Riding Behaviors on the Trail

Horseback Riding

Here are some suggestions from horse behavior experts on correcting problems that may arise while trail riding.

Barn Sour – Because horses are herd animals, they may be reluctant to leave the barn and their pals. Lead your horse out of the barn to the point where s/he becomes nervous. Make sure it’s a safe area. Have something your horse enjoys there, such as a good grazing place or a bucket of food. After a bit of time, take your horse back to the barn. Go back and forth several times. You can gradually extend the distance away from the barn, but don’t rush it. Your horse will let you know when s/he is ready. Be patient and calm.

If your horse refuses to go back into the barn or want to dash in too quickly, walk around until the horse settles down. You can try some training exercises too.

Jigging – is a very uncomfortable ride. It’s something between a walk and a jog with bouncing added. Pulling back on the reins does not make the horse settle down and can create even more tension. Instead, ride with a loose rein. When the horse start jigging, hold up one rein. If the horse doesn’t stop, slide your hand down the rein you’re hold (don’t yank). This will cause the horse to turn his head to the side and down. A lowered head is calming for a horse. When the horse is back to the normal gait you can loosen the reins. Repeat the exercise as necessary. Keep calm as horses can sense any stress you’re feeling. You can let your horse graze for a bit if that is calming. If your horse jigs toward home, dismount and walk the rest of the way, speaking softly and gently petting.

Horses jig because they’re uncomfortable, in pain, anxious to get going, nervous far from the barn, or may want to lead or keep up with the other horses. Once you have control, check to see what’s bothering your horse.

Bolting – When a horse is frightened or anxious to get going, he will take off running suddenly. This is very dangerous behavior and can result in serious consequences for you as well as the horse.

Learn your horse’s behavior – you can probably feel him tense up his hind quarters. Before he bolts, change direction, moving back or sideways to get his attention focused on you.

Another way to prevent a bolt is pulling a rein towards your stomach. This turns his head towards you and he would find it difficult to bolt in that position. If your horse does bolt while you are riding, hold on to the horn or the horse’s mane and push yourself down in the saddle to get a more secure hold. Try getting your horse to run in circles making them smaller until he stops. Don’t try to jump off your horse unless there is an immediate danger if you stay on.

Spooking – Horses can be spooked by things that can seem silly to us, like a piece of paper in the wind, an object they’ve never seen before. If he’s spooked, a horse may go sideways and take off running.

If your horse if afraid of something that you always pass on the trail, you can try to instill confidence in him by leading him up to the object. Some horses will be curious enough to inspect the object. But if your horse is fearful, dismount and try walking him to the object. Take it slow and if he objects, walk our horse back to the starting point and try again. If it’s an object you may not encounter again, just ride past and ignore it.

Be patient and calm when riding and teaching your horse. Don’t stress if lessons take time.

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