of us, riding season ends with the rainy weather. This doesn’t
mean we get to quit thinking about our horse’s training,
though. Horses learn – or “are being trained”
-- every time we interact with them. Even when it is too wet
to ride, there are plenty of ways to make your interaction
with your horse a quality training time.
your horse respect you and your space when you are in his
stall to clean or blanket? Going into the horse’s
living area is an excellent time to reinforce the herd dynamics
that you are the leader and are to be respected. Your horse
should face you when you enter the stall, and should willingly
move over if you ask. Often the first signs of a dominance
issue are very small, such as the horse grumping about moving
over, or refusing to move when asked. Paying attention to
these small problems will help avoid big problems latter.
I like my horses to move on a verbal cue. I might tell them
to “get over” or cluck to them so I can clean
where they are standing. Ignoring the cue brings a poke
in the ribs with my thumb. Moving aside politely earns a
scratch or at least a “good girl.”
that are being blanketed regularly can be taught to lower
their heads to allow the blanket to be slipped over. Start
with a light pressure on the bridge of the horse's nose
that releases when he drops his head, then introduce the
blanket, being careful not to drag the heavy blanket over
the horse's ears or eyes. I usually start with a lightweight
sheet as that is easier for me to hold away from the face.
As the horse accepts the blanket remember to reward each
instance of dropping his head or "helpful" behavior
-- but prepared if the horse learns this too well! We bought
a young mare who was time-consuming and challenging to blanket,
but this mare was very trainable and craved attention, so
we began paying close attention to our blanketing technique.
We rewarded the filly for lowering her head, and then for
slipping her head through the neck hole on the blanket.
By a year later, the filly would hurry to anyone holding
a blanket and try to snake her head into it. In this case,
we trained the filly too well … when we sold her years
later I tried to warn her new owner of her enthusiastic
blanket procedure, but he called me the next day to say
that when he opened the stall door with the blanket across
his arm in front of him, the mare actually knocked him down,
trying to dive into the blanket. Still, it was a much more
pleasant change than her initial reaction to being blanketed!
is an excellent time to work on ground manners, hoof-handling,
and grooming too. Whenever you are around your horse, keep
his behavior in mind and remember to reward behaviors you
like and discourage anything that isn’t in that direction.
Training happens all the time, and a polite, well mannered
horse will be more ready to go back under saddle when the
weather finally clears.
Doris Eraldi of Eraldi Training in Potter Valley specializes
in Pleasure and Equitation horses. She can be contacted at
707-743-1337, or by e-mail email@example.com.
Read Doris' previous article