People always ask me how to overcome horse problems or does my book cover this or that specific issue.
Here are some examples: My horse….. doesn’t trust people, is herd bound, is barn sour, bites when I do up the girth, has head-tossing syndrome, shies, rears, kicks, bites, pulls back, bucks, won’t back up, won’t go forward, doesn’t like being bridled etc.
Then there are the “How do I…..give my horse a needle, catch my horse, handle my horse’s legs, teach my horse to jump, give my horse a worming paste and on and on it goes.
It may sound odd, but whether your horse rears, shies, bites, won’t back up, won’t go forward or you can’t handle his legs, give him a needle or anything else you may be having trouble with, the solution is always the same. First, you must teach your horse to be confident and relaxed. Second, you must teach him to move forward. Third, you must teach your horse to move where you ask, when you ask, how you ask –and that must include standing when you ask.
There are no special tricks or secrets in horse training. It’s not a question of working on a specific issue, it’s a question of changing your horse’s attitude. It’s a question of having him trying for you, instead of fighting against you.
Whether you’re riding your horse or working with him on the ground, it’s always the same simple solution when you’re having problems. After all, if your horse is confident and relaxed and moves where you ask, when you ask and how you ask, all your problems will be over.
Never confront your horse with obstacles that you know he’ll react to. Never ask your horse to do things that he doesn’t understand. Instead, always start with things you know your horse can do and build from there.
My wife Chris often tells the story of her first horse “Girlie”, who wasn’t very well educated when Chris started riding her. Chris had problems stepping Girlie into puddles, over logs, up banks or anywhere else Girlie didn’t want to go.
My advice was the same all those years ago. “Don’t try to walk her through those puddles because you won’t be able to. Work on teaching her to relax and move exactly where you ask, how you ask, in the arena. When you have more control, you’ll be able to walk through puddles easily.”
Chris couldn’t understand how in the world she’d ever be able to walk through puddles if she didn’t practice doing it. Nevertheless, she rode every day and after a month or so Girlie started to relax and listen and try for her. The mare’s attitude changed from being nervous and resisting to being relaxed and trying.
“Now you’re ready to walk through puddles”, I said. Girlie didn’t baulk when she was asked to walk through a puddle because her attitude had changed. She was relaxed, confident and trying her hardest for Chris.
Chris was thrilled and for the next few weeks she walked Girlie through every puddle she could find. Whenever we went for a ride along the road, Girlie headed straight for all the puddles because she knew that’s what she had to do.
People often say “My horse is perfect in every way, the only thing is he pulls back/rears/ bucks or hundred and one other things. How can I fix him.”
I beg to differ. Such a horse isn’t “perfect in every way”. Problems don’t exist in isolation. If a horse is truly confident and relaxed and understands what’s wanted, he’ll be easy to catch, easy to lead, easy to ride and he won’t pull back, buck, rear or do anything else undesirable.
There are no magic fixes or special gadgets that will help with your horse problems. No matter what problem you’re having, you must go back to basics and teach your horse to relax and try for you – every step of the way.