Having problems hacking out your horse? Follow these great expert tips to get your horse back on the straight and narrow
1. Work out the reason
“Horses nap for many reason, so first and foremost, consider why your horse may be resistant to hacking out,” says certified equine behaviorist Justine Harrison. “Often, horses are labeled as ‘naughty’ or ‘stubborn’, when in fact they may be in pain , or may feel unsafe when they are asked to leave their friends.
“Establishing the root cause is the best step you can take towards solving the issue, and ruling out pain should be your first course of action.”
2. Do your preparation
“The more sights and sounds you introduce your horse to at home, the fewer problems you will encounter when you’re away from the yard,” says horse trainer Michael Peace. “Construct obstacle courses with things your horse can walk over, between and even under!
“Get him used to things flapping in the wind, set up ‘dustbin day’ situations and anything else you can think of to reduce his fears.
“When horses come to me for training, I will get him to a stage where I can ride around our chickens, under the washing line full of clothes hanging out to dry and past a trampoline full of noisy children jumping up and down. The more things a horse sees, the better.”
3. Be patient
“Give your horse a chance to get used to any new experiences you might ask him to deal with,” Justine advises. “For example, if you are hacking somewhere new, or you have recently bought a hors and taken him to a different area, allow him time to take in the unfamiliar sights and sounds. Never force him to deal with things he is worried about.”
4. Teach him to go solo
Separation anxiety is a common problem and horses will nap because they are anxious about leaving their friends. Ensure your horse is content in his own company for short periods of time at home, before hacking out alone. Start by just taking his companion out of sight for a few moments, and build up slowly to longer periods apart. Try to vary the company your horse keeps, so he doesn’t become too attached to one other horse.
5. Stay safe
Your own safety is paramount at all times. Wear a correctly fitted riding hat, body protector and even air jacket if you have one. Fitting a neckstrap or using an aid such as the RS-tor (www.rstor.co.uk), can give confidence, as it provides something else to hold onto. If you don’t feel up to the job of retraining a nappy horse, ensure you get the right help from someone experience that you trust.
6. Choose circular routes
If your horse is inclined to nap, avoid rides where you turn around at the same point every time and then head for home. There may come a day where you want to ride further and the horse is likely to object. Vary your hacking routes, include circular ones where possible and ride different distances so the horse doesn’t learn any bad habits.
7. Lead him past scary objects
“Riders are told not to get off a horse that won’t go past something, on the basis the horse has ‘won’ and will do it again next time,” Michael says. “However, the horse doesn’t see it like this. By getting off and leading him past the frightening object, he will regard you as having helped him. “You have acted as his friend and helped him get through a tricky situation. And it has kept you safer, too.”
8. Find a reliable companion
If your horse is reluctant to hack out on his own, Justine advises horse owners to ride out with a friend on a sensible horse. You can play a game of ‘leapfrog’ to teach your horse to happily go in front or behind.
“If both horses are calm, ask your horse to stop for a few seconds while your friend rides ahead,” says Justine. “Then walk on to catch up. Next, ride past the companion before stopping and waiting for them to catch up.
“Gradually, you can start to increase the distances between you. Always reward your horse for his efforts.”
9. Stay calm and positive
“if you are confident and give your horse the correct direction, he should be happy to go where you want him to,” says Justine. “To help you stay confident, think positively, breath deeply and talk to the hrose in a slow and calm manner. Visualisation can be a great tool, so create a picture in your mind of your perfect hack, in as much detail as possible. To break nervous habits, repeat the image in your mind for short sessions every day, before and after you hack out.”
10. Get a helping hand
It can help to have a person on the ground with you when you ask your horse to go somewhere he might nap. Treat it as a normal ride and calmly chat away to your friend while you’re riding along. Take confidence in the fact your friend will be there to help you if things don’t go to plan. Your horse will be more confident having someone on the ground.
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