Ask your horse to lower it’s head when you catch and release him/her every single time. Did you read that? EVERY SINGLE TIME. Pretend your a small child, you need your horse to help you out and come down to your level. I would even suggest you practice often from a knee to see if your horse really drops their head. This may take an extra 10 minutes each day, but it’s more than worth the benefit. Not only will it make haltering and bridle-ing easier, but it also teaches your horse a form of respect. If this is something you are unfamiliar with, you and your horse are having difficulty accomplishing, I’d be happy to schedule a lesson to help you work on this.
Think that your lead rope is connected to your horses feet not to their face.
I’m sure you’re thinking, what in the world is she talking about?
Your horse is your dance partner and if you stop they should stop. If you lead they should follow. No delay. If I create energy (I use the word bump) in my halter I expect that my horses feet move and responded immediately. Often I see people bump their horse and they throw their head up and react, but the feet don’t move. Then your horse ends up defensive because to them their feet are stuck so they feel trapped. If the feet always flow (follow) with the feel of the lead rope you will always have control of your horse. You loose control of your horse only when you don’t have a say in where your horse puts its feet.
1. Does you horse stop when you stop? Not you stop and they take three more steps and stop. No you stop they stop.
2. Does your horse turn right? Have you thought about turning right? Most people just go left and don’t think twice.
3. Does your horse back up if you do?
4. Does your horse stay out of your way or are you trying to stay out of his?
5. Can you keep slack in your lead rope and your horse matches your speed? If you go fast do they go fast if you go slow do they go slow?
6. If you tripped and fell would your horse run you over? Yeah seriously it happens so how respectful
Is your horse?
7. Could my two year old daughter lead your horse?
Hold your horse accountable all the time. Check this list often and practice all these things.
Don’t tie your horse to random things. Tying your horse and teaching patience is one of the most important skills a horse must have, but please only tie to sturdy solid horse rated tying spaces.
I have seen horses seriously injured by being tied to things that can not withstand a 1000+ pound animal pull back. Often then your horse is attached to said broken item and running around like a maniac. The ground work and work I do helps prepare a horse to be ok if something did happen but save your self the risk of really hurting your horse and other innocent bystanders.
This helps your horse in so many ways. Seriously consider with fore thought what is strong enough to hold your horse if their is an issue while they are tied. That Wooden log that you might think is strong in reality might not be strong enough for your horse. The idea in my mind is yes my horse is so well behaved I could hypothetically tie them to anything and they follow pressure and never pull back in a perfect world. Remember that teaching them to follow the lead rope with there feet from tip number one sets your horse up for success, if your horse never thinks it’s ok to put tension in your lead rope then it will also apply when tied. When I do other ground work with a flag tarp or pull things around is another way we help prepare a horse for incidences like something being drug attached to a lead rope. I debated the grousom image but this was a horse that was tied to a not secured metal gate.
Don’t give up.
Release is reward.
The lifelong horse journey is hard. Our egos get in the way and gosh sometimes we just wanna give up.
I’ve spent hours trying to catch one horse. I’ve spent hours trying to cross one stupid ditch/creek/pole or whatever task or purpose may be at hand.
Many people I work with get discouraged because a trainer can do things faster then they can. A trainer can do it faster simply because they have put the time in. It’s not magic, it’s time spent working through the struggles and ups and downs.
I can often do something in 5 minutes now, because I spent days crying, really mad, and so frustrated working through a tough spot in a horse and have and still do feel the way you feel right now. Horses are extremely humbling and challenge us to grow and learn in new ways every day.
When you give up mid task/maneuver/peoject, when you back the pressure off when no traction is being made because you’re frustrated, you rewarded your horse for the behavior they are offering. Most of the time you rewarded them for the exact behavior you are so frustrated with.
In the next moment you ask your horse for the same maneuver or behavior, it will probably take even longer now and be more frustrating. Why is that? All because you released on a ‘I’m giving up moment’ because of your own distraction/frustration with the situation, instead of hanging in there to receive what you’d like the horse to really be doing instead.
Here’s an example:
Your horse is spooking and will not turn left. You pull on the left rein to try to turn left and mid way though you give up and switch to pull on the right rein and turn right instead. You chose to turn right instead because it feels easier and less confrontational. It feels this way because that’s the way your horse is dragging you, spooking to get away from whatever is happening on the left.
What you taught and communicated to your horse is; if I pull on the left rein just ignore me and take me the opposite direction and keep pulling on me until I give up or allow you to change my focus or plan.
Here’s another example, trailering. A horse that doesn’t want to load in the trailer and is backing away, and you quit asking the horse to come forward and give them a break instead when they have left the trailer.
What you’re reinforcing and teaching is leaving the trailer is safer, it is safer to to rely on their own prey animal instincts alone than it is to look to you for safety and answers. You are teaching your horse there is no reason to believe and trust in your leadership, because you also don’t believe and trust yourself enough to follow through and keep the pressure on until your horse can offer you the correct answer you are seeking. If you can’t trust your own leadership and hang in there why should your horse trust you either?
Horses learn from the application and release of pressure. If you’ve softened in the wrong place 20 times you are now going to have to convince you horse that the thing you reinforced was right all those times is actually a lie, the wrong answer. It’s no wonder why you can create more of a battle with your horse when the dynamic of communication and learning is working this way. Try to hang in and wait longer while working through problems for the correct answer you are looking for the first time, and each time and try after that.
The key lesson here is horses take timing, patience, and experience. Try to let go as much of your own ego as possible and work through the problem with the end goal in mind even when it gets frustrating. It’s okay to make mistakes as you’re learning better timing. Keep your attitude and determination in check and keep going until you get what you asked for. Don’t allow frustration to defeat you. Remember you can take as long of a break as you need in the moment that your horse has found that answer you wished for them to seek. It’s ok to end on that note for the day even.
Often we get stuck on the good or bad our horse has had and we ride our horse according to that. The past and what has been.
Maybe you have had the worst ride yesterday and you get on expecting to have a bad ride today. Maybe you got on your horse and you had to use a lot of leg to get them listening, and now they are, but you didn’t change your aids to fit your newly listening horse because you’re still stuck focusing on what was happening.
I often get called to help fix a problem and clients want to give me a whole back story and often my response is it’s irrelevant. Its irrelevant because I don’t care to focus on what’s happened in the past to your horse, but to focus on the fact that the only important matter is what the horse shows me today. Horses never forget, but they live in the moment, and so should we.
I can only work with what’s presented in this exact moment. Often the horse is better then the usual behavior the client is used to because of newly set boundaries. Sometimes I reveal behaviors the client says they have never seen, because I hold the horse accountable to be more responsive and respectful for the human.
As your consistency, experience, timing of feel improve, so should your horse. Your horse should be consistently getting more and more responsive. With in minutes you can change a horses ability to respond with lighter aid! If you are effective.
If your horse is getting less and less responsive or staying the same and nothing is improving, then there is something you are not doing to be effective. You may not be matching your horses learning speed, your timing is off and isn’t helping your horse find a better responsiveness. You might be stuck doing the same ineffective thing over and over instead of trying a new combination. This is so important to becoming a better rider. You can practice the same things each day, and it should be progressing daily.
This skill is very important when getting on multiple horses. You must feel the horse you just stepped on, by feeling for the horse, what they are offering, and for their responsiveness. The way your horse needs you to ride to support him/her, might just get you killed on the next. Or the way you ride your horse might not be firm enough to get anything done when you step on another. Every time you get ready to go interact with your horse or someone else’s leave the past memories behind. Be 100% committed to the present moment, and train the horse that shows up in front of you.