“Stacy-How do I deal with a horse that has learned to bolt through my hands on the lounge line?”-Stephanie P.
Horses that pull away from the handler generally come in two categories;
- They don’t know any better and are impulsively just leaving
- They have learned they can get away with it
A horse that doesn’t know any better can quickly become a horse who learns to get away with it – if they have a chance to practice.
The good news is that the ‘fix’ or answer to the problem is the same in both cases. Lets first look at the horse that doesn’t know any better. Jac in Episodes 2 and Episode 3 was a great example of this.
Jac didn’t know how to properly respond to the pressure on the rope and without the proper handling he could have quickly figured out the big secret; he is bigger and stronger than me. I say this is a ‘secret’ because horses really are bigger, but with proper training the horse doesn’t need to view us this way.
Whether you are training a green horse, like Jac, or working with an older ‘problem’ horse the key is to get the horse to ‘mentally’ connect with you. They are bigger and stronger, that is a fact. Instead of looking at how to physically over come this, it is important to look at how to mentally get the horse on your team.
The beauty of the Jac series is that you can watch multiple episodes to see how I achieved this connection. There were physical things that I did. For example when Jac applied pressure by trying to leave in Episode 3, even pulling me out of the camera, I didn’t release until he slightly turned back to me. I was beginning to teach Jac the idea of disengaging his hip even if it doesn’t look like the traditional ‘tap on his hip’ method which I did later in Episode 8. I was confident in my ability to correctly time my release of pressure even when Jac was pulling on me. If you are less confident of this then I would recommend being inside a round pen. For a less experienced handler it is often easier to properly time the release of pressure when the horse stops pulling because he has reached the wall.
The key is getting the horse to view turning and facing you as a reward. Re-watch Episode 2-5 and specifically look for how I slightly annoyed Jac with gentle taps and released when he moves the direction I want. If I had applied large amounts of pressure I would have physically caused a bigger reaction and mentally I may have offended Jac.
Mentally they need to see that you are the leader and that you have something to offer. Most of the time, unless the horse is acting from pure fear, horses that will drag people tend have strong personalities. They require strong leaders who have a plan and who also have their interest in mind. A common mistake I see with these horses is a handler who becomes frustrated and then becomes the strong leader the horse needs. On the surface this works fine but often this becomes a game with the horse. Once the handler isn’t frustrated they slip back into being less of a leader and the horse slowly begins to take the role again…until the rider eventually ends up frustrated enough to step up again. These horses are often the toughest to work with not because they have a chronic problem but rather because they have become experts at manipulating people.
You will not be able to out pull a horse but if you can get him to mentally engage with you, you will not have to. Another great example of continuing to build this mental connection can be found in Episode 14 where I show the beginning of what is considered ‘liberty’ work or working without any attachment to the horse. Learning to control a horses movements when you have only body language to communicate is often eye opening for the human. Once you have learned how to read the horses body language and control the horses direction, speed and focus at liberty it will change the way you view your horse…and how your horse views you.