Being an equestrian is, in many ways, being a problem solver. There are a lot of issues that can pop up in the course of training, and horse girls and boys need to know how to deal with them for the sake of their best buddy’s health and happiness. As a visit to any equestrian blog will tell you, some problems pop up a lot more often than others.
In this post, you’ll learn about the causes and solutions for these common equestrian challenges:
Hoof boots that keep falling off
Horses that lose focus during training
Difficulties in grooming
Refusing to eat horse hay
Overexcitement over food
Getting barn sour
Bucking during mounting
Before you read on, keep in mind that every beautiful horse is a unique creature, and that solutions that work in other riders’ horse stories may not necessarily work for yours. If the answers in this article aren’t the right match for your horse, don’t give up and put your horseback riding boots away forever; instead, try to get to know your horse better and figure out what works for them.
Your horse keeps losing their boots
You’re in the middle of a ride, feeling the breeze in your hair, when suddenly you hear a soft thud in the dust behind you. Your horse lurches a little, as though he’d tripped over something. You pull on the reins to slow down and look at the trail you’ve left behind—only to see a hoof boot quietly resting on the ground.
Hoof boots are designed specifically to prevent injuries to your horses, so it’s important to find out why they won’t stay on. The two most common reasons are related to your horse’s running form and the boot’s fit.
If you notice that your horse’s boot is broken, it might be because he’s overreaching or forging while running. This means that his hind hooves are hitting the heels or bottoms of his front legs. The boot breaking in response to this means that it’s doing its job—the hoof boot is supposed to break so that it distributes the shock of the impact more evenly, preventing an injury to your horse.
In order to correct overreaching and forging, you’ll need the help of a farrier. They’ll adjust your horse’s shoes to make sure these accidents don’t happen again.
If the hoof boot seems to just pop off in the middle of action, it could just be something as simple as the wrong fit. All you need to do then is get your horse properly fitted the next time you buy a new boot.
Your horse can't focus on training
When you’re training your horse, there’s bound to be a lot of distractions in the environment. The noise of a car engine, another horse being trained nearby, or even other riders minding their own business might be calling more of your horse’s attention than you’d like.
When this happens, it’s important to read your horse’s behavior. In many cases, equines are distracted by things they’re scared of or worried about. In order to address this, you’ll want to slowly get them used to the distraction, and then eventually follow it.
If, for instance, they’re worried about the sound coming from a car engine, bring your horse as close as comfortably as possible to a parked car, and then have someone gently get the motor running. Build some distance between the two if you notice your horse tense up. Your goal is to have your steed get curious about the noise instead of afraid of it, and you’ll know it’s working if she starts walking in its direction.
If the distraction is something she likes, then it’s all a matter of making sure she likes you more. Take this as a signal to start bonding with her more, so that she’ll want to focus her attention on you more than anything. Give her a few more horse treats, pet her, tell her she’s a beautiful horse—go with whatever makes her adore you more, and you can’t go wrong.
Grooming makes them difficult
Does your horse start getting avoidant or aggressive during grooming? It might be because the grooming itself is applying pressure on pain points on their body.
A horse suffering from back pain, for example, might not like it when you start brushing their back. You’ll want to address the cause of the pain in order to make grooming an easier task. In many cases, using a gel pad under your saddle can help reduce the strain on their back while you’re riding.
It’s always best to consult a train horse veterinarian first, however. The pain might be caused by an undetected injury, and no amount of new equipment is going to help with injury rehabilitation if you ignore the injury itself.
He won't eat his hay
If your steed isn’t eating any of his horse hay, you’ll want to check the quality of the hay itself, first. Most horses will outright refuse to eat hay that has mold on it, feels rough on the mouth, or has too many weeds mixed in. Try swapping your existing stock for fresher horse hay.
If that doesn’t work, try bribing him with his favorite horse treats. If he has no problem eating the treats, then it could be a behavioral issue—he’s getting picky about his food. Try to get him to understand that he’ll have to eat the hay when it’s given to him by allowing him no other option, which means slowing down on the goodies.
There’s also a big chance that your horse has dental problems, especially if he refuses the treats. Check in with your horse vet to see if there’s a problem, and make sure you practice good horse mouth care habits, too.
Your horse gets overexcited about food
On the flipside, a horse can also love food too much. She can lose her focus when her favorite food is in sight, and she might even invade your personal space expecting to get a treat. This becomes especially bothersome if you’re the type of horse trainer to reward her with food.
In many cases, this might be a result of your horse feeling a little insecure about her food supply. Horses feel the need to forage all the time, so make sure she’s got access to forage at any point in the day—and yes, that includes while you’re sleeping.
You’ll also want to give her a way to expend her excess energy while getting what she wants. A treat-dispensing toy or a Likit will make her work to get her food, which reduces some of the excitement during training. It’ll also show her that she can get horse treats without a human handing it to her, which solves the personal space issue.
They're getting lazy during training
Do you notice your horse slowing down while you’re training? Are they slower to respond to you, or seem like they’re only half-present? It’s possible that your training regimen is starting to bore them.
Horses crave stimulation, and doing the same drills over and over again is going to get old for them, fast. You can prevent this by changing up the routine every now and then. By offering them new challenges on a regular basis, they’ll be kept on their toes and have a lot more fun. The idea is to keep them guessing about what new game they’ll be playing next.
She suddenly won't accept her saddle
After years of hassle-free riding, your horse decides that she doesn’t want a saddle on her anymore, and will do everything she can to keep it off. This change of behavior isn’t just confusing—it might be a sign of something more serious.
A common reason why this happens is because your horse has suffered an injury. You’ll want to get her checked by a vet, and follow any injury recovery instructions they give you to a tee. You may also want to consider getting accessories like gel pads that help prevent injuries in the future.
There’s also the chance that she’d experienced something traumatic during one of your previous rides. You’ll need to slowly rebuild her trust in you, which in turn rebuilds her trust in the saddle by extension. You may need a horse psychologist’s help in figuring out what your horse needs to get over the issue.
He's getting barn sour
If your horse won’t leave his stable or the general area of his home, he’s what trainers call “barn sour”. He’ll plant his feet and refuse to budge, no matter how hard you try to lead him outside with horse treats.
In many cases, letting him ride with a companion horse can help. There’s a chance that he’s feeling insecure about something, so having a fellow horse show him that everything’s alright is all he needs. At the same time, you can also use this as an opportunity to build more trust with him as you’re riding.
Some trainers also suggest that you can help horses willingly go further away from their home by taking them on short, leisurely rides outside their comfort zones, and then riding them through circles and obstacles when you get back inside. This tells your horse that going away from home means fun, relaxing rides instead of the worrisome journeys he might be imagining.
She gets tired too easily
When you notice your horse is ready to call it quits on training more regularly, you might want to re-evaluate her training schedule. Undertraining and overtraining your horse can both reduce her stamina, which might lead to injuries during your sessions together.
It’s also possible that she’s feeling a little dehydrated. You can easily remedy this by easing up on the training during hot days, giving her plenty of water, and supplementing with vet-approved electrolytes as needed.
You may also want to rule out the possibility that the fatigue is health-related, like low blood sugar or cardiovascular issues. Consulting your vet is the best course of action, since they’d know the best ways to get your beautiful horse feeling like her old self again.
He starts bucking whenever you get on, even though he's been broken
You’re getting ready for a routine training session, and start mounting your horse like you’ve done hundreds of times before. All of a sudden, he catches you by surprise and starts bucking. You fall, take off your riding helmet, and start scratching your head about what just happened.
If your horse starts bucking out of nowhere, it might be a sign of discomfort with his tack. While body pains and injuries might be the culprit, a lot of riders forget to check whether or not their horse’s tack still fits correctly. When the tack is too tight, for instance, the addition of your weight might cause parts of the tack to pinch a little harder than your horse finds comfortable, leading to the bucking.
The body of every real horse can change over time, and the materials your horse tack is made of can also grow or shrink over the years. In fact, it's more likely than not that you’ll need to adjust how your tack is fitted more than once a year. Don’t hesitate in changing your equipment to a more comfortable size whenever necessary.
As you can see, day-to-day riding problems can be a result of any combination of factors, from health issues to behavioral ones to the wrong equipment being used. Thankfully, you’ll be able to get by most of them with the help of a horse vet, a little patience and understanding, and maybe some items from our collection. As long as you pay close attention to your horse’s needs, there’s no challenge you can’t beat.