Getting Inside Our Horses Head by Monty Bruce
Do you ever feel like your horse is one step ahead of you. He starts getting pushy or anticipating moves before you ask, like he is doing the thinking and not listening to you. When you lead him to his stall, turnout pen, round pen or arena he pushes on you or tries to rush. When you ride him he always leans towards or speeds towards the barn. He anticipates or gets pushy in his lead changes.
Horses are creatures of habit. That has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages obviously are that when they learn our cues and how to perform maneuvers they will become solid, consistent and dependable. The disadvantage is that they can and will get into a certain routine and they start to get ahead of us, push us and quit thinking about what they are doing and just go through the motions of doing, without a thought of us at their side or on their back.
While performing maneuvers and responding to cues automatically is what we want in a finished horse, we still need to hold there attention and focus and have them waiting on us to tell them when, how, where and how fast or to what degree. Horses are large, powerful animals and we must maintain there respect and attention, especially in their performance and training, to keep things controlled and smooth.
I believe the root of this problem with our horse is us, but most of us call it our horses problem. Why? Because we to are creatures of habit. We do things the same way, day after day, and in the same way, under normal conditions.
We lead our horse out of his stall and tie him up at the same spot. We lead him out to the round pen, lounge him to the left in circles, lounge him to the right in circles, catch him and bring him out to the arena, walk just inside the gate, step up on our horse, lope a half dozen circles to the left, change leads in the center of the arena and lope to the right a half dozen times. Then we work on our stops, we lope down the arena, stop 3/4 of the way down the arena and when we are done we walk up to the gate, get off on the left side of the horse, open the gate and lead him back to the barn to the same spot we tied him up at.
Is it any wonder why he gets pushy and ahead of us or why when we take him some where new he acts like he doesn’t know anything.
Routine is a good thing, but I think it is very important to get into our horses head and keep them thinking and focused on us. A good way of doing this is to change things up and stimulate their mind. We know what routine does to us. We quit thinking too!
Have you ever been so used to taking a certain exit off the freeway on the way home from work everyday? One day you decide you need to run an errand on the way home and the exit you need to take is a few more down, but automatically, without thinking, when you get to your normal exit you turn onto it.
When you are working with your horse, change your habits, mix things up and do it often, especially if they get pushy, then you know it is time! When you lead your horse out of the stall back him back into it a couple of times. When I get him out I might take a few steps forward, then stop and back him a few steps. I like using a rope halter while on the ground because when pressure is applied, the thin rope gets their attention much better. While leading a horse, if I even feel him push or try to get ahead of me I will stop and back him vigorously. I might tie the horse up in a different spot and saddle him from the right side.
When leading him to the round pen, turnout pen or arena I might turn him around and back him through the gate then walk him to the far side of the pen and mount him from the wrong side.
Instead of loping him right off, sometimes I will just walk around for 10 minutes. Changing leads and stopping, I will so this in every different spot in the pen, in straight lines, diagonals and sometimes setting them up like I’m going to ask, then not asking. When I’m done I might back my horse out of the gate or maybe I’ll unsaddle my horse in the middle of the arena. The point is to keep them thinking, focused and listening to you. By changing things up, we keep their brain working and active, which makes them more trainable and less pushy. So, as you work with your horse, get creative and keep him thinking!
Best of Luck to You and God Bless America!
Monty Bruce is a multi-time Reined Cow Horse and Reining Futurity and Derby champion. Monty, his assistants, and students have won numerous World and Reserve championships and are continuing to succeed in the show pen.
The Monty Bruce Training Center is a full service equine facility that specializes in Reined Cow Horse, Reining, and the Performance Horse. The Center strives to provide superior care and training for all equine needs. Visit MontyBruce.com for more info.
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