Sort It OUT!
Does your horse come home faster than he goes out? Is he reluctant to leave the yard on his own? Does he have to go first – or last?! If your dressage is coming on in leaps and bounds you could be forgiven for putting in more effort in the school than out but a bit of work and discipline away from the confines of the ménage can make all the difference to the relationship you have with your horse.
Nappiness is an attitude not a physical problem so don’t give up all hope! If you can change the way you think then you can influence the way your horse thinks too. The key to any type of schooling is consistency. If you really want to change your horse’s behaviour you have to be prepared to change the way you behave – and that means every single time you ride – not just when you’re in the mood!
Your horse will always be stronger than you but you are more intelligent. That means you can plan ahead and avoid problems – or battles – you just won’t win. When a horse naps he rarely thinks about anything other than what he wants to do so –
- Never put yourself in a situation that puts your safety at risk – if it scares you don’t do it!
- Tell someone where you’re going and carry a phone.
- Always wear a hat, a back protector and gloves.
If your horse rushes as soon as you turn for home it can be exhausting, frustrating – and anti-social. Problems arise when you show your frustration by making him stop – or turn a circle. All this does is increase the tension between you. Once he tightens his neck and back against you things become 10 times worse. So what can you do?
Think ahead. You know when the turn for home is coming so you need to be ready – and that means being relaxed. Ride forward from both legs into a steady contact – dropping your contact and kicking once things have already gone wrong really won’t help so get used to hacking out on a contact, keeping your legs on and pushing your horse into that contact even when things are going well.
Use your head – and his. Filling his head with your ideas is the best way to stop him filling it with ideas of his own! There are some great things to do HERE and HERE but another simple-but-brilliant exercise is to count strides. Use walk, trot (and canter if you have an available area). Start with 20 strides of one pace, 19 of the next, 18 of another and so on until you get down to 8. Then work your way back up to 20 again. It sounds silly but it makes you think about something other than your horse and it keeps his mind on you. He’ll still rush to start with but keep at it, don’t get tense and by the time you get home you’ll find neither of you are as hot and bothered as you usually are.
If your horse hates going first or last it’s a confidence thing – or at least that’s how it started. Either he’s not brave enough to go ahead or he’s worried he’ll be left on his own. Therefore you must ride out with friends who won’t do either of those things! Friends that appreciate you’re trying to improve your horse’s behaviour are a must too – there’s nothing worse than riding out with someone who thinks their horse is top priority no matter what …
Riding alongside other horses is the best way to get your horse feeling confident.
If going first is a problem don’t do it in walk! You’re asking for trouble and he’ll find it easier to stick the brakes on and refuse to budge. A bit of forward thinking and energy is essential here so try trotting or cantering alongside another horse first. Then ask your friend to hang back so your horse is unknowingly ahead for a few strides and then move forward again before the penny drops. These periods can get longer each time. (It requires patience but it does work!)
If your horse hates being behind ride alongside another horse and then let another horse take the lead. This gives your horse the security of the same horse staying with him and he’ll be less likely to get uptight about the new lead horse. Even so make sure the lead rider doesn’t leave you behind. You’re trying to keep him relaxed not demand that he copes! Eventually you can allow the horse alongside you to hang back which will leave you in between them.
If your horse refuses to leave the yard on his own there’s a great way to teach him. Let him see another horse head out just ahead of him. Follow on a couple of minutes later so he sees them in the distance. Let him catch up and carry on with your ride. That gets him going out of the gate happily because he knows his mate is up the road. In time you can meet a horse round the corner, half way round – at an arranged place – which basically means your horse spends the whole time knowing somebody is out there somewhere.
Whatever your problem remember one thing – this is meant to be your hobby – and it’s meant to be fun!
Good luck and enjoy your hacking!