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.
Whenever you and your horse face a dangerous or unusual situation, you realize how important it is for your horse to lead super respectfully. In a crazy ice storm trying to get loaded up and out of Oklahoma, I was very thankful my horse respected and trusted me. We walked out of the barn onto a sheer sheet of ice, and to add to the difficulty of handling him on this slippery surface, he had slick slider horseshoes on his back feet. I asked him to walk as slow as he could, and he listened each time I said, “OK. You’ve got to slow up and go with me.” When we got to the trailer, I asked him to stand still. I needed time to put down shavings so he wouldn’t lose his footing as he jumped up into the trailer. He did exactly what I told him to do, and he made it into the trailer without a misstep. So when you ask why I’m so “picky” about teaching my horse to lead well, this is why. On that morning in Oklahoma, my horse didn’t take one single step except for what I asked him to take, and it saved him from hurting himself.
Hobbling a horse is a very useful training technique. When used properly it can help produce a quieter horse that stands easily and calmly when you want him to do so. However, you do want to be sure your horse can do two things before you try to use this method. First, you want to be sure your horse knows how to yield to pressure. Hobbling limits the movement of the front legs and you want your horse to recognize this limitation and accept it rather than fight against it. Second, you want to be sure your horse is comfortable with the motion of disengaging his hind end from his front. Again, you do not want your horse to strongly or violently resist the limitation of the hobble. If that happens, you need to apply further training without the hobble. I also highly recommend only using this technique with the help of someone who has done it before and who knows what she is doing. This will minimize the possibility of injury to you or your horse. Here are several more tips for successful hobble training.
1. Once the hobble is applied, ask your horse to move his hind end while basically pivoting on his front legs. Make the motion as small as possible at first. Your horse will want to reposition his front legs as he swings around, but he will sense the limit of the hobble and he will have to move his front legs in smaller steps than he would without the hobble. You want your horse to become comfortable with these small steps. Your horse will begin to understand that even with the limit of the hobble, he can still move his hind end in a normal way and he will feel less trapped. It will also show your horse that he can indeed move around fairly well with hobbles, although not in his normal way of walking.
2. I personally prefer the motion I just described as the only motion for my horse when hobbled. Just have your horse shift his hind end slightly to the right. You can continue in the same direction perhaps for a quarter turn or so. Then be sure to stop that motion and then have your horse shift to the left. Introduce slight variations as your horse becomes more comfortable with the limit of the hobble.
2. Be sure to position yourself to the side of your horse. You don’t want to be in front of your horse where he could try to strike you with both front feet. Not only could you be injured, but, after several attempts to hit you, your horse will quickly learn the behavior mentioned in the next tip!
3. Do not let your horse learn that he can hop on his front legs even though in hobbles. Anytime my horse attempts forward motion, I bump with my lead rope to discourage the behavior. Near the 00:00:32 mark of this video, you can see where I had to discourage his attempt at moving his front feet.
4. Do not spend more than 5/10 minutes with your first attempt at hobble training. Quit when your horse finds the correct answer.
In this video you see a horse that did extremely well for his first time in hobbles. Remember, the whole point of this technique is to teach your horse to stand quietly. Applying this behavior will reduce or eliminate the possibility of injury to your horse or your property in many common situations such as trailering. (Don’t hobble in the trailer) It’s also a great tool for discouraging certain specific behaviors such as pawing.
I certainly agree there are many horses that have trailering issues, but the problems usually start before the trailer. I made a list of some things that might really help others with trailering, and I hope some of these daily tips will make trailering a non-issue for you and your horse.
Here’s the number one thing your horse doesn’t know well enough: basic daily manners!
1. Take the time to back your horse everywhere on the ground before you even think about trying to get him into a trailer. Horses are much more comfortable moving forward. You have to raise their comfort level when it comes to moving in reverse. You don’t have to do it for long periods of time, but try to do it frequently throughout the day and in a variety of circumstances. Back him into his stall; back him into the wash bay; back him into the barn, and back him out of the barn; back him into the arena. Seriously, back him up like crazy.
2. Good. Now your horse is backing up nicely. Can you back him, stop him, and then pull him forward toward you? Can you back him just a half step and then catch that foot and step it forward? You need your horse to move just like that when the slack draws out of the lead rope. Why? Picture yourself in the trailer ready to get your horse out. He’s so well trained that he knows what you want him to do so he starts to back up too soon. Shoot! He’s still tied and now the lead rope is stretched as tight as it can be. One of two things is likely to happen. You hope he respects the pressure of the lead rope and steps back forward toward you so you can untie him. But if he doesn’t, then he will probably panic, risking serious injury to you or him and damage to the trailer. Which option sounds better? I prefer my horse knows how to react to the pressure of the lead rope because we practiced the same motion a hundred times before.
3. Will your horse yield to your pressure? If I step into the left or right side of my horse, I can move him over laterally. With a slight adjustment to the pressure, I can get him to just swing his hip around. In the trailer, this is very important because you need to be able to either push your horse out of your space or get him to step over so you can close the trailer door.
4. What is your horse’s “feel?” I talked about this earlier and you know how important it is to understand how your horse will respond to pressure. Does your horse regularly pull on the lead rope or invade your space? Horses are very sensitive animals, but we humans sometimes teach them they don’t have to be. With the loss of that natural sensitivity, your horse can pick up some very bad habits. Always teach your horse to follow the pressure of a lead rope. If you draw the slack out of the rope, your horse should instinctively follow the lead so the rope hangs almost weightlessly.
5. Today I told my client the same thing I’m telling you. Think about how you want your horse to behave when you’re trapped in a little tiny space with him. I think most of you want him to be calm, quiet, and really respectful. So encourage those behaviors all the time you are working with your horse whether inside a trailer or not. I see too many people who fail to make their horse respect their space whenever they are together. Invariably, those are the people who want help when they have to trailer their horse. When a horse is not used to respecting your space, you can’t really expect him to be “respectful” just because you want him to get into a trailer. And your frustration or fear, combined with the horse’s resistance, is likely to get you slammed into a wall and pinned there! Trailering becomes so much easier if you teach your horse basic daily manners.
Groundwork - - and Why We Do It Let me share a personal experience which vividly demonstrates the importance of proper groundwork. Rachel had been taking riding lessons from me for a several years. 2 years ago Rachel was riding a wonderful mare named Coco. During the ride, Rachel experienced a seizure and fell from her saddle. Unfortunately Rachel’s foot caught in her stirrup, and she was in a very precarious and dangerous position. Had we not done the proper groundwork with Coco, who knows how she would have reacted? Even if Coco had continued on a slow walk, Rachel would have suffered very painful injuries. A trot or a gallop would have been disastrous with Coco dragging Rachel around the arena. Because of our careful groundwork, however, Coco simply stopped and waited for us to free Rachel’s foot. When starting colts at the DDT we try to prepare them for as many real-world experiences as possible. One technique we use is to rope a colt’s legs together to teach the horse what it feels like when something interferes with its natural gait. The colt “understands” the feeling of an obstruction to its gait, and it learns to “give” or relax in such a situation. A horse that receives such training is much likelier to react calmly instead of fearfully if she ever gets caught in a fence or in a hay net, and believe me, if for some awful reason you find yourself on the ground between your horse’s legs, you will be very grateful for her calm, controlled reaction. Another helpful training method uses tarps, cloth strips, and trash bags to simulate surprising or startling objects that could spook a horse while we are on or off of them. Gradual exposure to flapping tarps and bags, especially around the belly and flanks of the horse, allows her to become comfortable with conditions that might otherwise cause her to bolt or become skittish. You might not appreciate the difference this makes until you see an untrained horse react poorly to someone who is just putting on or taking off a coat or jacket! And if your horse wants to kick at a flag or a bag that’s hanging from a stirrup, she is likely to do the same thing even if it’s your precious head that’s in the same position. Groundwork makes all the difference in creating a safer, more enjoyable horse in the long run. I don’t want you to forget the important difference between desensitizing your horse and “dulling” your horse, and I will write more about that later. For now, just remember that dulling your horse is not a proper goal, but the groundwork of proper desensitizing can prevent injuries or save a life as it has done for us more than once.