Use Turnarounds to Engage Your Horse on the Trail

Over the years Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has developed a method for training horses regardless of their age, history, or any behavioral issues and past traumas. Join him on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and problem owners. This week, Clinton shows us how to use turnarounds to engage your horse on the trail.

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When a horse spooks on the trail, his attention is not you. It’s on whatever scary object has captured his attention. Sometimes you can see what caused your horse to react and other times the culprit of the spook will be an invisible object only your horse can see. Regardless of why your horse spooked, the key to regaining control of the situation and building his confidence is to be a leader. You’ll do that by putting the horse’s feet to work. Take charge of the situation and give him a job to do. While there are no set rules as to how to move your horse’s feet, Clinton has found that spinning the horse around is can effective fix. If you happen to have a horse that wants to be a little spooky while out on the trail and you’ve taught him to spin, you can use that to your advantage. You’d be amazed to know that every time your horse gets a little spooked or unnerved, spinning around will do wonders. Spinning the horse around four or five times will get the horse back on track.

If you’re on the trail and your horse is showing signs of distraction, simply say, “Hey, listen and come back here to me. Listen to me.” Then proceed to spin your horse around maybe five, six, seven times until you can feel him engaging with you again. This works both on the trail and off.

As an example, if you’re riding down the trail and your horse is spooked by a log or a rock on the ground, shut him down and begin to turn him around. Make sure that you put a lot of bend in your horse and get him to listen to you. After spinning him around, then you can go ahead and trot or walk your horse back down the trail again. Act as if nothing happened. Repeat this process anytime the horse spooks or shies—the goal is to take the horse’s nervous energy and use it in a constructive manner.

Sometimes, horses get into the habit of spooking because they see it as a game and a way to get out of work. When you use turnarounds to engage your horse in response to this behavior, you’ll spin him around and show him that spooking isn’t a game because all it results in is him having to hustle his feet. Pretty soon, your horse is going to realize that it’s too much work to act silly and shy while on the trail. Clinton tells us that utilizing this technique will help you communicate with your horse more effectively over time.

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