I had an interesting response to this video when I popped it on Facebook. Amongst the positive comments, there were a few negatives, “he looks like it is afraid of slipping”, “would longreining first, with another horse in front, and being barefoot be safer?” and “this horse looks incredibly uncomfortable being asked to do this”.
It is always difficult in a short video snippet like this to get across the full story. This horse was very difficult to get off the yard, not because he was scared or spooky, but because he napped back to his mates. He had learnt to get away with this behavior; he was definitely the boss! From their yard, they have to go under the bridge for their hacking routes, but they hadn’t ever been able to get him through. Admittedly, it is not inviting, and it is slippery, and it is a natural response to be “spooky” towards it. However, for this horse, his refusal to go forward is exacerbated by his ingrained napping behavior.
I have written previous blogs on the difference between napping and spooking, and I liken the way I am riding here to my “negotiating obstacles” training, such as jumping ditches, or going through water (of which there are video lessons within the Your Horsemanship program).
It was up to me to show him its alright, which I did by letting the reins fully out so he could investigate with his nose, and by correcting his movements left, right, and backwards as he tried to find a way out. When I ask him to step forward, I keep asking until I get that forward “try”. I then stop asking, even if it’s just momentarily, which is how the concept of my “MO:RE4” training process works. When you are were with a horse in this situation, there is a fine balance between putting enough energy in to get that forward movement, and hassling too much so that their adrenaline leads to an “explosion”! I go back to the point of not blocking with your hands; keep the rein long and your hands forward, so the outlet of going forward is completely open.
I go back to the comment that “this horse looks incredibly uncomfortable being asked to do this”, and I have to say it baffles me. If you stopped asking your horse to go forward for you whenever they baulked at something, they would soon develop a lot of behaviours that would prevent you from riding them at all! Riding and training horses is not all sweetness and light, it’s about being positive and and having a “can do” attitude that you transmit to your horse, so they gain confidence and trust in you.