Riding a napping horse

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.  In order to access hacking routes from the yard, riders have to go under this bridge.  This horse’s owners had never been able to ride him through.  Admittedly, it is not inviting, it is slippery, and it is a natural response to be “spooky” towards it.  However, this horse also has an ingrained napping issue.  He was very difficult to get off the yard before getting anywhere near the bridge.  Not because he was scared or spooky, but because he had a severe napping issue as he didn’t want to leave his mates.  He had learnt to get away with this behaviour and he was definitely the boss! 

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.  If you are interested in understanding these processes in further detail, do check out the modules within the Problem Solving Library within Your Horsemanship.  

As I approached the bridge, it was up to me to show him “it’s alright”.  I did this 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 by spinning and backing away.  When I asked him to step forward, I keep asking until I get that forward “try”.  I then stop asking, even if it’s just momentarily, when he gives that forward movement.  This 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.

Finally, I want to address the comment that “this horse looks incredibly uncomfortable being asked to do this”.  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!  So much of riding and training horses is about being positive and having a “can do” attitude that you transmit to your horse, so they gain confidence and trust in you.

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