A: Your mare has decided she prefers not to do whatever you’re asking her to do within the confines of the arena. To begin to fix the problem, evaluate your arena work to discover why it’s so unappealing. Your arena work should always have a specific goal or purpose so your horse doesn’t end up exhausted and confused. Always stop on a positive note, so your mare leaves the arena knowing she was a good girl. Also take into consideration your mare’s age, condition and any soundness issues. For example, lots of fast work or tight turns with a horse that has tender feet or sore hocks can lead to signs of resentment. If necessary, make some modifications to your arena program.
Next, consider how you relate to your horse. For example, did you discipline her when she first resisted entering the arena? Tapping her side with a crop behind your leg, or having someone on the ground stand behind your mare (safely out of kicking distance) cluck or clap their hands, might be enough to convince her to move forward and into the arena. Unfortunately, if your mare has learned that she can control a situation by threatening bad behavior she has assumed the leadership role in your relationship. You must regain that position, but the process can be both difficult and dangerous without professional help. Refusing to go forward and balking at the arena gate can escalate into rearing.
Consult with a riding instructor in your community who can help you become more assertive in your relationship with your mare. Ask for some insight on designing a reward-based program of arena work that complements your trail riding. Professional guidance combined with short sessions of appropriate arena work will make your relationship with your mare more enjoyable.