Teach Your Horse Respect for Your Personal Space

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Hi Cherry,  

I have a 2 and half yr. old gelding.  He is a registered paint.  I have done all the training myself up to this point and I now have a problem and don't know what to do about it.  

When I am leading him he does fine until he spooks.  When he spooks, he runs to me for protection.  While this may sound cute, this is very dangerous for me!  I don't know how to correct this problem.  Could you help me out????  

Thanks so very much.   L  


Hi L:

     It is a common insecurity reaction for a horse to smash up against the handler when the horse is afraid.  By common, I don't mean it is acceptable; it just happens a lot.

     You need to work with your horse on two areas:

1.  Teach him to respect your personal space.

2.  Make him more confident about all the sights and sounds you are likely to encounter when you are leading him.

     With most horses, I teach #1 before I work too much on #2.  It saves my toes!

     To get your horse to respect your personal space, you basically have to be diligent about not letting him put any part of his body closer to you than four feet, for example.  If you are holding the lead rope about 3-4 feet from the halter, the entire horse should stay that far away from you.  He should not step his left front hoof or shoulder closer to you than that and he should not swing his head or neck closer to you than that.  You will have to learn how to tell him quickly that he should not come into your space by using your right elbow into his neck or into his shoulder or by pitching a wave in the lead rope to send his head away.  Work on this when you are standing still in a variety of places - places where he wants to squirm around and crowd you.  The more thorough you are with this, the better #2 will go.

     When you feel you have an "understanding" with your horse that he should not crowd you at the halt, test it by leading him in a confined, controlled space such as in an arena, back and forth, up and down with turns, circles, halts etc.

     Then you should plan to take many in-hand "trail rides" with your horse. You two should go on adventures in the land of sights and sounds.  Each time you successfully pass something unusual without him coming to you for security, it will just make it easier to get through the really spooky and unexpected thing that most certainly lies ahead.

     It takes time and repetition to build a confident horse and a confident trainer.  If you approach all of this in-hand work as a specific set of serious lessons for your horse, rather than just getting from point A to point B, it will pave the way for many more advanced lessons to come.

                             

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