So what has the way you catch your horse got to do with riding him? The short answer is EVERYTHING!! The long answer? Whenever I work with young horses, difficult horses, starting them under saddle and any horse really, my main aim is to have permission from my horse to do what I am doing with them. Having respect and trust are also very important when working with a horse, but for them to actually LIKE you will mean the difference between you getting slammed or the horse cutting you some slack if you get something wrong, and, well, we would all like to think we are good at what we do, but we are human and sometimes that can happen! 🙂
Making sure you have permission to approach and put your halter on your horse is the first step towards building a good rapport with him and how you go about this can set up your whole session for that day….and following days!
When I first started working with Diago, getting permission didn’t come easily. All I wanted was to be able to approach him, have him look towards me and offer me a nice flex through his body. What did Diago do? He looked away, braced and ran! At the beginning, I spent a number of sessions entirely on approaching him and asking for permission. Yes, I could have cornered him, blocked him or pushed on his hindquarters and made him come to me, but these are all ways of making your horse be caught. If I wanted to set our relationship up right from the beginning, I needed to be able to walk up to him without making him feel intimidated and have him allow me to come into his space.
You can see in this video that Diago still feels the need to move off when I come into the yard with him, but he does stop (maybe a little too close to the other horse) once he is happy that I don’t have any sinister intentions. By approaching his shoulder, he still has the option to run forward or backwards, or flex towards me which he chooses to do, so at this stage of his training, I am pretty happy with that. My patients has really paid off as now he is one of my easiest caught horses and sometimes he will walk up to me which is a nice plus.
You can also see when I ask Diago to pick his feet up that I don’t’ try to pull his foot up or grab hold of it straight away – this is another trust exercise. Does he trust me enough to offer his foot to me? I am really happy that he is looking towards me when I pick up each foot. This is a really nice sign that he is soft, relaxed and happy with what I am doing…I have permission!
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