I Wish I was an Expert

I wish I knew more about training horses.  I wish I knew what to do in every situation or at least had enough tools to figure something out.  PJ is a great horse.  He’s not prone to bucking or spooking or bolting or doing anything stupid.  The one thing he consistently does is want to look whenever something new comes into view.  For example, whenever someone comes down to the ring from the top of the hill.  Wherever we are in the ring, whatever direction we are going (away from the person or towards the person) he wants to stop and stick his head in the air and see what’s going on.  Or at least stick his head in the air while he’s still moving.

Since I got him last year, I’ve tolerated this behavior as baby stuff.  I tell him how silly he’s being and add some leg, jiggle a rein (so he turns away from what he’s looking at) and wait for him to figure out that it’s nothing to worry about, which can take anywhere from 5 strides to half-way around the ring if they are wearing some bright orange vest, for example.  I know that I CANNOT let him stop and stare at whatever it is for too long or then he really does loose it.

The problem is that when we are showing, he can’t just stop and look whenever he wants. Today I decided to get after him a little.  I wacked him with the whip and see-sawed the reins a little (and yelled at him).  Instead of getting him to focus back on me, he got more scared.  I immediately went back to babying him and just encouraging him to continue on.

What I don’t know is how to get him to not become distracted like that.  Is it something he’ll grow out of?  Will he stop once he’s gone lots of places? Is it because I don’t have him working hard enough?  Am I being too nice to him? He is 6 yo now; not a baby anymore. Does he not trust me? I can only look back at the horses I’ve had and draw from those experiences.  Unfortunately, I haven’t encountered this before.  My instinct is telling me to continue what we’ve been doing.  Ignoring my gut has gotten me in trouble before.  This time I think I’ll listen and keep babying him.  Only time will tell if that’s the right decision.

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One Response to I Wish I was an Expert

  1. Barbara says:

    His reaction to your correction is about what I would have expected and what I have gotten myself when I have tried that. He is already distracted and then he is in trouble – it’s too much for the single brain cell to handle.
    Rather than asking them to just continue on with what we were doing – which they have already blown off to do something more interesting – I put them to work, instantly.
    Lots of leg, little circles, figure eights, spirals, ride around jumps if there are any, leg yield, shoulder in. Make them so busy, be so demanding that their attention has to come back to me. Eventually they will make the connection that when they are working if they flip me off to do some sightseeing then the work day suddenly gets a lot harder. I try to do this without any of my frustration at the gawking leaking through, I just decided to double time the work, right now. And there is a lot of variety, if they are not paying attention they may run into something, no more than a step or two or three in the same direction or doing the same thing. It brings them back to focusing on me and on where their feet are. They also figure out that they can see a LOT without raising their head and focusing one eye and then the other and then both on something interesting. When I see that they are distracted and looking , but they keep right on working I will give them a pat and let them know that it is ok to look, but you have to keep moving and working and just peek.
    Nina is not too bad about this, but my previous horse could turn into a camel with his head up in my face at any little distraction. We did a lot of fast hard work to counter that. He did get over it and he also got very very balanced during sudden changes of direction, speed or lateral movement. 🙂

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