Are you listening to your horse?

I rode Cricket, one of our little paint ponies, yesterday morning. It was a short, fun bareback ride. It’s really too hot to do any really intensive riding. When I went to get on him, he lined up perfectly for the mounting block. However, as I sat down on him, he took off walking. Oops!!!

That wasn’t good. Cricket has only had a handful of rides and he’s done really well so far. However, walking off while someone is mounting is definitely not a habit I want him to develop! It can be incredibly unsafe for a horse to get into the habit of walking off while the rider is still trying to get their position and balance.

So, we stopped, I got off, and we spent five or ten minutes practice mounting. Actually, we went a step backward and first just practiced standing quietly by the mounting block while I climbed up and down the block. By the end of this short session, he was standing quietly and waiting patiently as I climbed up the mounting block and swung over his back. Success! We will probably continue to spend time practicing this during the next few rides, until he is a pro at standing for mounting.

When I work with each of our horses, I try to have a plan for several things to focus on during the session. However, I’ve also learned that it is good to pay close attention to the horse’s reaction, every step of the way. The horse will usually tell me if we’re moving too fast, if he’s bored, or if there are extra things he needs to work on today that I’ve not thought about. In this case, Cricket was telling me that we definitely needed to spend some more time working on mounting.

Now, I was able to get on him fine the first time, even though he walked off. So, I could have brushed the incident aside and made a mental note to work on it some other time. It can be so easy to do this with training, especially when the horse can do the skill kind of good enough to get the job done.

I’ve met many horses who are hard to catch, won’t stand to be saddled, hard to bridle, walk off while mounting, dance around while being fly sprayed, and so on. It might be a struggle to get the task done, but it can be done. People often rush through the problem areas to get to the fun stuff or keep putting seemingly little things off until tomorrow.

But why struggle and fight with your horse? Or let your horse practice any behavior that could escalate into a larger problem or something dangerous? If your horse is telling you he needs to work on something, then set aside some time and work specifically on that. Spending some dedicated time on the problem area now will make both of your lives more pleasant later!

While I was riding Blossom in the yard yesterday afternoon, she got a bit anxious in one of the back corners behind our shop building. She definitely needs to spend some more time back there to become braver and more confident about some of the tools and equipment. However, since it was near the end of our ride and she had done great so far, I didn’t push it. We rode back to an area where she was more comfortable and finished our ride there. However, I definitely made a mental note about her reaction. The next time I work with her, we’ll spend some extra time back there doing ground work and, eventually, some more riding back there.

So, are you taking time to listen to your horse? Think back to the last time your rode your horse or worked with your horse. Were there any little things that your horse was trying to tell you that she needs to spend more time working on?

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