In a recent Q&A for Your Horsemanship Members, I was asked about how to deal with a horse that takes off when you turn him out.
Your Horsemanship Member’s Question
“I have a new, older competition horse that’s been on a professional yard in France for the last 5 years. He’s very sharp and forward to ride, which I enjoy.
However, for lunging in the school, I’m having to put two lines on him to contain his energy and keep control. They don’t have a lot of turnout so think he’s been turned in the school and free lunged as his “play time”.
The other main problem I have is when I go to turn him into the paddock. He tries to whip off as soon as he gets through the gate. I don’t like leaving the head collar on but there’s no time to get it off. There’s no chance of undoing a rope halter. At the moment I’m walking him to different places in the field and taking it off so the gateway isn’t so exciting, but just wondered if you had any ideas!”
If the lunging issue is worked on, it will also help solve the problem during turn out. When you first take your horse into the arena to be lunged, use a rope halter and a 12’ rope. Make sure you are wearing gloves and sturdy boots with a good grip! If your horse goes to take off, let the rope go slack. Don’t try and hold them. Instead, “anchor” your body down and give one sharp pull to “spin” your horse to face you. Then release the pressure on the rope. Keep repeating this until your horse stands to face you, rather than trying to run off. You can then start to lunge on a small circle. If they go to run, repeat this technique.
Turning out safely
Once you feel that you have more control in this environment, you can move to turning your horse out. Again, wear boots with a good grip, gloves and a riding hat for your protection. I would put a rope halter on with a 12’ rope, and then slip a webbing or leather halter over the top. When you go into the field, don’t hold on to them, as they can lock their neck against you. Instead, resort to the same techniques you used when you started to lunge. Leave the rope slack, anchor your body and give a sharp pull to turn them back to face you. When your horse is standing facing you, you can take the top headcollar off, whilst retaining control with the rope halter and lead. Put it back on, and keep repeating.
Do this every time you turn your horse out. They will start to second guess whether they are being let go or not, and you will have broken the habit! You may also want to have a look at these videos within the program https://yourhorsemanship.com/lesson/impatience-when-being-led/ and https://yourhorsemanship.com/lesson/leading-an-excited-or-young-horse-in-a-new-environment/