Do you find yourself being towed or pulled around by your horse? Do they drag you to the field or when they spook? This can quickly become dangerous, so it’s important to handle it properly. Trainer Tristan Tucker shares how you can nip this behaviour in the bud.

Horses that behave in this way have never been taught how to take responsibility for their own space. Owners need to move away from the idea that it’s up to them to ‘manage’ their horse – they have to learn how to manage themselves.

Putting any kind of restraint on a horse won’t make them take more notice of you in the long run, and can actually make their reactions worse. Instead, we need to create some clarity for them by relieving them of all the jobs they think they have to do, like making their own decisions about where to go.

Teaching them to maintain a distance

The first exercise involves giving them one job to take responsibility for. This is to measure the distance between you both – and maintain it.

Walk a long lead rope’s distance ahead, then stop and turn towards them. If they don’t stop straightaway too, show them you want them to maintain that distance by putting energy into the space between you.

Direct this energy into the space, not at the horse. You can do this by softly ‘windmilling’ the end of the rope, holding it further down with one hand and spinning the rope gently. In this way, you are giving them some sound advice about where not to be and nothing more.

Once they have stopped the correct distance away, you may see them lower their head and exhale when they realise this is what you want. Allow them this moment as a reward.

Backing up

Next, walk a few steps towards them. They should continue to measure and maintain the distance by taking a few steps back. If they won’t, use the lead rope in the space between you again. As soon as they achieve the distance, quieten the lead rope and lower your body language so that their energy level and posture lower too. Now you are teaching them how to pay attention to you and how to get their own body to relax.

Now try walking and adjusting your speed. They should match your speed and maintain the distance. If they don’t, turn towards them and put energy into the space again. By calmly showing them this technique, you’re relieving them of their other worries. They are controlling themselves and feel more secure and relaxed for it. The key is not to be a dictator or mother, but a mentor.

Meet the expert: Tristan Tucker is a renowned trainer, working with riders at all levels. He focuses on helping horses achieve relaxation and confidence through his training method, the TRT Method.

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