I was at a local tack stores annual sale and customer appreciation day a couple of weeks ago when a gentleman asked if he could ask me some questions about his horse.
Sure I said, what’s the problem? “What do you do about a horse that’s hard in the mouth”? “Without seeing you and your horse together the first thing that comes to mind is you need to get softer”, I replied. “Softer!” the man said with disbelief on his face, “that horse wants to take off with me every time another group of horses comes by and there’s not a thing you can do to stop him”!
Unfortunately, the man never gave me a chance to explain, but continued talking, and talking, until he was no longer on the subject of his horse any longer. That’s too bad and maybe his heart wasn’t even on his horse, to begin with, I don’t know.
In teaching students to develop lateral flexion in their horses I’ve observed that the students with “hard” hands cannot get their horses to bend, while the students who have paid close attention to what I have said about “asking” their horse to bend, have had great success, and students who have said to me “ my horse won’t bend will you show me” their horses bend as soon as pick up the reins. But another thing I learn them is that, principally, you’re never done learning!
One student jokingly said, “well your just a horse whisperer”. No the thing needed to understand this concept is that by nature horses are “into pressure” animals. That means they fight back, now that’s a very simple statement “they fight back”, and for time’s sake we won’t go into great detail on that, but please understand that a horse’s first reaction to pressure is to lean against it, they have to be taught to give to pressure.
Very simply put you may need to take your horse back to school and start wherever he is “hard” and do things just as lightly as possible as soon as you get even a try from him, let go! Continue daily working on those issue’s until your horse responds from the mere suggestion.
I almost, guarantee that you will find several other places where you have been having problems, and once you begin getting light in those areas and go to school on each of them you will see a much softer horse and a more willing horse.
Okay, let’s go back to the original question. There was a part to that question that said his horse always wanted to run off with the other horses. Let’s address that, I believe it partly goes hand in hand with the hard mouth problem, I wouldn’t want to hang out with someone who was always pulling me around and never considered my feelings.
Horses are as we all know “herd bound”, and they “partner up” with a buddy in the pasture. Did you ever think that when you are with your horse you become a herd of two? I have an alpha mare in my paddock that no horse wants to hang out with because she is very pushy and dominant. On the other hand, I have horses that have great leadership qualities that enjoy playing with each other, those are the ones you see together. ( I will have to be careful here or I’ll get into another article that I plan to write about training tips.)
I will have to ask the question here of what kind of relationship, yes relationship, (you are both in it together aren’t you) do you want with your horse? What do you do when you are with your horse? Is it just feeding time and then back to the house? Is it, ok boy time to saddle up and go and I better not have any problems with you today.
I don’t know about you but that’s not my idea of a quality relationship either. I have found that if we spend a little undemanding time with our horse we will a horse that is much more willing and desires to be with us. I have even taken my horses for walks, yes walks and no not with me riding them. I sometimes will do for them just what I would do for myself, just a nice walk through the woods, and only put a halter and lead on them. One of my most memorable walks was with a horse I was starting for someone else.
Yes, I even need to spend time with your horse if I’m going to be riding it for the next couple of months. Anyway. back to the walk, it was a beautiful midsummer morning, birds singing, little mist had just evaporated, squirrels were jotting about, and we happened upon a blackberry patch, wow they were ripe for the picking too.
As I was enjoying the bounties of nature I happened to look up and the horse staring at me with inquisitive eyes, oh, you want some don’t you girl, but you can’t get them for the briars, quickly I picked a handful and offered them to her, talk about falling in love, we shared our hearts that day as I gave her all we both wanted and our stomachs could hold. We bonded in a way I never had up to that point. Let me say my two months with her were a pleasure.
Let me say in closing, be to your horse what you want your horse to be to you. You know the name Rome gave the horse is, Equus, which means, mount, steed, EQUAL. Equal, now that’s something to think about since we have been talking about relationships. I know we’re not married to our horse (though many of us may as well be), but the point is, it’s all relationship related. Try spending time with your horse and see if that makes a difference for you. I think you’ll be glad you did.