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by Downunder Horsemanship

Training Tip: Help for a Pasture-Sour Horse

Question: My horse has always been good out on the trail, but bolshie on the ground and lacks manners. His previous owners were scared of him. I recently moved yards, and he is now turned out in a lovely field 24/7. On our third ride at the new yard, he spun and bolted with me back to the field. It has shaken me. I am wary of getting back out on him because he seems pent up and ready to do the same again. My gut feeling is he is trying it on! Help! – hayleycoppard

Clinton’s Answer: The very first thing you need to do is start the Fundamentals with your horse. Ninety-five percent of all problems you’ll ever face as a horse owner will disappear if you teach your horse the first level of the Method. That includes all the problems you mention in your question—a horse that’s pushy and disrespectful on the ground and one that doesn’t like to be ridden away from home. Your horse doesn’t respect you and is testing you and it sounds like he’s winning. The Fundamentals exercises will teach you how to be an effective leader for your horse and build your confidence around him.

Once you’ve taught your horse the Fundamentals exercises, if he’s still rushing back to the pasture when you ride him away, you’ll use a little reverse psychology on him. Instead of forcing him to leave the pasture, where he wants to be, you’ll let him stay at the pasture. But instead of you getting off of him or letting him stand still, you’re going to hustle his feet at the pasture. How you move his feet isn’t important—you just need to move his feet with energy and do as many changes of direction as possible. Trot him in serpentines. Canter him in circles. Do rollbacks next to the fence. If you don’t feel confident enough in the saddle to handle the situation, dismount and hustle his feet from the ground. Practice Lunging for Respect Stage Two, do the C-Pattern, hustle his feet backwards, sidepass him, etc.

After moving his feet for three to five minutes, ride him away from the pasture on a big, loose rein. Initially, you won’t be able to walk the horse away from the pasture very far before he gets upset. The secret is to stop him before he starts to throw a fit. So you may only be able to ride him 5 feet away from the pasture this first time. That’s fine. Stop him and flex his head from side to side and rub on him with your hands. Let him rest for five minutes.

Then walk him back to the pasture. Once you reach the pasture, immediately hustle his feet again. Make it clear to him—the pasture is hard work and sweat and away from the pasture is rest and reward. Depending on how bad your horse’s magnet to the pasture is, you’ll repeat this exercise five or six times before he figures out that being next to the pasture is a bad deal. He’ll want no part of going near it and will be happy to ride away from it.

Have a horsemanship question or looking for more training tips? Check out the No Worries Club.