8 years ago

    I find lunging and ground work are too many people's answers to every question. I don't think this is the issue here. I hate seeing people lunge their horses every time they're going to ride them - it's hard on their joints and just wastes time. I get on and warm the horse up properly, knowing he'll behave and I can handle it if he doesn't.

    Do you want tips for the horses you're riding, or tips for the customers on their horses?

    If it's for you: sit up straight and relaxed, seat planted firmly in the saddle. Don't lean forward. If hes jig-jogging on the trail, use a squeeze and release, squeeze and release repetitive cue rather than a dead pull cue. Be sure to keep calm, leg in place but not jiggling. Keep legs still. I've seen lots of fairly experienced riders cause the prancing, by leaning forward and clutching the reins while their heels go back into the horse's sides. Make sure that isn't happening.

    If the horse stops then walks off... stop him again. Keep stopping him and loosening the rein until he gets it. Be alert for it - stop him again when he so much as thinks of moving forward. You can feel this through your seat.

    If the horse stops and backs up... release the rein a little, apply your legs, and push him forward.

    Good Luck!

  • Snezzy
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    Sounds like there are some incorrect horses being used for trail rides! One cure is of course "wet saddle blankets" in which you ride the horse a lot more until the kinks are worked out.

    Basically, those horses know how to take control, which is a bad situation. You can tell a novice rider, "give more heel" or "ease up on the rein" or "ride with your seat" but the novice will not understand. Indeed, a novice rider will be reluctant to do anything that "might hurt the horse" even though that's exactly what's needed at a certain instant.

    Can you get yourself into the situation of being a rider, rather than a leader, on some of those trail rides? Each of those prancy horses needs a good rider to help them understand their job as a trail horse.

    Also, instead of putting a prancy horse away after trail work (which rewards him for prancing home), immediately take him and longe him into a lather. He'll possibly come to understand that prancing home isn't such a good idea.

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  • 8 years ago

    I wouldn't ride a high-stung horse in the conditions you are describing.

    To handle a high strung horse the rider has to have an independent seat and soft hands. Ask for the aids softly and don't hold them back with your hands all the time. High Stung horses need a purpose to their job. Give them a job to do. When riding do lots of transition and changes of direction to get the horse thinking and responding lightly.

    Don't hit the horse or jerk on the reins. Learn to read horses so you know when they are going to do something silly so you can stop it before it happens.

  • 8 years ago

    You've got yourself in a very awkward situation which will be very hard to get out of. I had the same - one of the yards I worked at I had to exercise the horses by hacking them out once a week (so about 5 of them each day). These were school horses used to being indoors all the time so you can imagine how unbelievably hard to ride they were once they got a nose for outdoors. After about my 50th fall I quit. These horses had no ground manners from plodding round an indoor school all day long and needed serious intervention - not a teen attempting to hack them out for 30 minutes each once a week.

    In your situation, you've got three options.

    1. Continue running them in tight circles and possibly (and probably) do a tendon serious injury. Tight circles with an excitable horse normally makes situations worse and with an excitable horse spinning on an uneven surface there is a huge chance of injury.

    2. Talk to the yard manager about intervention and consistency with ground work or lunge work before you ride.

    3. Quit.

    I'm sorry, I know you'd like methods to calm them down, but the situation you've described sounds like there isn't a quickfire way to calm them down - they need serious work and help. Especially the backing up or moving off without a signal - thats something I don't tolerate in my horses (especially if they were ridden by novices) and neither should that yard.

  • .
    Lv 7
    8 years ago

    The situation you describe is dangerous and I would quit before an accident occurs.

    You're describing a VERY unsafe situation where your'e exposing yourself to personal harm, not to mention liability. For whatever reason there are fractious horses being ridden by folks with limited experience who need to come on the internet to find out they're smack in the middle of a losing proposition.

    Most experienced horsemen know when they're in a bad spot. YOU are in a bad spot. I suggest you quit, or tell the owners/ managers they need to overhaul their program because they're pushing their luck as they are now. Less carbs, more fat, more t/o, different horses, end the public trail rides, arena work, any or ALL of these things need to be undertaken before I'd continue to work there.

    It's not a question of "handling high strung horses". It's knowing you're in a situation where you can. not. win.

  • 8 years ago

    Is there any possible way for you to ride for a few minutes to get the horse in the right frame of mind before heading out on the trail with beginners to look after? Trot circles, bending, switch directions a lot, get him in the "lets work" mentality instead of "lets run!" That would be the ideal solution, but if that's not possible the most important thing is to keep yourself calm as the horse will feed off of your emotions. Talk to the horse in a calm voice, pet him gently on the neck and keep your hands, seat and legs relaxed. When you tense up he will feel it even if you're still talking to him calmly so just act like everything is normal and you can't possibly find any reason for him to be nervous.

  • Anonymous
    8 years ago

    There's not an answer anyone can give you based on what you don't want to be told.

    These horses need ground work whether the barn does it or not. You can't just stall a horse, pull 'em out and expect them to be sunshine. They need handling, proper training, and turnout.

    Without understanding the fundamentals and usefulness of groundwork and proper living conditions, the chances that these horses are going to get any better is very slim to none. Or probably just none, period.

    Whether it be you or someone else, someone needs to take the initiative and get these horses working properly on the ground.

    ETA: Herbs and drugging the horses is NOT the answer. You'd be short-cutting their training and it's not fair to the horse to be doped up on who knows what just to perform politely for a lesson or trail. Completely uncool. Medication is not a subsitute for training.

    ETA2: You're not going to get far without ground work, just, simple as that. Whether the barn owner is an idiot or not, I know it's not your problem, but that's really what these horses need. There's no quick fix for acting up with an inexperienced rider, and nothing a child could do with a horse like this either. The horses need more training before they can be expected to perform on the trail. :/ This guy needs to be told that -- either as sweetly and kindly as possible, or as bluntly as you can manage. If he keeps letting people ride these antsy, unpredictable horses it's going to be his job, his money, and his reputation, when someone gets hurt.

  • You can change their feed. Less grain, and there are supplements that can help calm them. Groundwork is a must, for any horse. Lunging them before a trail will get some energy out, but you have to do it right, no just let them go in circles. Also on the trails, give them something to do. Bring their head down, work on leg yields, bring their hind end up, bend their head, back them up, just something that will actually make them work, since walking on trails is hardly any work at all. And ride them outside of trails. They could be getting bored. Try different exercises like trot poles, trail courses, jumping, reining, barrels and stuff. No horse can JUST be a trail horse, they would get too bored.

    Source(s): I've been riding for my whole life,and train hunter and jumper horses.
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