Saturday, March 8, 2014

Opening, Moving Through and Closing Gates on Horseback

Cecila wrote to ask with help negotiating gates. “Hello, my name is Cecila. I wonder if you can help me determine what may be the problems when I am trying to go through a gate on my horse. I usually don’t have any problem going through the gate but lately after we go through my horse will swing or move away from the gate often making me lose my hand grip on the gate."

Hey Cecila, if you and your horse were okay at opening, moving through, then closely gates before and now your horse isn’t as good at it, it’s most likely an anticipation issue with your horse. Maybe your horse is alittle barn sour. You should be able to tell the next time you attempt to open and go through a gate. Does your horse start to move without a cue? Are his feet moving around anticipating the cue to go through? It's always a good idea to occasional open the gate and have the horse stand for awhile before you ask him forward - both on the ground and in the saddle. Sometimes it may be a good idea to open the gate, close it, go someplace then come back and repeat....this will teach the horse that even though you open the gate, you may no be going through it.

If your horse is anticipating the gate, then your horse is probably anticipating other things as well. When being led in hand, does your horse stop exactly when you stop? Does your horse begin to move off before any cues? When you mount, does the horse begin to walk forward without a cue? These are all common anticipation problems.

Here are some things I would do to prepare for and then be able to open, go through and close gates. It’ll also help your horse in many other aspects of riding.

I think that being able to move the horse’s front end and rear end independently of each other, do a side pass and back softly one foot at a time will not only help you position up for the gate and make adjustments when your horse gets out of position, but will be useful in so many other movements.

Many people will practice all different ways of going through a gate. This will help get your horse better all around and also keep from anticipating:

~ opening the gate towards you and your horse, then riding around the gate and pulling it shut. This is pretty difficult since our arms are fairly short and it's easy to pull the gate into the horse's leg. One of my property gates opens only one way (to the inside) so I have a three foot length of rope so I can open the gate while horseback, and close it when I rode through;

~ pushing the gate open and then walking through, then riding around the gate and pushing it shut with your horse making a side pass. Much easier and safer in my opinion, and you should be good at this way before you move on and attempt other methods;

~ pushing open the gate then backing through, then you'll have to move the horse's back end about 180 degrees to then side pass to close the gate.

I hope the video below is of some help to you with your horse negotiating gates.

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