Q&A: Feeding fizzy horses

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Q: I have a six-year-old 15.1hh part-Trakehner X show pony mare. She’s quite spooky out hacking and when I try to school her, she stops and turns herself inside out, spinning round. Her antics are beginning to frighten me.I try to ride her every day, but sometimes I don’t have time to ride for long. I don’t turn her out very often as she doesn’t like it and waits by the gate to come in again. She is given two hard feeds a day. Can you help?

Event trainer Robert Lemieux replies: This sounds like a classic case of over-stabling, over-feeding and under-working, which is not a great combination for any young horse!

Your mare is calling the shots and if you don’t sort this out it will get worse, and you’ll be put off riding for good.

It is so important to get the balance right between feeding, daily management and work. You need to turn her out every day, come rain or shine (be tough if she wants to come in). Make sure she’s warm and dry and has hay in the field if the grass is poor.

I suggest you cut her hard feed back or change to a lower energy mix until you’re riding her safely.

You could also try lungeing her or taking her on a hack before you school. This should make her easier to ride, allowing you to put your leg on to ask her to go forwards.

When a horse misbehaves, the rider often shows tension in their hands and can end up climbing up the neck and not using their legs. Think of the adage “soft hands, hard legs”.

If she’s naughty, you’ll have to grip quite hard with your legs, especially if she’s spinning round. Keep as much weight in the irons as possible, and your hands should be soft so you have a sympathetic contact. I know this will test your nerve, but you need to cultivate courage and persuade yourself to be confident to break the vicious circle that has built up.

Don’t worry about your mare’s outline or doing school movements, just concentrate on going freely forward with you in control. This is the basis of all good riding.

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Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk