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Rearing to Go, Part 2: Time to hit the trail

By Sheryl Lynde / Horsetrader columnist - November 20th, 2015 - Trainer Tips

“When I try to ride my horse away from the barn, he starts popping up in the front and refuses to go forward. The more I kick, the higher he goes and I no longer feel safe.”

Even though this was the initial concern of my client and, as discussed in Rearing to Go, Part 1 in my column last month, trail is not where we started. We worked on his issues of lack of respect, lack of lateral softness, and a no-go attitude in the first week of training — beginning in the round pen, and then graduating to the arena.

In order to correct the lack of respect safely, I needed lateral softness. I spent the first week just softening his head, neck, shoulders and rib cage by taking the slack out of one rein at a time and adding leg pressure until he softened. I began by taking the slack out slowly because he became easily frustrated and was ready to rear. Also, because of his resistance and lack of softness in his body, if I was too quick with my hands, I ran the risk of him falling over. Maintaining and increasing pressure from both my legs was important for three reasons. First, by keeping forward momentum with the slack out of one rein limited his ability to pop up. Secondly, using my legs loosened up his rib cage and helped soften him laterally. Third, he needs to respect the use of leg pressure.

I worked on the above exercises until I could take a pull on one rein and he would give easily without the threat of a rear and I could urge him forward in each gait with pressure from my legs without any tossing of the head or buck. Now it’s time for trail. I feel better prepared to work on the final issue – Barn Sour.

After a warm up and reminder session in the round pen, we head out for trail. It didn’t take long before the tantrum started, first with the rear. I took the slack out of the inside rein and put his chin on his inside shoulder taking away his ability to rear. The inside rein held his nose to his inside shoulder. By using both legs in rhythmic bumping against his rib cage and laying the outside rein against his neck, I was able to control both his outside shoulder, our direction which was a small circle, and forward movement. If he didn’t want to go forward, then we were going to work with energy where he wanted to stick. In order to get his attention, I changed directions frequently, staying confined in a small area and keeping him soft in both directions. Once I felt he was listening to me, I released the reins and asked him to walk forward. As long as he walked forward, I was quiet. He tried a few more times and I was quick to initiate the same exercise with energy at each refusal. By being consistent I was able to show him it was much easier to walk forward than to refuse.

Although he was walking forward willingly, it didn’t take long before he became distracted with all the different sights that trail offers. Taking horses out on trail that have No-Go gives them incentive to move forward; however, be prepared to be a rider, not a passenger. You are the driver and he has to go in the direction you are asking at the speed you have requested. If he veers off to the left – I’m going to drive him to the right with energy at a trot. His first response is to pop up because he is used to intimidating the rider until he gets to go where he wants to go, but because we did our work in the round pen first, and then in the arena, he gives up the resistance much quicker. Again, if he tries to pop up when I ask him to go to the right, I take the slack out of my right rein and bring his nose to his shoulder and drive him forward with my legs going in a small circle. When he is soft in my hands and going forward at the speed I have requested, I release the reins and give him a chance to walk forward. I repeat this until he walks forward on a loose rein at the speed and direction I want.

When he is moving willingly, calm and attentive, we head for home. The owner was able to continue the training and execute the corrections consistently at the beginning of each objection or unwanted behavior and is rewarded by a newfound confidence, increased knowledge and a safer more willing partner.

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