Bombproof Your Horse
If you are trying to bombproof your horse you probably realize that this is a huge topic. It is a step by step process that involves investing time, energy and patience.
We would all like to have a bombproof horse, but are we willing to put in the time?
The first step is to gain trust and respect from your horse. Without accomplishing this, you will never be able to get him to look to you as a leader.
A solid relationship, built on trust and respect, will get you through the difficult times and rough patches. You will never be able to anticipate and prepare for every possible situation that you might encounter, so your relationship with your horse is of the utmost importance.
How can you tell if your horse sees you as his leader? Look for signs of disrespect. Some of these signs are, rubbing his head on you, walking ahead of or past you while you are leading him, stepping into your space uninvited and bumping into or pushing you.
One important thing I learned from a trainer that I respect very much is that you have to ALWAYS be consistent…this goes for training your horse to do anything.
You can’t let him rub on you a little bit or once in awhile. If he can do that sometimes, then it isn’t fair to punish him at other times. It’s either ok or it isn’t. If he uses you as an itching post he’s not showing respect. Period. However, it is ok for you to itch him.
The same goes for pushing you. Nudging you isn’t ok either, nudging is just softer pushing. It can’t be ok one time and not another time. Not if you want his respect.
Any time that your horse treats you like his subordinate you need to re-establish the boundaries.
What should you do if he passes you while you are leading him? You need to stop him and ask him to back up. You want him to back easily with a lowered head. This shows he is respecting your authority.
You also want to teach your horse that anytime you are facing towards him he isn’t welcome to step, or move any parts of his body, towards you. Anytime he invades your personal space you need to make him step immediately away.
If you get your horse to move his feet it establishes that you are in charge.
You can invite him to approach you either loose or on the lead by turning away and allowing him to “join up” with you.
Those are the basic rules for gaining your horse’s respect. if he learns these at home, in a stress free situation, then you have a basis for working on ways to bombproof your horse in other situations.
It is a good idea to teach him a cue for calming down. If you have ever seen an excited horse, you will notice that their head is raised and often tense, whereas a calm horse carries his head and neck lowered and relaxed.
A simple exercise to teach him a cue to lower his head (thus getting his focus on you and putting him in a “calm” body position) is to hold your lead rope in a gentle grip just below where it snaps onto his halter.
Let the weight of your arm give him the “lower your head” cue. Then PATIENTLY wait for your horse to actively release the pressure by softening the muscles in his neck/lowering his head.
It is good to practice this as often as you get the chance to reinforce the cue. You could even give him a treat when he relaxes his neck and lowers his head. Also, make sure you practice this exercise any time he seems to be keyed up and/or distracted.
I think most horse owners/riders want to bombproof their horse as much as possible.
I am going to consistently work with mine over the next couple of weeks, I have got two fairly sensitive, high strung horses. Then in a few weeks I can report how I’m doing with them and we can look at some new exercises and “next steps” to build on what we’re doing! It seems like a good project for the new year.
I would love to hear from anyone else about their experiences with bomproofing their horse. I hope this post helped you a little and I am happy to answer any questions you might have!