Problem and conflict solving
So, you’ve put time aside to ride, made the effort to get to your horse and have your training session planned perfectly in your mind. The sun is shining, there is no wind, you and your horse feel great. That is, until the arena Spook shows up, threatening to turn all your great expectations into bad vibrations. Leaving the stables after a frustrating ride, you feel like you wasted your time, go-over what you could have done better or simply wonder how it could have gone so wrong so quickly.
Despite the popular belief that loading problems reflect your horse's lack of trust in your leadership skills, loading is really about your horse being obedient to your go and stop signals in hand. Of course it is quite natural for horses to want to avoid places like floats that are dark, narrow, noisy and confined, and no wonder they don’t always want to load into them, but the reason they don’t actually load, is they don’t lead very well.
If your horse routinely spooks and shies at novel objects or ones it has seen a hundred times before you are not alone! Spooking or shying is a constant battle for many riders, both professional and amateur worldwide.As a flight animal, the horse is hard-wired to run from danger and to be aware of changes in his environment.
Do you ever wonder why horses continue to spook at things they have seen a hundred times before? It’s because they have a hard time generalizing objects. Just because a large, pink floral arrangement by the dressage arena didn’t eat your horse last week, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a small, yellow one might not do it on Saturday.
In the absence of health issues which should be investigated by your veterinarian, moody behaviour and irregular cycling can be linked to pain and / or stress in mares who exhibit conflict behaviours (commonly known as resistances and evasions). Conflict behaviours are a set of responses usually characterized by hyper-reactivity and which arise largely through confusion with training.
Have you ever wondered why, horses that seem to trust you will still snort and spin at objects and in certain situations even though you are there with them? What does it actually mean to the horse when someone comments; “your horse needs to trust you more?”
In the absence of dental or other health issues, grinding the teeth has to be seen as a conflict behaviour. Teeth grinding is one of the behaviours that results from going forward into too strong a contact. It is more often displayed by dressage, event and racehorses, and this is because there is greater necessity for contact compared with say western sports. The problem is the contact is too high – way too much pressure – and combined with concurrent ‘go’ signals from the rider’s legs, the horse is trapped.
Australian Equine Behaviour Centre: www.aebc.com.au This is the full version of the article printed in the March 2010 issue of Horses and People Magazine.
If your horse gets agitated when you are tightening the girth, is it a sign of pain or a behavioural (learned) response? and can you do something about it? We ask the opinion of four leading experts. by veterinarian Dr David Lovell, BVSc MACVSc, Redlands Veterinary Practice
Provided there is no physical pain, that heavy feeling you get on one rein, which seems to be a physical stiffness to one side in your horse, could actually be a simple failure of your 'turn' aid or signal. Your horse may have been rewarded for bending his neck, instead of stepping his front legs to the side when asked to turn. If your horse offers you a degree of neck bend before turning the forelegs to one side, the turn to the other side will be straighter in the neck but often heavier in the rein.