Friday, December 10, 2010

Reader Question: Bad Manners Coming Off The Halter

A woman named Carol wrote to me about her horse having bad manners coming off the halter when she went to turn her horse loose, both in the stall and in turn out. Carol says that otherwise her horse is good to ride and a fairly well mannered horse.

Actually this is pretty common, you have to let your horse know you expect him to stand until you cue him to move away after the halter is taken off. The better the overall ground manners is with this horse, the better he will be standing for the halter to be removed. I’ll just bet that Carol’s horse will continue to walk off if she stops when leading it.

If you get in a routine of keeping a horse in the stall for a couple days, then taking the horse to a turn out, the horse is going to pretty antsy about it and will often anticipate the halter release and pull away before that is complete. When putting the horse back in the stall when feed is present is another common point where the horse will be quick to get out of the halter and get to the feed.

Every time I get a halter on a horse to lead him someplace or other (shoeing stand, wash rack, round pen, tie rail for grooming, etc.) I always make it a short training exercise by stopping the horse, backing him, have him move his fore end or hind end over,…..having him drop his head, and sometimes just stand until I’m ready to move off. I think you should do this each and every time you put a halter on a horse to reestablish those ground manners which will transfer to other things as well such as standing when the halter is removed….only takes a minute or so to do this.

I always use a rope halter. I prefer the Double Diamond brand. The rope halter can be used to get the horse attention just a little more because the rope will apply more pressure than the traditional webbing halters. So Carol, I suggest you use a rope halter.

I don’t have a horse with this problem, so I am demonstrating in the video with a horse I board. Biscuit is a black, grade mare who is not handled a great deal and gets away with some things because of it. The night before I shot this video I had put her back in her stall, with feed present and she pulled away as I getting the halter off. I put the halter back on and off until she understood to stand still until I had the halter completely removed and cued her to move off. So she remembered this lesson the next day when I shot the video below. So you won’t really see a horse having this problem corrected. You’ll see me lead the horse out of her stall, stopping, backing to reminder her of her manners, then placing her in the arena where I ask her to stand still while I get the halter off.

So Carol, I suggest you tighten up all the ground manners and don’t let your horse get away with the halter routine. Do it right until the horse gets the message. Good luck and safe journey.

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