This week, I will be taking on a question from a horse enthusiast in South Africa, Renice de Groot.
Renice asked: “Ed, Stride has reached a concrete wall in his training. He rears every time his hoof catches a ground pole or he refuses them completely. It only recently started”.
Here is what I will say to you Renice! We all know that horses can be interesting creatures and will come up with all sorts of ways to keep us on our toes.
The first thing to do in a situation like this, is to think about the horse that you are riding. What are your horses mental tendencies? Is he busy minded, quick footed, nervous, easily spooked or a silly goofball? Analyzing your horses mental inclinations will help you better determine the best approach to take in order to correct the problem. There is never truly a one size fits all solution.
I happen to remember your horse Stride very well. He is an off the track thoroughbred with lots of spark and energy. These types of horses are typically easily excited and not always the easiest to calm down if things happen suddenly. There is honestly no telling what is causing Stride to resist the poles, but one thing is for sure; when he reaches the poles, his mind is going a million kilometers per second. This is resulting in the rearing that he is demonstrating.
The best way to combat this behavior is to redirect his attention. Due to his inclination to be high spirited, you simply have to work with his natural inclination and give him something else to do. Long before you approach the poles, he is giving you signals that he would prefer to go elsewhere and avoid going over the poles. His mind has already left YOU and focused on his fear of crossing the poles. In a last ditch effort to avoid the poles, he simply goes up. You must listen to what your horse is telling you. Don’t wait until you reach the poles to correct this problem.
At the first hint that he is focusing on the poles, instead of going where you are telling him, remind him that YOU are up there. You can trot tiny circles, turn on the haunches, back up and a number of other exercises to remind him that YOU are up there and are the one in control. Once you have done this, forget all about and proceed toward the poles with confidence. You must behave as if nothing ever happened. This will give your horse the opportunity to learn to trust you and do what you want. You may have to repeat this process a hundred times over, but if you are consistent, Stride will overcome his fear and start crossing the ground poles with ease!
Best of luck to you!