Training Tips for Fixing Your Horse’s Fidgety Feet Outside the Trailer
For the past 20 years, Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has devoted his life to creating the best training tools and videos to help bring his method to you. Join him on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and problem owners. This week, Clinton gives us a few training tips for fixing your horse’s fidgety feet outside the trailer.
Clinton starts by talking about how you might not always have a place to tie your horse when you’re away from home. Although the horse trailer is always an option, it can lead to questionable behavior. Your horse may want to paw at the ground or even get nervous and start moving back and forth or rear in the air. This behavior can be a bit disruptive and, quite frankly, disrespectful. To help fix this fidgety behavior, Clinton recommends a few stimulating exercises.
To help demonstrate these exercises, Clinton will be working with Roo, a mare who’s known for being anxious and getting a little restless when tied to the trailer. Clinton uses an Aussie Tie Ring to tie her to the trailer and then explains that instead of trying to stop your horse from fidgeting, do something constructive with their energy. First, just send the horse from side to side to get her feet moving and to instill a bit of control in her movements. However, Clinton reminds us that this will only work on a horse who knows the Fundamentals level of the Method—it won’t do much for a horse that doesn’t know these training techniques. Getting Roo to move her feet in a controlled manner encourages her to use the thinking side of her brain rather than the reactive side and tune in to what Clinton is asking her to do. It also helps her burn off some of the excess energy she has in a constructive way. Then, Clinton practices the Sending Exercise with her, asking her to go between him and the trailer. The goal is to take her fidgety, negative energy and turn it into something worthwhile.
After moving Roo’s feet, Clinton ties her back up to the trailer using the Aussie Tie Ring to let her rest. As long as she stands quietly at the trailer, she gets to rest and relax. If she starts to fidget, Clinton will put her feet back to work. Moving the horse’s feet gets them to use the thinking side of their brain and relax. When they’re in a good frame of mind, using the tie ring allows you to safely tie them up. Clinton also recommends applying fly spray to keep horses comfortable and reduce the number of bugs that are bothering them. It’s not fair to expect your horse to stand quietly if they’re being pestered by flies.
While this should help, Clinton recommends staying relatively nearby so that you can start putting your horse back to work if they begin to misbehave again. He tells us that it doesn’t always work perfectly the first time around and you may need to repeat the process three or four times until your horse understands the deal and is ready to settle down. The goal is to make being tied to the trailer the easy part and moving around the trailer the hard part—a.k.a., some reverse psychology. Move their feet forward, backward, left, and right. Make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy. Initially, your horse may only stand quietly for about 10 to 15 minutes before you need to repeat the process. When you return to put their feet to work, don’t be upset about it. Stay calm and just repeat the process. Take your horse off the Aussie Tie Ring and calmly start practicing groundwork. This shows your horse that, as much as they think standing still next to the trailer is horrible, it’s the easiest option. Then, once you’ve worked their feet and got them to use the thinking side of their brain, leave them alone at the trailer again. Each time you need to repeat this process, move a little farther away from the trailer. You don’t want the horse to behave only if you’re standing right next to them, they need to behave regardless of if they can see you or not. Keep repeating this process—everything gets better with practice. Pretty soon, your horse is going to be relaxed and happy to stand beside the trailer like a productive citizen.
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