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Horse Training – 5 Reasons Your New Horse Is Behaving Badly and What You Can Do To Improve It Now
Q: I bought a 9-year-old mare two weeks ago. He was fostered at age 4 and hasn’t done much until recently when he rode barefoot across the fields to help round up a herd of horses. He was great when he first came to the farm. He seemed very confident and forward-looking. He got a bit of a scare when a car suddenly appeared around the corner – but not badly. I ride him 1 or 2 times a week with another horse and then go out for 1 or 2 days. But in the last two days, he has not been himself. He’s in good health so I don’t think it’s a physical problem. I’ve never been able to get off the ground, so I have to put my feet up. But it does not stand still. He walks away and even shakes his chest away from me so I try to stand up. When I finally get up, I can feel it on edge and ready to go. So I have to hold it for a while. He won’t stop even if I ask him to. If I gently pull on the reins, he gets restless and walks backwards or in circles. I don’t know what happened. I would greatly appreciate any advice.
A. It is not unusual for a new horse to develop behavior and training problems shortly after it is brought into a new home. Here are five tips to help you and your horse build a positive relationship from the start.
1) Behavior is communication – The only way to communicate with your horse is through his behavior. If he exhibits behavior that you don’t like, don’t assume he’s just being “naughty.” To understand his feelings, pay attention to his actions. A horse that doesn’t want to be caught in the woods needs to develop more confidence before meeting you at the gate. A horse that does not want to be ridden may feel pain from the wrong tack or be uncomfortable with the way it is ridden. A horse that doesn’t want to stand still is tense and needs to move as a flying animal. Take the time to identify the root cause(s) of your horse’s behavior rather than trying to “fix” the symptom. If you eliminate the cause, the symptom will disappear as a result.
2) Time to adjust – Your new horse has lost everything he was familiar with and now has to adapt to a new environment, a new order, a new herd and new people. Imagine how you would feel in a similar situation. It is important to give him some time to adjust and get comfortable with all the changes in his life. You can only help him by spending time so that you can get to know each other as you begin to build a relationship and develop mutual trust. Get to know your new horse right from the start, take care of it, feed it, lunge it and spend a few days with it.
3) Tack Check – Getting to know your horse from the ground up in the first few days is a great time to check that your bridle fits and is in good condition. Saddles and bits are not “one size fits all”. Physical pain or discomfort due to improper alignment, dental problems, muscle or joint pain, or a chiropractic problem can lead to behavior and exercise. Some of these physical problems may not show up during a routine vet exam. An equine therapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor can identify problem areas, if any. A professional saddle fitter can assess the fit of your saddle, make adjustments to your saddle, or help you find the right saddle fit. The cost of hiring one of these professionals (usually less than $100) is a small investment to ensure your horse is comfortable and doesn’t experience behavioral problems due to pain down the road.
Make sure your bridle and teeth fit properly as well. An eyebrow band that is too small pinches and puts pressure on the delicate area under the ears. The bit should be the right width and shape so that it does not pinch the sides of the mouth or tongue. If he shows signs of dental or tactile discomfort (ie, his mouth is busy or “stiff”), have your vet give him a full dental exam to make sure his teeth are in good condition.
4) Training review – A horse that has been ridden for years may still be “green” depending on the level of training it has received. If it hasn’t been given a good foundation, it may have gaps that won’t show when you take it for a test ride before you buy it. If your horse has only been ridden by one or two people or only experienced riders, he may have difficulty understanding your cues and become confused. The more sensitive a horse is, the more it will be affected by the slightest tension, stiffness, balance or curvature in the rider. Take your first few rides in the arena or pen and take your riding slow and steady. Make sure she picks up on your cues and pay attention to any subtle signs she’s feeling stressed or uncomfortable. Once you are confident that your communication is working – both ways – you should increase what you ask of him.
5) Professional help – Even Olympic-level riders are coached from time to time. Take lessons with an experienced trainer/coach as often as possible. If there are no trainers in your area, check online for trainers who travel or offer video lessons; travel to a trainer who offers private training at his facility; or attend clinics that focus on riding skills or your particular discipline. “Keeping your eyes on the ground” – even occasionally – gives you feedback on how you and your horse are progressing. If you’re dealing with a training problem and don’t know what to do, seek the help of an experienced trainer who can help you identify the root cause of your mare’s behavior and then work with you both to address it and prevent it from getting worse. . “Unlearning” a behavior or habit always takes longer than teaching a new behavior.
As long as you take the time to develop trust, respect and confidence with your new horse and ensure that he feels safe, secure and comfortable in all aspects of his new life, you will be rewarded with a ready, confident and reliable horse. partner
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