Napping is often thought of in terms of a horse being naughty. But when he refuses to leave the yard, or goes so far and then tries to whip round and head for home, he shows another example of separation anxiety. If this sounds familiar, follow British Dressage and British Eventing Accredited Coach, Joanna Day’s tips for success:
1. Work him out
If you work your horse hard at home, then take him a short distance away, let him rest and, if possible, graze, you’ll find being near the stables will become less attractive to him, and going away from home will become more so. Repeat, gradually building up the distance.
2. Back to school
In the school, try riding a nappy horse with one other, then taking him away from the other horse while both are rested. Don’t let them stand together, but rest them in different corners for a short time.
3. Ask for help
Don’t cause yourself more problems – and risk having an accident – by trying to cope alone with napping problems. If you’re nervous and lack balance and stability, get help to give your horse confidence, which in turn will help your state of mind, and work on your own riding too.
4. Tough love
Don’t pat a horse to try and reassure him when he’s napping, because by doing so, you’re rewarding the behaviour. Pat him when he moves on, because that’s what you want to reward.
When you’re ready to ride out, once you’ve done in-hand work and separation exercises in the school you should be able to ride out a short distance and then gradually increase this. If you can go with another horse, try a useful technique called leapfrogging, where one horse overtakes the other and moves off and the one who is left behind is asked to accept this and stay calm. This work can progress to more challenging manoeuvres, including one horse going out of sight of the other. It can be used in-hand as well as ridden.
6. Be clear
Schooling for the right response will reap benefits. If your horse understands and is responsive to your aids in a schooling environment, you should have better communication away from it.
Even if you prefer to hack, establishing communication will make hacking more enjoyable and safer.