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Horse riding outside without other horse coming with him

Dear Sir,

As English people are "horsemen" we have a difficult problem to solve. We bought a horse 10 years of age, semi-arabian, beautiful horse, perfect for making trips outside BUT ONLY WITH A HORSE WITH HIM. The first 5 weeks there were no problems riding him alone. Now he knows all the trails and as we go outside after a few minutes he refuses to go further, goes back and it is very difficult almost impossible to turn him again in the direction away from home. We asked a very very good rider to come over and he did the same but after one attempt 50 minutes back this person could ride him everywhere. We tried it and made a trip of about one hour in our region always keeping him trotting, but as we came again in the home direction and we let him step, HE DID IT AGAIN AND WE COULD NOT TURN HIM BACK.

The horse is perfect for us but we can only ride him in the companion of the other horse. PLEASE GIVE US AGAIN SOME IDEAS/PLAN HOW WE CAN FORCE HIM TO GO AWAY FROM HOME ALONE. HOW TO GIVE HIM THE IDEA TO TRUST US ? thanks ***


Fam. De Clercq - Van Cauwenberghe
Glen, Stef, Christine en Koen


Thank you for your email. What you are experiencing with this horse we call 'herd-bound' behavior here in the States. Here are a few suggestions:

first, its never a good idea to attempt to "FORCE HIM" to do anything. As good leaders for our equine companions, its up to us to come up with ways to develop enough trust with our horses that they attempt to comply to all appropriately made reasonable requests. Please note I am trying to be very exact in my languaging of this response.

Another good rule of thumb is to think of making behavior we do NOT want from our horses difficult for them to do. Likewise we want to make behavior we DO want from our horses easy for them. Punishment is never an option. Providing a consequence for unwanted behavior is always a good learning situation. Here is an example: if a horse balks and will not move forward for some reason (herd-bound, new scary thing in the road, too fresh from the stall, nervous, etc.) ask for hind-quarter yields in both directions through appropriate use of leg-yields. Do 3-4 rotations in both directions. Then provide a HO! (a very brief stop/rest...accompanied by a Good Boy), then ask for a step or two in the direction you want. If you get it, give a bit of praise and a very short rest. If you don't get it, repeat the leg-yield process again and do this as many times as need be to get through the issue. This works to modify all sorts of unwanted behavior in our horses. Putting a horse to 'work' (movement) when we get unwanted behavior is always a good consequence. Small circles and figure 8's done at an energetic trot are good options.

All behavior we typically view as the horse being 'bad' is a symptom of fear. We do not punish a child if it is fearful. Rather, as good parents/leaders for our children, we are patient and attempt to guide the child through their fear by providing a learning/growth situation. This builds confidence within the child and trust between parent and child. This is what we need to do with our horses as well.

When riding out with other riders, I let the riders know I have a training issue with my horse and ask them to please be patient with the training process I may have to implement during the ride. Sometimes the other riders don't want to be patient while I train my horse and this gives them the option to go on ahead first. Hopefully some of the other riders will stay with you to see you through your training proceedures. This is planning ahead and being thoughtful of other riders.

When we think of being with our horses we tend to think of us riding them. Truth is that all relationships with horses begin first and foremost 'on the ground' dancing with them. Riding should be the icing on the cake of our relationships with our equines. When we are able to appropriately and successfully direct the movements (direction and speed) of the horse on the ground (at liberty, on long lines, etc.), that is when we really become the trusted leaders for them. That is when and how a good bond is formulated between us and them. Most folks who own horses only relate to them in very limited ways. They relate to riding them only. These people may become very good riders who bring home ribbons and trophies. However, sadly, they often times know little of the horse itself, how it thinks, its psychology, its true needs and desires. When a behavioral issue arises they tend to think the horse is being 'bad' and trying to do something to them personally. This is so far from the truth of the situation as to be tragic for the horse. When we label someone as 'bad', it is easy to say they deserve punishment. When we understand that what we are seeing is a symptom of 'fear', we can be compassionate and try to figure out ways to eliminate this fear. Fear is most often eliminated through the acquiring of knowledge.

Help the horse to learn through your skills as a kind, skillful and compassionate leader. We do this with our children and I suggest to you that this is what has to happen with our horses as well. There are no 'bad' horses, only fearful ones. Please keep me posted as to how it all goes. The best of luck to you.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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