Natural Halter Training Young Horses
First impressions do last, not only with people but horses also. So what sort of impression do you give your horse when you approach them to catch them and put their halter on and lead them?
Your initial approach can determine the success or failure of your practice session or even their whole career. How is this possible you may ask and how can you avoid leaving a negative impression on your horse?
The great thing about horses is that they learn quickly through release or comfort. The not so great thing about horses is that they learn quickly through release or comfort. To have a positive impression on your horse you will need to approach and lead your horse in a way that avoids putting them in a defensive or offensive position which will result in them using or bracing undesirable muscles, which in turn becomes a pattern or habit that will carry into when they are ridden. For example if you have a person who approaches their horse to put the halter on when the horse is flexed away from them and then leads the horse from in front of the shoulder when the horse is flexed away they will train their horse to lead with their shoulder in their ridden circles rather than leading with their nose. Then in turn they will have trouble with vertical flexion and collection, as a horse that is not laterally supple cannot offer you true vertical flexion or collect fully.
All of this from the way we approach catch and lead our horses. So how should we approach our horses to develop a confident supple horse that leads with their nose and has good forward movement?
One of the first things is awareness, when you approach make sure you approach in a way that will encourage your horse to flex toward you. Be aware of what section of the horse you are approaching, you may find that if you approach the head or nose of your horse they will flex away, if you approach the hind ¼ they may turn toward you or even walk off. Approaching toward the shoulder area of the horse will encourage them to flex around you.
As you put the halter on ensure you ask them to lower their head and flex toward you, again standing at or behind the shoulder will assist with this. When it comes to leading, rather than pull on the halter and tipping their weight onto the forehand (which is another negative pattern to be avoided) stand behind the shoulder, put your lead rope out in front of you and drive them forward this will encourage them to use their hind ¼ a give you a more balanced forward.
Remember it is the release that teaches the horse
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