RESISTANCE IN YOUR HORSE? Be it on the ground, or when being ridden, resistances in your horse take two forms;
“I don’t know” and
“I don’t want to”,
and it is up to you to adapt your training accordingly.
This video clip is of a yearling TB filly I went to load this week. The racing yard won’t mind me saying that she is a bit of a tricky one, and when I first approached her she actually jumped a gate to get away from me! But when it came to load her, she resisted because SHE DIDN’T KNOW, and it was up to me to teach her, give her time to learn and make sure she knew when she was doing the right thing. Young or unhandled horses are like sponges; they soak it all up and are so quick to learn, but you have to be careful to not make mistakes that will create a problem in the future.
If we consider a more established horse that resists loading, they tend to fall into the “I DON’T WANT TO” category, and have often developed a trick, such as rearing, planting or taking off past the handler. A behaviour that is habitual needs something profound to motivate them to change; either through repetition of a process that achieves the required outcome every time (such as the methods taught within YourHorsemanship Online .), or using enough energy at the right time and in the right way to create an opening in your horse’s mind that you can fill with the desired movement. This “bucket of water” moment is sometimes needed to start the process of change, but should only be done by someone very experienced who has the timing and feel to know when to input energy and when to stop.
This is why some resistances need a professional to get the horse on the right track, before the owner can then continue to train the new “pathway” of behaviour through tried and tested processes. I would say the majority of my lessons and off-site visits fall into this category. I step in and change the horse’s pattern of behaviour before teaching the handler or rider the processes to use to ensure the horse continues to improve and not return to using their “trick”.
Nicky and her horse, Shadow, was a great example of this, and you can read a more detailed blog and video about their partnership here Nappy and Planting issues solved. Nicky was having problems with her horse, Shadow, napping and planting when she was going out on a ride. When she came for a lesson, I wanted to show her some groundwork first and Shadow took off up the arena, with me “skiing” behind! It turned out that she had developed this habit when Nicky lunged her, and although the two issues didn’t seem linked, I realised that the real problem with the ridden work was that Nicky was worried that when Shadow did get going, she was going to run away with her, like she had started to do on the ground.
Shadow is a big, strong horse, and she needed the right equipment and the right timing from me, to take away her power when she wanted to take off on the ground. It was a shock to Shadow that she couldn’t use her usual trick, and I taught Nicky how to manage that problem going forward. Moving on to the ridden work, instead of addressing the planting and napping, I first gave Nicky the tools to stop Shadow and stay in control. Because Nicky knew she could control Shadow on the ground and under saddle, her forward cues became a lot more positive and “authentic”, and she no longer blocked Shadow’s forward movement, which was causing the planting and napping. I was delighted the other day to watch Nicky hacking out with a forward going Shadow who was with her rider, rather than against her.
Solving an “I don’t want to” resistances in your horse can sometimes be a puzzle to solve. You have to be able to rule out physical pain or previous trauma, before finding the root cause of the issue. Once you have found that root cause, you need tools in your horse training kit to create that first change in the behaviour pathway, and then the processes to continue to develop and maintain the correct pathway so the resistance become a distant memory. Some resistances, such as rearing under saddle and aggression on the ground, can be very dangerous, and I would urge anyone to take trusted professional advice when addressing them.