Sunday, April 11, 2010

Horse Training – Exposing the Horse to Trail Obstacles

Whenever or not you are now riding in competitive trail events or planning to in the future, you ought to consider exposing your horse to common and different trail obstacles or things you may see on your trail rides.

Trail courses usually have some obstacles such as wooden bridges, mail boxes to open, small logs to jump or walk over and many more in order for the judges to evaluate how you and your horse cross or negotiate these obstacles. They are looking for willingness on the horse, working on a loose rein and much more.

Common items like trash bags, mail boxes, signs can make a horse anxious if he hasn’t seen it before. The key here is to expose your horse to different things and let him (your horse) figure it out.

Some people call it desensitizing. Even others think that you can desensitize your horse too much. I don’t think I have ever de-sensitized a horse too much, but more importantly I like to think of exposing the horse to different obstacles as helping the horse to figure out that he can think things through. If you allow him to, the horse will most often surprise you as he quickly figures out obstacles are such as big thing.

Walking your horse in hand to first see and explore the obstacles is usually a good idea. Let the horse move over the obstacle at his own pace. He’ll be comfortable with the obstacle when he drops his head, smells it and stands relaxed with his ears moving around and especially towards the front. If your horse blows, moves sidewise and appears anxious then give him some time to figure it out.

We often try to make the horse go too fast for his comfort level and sometimes if not all the time) it creates anxiety where he may cross an obstacles but does it fearfully and not with confidence. I never make a horse push to or to an obstacle. I will however keep him from running or bolting from it using legs clues to keep him straight and in position. Given time, they’ll surprise you with how fast they get a comfort level.

When in the saddle we often make the mistakes of tightening the reins but urging the horse forward giving conflicting commands. Then we get mad at the horse which increases his anxiety and nobody wins. Again, keep him straight, let him figure it out.

One more thing, don’t try to get your horse sacked out on obstacles unless you have the time to devote to it in case he becomes particularly reluctant. Some people try to get a horse to do something, but give up because of time, which teaches the horse that he really doesn’t have to do anything and you’ll eventually give up

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