I own an 11 year old Quarter Horse who is an excellent head horse. He also is ridden in the high country and handles himself very well in all kinds of terrain. His pedigree makes him "hot" i.e. from quiet to quick move blow up (Peppy San Badger grandson plus Doc's Tucker, etc.). He stands quietly in the roping box, when saddled, vetted, shod, etc. but if a sudden noise is made, or a plastic bag is rattled or a manure fork comes near him, he sets back and throws him around until either the rope breaks or he just settles down. I get out of the way and don't know how to fix this. He loads easily and has never set back in the trailer but the potential is there and it could be dangerous for me. How do I remedy this problem? Thank you for your help.
Thanks for the question, as it brings up a great opportunity to talk about two large horsemanship principles: One…The importance of developing a relationship that is based on a “Willingness to Yield in a Respectful Manner”; Two…Recognizing the difference between “Sensitizing” and “De-Sensitizing”. Let’s take a look at those subjects:
ONE: We all need to remember that before we can build “Trust” between horse and rider, we first have to develop a relationship built on mutual “Respect”. It is not only for the horse to be willing to yield in a respectful way, but that goes for the human too. It is our responsibility to set it up so that the horse can find the right answer, and that is provided through clear, consistent leadership on our part. In your situation, you have a little detective work to do! First, clearly find what is causing your gelding to become fractious. Next, define a clear picture of what would be a better outcome then getting so upset. In other words, picture the “Right” answer. Then, set it up for him to search, and reward even the slightest try in the right direction. As example, it is not probably the plastic bag that scares him, so much as things coming in and out of his vision, the rattling noise, and that it seem uncontrollable in his world. So how about working with a bag or flag on the end of a stick, and asking him to move around you, sideways on a circle as the flag gently moves from his eye to his back foot. The “Right” answer is him moving off, even one step, sideways in a rhythmic fashion. Then quit…Reward is both your’s and his non-movement. He finds rests with you, by following your intentions…Your leadership. (Review: Tips for the Ride – No Smoking Sign found at www.tnthorsemanship.com)
TWO: As mentioned above, often times we focus on the symptoms rather than the cause of a horse getting troubled. Many times, I find that things coming in and out of the horses vision set up some trouble. In using the flag as suggested above, it is critical that YOU have a clear picture of the answer and that you are prepared to give the “Reward” or “Release” right before the horse finds the answer. Then he’ll start hunting that answer up on a regular basis. Often times I see humans using the tools such as the flag, the whip, the spur, etc. as a “De-sensitizing” device. I have no desire to “De-Sensitize” my horse. I am want him to be “Sensitive” to my every thought and intention. I want to “Feel” of the horse, and having “Feel” back. Be careful when using the flag to help your horse through this little trouble, to not take away his sensitivity, his curiosity, his desire to be aware of his environment. Provide him good leadership BEFORE he needs you, give him a little job to do, and make small steps towards him getting more brave about those big, scary plastic bags and such!
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