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“How to prevent resistance in your horse” by Ginger S. Long
Resistance in horses is noncompliance – a lack of willingness or ability to relax, soften, yield, and give to the request of the rider/handler. It could be a lack of forwardness, a lack of suppleness, stiffness, or it could be as extreme as rearing, bucking, or stopping at a jump.
Other types of resistance are: head tossing, hollowing the back, lack of bend in the body or joints, transitions that aren’t smooth, a disobedience mounted or un-mounted, tacking or while leading or during groundwork. Resistance includes many types of disobediences, mental or physical tightness and/or a lack of submission. Remember, resistance can be caused by not only a lack of willingness but from a horse that doesn’t understand, hasn’t been taught or isn’t physically capable or strong enough to perform the request.
“How do I prevent resistance?” is a common question I am asked in much of the work and training that I do. My goal is to teach horse owners not only how to work through resistances in their horse but a systematic approach that will help prevent future resistance. Prevention is the answer. So what causes resistance in our horses? From my experience, resistance most often comes from a combination of factors.
The following are culprits to consider in analyzing the answer to this complex question.
Resistance in horses develops from a combination of:
• Physical weakness- Lack of strength and/or flexibility, lack of correct biomechanics, poor shoeing, or lack of suitability for the discipline
• Lack of training or understanding- Each horse must be understood in light of not only his current level of training but his mental capacity for training (i.e. a young horse has a shorter attention span). Each training discipline and each level in the training has its own systematic, logical progression. Lack of experience, lack of knowledge, wrong teaching, or wrong understanding of the logical steps required in training are often to blame for common resistances in horses.
• Pain –Either previous or current can lead to resistance. Pain may cause compensation that remains even after the injury has healed and the pain removed.
• Excess energy- Being over fed (too much grain and not enough roughage) and under exercised and lack of enough turnout can lead to resistance. A horse needs time “to be a horse.” Inappropriate daily care and management can cause resistance.
• Rider error- Often the rider doesn’t have the correct knowledge, skill or ability and creates the resistance accidentally. Poorly fitted tack also can cause resistance.
Our question is “how do I prevent resistance in my horse?” Other questions may include: How do I have the judgment to know if my horse is strong enough, or is healed enough, or is compensating? How do I learn the training process for my discipline? How do I make conclusions that lead to my desired outcome? The answer to preventing resistance in your horse is really quite simple. The “doing,” “the adding the steps together,” is the difficult part. It is a lifestyle. The formula for success, the answers to the equation, includes the following principles and philosophies:
1) Recognize that you are not alone. A team approach to horsemanship can help you formulate the equation to get the answer you are looking for, which is a willing, freely moving forward, happy horse and rider combination – harmony. You need other professionals who can share with you their particular expertise and experience. You need to find your team of professionals who can help you with a systematic approach and teach you judgment.
2) The next step to solve the equation is time, repetition, and patience. How do you add those factors into the equation? Commitment. Commitment and discipline to make time 3 or 4 sessions per week to work toward your common goals are required to prevent resistance in your horse.
3) Assess and evaluate where you and your horse are at this time. Have a professional help you determine where you are and what you have to work with right now. Then you can identify the next step in your systematic approach to reach your goals with your horse.
4) Put together a plan. You will see the reward, the release from your horse. He will surely begin to offer what was once difficult because he has been systematically prepared.
5) Consistently meet with your team to help you assess your progress and training. Re-valuate, make notes and plan your success in workable steps.
6) Have understanding and compassion; recognize that your horse is that: a horse. Learn to think like your horse thinks. Part of understanding is being understood.
7) If you or your horse has had a previous or current injury, get your veterinarian or doctor to give you a clear diagnosis and prognosis on where you are in the healing process. Most folks forget that rehabilitating isn’t just resting to heal, then starting back where you left off, but a process. Rehabilitation includes getting back to the previous state of health and rebuilding muscles, nerves, and systems to function as they haven’t for a period of time, and reducing compensatory problems that may have developed during the layoff.
8) Management has to be based on your horse’s physical and mental needs for health, interaction and exercise. Learn the ideal weight, muscle development, mental capacities and daily management that are necessary to meet your goals with your horse. You may need help from your team member who has more experience in this category to assess the daily management of your horse.
9) Work on your own riding and handling skills. Make a consistent effort to have a member of your team instruct you and help you increase your skills.
10) Accept that this is a process; requiring systematic committed work. Training doesn’t happen overnight. Preventing resistances in our horses takes time, repetition and a consistent effort to work with your team of professionals to learn and grow and meet your lifetime goals with your horse.
If these ideas of prevention and philosophies on how to be successful with horses interest you, if you are interested in learning, if you have a desire to take the team approach to preventing resistances in your horse, then please contact Equetec to learn more. Equetec and Ginger Long provide specific exercise programs for horses and riders to achieve optimum health, strength, suppleness and performance. Each program includes a gait evaluation, ground exercise, mounted exercises and results! Equetec provides training and rehabilitation for horses; lessons and clinics designed to provide horse owners a path to their pursuit of harmony.
As the Idiom says: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” The Gingerism says:
” While I can teach a horse to lead and I can persuade a horse to drink with electrolytes, salt, sweat and training; I have to ask myself daily; Is my horse thirsty? I like a thirsty horse. I train horses to be a little thirsty, always wanting a little more but never parched; offering a little water as we go. That’s a fair deal. Developing a refreshing thirst takes time depending on the horse’s personality, innate ability and learned behaviors. If a horse gets shocked by lightening every time he takes a drink; why would he try to drink? Horses that refuse or deny a little water and are parched are angry, misunderstood, resentful, weren’t born that way, they are in pain or any combination thereof. I want to heal a horse and to train a horse and persuade a horse to drink a little refreshing water because it is good and sweet. So when I teach a horse to lead and get him a little thirsty; his response when I take him to the water teaches me who he is……..
Once I know who he is; I can encourage him, teach him how to drink and build his desire to drink. While each horse’s path may be different, it might be short and straight or long and winding; the goal is the same; to enjoy the sweet, refreshing water to drink.
For me, I want my personal horse to be a horse that is leading me to the water and offering me a drink because I’ve gained his trust and respect. If I can find a thirsty horse, one that doesn’t ask me if it is hot or cold; I’ve found my partner, my friend. My goal is to love my horses and to train them to be a little thirsty and want a drink for themselves, but also, a horse that offers a drink not only to me, his trainer but also to my friend, the student. That is a horse of a lifetime; worth the investment.”