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Horse behaves like a gate basher

Hi Hi there

My name is Nina from the UK and I've discovered your fantastic site which I'm finding very, very helpful.

I have a question regarding my 17hh TB/ID gelding. I have brought him back into work after a couple of years off while I had a baby. He is a very stong willed customer, 11 years old and I have had him since he was a youngster. He's a real challenging ride but pre-pregnancy I'd always coped fine with him. As long as I never took him for granted we were a super combination and had no real problems.

Since getting back into the saddle about 6 months ago we have progressed slowly with flat work in the field and then some light roadwork but we have hit a huge obstacle when it comes to gates or having to wait anywhere for any period of time. This was never a problem before but now, whether in company or on our own, he is a nightmare when it comes to gates or waiting his turn.

Our hack will be going fine but as soon as we reach a gate (every bridleway round here has one) he will start dancing and spinning and I cannot get him anywhere near the latch. I used to be able to get off and on him easily and would use this method to try to calm him but since having the baby it's not that easy with a horse this big! I try to be calm and gentle with him and allow him to take his time but he just gets more and more worked up until I have to move him on before we both end up upside down. It's even worse if we have company and they go to open the gate - he will stand bolt upright and launch himself at the gate. The limited number of people who would accompany us out riding now tell us that he is too dangerous to ride out with.

The galling thing is that we have installed a couple of practice gates for us to use at home and he is an absolute saint when opening these.

It's all a bit of a shame because otherwise we are getting along famously. He is a star in every other way both when ridden and on the ground. This has really broken my confidence as I always thought I was a capable rider who would gently and naturally solve any problems. It has severely restricted our riding and I just can't seem to fix the problem.

Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!

Best Regards and thanks for the wonderful site!
Nina and 'Troy' ( UK)

Hi Nina,

Sorry it has taken so long to get to your question. It seems I am swamped with questions and have been having trouble keeping up with them, as well as having a life away from the computer.

One thing is your horse knows your lack of confidence and that makes him more fearful. I know you understand that. Best to have something he can do when he begins to act out at all (and it is all fear based reactions of your horse). When is gets nervous a good thing to be able to do is put him to an action that puts his mind back on you as his good leader. Being able to ask appropriately for and receive a hind end yield, both directions and 2-3 rotations should do nicely for him to stop messing around and focus on you as his good leader. It is not about restraining the horse, it is about directing some movement with the horse. This way you are not trying to hold him to cure his fear or simply trying to sooth him, you actually take his mind off of what he is afraid of and put it right on to you by asking for some action.

You should practice this move before you need it (like at the yard before you go anywhere). If you do not understand what I mean by a hind end yield or yielding the hind quarters, let me know. Any dressage rider there can explain it to you actually. But I will if you cannot find someone to show you. You see, you ask for the move, it is a bit of work for the horse, however most decently trained horses will do this, the horse does it, gets a moment or two of a break (a chance for some settled quiet) and some praise, then you ask for what you want again. If you get upset, frustrated, angry or anything at all negative or uptight, your horse will too. If you stay calm, centered and focused your horse has a better chance of staying that way too. If the horse still gets nervous, be prepared to do this until he begins to relax near a gate, then put him away as a big reward. If you get a big try from the horse, a big reward is putting him away. You reinforce anything when you put the horse away immediately, even something you may not want him to learn.

I would also spend more time playing on the ground with this horse. You cannot play on the ground too much. It develops trust and respect if done with the 'intention' of having it be more than exercise. If done with the intention of 'dancing' it really develops the bond big time. This will help in all your horsy endeavours together. Most folks only ride and think they have a relationship with their horse. What they really have is an obeident vehicle. Its all in the attitude.

There is lots of information on this on my website as you saw. There is more now too as well as tapes and DVD's.

Best Wishes,


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