Nervous horse? Your fault?

This struck a chord with me.

Walking my dogs along a bridle path at the weekend I came across a young rider on a young horse.

The horse had come to an open gate. But the horse wasn't going to budge. The problem? A small blue pipe covering some cabling on the ground was enough to make the horse hesitant (well, a lot more than that).

So it just goes to show – don't wrap your horse up in cotton wool. Here's what Warren sent in:

“Flop straps on your saddle, let your stirrups bounce around, clatter buckets about – be a clumsy oaf...on purpose. Get your horse used to the fact it's not all meadows out there.”



PS This post reminds me of the time when I met Lara.


  1. Glenda

    Why do horses fight each other? I hate it! Can I stop it?

    1. Priscilla

      Unfortunately you cant stop it. Usually its once horse establishing his or her dominance in the pack. Other times they could be fighting over something (ie: Two stallions fight over a mare in heat)

      1. Julie

        I know I hate it too, my horse got beat up that bad the mare had him on the ground on he’s stomach and just kicked the crap out of him took big chunk out of his back owned for 4 days , then couldn’t ride him for 4 weeks injuries every where, but know he is (buddy shy) to the horse and can’t get him to leave the horse confused

        1. Teresa

          Always introduce horses in separate pens next to each other. That way they can become accustomed to each other without hurting each other. I do this for at least 10 days or more. Then when you put them together supervise them so you can see if they are going to do. If they get into a fight you can run interference, but do it from a safe distance with a hose or a lunging whip, or throw a ball (a softer ball so it doesn’hurt them) at the aggressive horse. When they break up catch your horse and move it to the separate pen for another week and try again. Repeat this until they are less aggressive. It’s natural for them to fuss and kick or bight a couple times, but an all out fight like you described is dangerous and should not be allowed.
          Did the two horse you described ever get to where they tolerated each other?

    2. Raquel

      You can keep a Shock collar on the mean horse. Yell the horse’s name and then shock it every time it’s mean. I had to do this with a mean stallion and it worked as long as we were home. He knew when we left in the vehicle. When we got home the gelding would be bit up. I have a grouchy mare and she used to pick on some of the horses. I would yell her name and then throw a small rock or a chunk of wood at her (never hit their head. Always hit a padded spot) now all I have to do is yell her name when she puts her ears back and she moves them forward quickly. Some people can’t bring themselves to doing this but, it’s not near as mean as what the mean horse is doing to the other one. Actually it’s not mean, it’s discipline. Another way is to squirt the mean horse with water if that’s available.

  2. Glenda

    Does anyone have a solution for horses chewing on the wooden fence?

    1. Maybe it’s because of boredom, not enough fiber (hay), self-medication (taking in soil microbes that help absorb toxins and viruses), or just self-supplying missing nutrients (salt, minerals). Hope this helps!

      1. fiona

        My mare used to eat through a fence post every night. I bought her from a very bad situation for her and I think she was experiencing a serious mental breakdown. I have nurtured her and given her confidence. Three years later she is so laid back and doesn’t chew anything except her food.

    2. I used to feed a salt block then I read that horses aren’t designed to lick enough, they don’t
      have rough tongues like a cow. So I got loose salt but still my horses chewed wood fences in winter. So this year I bought Red Cal from Dr Dan the Natural vet, it’s sea salt with added minerals you feed free choice. My horses are eating it up like mad ( it’s loose too) and so far are not chewing the fences. I do think it’s due to a lack of minerals more than anything.

      1. robyn

        I remember reading that it could be due to a lack of copper.

    3. Beckie

      It is usually boredom when they start chewing, mine started when grass in paddock was gone for the winter. To keep from chewing boards use some diesal fuel on the boards, sounds bad for them but it wont harm them as they dont like the smell. Also take empty juice jugs with rocks in them etc. make toys for them to occupy when its not feeding time.

    4. Cindy

      My horse was chewing fences and wood poles, found out his teeth needed to be floated, now he doesn’t chew at all. Hope this helps!


      My horse come from a paddock with alote of other horses and he started to eat all the bark of the trees so I got him a salt lick and he stoped he might be doing out of boredom he is lacking something but try a salt lick it worked for me

    6. Jill

      A woman told me about this just Saturday. She called the condition wind-something I think, and a horse will suck in too much air. It is not good for the horse, it will give them pockets of air inside of them. What she did to stop it was string a small electrical ribbon around the posts. One or two shocks and the horse learns. Just keep the ribbon on everything they’ll chew.

  3. dave

    horses fight each other like people do to see who is going to answer to who or like my friend says to see whos boss only way to stop the fightin is do like u would kids thats seperate them

  4. rosalind

    Horses have different personalities just as people do. Horses fight for a number of reasons such as establishing thethe hierarchy in the herd, dominance over food or mares, etc.

  5. Dr Jane Perry

    This is so true and wise, I set up a de-spook hedge with all type of things tied to it (plastic bags, bunting, open umbrellas etc.) and let the horses discover these things for themsleves. Afterwards we have a ‘touching’ session with each object in turn so the horse is well and truly de-spooked. We do not leaves these things in the hedge when we are not there though- for safety’s sake.

  6. brenda

    I am 59 just started riding,taking lessons can anyone tell me how you decide what kind of a horse to buy if i want to take this route. there seem to be so many and all beauitful.. I am short so think i am looking for a horse 13,14 hands.. I think a mixed breed. Right now i am riding a mix of mustang and draft she is beauitful.Well trained and very easy for me to learn.Very tall hard for me to get on. Love Mustangs any how just looking for some feed back from other who know more then me/…Bren

    1. I think you should look for a calm mare(mares are a lot calmer than geldings/stallions), so its easy for the beggining, and you should probably geta quarter horse/haflinger/ paint(trails/western)
      hanover/there are many good for dressage(dressage
      there are many good for jumping and cross-country
      , but you should talk to your instructor, becasue I dont know the level you want to get to, how you want ur horse, or what yuo already know, ur teacher knows that better than, but a good horse for just trails is a paint or quarter, they are also pretty good in dressage, but there are many more
      hope I helped

      1. Scott

        “(mares are a lot calmer than geldings/stallions)” Mares are definitely calmer than stallions, but geldings? I beg to differ, unless of course the gelding is proud cut. However, for someone new to horses, you need to stay away from mares, they can be moody and unpredictable especially during their cycle, some have been broodmares for while and can just be plain lazy and mean because they don’t want to work anymore. I would suggest a gelding, between 10 and 15 years of age, with lots of mileage on him. These types of horses usually are level headed and predictable, fairly well trained and even keeled. Your are looking for predictability, consistency and safety in your first horse. Leave the mares, especially the broodmares, to the backyard breeding programs. Why take a chance getting hurt? You only have to thrown once to break your neck.

        1. sheila

          I would take a gelding over a mare any day!! Gelding is the way to go. 🙄

        2. Marcia Adams

          I agree with Scott. A mare is the worst for an unexperienced rider. A gelding is the best!!! Much more mellow.

      2. kathy

        A gelding is better! Mares go into season and get cranky!
        Yes either get a mustang – they are very hardy and tough. or a Welsh Cob type if you have the dollars.
        Get a Gelding – not a mare – as they can play up when in season!

      3. Eleanor

        I am leasing a 16-yr-old mare (my first horse after 35 years of not riding). I’m 60 yrs old and want to avoid injuries, so my vet told me I should have gone with a mellow gelding, because, as I’m finding out, mares can be moody and cranky. But I love her and am not ready to give up on her. Leasing is a good way to go, as you can try a horse out to see if you are a good fit for one another first. You also get lots of experience with grooming, mucking, and ground work. There is so much to owning a horse! I’m getting lots of practice, for sure.

    2. Rae

      Hi Bren, I started that last April in central oregon and you are right about a short horse. Im 61, diabetic and drink a lot of water. I love my horse but hes 16h and theres no stumps or rocks so if I get off to pee, I walk or find something to try to get back on. Go to a equishare, thats a barn with a lot of different horses for trail riding and for so much a month you get a certain number of hours to ride. Its educational and you meet different horses. Good luck. Rae

      1. Leah

        Hi Rae, I wanted to write because, I too am 61 and diabetic. Also drink lots of water. I just purchased my first horse and she is 3 years old and about 14.2 hands now and will get to be about 15h when full grown (so the owner told me). I am a petite person too. I want to wish you all the best in finding the right horse for you. Lea

    3. Most Mustangs are small and if trained right very calm. Many Morgans are small and calm, some are gaited! I enjoy the gait, have ridden all my life but have back problems so enjoy the gait. Also the Icelandics are small and most are calm, the Haflingers and Fjords too as others mentioned.

    4. Natalee

      Appaloosa’s are great transition horses, they are often used to transition a child from pony to horse and are patient and easy to train.teach.

      Mares are hard work, i have a gelding and a mare and my mare gives me WAAAYYY more grief than my gelding. many horses have different personalities so spend some time in the pasture with the horse you intend to buy before so you can tell if it has a “skittish” personality or a calm personality.

      Hope this helps

      1. capri

        I have 2 mares and they can be very… difficult at times 😐 It usually just depends on you horses personality/training. Hope I helped! 😀

    5. Linda

      There was alot of good advice given to you here. I have been around horses(riding ,training, teaching,breeding) for the better part of my 60 years (sister put me on a horse at 2 weeks)by all means , seek your instructors advice . No one knows your strengths and weaknesses on a horse like that person. I grew up with a mare and will say they are capable of great faithfulness, they gelding though may require less aptitude on your part . Talk of dressage or jumping, well you are near my age and we do less daring things as we learn how hard the ground can be. That said any horse can challenge your abilities to train it for either and reward you by doing it’s best. This is (at our age) clearly a case of ” the journey being the reward ” no matter it’s bloodline you will be thrilled the first time your mount does a half pass at your command. I quarter horse type mutt may be just what you need. I often had students looking for the big-pretty-sound-welltrained,tractable horse. Those can be pretty pricey, you have the advantage that you neither need nor desire BIG.big price drop here. You don’t need one well trained either, do it yourself,lots of fun.Beauty being in the eye of the beholder(good muscle training can even improve that)so what you need is calm,willing and sound. So, look around and if you find one you think is it, ask your instructor to help with the final evaluation. don’t rush,you may think you love one only to be disappointed so if it doesn’t work out just think” he/she was not the ONE.and you still have room for THE ONE ,when you find it . be patient and keep up your lessons.

    6. sally

      Totally agree with Scott, stay clear of the mares, unless they’re over 20 and worked most of their life. Best mare I ever bought was a 22yr old quarter horse, trained in cutting and team penning. She’s a pro at everything, and best of all she hardly ever goes into a cycle so her moods are very even keeled, great beginners and kids horse! My other mares however are pains in the neck! Just think of it like this, mares get thier monthlys, do you really want to ride a 400-500kg horse that has PMS?! NOPE NOT ME!

      1. Teresa

        Sally, I respectfully disagree. My first horse (when I was 6 yrs old)was a mare. She was very kind, and very careful with me. Currently I have a gelding and a mare. I prefer my mare because she is more level headed, obedient, bonded with me. My gelding is fine until he is asked to go anywhere outside of the arena – he will buck and bolt. He has had professional training to fix that problem, but he goes right back to it later on. My point is, it is the horses disposition, personality, and traing (all three together) that count, not whether the horse is a mare or gelding.

        1. Marcia Adams

          Teresa that is very true, but as a WHOLE….. mares are more moody..

    7. Beckie

      I dont think you want to go the mare route, lol they come into heat and they are far from calm alot of them atleast. Geldings are a better choice but still have to test their personality. Breed can make a difference in temperment but any horse that clicks or makes a connection with you will be a good fit no matter if mare/gelding or breed.

    8. Gabi

      I just started horse keeping last year when I was 59 years old, also. Got with someone who had five horses and asked if he would teach me how to take care of them. So I went twice a week, he showed me how to clean, muck and feed them. After a few times I took over myself and just asked a lot of questions or asked for help if I couldn’t handle one. (they do get moody sometimes). After five months
      , he sold me two of the horses that I’ve got to know. If you look on the internet, there are all kinds of places one can ride and then buy the horse that best suits them. I agree that an older Gelding is the safest way to go but you have to get to know them, also. Just looking at a horse and buying one on a first visit will get you plenty of horses but not necessarily one that you can bond with.

    9. Teresa

      Be sure to have an experienced horse man/woman look at the confirmation, legs and feet especially. A healthy horse is a lot less expensive. An expert can tell you if the horse has ever foundered, if the legs are straight enough not to cause problems. Also have a pre-purchase vet check.
      When it comes to bread, I like Quarter horses, or quarter horse mix. They tend to be level headed and they come in different sizes. I’ve had both tall (16 H) and small (14+- H). The tall horse was good when I was younger, not at 52, I prefer a smaller horse now because they are easier to mount and dismount, and if you do fall off it’s better to be closer to the ground.

    10. Raquel

      Have your horse trained to sit down. Then you can mount easily. I teach horses to sit but I may not be in your area.

    11. Susan

      Hi Bren. I’m. new here but have been involved with horses most of my 53 years so I really wanted to comment. First, what kind of riding. do you want. to do? Trails? Shows? If it is just for fun and maybe there. is a few local shows in your future great! It is a buyer’s market with lots of good horses to be had cheap. Just be careful who you buy from. Not everyone. is honest. I would encourage you to look for a nice stout gelding around ten years old. Take an experienced horse person with you to look him over and try out. Good Luck and have a blast!!!

    12. John B

      Peruvian Paso, the smothest riding horse you will ever find. You something thats not going to beat you up everytime you want to ride and this is the best horse you can find. I’m 56 and have no desire to have a quarter horse that will run so fast you can’t hang on. Get a Peruvian and you will never regret it.

    13. CB

      Brenda, here’s another thought … if you are riding in a group and your mare is in heat, either stallion or gelding may try to mount your mare even with you in the saddle. I personally like a big Percheron, but currently ride in the rough and rugged mountains of the southwest desert, so I am on a 21 year old Mustang mare. The ride is not quite as smooth, but she goes where I could never take a draft. Be safe, learn their body language, I’m no younger than you and still learning and loving it.

    14. vicki hill

      Buy an older experienced horse that has miles of riding and teaching beginners. 4H and Pony club are good sources for solid horses. Do not buy or rescue a problem horse. It is not fair to either one of you. Stay in riding lessons and let your instructor check out any horse you are interested in. A solid, well established horse is worth the extra cash. You will save in the long run on money, emotion,stress, and possible heartache from an animal that is inappropriate for you and your situation. There is a horse for everyone out there and the beautiful horse that is wrong for you will be perfect for the rider with skills that suit that horse. Pony Club has a HorseMasters program for adults. Check it out. Best of luck in finding your perfect horse. You will have a friend for life who will give you many wonderful memories.

    15. JJ

      American Curly horses are really nice horse and calmer than other horses (some are a lot calmer) Also and older female or older gelding will be good also (13-14), if they are
      well conditioned. Look for a bomb proof horse
      they are not hard to find.

    16. joe

      Get yourself an aged quarter horse gelding. 13-14 hands is very small, you might do well with a 14.2 or 14.3

  7. Lisa

    To Brenda, every horse is individual breed or sex.
    My suggestion would be to lease a horse first and go from there.To Sophie ‘mares” are not always calm in my experience (40 years of riding,owning,instructing & adjisting) They come on heat and can be really moody,some geldings get so attached to them, making it hard to go out for a ride.I personally do not have any mares on my property because of this reason, and would not let my daughter ride out on a mare by chance we pass a stallion..very dangerous. For me it would be a gelding..They are all individual. Good Luck..

  8. jacque steele

    I used to get told off for making a noise. Spook the horses and all that. Since then i’ve rented a field and stables from a farmer. I can now make as much noise as i like. 😀

  9. lindie

    I am also starting to ride again after 10 years.
    I also think a Gelding is the best horse to own.
    They bond with u much better because for the simple reason that they have no destractions. And they don’t fight other horses.

  10. christy

    The other night it was pouring rain and I had a big black umbrella. My horses acting like they didn’t know me and wouldn’t come into their paddocks. I had to work to finally get them in. The next day in daylight I took the umbrella out and walked around the yard with a bucket of feed. One horse got used to it within 30 seconds. The other I had to work for about 15 minutes.

  11. Stacey

    I love my mare who I bought from a market, she is 5 years old now and is the best mare I’ve owned however I still think geldings are best for a new rider! Lisa I agree with “every horse is an individual breed or sex”.

    Every so often I put my horses through a scary situation – do not force them! Let them realise its ok… Ask your horse if they want to do it rather the forcing (your horse will have fa more respect for you) herd horses don’t force the heard the can do it in the own time! Remember horses blind spots, they need more time than us. It’s a new situation after all! 🙂

  12. Becky Singer

    Brenda take a look at fjords. I think they are the cutest horse around and are on my wish list. They are short and supposedly have very nice temperments and attitudes. Im 59 also and learning to ride all over again so I can relate.

  13. Jerry

    As my favorite trainer says, “Give your horse a heart attack. Heart attacks are free.”

  14. sally

    My kids running in about were enough to have my horses eventually just switch off to distractions and surprises. My wild brumby took abit longer she would aslways be hesistant around my son because she just never knew if he was about to jump, run or spin around in circles. The kids and I also totally ignored them if she spooked and eventually she just came to realise he is harmless but loud, and he gives a good scratch!

    1. Teresa

      Walk them over hoses, cable, and tarps. Lay the tarps on them. good stuff.

  15. jc

    hi guys!! i need advice… i recently adopted a mare. she’s 12 years old and real calm personality… she hasn’t been ridden in 3 years and whould like to know what kind of everyday training is best… although i have saddled her and she is completely use to the tack..

    1. Teresa

      Ride her in the round pen, it is a safer place to evaluate her training. Be sure to have some one else there the first time you get on here just incase you get hurt. Handle her gently turning, stopping, backing her up. If she doesn’t respond to the gentle approach, strengthen your approach a little bit at a time to see where she is at. If you are comfortable with everything so far then trot her and go through the same tests – turning, stopping, backing. I haven’t taught a horse side stepping, and more advanced training, but this is a good plan for the basics. Hope this helps. 😀

      1. Eleanor

        Do lots and lots of ground work first before you start riding her. I do my mare’s ground work with her saddle and bridle on so she gets used to it. But she needs to strengthen up those muscles again after not being ridden in a while. And stretch her — walk her in tiny circles, bending her head to both sides of her body. Horses get sore, just like we do, from lack of exercise, and need a bit of aerobics and yoga in their lives also.

    2. Raquel

      #1 If you have some driving reins or long ropes, you can attach them to the bridle and run them through the stirups and walk behind her and drive her. This will get her use to the controls. #2 You can grab the saddle horn with one hand and bounce up and down while holding the reins the other hand to stop her incase she tries to move. Bounce gently at first so you don’t overwhelm her, bounce until she quits moving. Bounce a little harder the next day and pull more pressure on the horn and don’t quit until she stops moving. This will teach her to stand still while you mount and build her confidence so she will be a safe mount. Continue increasing everyday until all your weight is in the saddle. Doing this from both sides is good. It not only keeps the saddle centered but makes a calmer horse.

  16. eric

    generally speaking I have found the strong wide horses a little calmer . geldings should be the most stable and even natured . Former kids horses maybe very calm , however they often they have some bad habits that you have a hard time getting out of them . I had some registered Arabs that never let me relax in the saddle , I crossed them with stuborn shetland ponies and really made foxy classy ponies that could run with the big horses and were not one bit lazy or stuborn , but were maybe a little to much for a inexperienced little kid .

  17. eric

    J C put someone on her and lead her around . Not being ridden for 3 yrs won’t hurt her . If she really was broke . However maybe someone only sat on her a little bit once 3 yrs ago . She maybe never was broke to ride . The only place i know of to know how broke she is on her back , than you will be able to tell easily just what she does and does not know .

  18. eric

    J C Iam guessing the horse is broke . If not You and the horse can learn together . keep her in a pen and have someone lead her untill you feel safe enough to use the lines your self . don’t do this inside a barn with a low cieling but out side . don’t let her put her head down , becuase than she could buck . And dont pull any harder on the lines than neccessary to keep her head up . cuation pulling to hard on the lines may cuase her to rearup which is actually more dangerious to you than bucking . I hope I have not scared you more than you already are . Thats why I want you to just lead the horse around for the first time or so .

  19. karen simpson

    I agree about the mare. They can be a little on the moody side. My firend has a Tenn Walker Mare 18 yrs old and is very gentle but put her in pms and she is another horse. I recently purchashed a 9 yr old gelding Tenn Walker he can be a little on the “I dont think so attitude” but had not been ridden in two years. His gait is wonderful. I had a gelding 15 year old before and the same the gait is great. I dont think you can beat the Tenn “Walker for a smooth ride at an older persons age. I have had both knee and back surgery and the ride helps both. It just has to be a Walker that has a smooth gait and you may have to work with him on that but it all comes back to the horse very quickly if you are working on a daily basis with him. They need to be ridden no just groomed.

  20. sandy

    My horse is a 13yr. old QH gelding. My first horse, He loves to love up and get hugs and kisses. I have had him for 3 weeks now. I feed him and brush him everyday. He is 1000 lbs. what training should i do before i try to ride him? its just me and him. im 45yrs and 145 lbs. i have always loved horses so much they give me goose bumps and tears! go figure,

  21. fiona

    I have ‘started’ a few horses and I always include exposure to potentially frightening objects before the mounting and riding stage. I longe and long rein with the horse carrying a two litre soft drink bottle each side with some small stones in to make a rattling noise. I hang it down low on their sides so that the bottle is where the rider’s lower leg will be. Over the course of at least eight weeks they experience everything out and about whilst I am safely on the ground on the other end of the long reins. I have never had a traffic shy horse. I also aim to have long slow rides rather than short brisk ones to help the horse be more settled.

  22. Kitty

    When you are buying your horse decide what kind of person you are. Are you a leader or are you led? Do you go a long with the crowd or are you a trend setter? If you are a leader and you buy a horse that is dominant you may be in for a struggle. If you are a follower and buy a horse that is a follower, neither of you will learn anything. If you are a follower and your horse is dominant, he will get away with murder and probably yours! However if you are a leader or determined to behave like one and your horse is a follower, you will go to great heights, the sky’s the limit for you two 😀 😀

  23. connie

    ❓ what if ur horse has just decided she wants to spoke at what ever she wants

  24. Raquel

    It’s a good idea to get your horse used to different objects. But don’t add too much too fast. Always start with something just a little bit spooky for your horse like a fresh twig with leaves on it. Move it toward your horse while you hang onto it’s lead rope. When your horse starts moving, keep the twig the same distance from the horse until your horse stops. Then quickly move the twig away from the horse. This will build confidence. Gradually increase the amount of rattling and closeness to what your horse is capable of. Doing something too spooky at first will set your horse’s training back. When Your horse is use to the twig and you can rub it every where on him/her, try something a little scarier like a plastic bag on the end. Increase gradually so you keep your horse’s trust.

  25. Tamara

    I have always made things around my horse real, if the wind is blowing I may put a plastic bag out to blow in it. Water to bad walk thru it. By the time they go out on a trail they are use to it. They feel safe with me 🙂

  26. Carol

    I have MS and fall around my horse all the timr! He is so used to me being clumsy that I can even use his legs to get up! Lol

  27. Jan

    So glad to hear there are other 61 yr olds out there just starting. Newly retired and figured this was my last window to experience the horse deal. I just purchased a mare QH 14h 11yrs. She’s had extensive training as a cutting horse but sustained an injury and can’t show anymore. My gain as I wanted a thoroughly trained horse so I only had to train myself to come up to her level. I continue to work my instructor who went w me to view and evaluate/ride Shawnee. I could have been sucked in to some sellers (unfortunately) who were not ethical at all and trying to pass off horses that were not true to the advertisement. Do not shop by yourself. So far we’re beginning to gel together. Doing a lot of desensitizing as she had a lot of arena time and not trail time. Enjoying the learning process of the horse.

  28. jacqueline brink

    I started riding when i was 9 or 10 in England and i loved it.Could never have my own horse though because of the expense.I moved to America Ohio 5yrs ago when i married my husband and have started to get a real desire for riding again.We have a friend who says i can ride his horse which is 12yr ols gelding.Iv rode once but its western style and its a bit different.Any tips?Would love my own horse and its a lifelong dream but not till we know we can afford it.Im 54 and the desire to ride and everything has never left me.Its a few yrs since i rode so im out of practice and the stables i have called do not do real riding that i would love to do.Anyway just thought id comment.Thanks guys!Jackie

  29. Rose uk

    Lots of very sound advice. Agree with getting a gelding. Mind saying that, I have a very grumpy gypsy cob gelding, he has been beaten, and just dislikes everyone
    My best advice is go with your gut, the one that bonds with you. Your know the one, when you met him. Best luck. From 60 year old fibro suffer,with back, neck and knee problems.

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