Words of wisdom from 2-Star Parelli Professional Nancy Slater…
Spring break, definition: A lapse in horseback riding whereby a frisky horse springs into the air unexpectedly, and the rider acquires a fracture! No matter what time of year you ride out, prevent getting surprised by coming off your horse!
A big ride is scheduled and you and your friends want to go! So what if it’s been six weeks since you rode your horse? He’s well-trained and he was a good boy the last time you rode him, so why should he be any different?
Some people find out the hard way that their horse needs a little preparation. Never assume anything! If we don’t read the warning signs of a high head, bulging eyes, snorty puffs, and prancing feet, it can be a recipe for disaster!
Even our best horses can get frisky standing around doing nothing, eating well, and not exercising their brains and bodies. Excitedly, we head out on a great big trail ride with lots of other frisky horses that have also been standing around eating well and not exercising their minds and bodies!
We’ve all seen the mass Bucking Rodeo. Horses feed off other horse’s emotions as they spook, jump, and bolt. Don’t be a character in that cartoon! Spend a little time in preparation for that big day. Warm your horse up on the ground first. Get him moving out at a walk trot and canter to see if he gets excited. Saddle him up and send him over a small jump to see what he does. Get your horse’s mind and emotions under control. Do not get on a horse with a high head and bulging eyes, snorting nose and prancing feet!
We need him to relax and connect with us.
When you play with your horse, you are building a bond that was very much like the one he had with his mother: “Follow me, listen, relax, and focus! I am your lifeline, protector and guilder.”
You should test to see if your steering and brakes are in working order. These are important things to know before you’re out on a huge ride with lots of frisky horses out of control with no steering and no brakes. There are things that you can do to be safe.
If you have round pen 40-60 feet in diameter or square cow pen/paddock, set your horse free in it with you in the middle. Send him away and see if he tries to connect back up with you. If he runs and runs, looking out of the pen, clearly he is not! Staying out of the kick zone, use a training stick and string to send a little rhythmic pressure towards his hind end. Measure not too much and not too little, just enough energy to get him to move forward. If he’s more skittish, less pressure. More dominate, more pressure. You are in fact saying to your horse, “Fine, if you don’t want to be with me, go! And let me help you go!”
Now there’s a Yin to this yang. If your horse tries to stop, look at you or turns in to you, get away from him. Turn your energy off, and walk away. You can then stop and smile at him with a “Good boy” Truly this will blow his mind as he ponders that whatever he does, leaves or comes, is his choice with consistent consequences!
The goal with this exercise is to get your horse calm, connected and seeing you as the best place in his world to be. He will test you, undoubtedly, and your answer will remain the same. Run equals discomfort, connect equals comfort.
40-60′ pen checklist:
Does your horse stand still for mounting? You can help him move his feet if he wants to prance around. Have no anger, just help him. If he tries to stand still, he gets you to love on him as a thank you.
Can you bend your horse’s head around to pet him between the eyes? If not, if it feels like he swallowed a broomstick, get off and practice on the ground first.
Do you know how, and are you able to do an emergency dismount? I like to get off quickly and fix my horse’s behavior on the ground, then get back up on him. On the ground we can be more clear, effective and safe.
Do you know the one rein stop? Pulling back with 2 reins on your horse can create a tightness, panic and a more powerful run! If you can stop the left side, the right will stop too.
Can you move his back legs sideways, all the way around in a circle, the front legs standing, not walking forward? No? Get off, and using your training stick, position it in place of your foot would be on the rib-cage. Press, asking just the back feet to step to the side. Rub him and say thank you.
Horses will pick the path of least resistance. Offer choices to your horse that are simple: “if you pick to do something, then I will help you do more of it!” Black and white choices are best and understandable to the horse. And if we control our emotions, the horse will see that it is he who is deciding the consequences and he will not blame you. He can only blame himself for making the ‘wrong’ decision!
Now you are ready to go on that big Trail Ride since you have worked on reinforcing who is your horse’s mama. When a horse buys into your leadership and shows you his trust and respect, you have a better chance of avoiding the bucking rodeo and getting a mid summer Spring break!