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Stepping Into the Light

Kate Fenner - Monday, March 11, 2013
Horse stepping out of the dark

Stepping out of the dark

The other day I watched as a young rider tried to ride her horse out of a barn into the sunlight. The horse was unfamiliar with the environment and was not keen to cross the threshold. The gathered crowd offered advice varying from ‘give him a kick’ and ‘don’t let him win’ to ‘make him do it’ and opinion seemed to be that the horse knew exactly what the rider wanted and was simply being naughty as he didn’t want to go to the arena, leave his friend or go to work.

What was the horse really ‘thinking’? And, possibly more importantly, what was going on inside the horse, physiologically, that was contributing to this behaviour? I am going to discuss the first question but have a look at Cathy McCoy’s blog, for an answer to the second question (Cathy and I will be teaming up to help you ‘Succeed With Your Horses – Inside and Out’). 

 Stable block door 

Stable Block In Darkness 

 So, what would the best course of action have been? The horse is most likely to be afraid. It is a new environment, the footing may be different, his eyes could be adjusting, there may be people about or any number of other possibilities. The simplest solution would be to dismount the horse, lead it through the doorway and remount in the open air once you knew the horse was at ease with his surroundings. I think our training goal always needs to be to make the right thing easy. To do this you must first decide what that thing is. Here we wanted the horse to walk through the door. By dismounting and leading the horse we achieved this. Had we instigated an argument with the horse (and you have all heard people say 'don't let the horse win' -win what you might well ask), the next time we came to the door he would probably remember that it wasn't a great place to be.

covered arena 

Covered arena

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