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.