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A: Because horses are a herd animal and feel safest in a group, it’s very common for them to get attached to other horses and become buddy sour. To help your horses overcome their problem, you’re going to make the right thing (being away from each other) easy and the wrong thing (being next to each other) difficult. You’ll accomplish that by making the horses move their feet and work hard around each other and letting them rest away from each other.
Enlist the help of a friend who is an experienced rider so that you can ride one horse and she can ride the other. Practice the “Follow the Leader Exercise” by having one horse lead while the other horse chases his tail. For example, you’ll start off by trotting your horse in a series of serpentines and circles and your friend will follow closely behind on the other horse. Really hustle the horses’ feet and make them change directions so that they work up a sweat and have to concentrate on what they’re doing. You can switch positions throughout the exercise so that the leader becomes the follower. At no time during the exercise are the horses allowed to rest when they’re next to each other. You want them to think being next to their buddy is nothing but hard work. After 10-15 minutes of hustling the horses’ feet, separate them and let them rest for 5 minutes. Put the horses on a loose rein and rub on them–let them relax and make them feel comfortable.
At first when you separate them, you’ll only be able to get them a short distance away from one another and that’s OK. You’re establishing a starting point. With each repetition of the exercise, and the more desire the horses get for not wanting to be close to each other, the greater distance you can separate them. After repeating the exercise 7 to 10 times, the horses won’t mind being away from each other because they know they get to relax and rest. On the other hand, every time they get close to each other, they have to work hard. Eventually, you will be able to ride them their separate ways without either of them caring.
Stay in the Lope
Q: How do I keep my green horse loping without kicking or squeezing him constantly? – Jaydyn H.
A: It’s no fun to ride a horse that constantly makes you babysit him. You need to teach your horse to be responsible for his own feet so that when you tell him to lope, he keeps loping until you say otherwise. You can do that by teaching him the “Cruising Lesson.” Find a safe environment to practice in like an arena or small pasture. Hold onto the middle of the reins with one hand and place that hand down in the horse’s mane or on the saddle horn. Then ask the horse to lope by gently squeezing his sides with your legs. If he doesn’t lope, cluck twice to him with your tongue. If he still doesn’t lope, use a whip or the end of your mecate reins to spank him on his shoulders (starting gently and then increasing the pressure) until he does lope. It’s always best to spank a green horse on his shoulders rather than on his hindquarters in case he overreacts. Don’t worry right now what lead he is on–you can fi x that later. Right now just concentrate on getting him to pick up the lope and stay loping until you tell him otherwise.
Once the horse is loping, let him go wherever he wants to in the arena–don’t steer him. Just keep one hand on the reins (you can grab some mane or hold onto the horn if you feel like you’re losing your balance). If the horse breaks gait and trots, let him commit to the mistake and then Squeeze, Cluck and Spank until he lopes again. If he goes too fast, slide your hand down one rein and pull it up to your hip to bring him to a stop him. Then ask him to lope again. Continue asking the horse to lope until he’s relaxed and not trying to speed up or slow down. It may take a few days of practice to get him really good at the exercise.
Once he learns to be responsible for his own feet and stays loping when you tell him to, I guarantee you’ll have a lot more fun with him mate!
Older Horse Expectations
Q: I have a 23-year-old Quarter Horse that is very pushy on the ground and can be disrespectful. I started working him in the roundpen, but since he’s older and out of shape, I’m not sure if I should ask him to canter. He’s a fancy highstepping old man and really hates to keep that pace. I’m afraid of pushing him too hard at his age. He’s healthy, but older. – Tina M.
A: Unless I’m working with a really young horse, I ask all horses to canter in the roundpen starting with the first lesson. Cantering the horse will help you earn his respect and get him to catch on to the exercise quicker. In order to earn a horse’s respect and get him to use the thinking side of his brain, you have to control his feet. It’s especially important to get a horse like the one described above, one that’s pushy and disrespectful, to canter. From the way you described this horse, it doesn’t surprise me that he hates to canter – lazy, pushy horses often do. If the horse runs out of air, just try to find a good spot to stop the lesson and come back an hour later and see if you can make some more improvement.
When you’re first teaching roundpenning to the horse, it’s OK to let him trot around a few circles to allow him to get comfortable with the roundpen and figure out where the fence is. Then ask him to canter by first pointing in the air with your hand to signal him to move forward. If he doesn’t canter, cluck to him with your tongue, and then if he still isn’t cantering, spank the ground with your whip. If that doesn’t get him cantering, then start spanking his hindquarters with the whip. Don’t release the pressure until you see a change in his feet. The lazier the horse, the more aggressive you may have to be in the beginning to get him to take you seriously. You may have to spank this horse on the hindquarters a few times before he canters. Do what you have to do to get the job done. Do it as easy as possible, but as firm as necessary.
When you’re working with a horse like this, it’s important that you quit him before he quits you. That means you need to ask him to stop before he decides to on his own. The first day, you may have to be happy with the horse taking one canter stride when you point. The next day, you can expect two or three strides at a time. Just continue to build on it.
Now, I’m not telling you to run this horse into the ground by forcing him to canter 45 minutes straight. If he’s out of shape, you have to use common sense and not work him to exhaustion. I guarantee once you get his feet freed up, you’ll be amazed at the change in his attitude and increased respect for you.Have a horse question for Clinton Anderson? Email your question to: email@example.com For more information on Clinton Anderson and Downunder Horsemanship visit:downunderhorsemanship.com or call 888.287.7432.