A common problem I see is horses that won’t stand still. Whether they need to stand still for mounting, stand still in the lineup in the arena, or stand still at a road crossing, instead they fidget, fuss, move forward, move backward, or even rear. This is certainly annoying, but can be downright dangerous. The concepts and exercises in the book The Better Deal (by Margaret Beeman and Ona Kiser) address the underlying misunderstanding that needs to be dealt with to fix this problem. Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 2 that touches on the subject:
Giving the horse the freedom to move is the key to getting him to move when you say move, and also key to getting him to wait. I always offer the horse the choice. For the horse that won’t stand during or immediately after mounting, for example, I always allow them the freedom to move. Holding the reins tightly only confines him, and makes him struggle to be free, increasing the problem. In the horse’s mind he is trying to get away from the pressure. Instead I mount on a loose rein, and sit there adjusting my clothing and stirrups on a loose rein. If the horse takes a single step forward, I immediately back him up to where he was, and again drop the reins. As long as he is standing still, there is no pressure on him, and he is rewarded by that feeling of freedom.
When the horse misunderstands, you help him by recognizing which of the herd rules he has stopped following. Did you lose acknowledgement? Did you lose respect? You help him re-establish his understanding so he can continue with the work at hand. So many times things go south simply because people get ahead of their horses. It is so important to be in the moment with your horse, so you can feel where he is having trouble. He is your partner: help him out!
If you follow the order of the herd rules when communicating with your horse, your requests will be structured and presented to the horse in a way which takes into account the way a horse thinks. If your horse understands you, you have a much better chance of being safe with him.
You’ll find more about the herd rules and practical exercises for developing good communication with your horse in The Better Deal: Practical Horsemanship Training for You and Your Horse. Find out more on the books page!