Sunday, May 9, 2010

Horse Training – Opening and Closing Gates

Opening gates is pretty standard fare at some arena trail courses, and events like the Extreme Cowboy Races and American Competitive Trail Horse Association events.

Training your horse to position up so you can open gates represents a break through between you and your horse as you and he need to be able to do several things to accomplish this.

The easiest thing to do is to ride parallel close to the gate, reach down, open the gate latch, and depending upon what type of gate it is, move your horse through it, positioning up to close the gate.

The proper way to open and close a gate is to keep one hand on the gate at all times so the gate doesn’t blow open away from you or close towards you possibly injuring you or, worse yet, your horse. I say “worse yet” because after all it would be your fault.

It is even more proper and shows substantially more horsemanship to start away from the gate and move your horse side ways, called a side pass, towards the gate.

In order to do this, your horse has to be responsive to pressure and release; be able to cross his front end over and move his back end over as well. You have to keep his head straight, or slightly tipped to the outside (the opposite direction you are side passing to.

It helps to teach your horse to side pass by beginning on the ground with pressure and release on his front end, barrel and behind the rear cinch in order to move the front end, body and rear end respectively.

When in the saddle, it helps to use props such as a rail fence to block movement forward so your horse has no direction to go but sideways to gain a release.

Much like backing up, the side pass will make a much better trail horse for you as well as to enable you to open and close gates – the accepted way with your hand on the gate at all times!

We’ll post a video on ground training for a side pass in the short future, otherwise watch the video below and see if you can pick up how I position my horse, keep his head relatively straight and use my outside leg to ask him to side pass towards the gate.

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