Horses are claustrophobic animals, so being stabled is not a natural thing for them. They can fret, bang the door or even try to jump out! Horses that doesn’t like being stabled can become dangerous as they try to barge past (or over) the handler as soon as the stable door is opened. Recently, one of the young horses in for starting was putting my staff in danger, so we did this exercise to start to fix it.
With all horse training, it is so much more meaningful if it is the horse’s idea! Therefore, we need to make the stable the “good place” and the area outside the stable the “bad place”… you want your horse to CHOOSE to be stabled!
- Cordon off a “working area” around the stable, so that you can move your horse around without it being dangerous, or without it being able to get away or jump out (you may have to put something down to improve the footing, too). We put a rope up across the front of our stable area, and my grooms positioned themselves the other sides with brooms at the ready should the horse come their way! I can’t reiterate enough that you first need to make the working area safe for yourself, your horse and anyone helping you before you move onto the next step.
- Open the stable door and step back out of the working area.
- It is likely the horse will run straight out. When they do so, step into the working area and keep your horse moving, not letting him rest at any moment.
- Your horse will look for a way to stop working, and at some point will go back into their stable. As soon as they do so, immediately step away and out of the working area. DO NOT SHUT THE STABLE DOOR, as it has to be his decision to stay in there.
- Repeat this exercise until your horse stays in the stable rather venturing outside. At this point, you can try shutting the stable door, or you can change the environment, for example, by leading another horse near the stable, in order to “test” your horse’s desire to stay in the stable.
Please note that this may take a few times to fix the problem, but it can be very effective! You can also use it for horses that bang on the stable door, or get excited at feed times. If you would like more advice on this issue, or are not confident doing it yourself, please get in touch!
PS… no, the cover photo isn’t of our stables, we’re a bit more down to each here!