This week Jason Webb, renowned horse trainer currently operating in the UK but with affiliation to Australian Horse Training, sat down with the Horse and Hound and shed some light on the irritating problem that faces many riders: How do you stop your horse from napping whilst you’re trying to ride it?
Webb is a highly regarded trainer that is famous for starting young horses, teaching riders of a variety of abilities, focusing on building a strong partnership between horse and rider, as well as troubleshooting any equine problems that his clients may be facing. One Horse and Hound reader contacted the magazine with a question for Webb, stating that she has a 7 year old mare that she show jumps and does cross country on regularly. Sometimes she flies around the course, but sometimes, as I’m sure will sound all too familiar to many readers, she refuses to move, or even worse, will move backwards whilst her rider is trying to push her on.
Webb responded saying that although it is difficult to get to the bottom of the problem without seeing the horse in question in the flesh, he was able to recommend a few exercises and offer a bit of general advice on the issue.
According to Webb, one of the worst things you can do with a napping horse is to keep kicking it harder. If the horse wants to go backwards, you kicking it will only make it go backwards faster! You need to change the horses mind, convincing it to go forwards instead of backwards and kicking is unlikely to achieve this, in fact, by kicking your hose and not getting a response, you are actually reinforcing it in ignoring your cues
The solution is to address the way in which the horse responds to your leg. You can do this by taking your horse to a familiar area and giving them a light cue to ask them to go forward. The horse should then go forward, and if they refuse, you need to use more leg, or a little flick of the whip, in order to reinforce your cue. Webb finds it helps to vocalise your command, and ask the horse to “Please, go forward, now!” as you are giving them a physical cue. This will not only reinforce the cue to the horse, but it will also reinforce it in your own mind.
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