Basics on the ground
Make it easy for your horse to choose to do the right thing, and make it difficult for him to misbehave. Make this your mindset – and always be thinking of ways to apply this as you handle your horse. YOU ARE A TRAINER if you handle a horse. For better or worse, you are training him to react to you.
If you don’t have the time to handle him correctly – leave him in the pasture. Rushing a young or new horse and pushing them beyond what they are prepared for calls for an expert – if you are an expert go ahead. An expert can read the horse and solve the problem or avoid it before it happens in many cases. If you push to square 3 and get in trouble back up to square 2 and let him complete a task for you and do it well.
The horse is bigger and stronger than you are. So don’t plan on getting into a physical battle – you’ll probably loose and if you win, you’ll hurt so bad you’ll regret the whole encounter, plus you get angry and make mistakes that may cause a bigger problem in the future. In most cases you need to figure out
what the behavior problem is, why the horse is doing it, and the easiest way to change his mind. He has the muscle – you have the brain, use your strong point. Also, ask someone who works horses often and whose horses behave well and you admire, they will have some answers for you. Occasionally you may end up in a physical struggle. If possible end it as quietly as possible. Remember it’s better to loose and take the problem on another day than to get injured.
Use common sense working around a horse. A kick can kill – never walk behind, or nearthe rear of a horse you are not familiar with. Never surprise a horse even if it is gentle and used to you- a surprise can bring a kick. Ifmyou are working on him, when you move to the rear, start with your hand on his neck and run it softly to his hind quarters speaking to him as you do. If you are not real familiar with the horse, you need to watch his eyes, ears , and body as you do this to see if he is comfortable with you. Remember a horse can kick forward towards his shoulders as well as backward. He can also swing toward you as he kicks forward, so you can be in range of a kick before you know it. When handling your horse around other horses, be aware that a horse may kick at another horse and you might be in the middle. Sometimes a horse that would never kick when ridden will do so when you are of their back.
When you stand in front of your horse, be aware that he can strike out with his front foot. Some horses do this because they are mean, some because they are anxious, some because they have been fed treats and they are begging. If your horse shows any thoughts of pawing at you, keep a short crop in hand, and as soon as he just starts to paw, crack him on his leg. In all cases, start with as little force as necessary and ratchet it up until the horse respond properly. To start with too much force is to create a whole new problem. Some horses are very soft to deal with and some are very pushy and bracey. Read your horse and let him decide what is necessary.
If you stall your horse – always make him back away and allow you entry and exit. A horse that tries to rush and push through a gait or door is a danger. Again a crop works good – or a quick kick to the chest will work. I try to never smack a horse in the face or head.
Do not feed treats as a habit – most horses become obnoxious and few people are good enough and consistent enough with their horses to hand feed treats and maintain a well behaved horse. If you must give a treat – feed it from a bucket as a rule. The rare hand fed treat to a horse is not a big deal – it’s a horse that expects and demands his treat that becomes the problem. Do not allow your horse to come up and steal food from a bucket uninvited, nor allow them to grab hay you are carrying. These are all signs of disrespect, and a horse that doesn’t respect you on the ground will not trust your leadership in the moment of trouble. He knows that he can push you around, so if something scares him, he figures you aren’t capable of dealing with it either!
If you have a problem behavior you need to correct – set aside an entire afternoon and do the job right. If your horse won’t load, or cross water, whatever, most people just say it’s a proble mand fight the battle each time they need to accomplish the task. Each fight that becomes a battle strengthens the horses resistance. Most horses will accept anything given the time and proper training. So set aside the time – go into it with a GOOD plan, and tell yourself that when you get upset, you will take a break. The average horse will usually give in and voluntarily accomplish the ask in about 45 minutes the first
time and then you need to repeat it until it becomes simple. The more aggressive and pushy you become, the more bracey the horse will become.Problems on the ground or in the saddle – think on it. Analyze when
Problems on the ground or in the saddle – think on it. Analyze when and why it happens. Try to think with a horse type mindset. There is always a smarter, safer easier way to work on the behavior, just try to figure it out. And never hesitate to ask for help and ideas. We’ve gotten some great ideas over the years that are so simple.1. Horse paws when tied to the trailer? After riding tie him, get your
1. Horse paws when tied to the trailer? After riding tie him, get your lawn chair and a tall cool drink, also get a big cup of small rocks. Every time he starts to paw, throw a small rock at his rear. It won’t hurt, it is just irritating. Most horses soon decide they would rather not paw.
2. Horse is a jerk to load? Put him in a small dry lot or pen and back the trailer up with the doors open. A small stock type trailer works best. Place hay, water, and grain inside. Let him get over his fear while you take care of all your other duties. In a case where a horse has long standing problems, you will want to make sure he is drinking enough water, and place the feed where is can see it and know what he must do to get it. Time is on your side. Most horses soon see you coming with the vittles and will climb on in anticipation, some even end up thinking it’s their private home.
3. Horse is hard to get a halter on? When you handle him make sure he is at ease with having his head and ears handled. But if he is just being difficult about getting caught. Bring a bucket with feed to him daily and invite him to come and eat. But have your halter in your hand atop the bucket. Do not allow him to eat from the bucket until he puts his head into the halter. You don’t need to snap it and catch him at first – let him learn to accept the halter over his nose and your hand towards his ears. Work from there. Some horses are always easy to catch no matter how often you work them, but others will get a little sour when worked real hard regularly. Make a point to go to your horse, take them some feed (not a treat from your hand) and pet them, put the halter on scratch their favorite itchy spot and then turn them loose. We ourselves get sour towards those who always approach us with more hard work and never a reward. Teach your horse that sometimes you mean good things with no strings attached and that when the halter goes on it does not always mean work – it might mean reward!These are just a few ideas to get you into a horse thinking mindset.