Question from a reader
“I’d like your expert opinion about calming down a hot-headed TB.
I have to keep him boxed at night as he gets staggers from the grass.
I mostly work him every day but it’s hard to give him a full schooling session when he is so full-on.
Some friends have suggested he needs more exercise but I find that the fitter he gets, the hotter and more energetic he gets.
I am wondering about a good calming paste perhaps. He gets plenty of hay, and a small amount of cool feed and chaff.”
This is a very common question and a very common problem.
Every horse that is locked in a stable and fed too much will become ‘hot-headed’.
This includes horses that are fed so-called cool feeds.
‘Cool feed’ still contains grain or high energy feed.
Grain and high energy feed will affect every horse, regardless of his breeding.
You must cut down the “cool” feed and leave your horse in a yard where he can move around, have a run and be a horse.
Horses aren’t made to be locked in stables.
When a horse is overfed and above himself, he’s not in a frame of mind where he’s ready to learn.
It’s not the level of fitness that makes a horse “hotter and more energetic”, it’s the fact that the horse is above himself and not relaxed.
If you’re having trouble riding your horse, lunge him first.
Make sure he trots and canters in both directions. Only canter him for a few minutes before allowing him to walk and have a break.
Then move him in the other direction. You must keep him going until he’s ready to walk and trot when you ask.
You have to get any excess energy out of his system and it’s safer and easier to do this before you ride him.
Lungeing for excess energy is shown in my Fear-free Fundamentals Online Clinic
Working your horse correctly won’t make him worse.
Most people don’t realise just how much work a horse can do.
And most people don’t realise that you may have to work a horse consistently for a week or more, just to get the excess energy out of his system.
You have to give your horse enough work so that he’s relaxed and ready to learn.
This doesn’t mean that he has to be tired, it just means that he has to have enough work so he can relax.
There is no substitute for working your horse every day.
Your lessons must be consistent and you must work your horse at least five days a week.
Otherwise you’ll spend too much time getting the excess energy out of his system and getting him into a frame of mind where he’s ready to learn.
If you trot and canter your horse for an hour each day, it means that he has the other 23 hours to himself.
This isn’t hard work for a horse. In fact, you could argue that it isn’t really work at all.
You can’t expect to improve such a horse by only riding him a few days a week.
You must be consistent and work with your horse at least five days a week.