Sunday, July 8, 2012

One Step at a Time

     While having dinner with friends the other night, I was asked a question about a horse that is frightened when it is being mounted but then rides just fine.  Since this is a newly acquired horse there are some "unknowables" about its past experiences.  What struck me the most though was my friend's rush to solve the problem.  This causes the horse to feel rushed which is never a good thing.
     When problems occur, my philosophy is that it's always best to go back to the simplest, most basic points.  Perhaps this horse was never properly "sacked out" or maybe the horse has been accidentally kicked with the rider's toe when being mounted.  It's hard to know without watching the horse but whatever the cause is, going back to basics is always part of my basic maneuver.  In this case, if that means just standing in one stirrup for several days (meaning stepping into it and out of it repeatedly) then so be it.  Take your time and don't go onto the next step until the horse is completely comfortable with the first step.  One step at a time will save you untold problems in the future.
     Horses can overcome their fear of most things if the issue is properly approached and desensetizing never ends - it's a life-long proceess.  Here's an example:  I was handling one of our best broke horses ("X-man") the other day when he became frightened of the neck warmer I was removing.  The cause?  I did it outside the barn which is not his normal routine and not where he's used to having it removed.  So, I talked gently to him and patted him soothingly.  I put the warmer on and took it off again until he was comfortable with the action.  Next thing you know, the neck warmer was off and he was confident and happy about the removal.  My point?  Think about what's really bothering your horse.  If you look, you'll probably find it - always try to see the world the way your horse does.  You'll be amazed at how much it helps you understand what's happening - and remember:  One step at a time.  See you next week!  JD

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