Ask Chris

Question
What is the proper technique for catching a horse for the first time? I have a three year old, who has not been handled or halter broke. I would like to know your procedure for getting my hands on horses for the first time.

Answer
Spend some time feeding your young horse. Offer them grain out of a bucket, don’t try to touch them, let them approach you and resist the urge to reach out to them. As they become comfortable and confident around the human, it will be natural to rub and scratch them and then the haltering will naturally follow.

Question
I bought two horses about three weeks ago. The mare is 9 years old and the other one is 5 years old. The thing is that they want to be together all the time. As soon as I bring the mare out, the 5 year old spins and does all kinds of crazy things. He is broken but I'm afraid to ride him because of the other one, and I as I don't have a school to ride in it's in the open field. What can I do to correct the situation? It's taking the fun away from me. Help?

Answer
I would suggest in your situation and your experience, saddle up one and lead the other one so that they can be together for the first ride or two until you get a feel for how they do ride. I’d also suggest separating them at other times by stabling them in different locations for a couple hours at a time. When they spend all their time together everyday, it’s a natural occurrence to become dependent on each other.

Question
I desperately need help with my 10 year old gelding. He has some very nasty habits, such as rearing and bucking. although he has improved since I bought him, he is still very unpredictable. He has had a full check up and there are no physical problems. Can you help?

Answer
Unless genuinely startled or stung by a bee, few horses buck suddenly. Most have been sending signals that they’re getting frustrated or scared, but the rider didn’t pick up on the warnings. And unless the horse is really scared, if he bucks suddenly, it’s because we missed something in his ground training.

Learn to recognize the signs that your horse is beginning to get out of control, and then regain control before you have a fight. If your horse speeds up but you haven’t told him to do so, he’s taking matters into his own hands.

If you haven’t told him to move his hips to the left but you’re going sort-of sideways down the trail, he’s telling you he has something other than trial riding on his mind.

Don’t ignore your horse and intervene only when he’s doing the wrong thing. Tell him what you want before his mind wanders. By asking him for performance as you go down the trial, you can make sure he’s thinking about your priorities, not his own.

If you think your horse may be getting worried or contemplating bolting for home, tell him to move his feet in the direction you want them to move before he moves them on his own. Replace his thought with your thinking and in the process improve his responsiveness to some cue. The better the horse’s training, the less likely that he’ll ever buck.

Question
My horse is perfect in many ways, except I am having serious trouble in getting him to stand still when I get on. Can you help?

Answer
I’m sure that with a little guidance and the repetition of some simple exercises, you could soon have your horse listening to you. Here are some starting points.

Before even trying to mount, choose a spot in the yard where you want him to stand, every time he moves off, return him gently but firmly to the same spot. Reward him with a stroke on the neck. Do this over and over again and you will find he eventually gets bored of the game. You can then progress on to getting him to stand and then standing up in your stirrup, as if to get on, again over a few days, repeat this before you go out for your ride. Progress on to swinging your leg across and mounting, then get off and repeat it all again. Patience and repetition are the name of the game.

Question
Teddy is a 4 year old cob, who had a particularly stressful start to life because he was one of twins—the other foal died almost immediately after birth and, because of the clearly difficult time the mare had experienced giving birth to two foals, sadly she too died, a couple of days later. There was no option but to hand-rear him. However, it’s harder for a person to set these boundaries with a hand-reared foal although we tried the natural horsemanship method which help people communicate effectively with horses. But in Teddy’s case, he never learnt where the cut-off for unacceptable behaviour was, to his cost. The inevitable next step was that people began to feel so threatened by Ted that they resorted to forks and spades to stave him off. He was shown aggression, but he comes back with aggression. What is almost certainly, inappropriate play behaviour on Ted’s part, has caused him, through no fault of his own to become fear-aggressive of people, so much so that instead of just threatening aggression a typical ploy of most horses, he actually carried it out by biting.

Answer

You say that you have tried the natural horsemanship method. To establish with Teddy the pecking order is important. Teddy should see you has his leader and respect you. Trying the natural horsemanship method will truly work. You didn’t fully understand the method, or you didn’t put the time in for it to work or both. By persisting at these new habits every day Teddy will learn to respect you.