When you ride are you being objecive or emotional? Are you letting stress or negative emotions to creep into your riding? When you are emotional or stressed your cues are often too harsh, sudden, jerky or even flat out aggressive. This is always counter productive and frequently dangerous. At the very least your horse will react by being stiff or bracing ( self defending) or worse reacting in a way that gets you hurt ( bucking, bolting, rearing)
Always take a moment before spending time with your horse to clear your mind of any distractions, maybe take a deep breath and proceed calmly. Have a Plan. Be flexible with that Plan, and be sure to reward any improvement
What to do when you can't ride
During different seasons of the year, when you might not be able to ride as much, there are still plenty of creative things you can do to further develop your horse human relationship while working on horse riding skills that are important for when you are able to get back in the saddle. One of the easiest things to do is spend a few moments of quality time working on ground manners with your horse. If you don't have an indoor training facility, you can easily do this in a stall.
"Check In" with Your Horse
Asking your horse to yield their shoulders to you, their hindquarters and entire body (all skills you want under saddle). This should only take you a few minutes and give you and your horse valuable training, as well as, "bonding time." If you discover you are having difficulty getting your horse to respond crisply and quickly don't hesitate to reach out for professional horse training - you may contact us at the links on the right.
This simple exercise is Step 1 in safety and the leadership you and your horse are looking for. Incorporate this little "mini" exercise into your daily routine whenever you are with your horse.
Now let's talk about the flip side of that coin. - Horses need leadership. That is their basic design as a herd animal. Someone has to be the leader and if you aren't they WILL be. This doesn't make them bad, it's just a necessity ...and I can GUARANTEE you you won't like the choices they make as a leader!
Let's face it horses are large animals and CAN be dangerous. Most accidents happen because the horse made a choice as the leader, whether it was do to their flight response or simply that they are in charge ( lack of respect ).
Allow me to share a short story of just how things can play out - I had a client who had a fairly docile non reactionary horse. He loved his horse spent lots of time with her and enjoyed what he thought was a good bond with his horse. In his perception they had a successful and enjoyable relationship....until he was faced with things she didn't want to do. that's how he became a client. However many times I had told him when handling his horse that you are allowing her to be to close to you, she is pushing you over in her mind- "You need to push her over and get her out of YOUR space , or someday she will go right through you like you don't exist" . Well that someday came; no sooner did I get that sentence out (once again) and the mare who was calmly walking next to him bolted right through him knocking him to the ground breaking his ribs and arm in several places.
Please if you haven't already incorporated this very simple Step 1 exercise before swinging your leg over your horse PLEASE do so . You owe it to yourself and your horse. Those that care about you will Thank You.
In closing if you have tried the exercise and aren't sure you got the correct response from your horse or just aren't sure how to- remember help is just a phone call or email to Foxcote Show Horses away!
Read more about other Ground Manners for Control, Safety and Respect
In the above training tip I proposed you take a little time with your horse to ask them a few questions. Hopefully you did. If not I encourage you to take the time.
The point of this "little exercise" in addition to getting you out of the house and into the barn on cold winter months was designed most importantly to give you a gauge as to where your relationship stands with you and your horse before you just climb aboard. I ask this of every horse I swing a leg over. Especially if they are unfamiliar to me.
How Horses Communicate
One of the ways horses communicate with each other and establish their position in the herd is by being able to "push" one another around. Sometimes this is done by simply pinning ears at the other horse letting the other horse know back off this is my space and can escalate to the level of kicking or biting. This behavior although to people is perceived as nasty or mean is not considered egregious to the other horse - it is nothing more than the way they establish who is in charge. If you asked your horse to move over from you by pushing on his shoulder and he/she did nothing- or worse yet actually leaned back in to you. This is an indication they believe they are in charge and you need to correct them immediately to reestablish that you are the leader.
You have some work to do!
This can be good news. Better to find this out before you get run over or pinned against a stall wall. That's what can happen on the ground, just use your imagination and think of how that behaviour (essentially them thinking they are the leader in your relationship) can translate to all kinds of accidents or bad behaviour under saddle.