Teach Your Horse To Behave

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It’s amazing to see what people put up with out of their horses. I recently watched a woman tack up her horse at a show. While she tightened the girth, the horse continually lunged at her with his teeth. He never actually bit her, but sooner or later I bet he will. I don’t think the woman realizes that. I suppose she felt she could “handle” the horse and there was nothing to worry about.

The problem is that seemingly commonplace behaviors like this can grow into real safety issues, yet we often gloss over them. Trainers are just as guilty, as they’re pressured to get their charges into the show ring as quickly as possible, forcing them to rush the horse along without proper training on ground manners. But this has a snowball effect as bad manners become so rampant that people accept them as normal.

Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to never actually be hurt by a misbehaving horse. Or maybe you truly believe that your horse wouldn’t harm you. But, really, there’s not a horse on four hooves that isn’t capable of hurting you, whether he means to or not. The problem is he may not realize he’s doing anything wrong.

The next time you try to deworm your horse and find you’re trying to hit a moving target, think about what you’re doing. Would you put up with that same nonsense if he were refusing to trot over a line of cavelleti' I bet not. You’d drop back and make him walk over them again and again, looking for the source of the problem. Why don’t we apply that same logic to deworming, dropping back to where he stands still while you put your hand on his muzzle first instead of risking getting hit by his head while trying to jam the paste in his mouth'

The same holds for horses that won’t stand still while you mount, clip them or try to give them a bath. Maybe you can swing up into the saddle while he’s taking those few steps off, but what happens if he also spooks or becomes distracted' You may get stepped on, dragged or worse.

Many riders are quite talented at getting their horses to perform perfectly under saddle. The horse accepts the bit as if he were born with it in his mouth. Transitions are so smooth you can barely see the rider signal the horse. Then they dismount, and the horse acts like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Sure, it takes time and patience to teach your horse what you want him to do. And, sure, those basics of leading, standing and cooperating are boring — really boring. But they’re a necessity, and no quick fix is going to do the trick.

Do you and your horse a favor when you see annoying habits developing and nip them in the bud. It’s ridiculous to just live with it and endanger yourself, simply because you never took the time to train him any better.

’Til Next Month,

-Cynthia Foley