5 Minute Training â€“ Running at Your Horse
By Todd Mera
I want to make my horses as safe as possible in a variety of situations. Therefore I try to expose them to as many situations as possible. Although I would never advocate approaching your horse at a full sprint I think there are good reasons to let your horse get some experience around fast moving objects. For example, I was leading a couple of yearlings to my arena. I just walked through the gate and was heading for a holding stall next to the arena. For some reason after my daughter walked through the gate she decided to run towards my horses approaching them from behind. She was well out of the way from their hind legs but one of the horses spooked, which spooked the other and they both started to run. I was just about stepped on by one of the horses. This situation could have caused someone, me, to get hurt.
My first option was to blame my daughter and tell her never to do that. While I did discuss with her why she shouldnâ€™t run up to a horse from any angle, I also realized that this was a situation that could have happened anywhere and will most likely happen again. In fact, it could have been many things that would have caused the horse to spook. It could have been a dog, a paper sack in the wind, a motorcycle or a person running down the sidewalk at a parade, really anything moving toward the horse at a pace faster than a walk. So, I guess I better get the horse conditioned to people running up to it. I donâ€™t want to dull the horse so that they do not react to anything. I just donâ€™t want the horseâ€™s first reaction to be â€œRUN.â€ The goal is to get the horse to think about the situations before they react.
Start with a walk
Eventually I will train the horse to stay calm and relaxed as I run at him from any angle, ride a motorized vehicle around him, run by him with flags, etc. But to start, I will use a simple 5 minute exercise during feeding. When I go out to feed my young horses I will pet them on their head, back side, etc. Once they are calm I will then walk about 5 steps away from them, stop, turn and walk back towards them. I do this at a speed which might make them a bit uncomfortable but not enough to make them run. You have to use your judgment and read the horse. If you are unsure, start on the slow side and work your way up. Once I reach the horse I pet their head, back, etc. I repeat this about 8-10 times trying to increase my speed gradually. Remember, I do this when I feed my horses. I will be able to repeat this procedure many times each week, so I am not in a hurry to be able to run at the horse the first or second day. I will also change the angle which I approach my horse. I will walk at him from the side, at a 45 degree angle, etc. I also want to mention that I do not stare at my horseâ€™s eyes when I approach. I look toward the ground, near his feet and do not assume an aggressive posture. I want to approach the horse but I do not want them to feel like I am going to eat them.
Eventually, you will be able to stare your horse in the face and run directly at him and the horse will stay calm and relaxed because they have thought about the situation and concluded that they are not going to die. Working with young horses in this way will help to prepare them for the regular ground work sessions and help them progress more rapidly.
Todd Mera is a Biochemist that has always had a love for horses. Todd started training horses in his 30s. He has worked with and trained many horse starting from birth and older problem horses. http://www.EverythingEquus.com
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