Keeping a Steady Pace

This bad habit could certainly be called a vice – you want a nice, gentle, relaxing jog, and all your horse wants to do is run. When you pull back on the reins, say whoa, and deepen your seat, he puts his head in the air in open defiance – and speeds up. How annoying! And yes, there is a way to fix this.

Think carefully. Why is your horse doing this? Is it your fault? Are you bouncing around on his back or squeezing with your legs? Eliminate these variables by relaxing and calmly asking your horse again for the desired slower pace. If he still does not respond and instead speeds up or takes the bit between his teeth, try this.

Take all forward motion away from him in a different way. He cannot run when he is going in a tight circle, so pull his head to his tail until he slows down (this will usually happen in about half a circle). Then continue on at whatever you were doing, relaxed, as if nothing happened, and praise him as soon as he does what you want. One step counts! Reward him for whatever you get. As soon as he exhibits wanting to leave you again, take his motion away again and then go back to what you are doing.

This method is far better than pulling and pulling on the horse’s soft, sensitive mouth until he hates bridling, too, and still won’t slow down for you when you are riding. The easiest way to fix a problem is to be creative and find a way that you and he can deal with. Pulling harder is not going to get the message through to him that you really want to slow down and go quietly. Instead, he is more likely to become blind with the pain in his mouth and look for any way to get rid of it – including dumping you.

Until next time,

The Horsegentler


Rearing – That Dreaded Battle

Horses that rear are annoying, scary, and downright dangerous. To us, sometimes it is hard to figure out why a normally quiet and content horse suddenly shows a mean underside. To them, though, the reason they do it is quite plain. Our job is to figure this out.

If a normally calm horse begins to show signs of aggression and begins any vice, whether rearing, bucking, biting, or kicking, I would first go to a veterinarian and make sure that there is nothing causing pain to the horse. The horse is simply trying to alleviate the cause of his discomfort. Likely, he has already tried several other ‘odd’ behaviours that you have noticed, but not given any real attention to. If this is the case, a simple vet visit may cure your horse’s bad behaviour.

Rearing is generally not caused by pain, however. It is usually a sign of a confused horse, or one who has decided he wants to do what he wants to do. Don’t reach for that whip just yet! This can be resolved by some retraining. Although it probably takes longer than beating into the horse’s brain that you are his boss, it will certainly last longer and be more reliable if you and your horse ever get into a scrape. A horse usually rears when he is faced with a scary object which is telling him to ‘stop’ while you are telling him to ‘go’. These are two conflicting messages, and his little brain can’t deal with that. Taking him home and working on my desensitization lessons will most likely assist with the problem. If it doesn’t, you will need experienced help. Please contact us for help.

The Horsegentler