July 6th, 2010 Leave a commentSign Up Go to comments

Improving a Horse’s Confidence Through Their Right Side

Is your horse comfortable with you on his right side? Can you mount from either side with your horse standing quietly? Can you lead him from either side? Is he comfortable with new things approaching him from his right side? Even if he is comfortable with almost everything on his right side, you still need to practice all of your training exercises both sides. This way he maintains his confidence level and his trust in your relationship.

If your horse is not comfortable with one or more of the above mentioned exercises, then you need to raise both his level of confidence and trust in you. I will give you some exercises that you can use to raise your horse’s confidence level, starting with ground work. Since groundwork is the foundation for all training that is where we will start. By building his confidence on the ground you carry that same level of confidence into the saddle.

First off, start your work session like any other session. I recommend lunging or free lunging your horse for about 10-15 minutes prior to starting a work session. This will allow you to read your horse and assess his mental attitude.

Now that you have lunged your horse it is time for the work session.

Suggested list of items you can use for the work session:

• cotton balls
• Pringles can (or other container to add rocks or other noisy items to)
• western saddle blanket/ large bath towel
• “carrot” stick or short lunge whip
• plastic grocery bag (to tie to “carrot stick”/ short whip)
• tarp
• umbrella
• hula hoops
• paper cups
• large ball (like an exercise ball)
• party streamers
• any other item that may raise your horses level of excitement

The above list is just to get you started. Be creative and incorporate other items that could cause your horse to become nervous or anxious. Please keep SAFETY in mind when introducing new items, if you do NOT think that it will be safe then do NOT use it. The purpose of this exercise is to raise your horse’s level of confidence as well as build a stronger relationship. You need to introduce items that you know can make your horse nervous. However, as the exercise becomes a routine he will gradually lose his nervousness with an item and his confidence will improve. Pretty soon you will have a very confident horse that is not bothered by “scary” things.

To start this you will need your horse to have a halter and a lead, with the lead attached. Now you want to introduce an item off the list (or one that you came up with). The first item that I would introduce would be a smaller item, or one that would cause the LEAST amount of excitement. This is meant to build trust not force trust.

To introduce a new item, go ahead and pick it up (I like to have all of the items ready to grab in the arena with me, usually laying on the ground in the middle). Show it to your horse and let him look at it and sniff if for a minute or so. When he is relaxed and not excited you can take the item and touch it to your horse. I like to start on the left side, since this is usually the side that most riders and horses are at their highest level of comfort. Start by touching him on his shoulder area. If he remains calm then proceed to rub him along his back, up his neck, and on the side and top of his haunches *use caution anytime you are close to the hind end, remember any horse has to potential to kick*. If he remains calm with you touching him with the item on his left side, then proceed to his right side. Again let him see the item and smell it. Then you can proceed to touch his shoulder area with the item. If he remains calm you can proceed to rub him along his back, up his neck, on the side and top of his haunches *use caution anytime you are close to the hind end, remember any horse has to potential to kick*. Add plenty of praise for any positive behavior.

Lets increase the level of difficulty and add another item, one that is “scarier” that the last object. For example lets add the Pringles can that contains rocks. This is not a common object that we encounter in riding, so it may cause your horse to be anxious especially because it makes strange sounds.

Start again by allowing your horse to see the object and smell it. After he has done this and is relaxed, shake it lightly and add some noise. If your horse backs up or tries to leave, stop the noise, and calmly let him to see the can again. Allow him to see that the can will NOT eat him. Once his excitement level has come back down, let him sniff the can again. Then proceed to make the light shaking noise again. If he is calm with the noise you can try touching it to his left shoulder. Start by touching him on his shoulder area. If he remains calm you can proceed to rub him along his back, up his neck, on the side and top of his haunches *use caution anytime you are close to the hind end, remember any horse has to potential to kick*. If he remains calm with you touching him with the item on his left side, then proceed to his right side. Again let him see the item and smell it. Then you can proceed to touch his shoulder area with the item. If he remains calm you can rub him along his back, up his neck, on the side and top of his haunches *use caution anytime you are close to the hind end, remember any horse has to potential to kick*. Add plenty of praise for any positive behavior.

It could take over 500 repetitions of the same boring exercise with the same object. You could stand in the arena for 45 minutes every day for the next 3 weeks until your horse has enough confidence and trust in you to allow you to touch him with a “scary” object/ item. Do NOT LET THIS DISCOURAGE you.

The best training is BORING to watch. Horses learn through consistency and boring repetition. Training should not have your horse bouncing off the walls and hanging from the rafters. These are signs that your horse does not understand what is being asked of him and that it is causing him to be fearful. You cannot build a relationship on trust if there is fear present.

Every horse will set his own pace with training. Some will progress faster while others take soooo long that you want to quit. The end result will be a horse that is completely confident in his relationship with you as well as having complete trust in you. The bond you will solidify will be unbreakable.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and always send me any questions that you may have.

Editor’s Note: Based in Sugar Grove IL, Sara McKiness is a Certified Horse Trainer who helps riders improve their communication with horses without punishment. She graduated valedictorian from Meredith Manor International Equestrian Center (MMIEC) where she majored in teaching and training, and minored in Farrier Science.

©Horse Logic 2009

http://www.saddle-logic.com Fheonix Soft Treed Saddles

Classical Dressage, Western, and Hunt Seat Lessons. Come ride exceptional & experienced lesson horses. Based in Sugar Grove IL with travel to your facility available. Learn better communication with your horse & build your relationship. Fully insured with over 19 years riding experience. Contact Sara for more information 630-631-2746

Sara McKiness
Horse Logic
Sugar Grove, IL
630-631-2746
http://www.horselogic.net

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