Everything Horse Magazine August 2021 Issue 44 - Page 40

If you feel that your horse is not ready for work emotionally , physically or from both perspectives , what are the benefits of pushing on regardless ?

If you feel that your horse is not ready for work emotionally , physically or from both perspectives , what are the benefits of pushing on regardless ?

procedures , going away from the herd , travelling , in-hand work , visiting new places and investigating new sights and smells with interest and motivation rather than fear and tension . If these calm behavioural responses are absent , consider working on these aspects before moving on to any ridden work .
What if my horse doesn ' t seem ready ? Wait ! That ' s it – simple ! Don ' t break him ( literally or figuratively ). Okay , so it may be frustrating , disappointing , upsetting and so on but consider this – if you feel that your horse is not ready for work emotionally , physically or from both perspectives , what are the benefits of pushing on regardless ? Sure , you may be able to push the horse along and have him acquiesce to being ridden but at what cost ? Effectively you are asking the horse questions that it can not answer . The horse may fight with you or flee from you or shut down from you ; one of you will have to ' give up ' – often , this is the horse because we can utilise gadgets and training techniques to quell unwanted behaviours . What happens then ? The trainer walks away feeling that they have won ( even if they recognise it was an unfair contest ), and the horse feels anxious , without agency and perhaps even uncomfortable . There has been no two-way communication – this is breaking , not training .
Instead , you can wait and undertake some more relationship-based training to help the horse trust and relax . Educate the horse to help them spend time away from home gradually and positively . Take part in some in-hand exercises to strengthen the physically weak horse – ultimately , give them time . A few extra months of preparatory work will make the backing and riding away process much smoother and more rewarding for the horse and trainer when it does happen .
If you are worried about your horse physically , ensure you have a thorough vet check to ensure that no medical issues are holding training back . Often extreme responses are brought about through pain , and we understand that pain also causes anxiety in the horse , which can escalate
Right : Yawning can be seen as a non-verbal communication in response to discomfort
behavioural responses further .
Practice watching , reading and understanding the fine details of your horse ' s body language . Learn the subtle signs that your horse is becoming uncomfortable with something long before seeing a big behavioural response . Our horses are experts at non-verbal communication — however , we , as humans , are often not brilliant at reading their language . Subtle signs of discomfort ( called calming signals by clinical behaviourists ) are blinking , looking away , half closing the eyes , chewing , yawning , stretching the jaw , turning the head , shaking the body , showing the hindquarters or flanks ( subtly ) and slowing down in pace / mobility .
These signals are presented in order
to appease or calm . If these fail , the horse will move onto gradually more overt signs , including displacement behaviours such as sniffing , pawing the ground , rubbing the head down the leg or on objects , licking objects , rolling , head swinging . These can escalate into stress signals where we see a mid-to-high head position , showing of the white of the eye , clenched lips and tense jaw , active ears , tense muscles , clenched
40 • EVERYTHING HORSE MAGAZINE : AUGUST 2021