Cate Lamm, an avid horsewoman, has been a part of Colorado Horse Rescue (www.chr.org) for 10 years. There, she’s served as head of the adoption committee, has acted as general manager and now works as a rehabilitation trainer. Lamm has owned a number of her own rescue horses and has 20 years of equine experience. Based in Longmont, Colorado, she’s also the editorial assistant of The Trail Rider (www.trailridermag.com), sister publication of MyHorseDaily.com.
I mounted up, determined to move out. To cue Banjo forward, I softened my seat and hands, and added just a little leg pressure. Nothing happened. I tried again; still nothing. I increased the leg pressure, until I was kicking his sides. He didn’t budge!
In the limited training Banjo had had before I got him, he was asked to collect before he was physically or mentally able to do it. He’d learned that being ridden was a painful, scary thing, and he wanted nothing to do with it.
So he’d begun to fight back. People started calling him a “dangerous” horse.
When a horse is in pain or scared, the only way he can communicate is with behavior that’s often deemed “bad.” Then they’re punished for it. They soon learn that they can’t trust their human partners to listen to them, so they shut down and give up. We’ve all seen horses with no life in their eyes. The ones that don’t shut down fight even harder.
I believe there’s another way. When a horse refuses to work or resists in some fashion, I always have him checked out for pain issues. I recommend a soundness check by an equine veterinarian. I also like to consult with a certified equine chiropractor and a certified veterinary acupuncturist.
Banjo had been checked from top to bottom and was in good shape. So, I could rule out pain as the cause of his resistant behavior, I focused on what he was trying to tell me. In the arena when he did move forward it was halting and forced, but once we were outside of the arena in the field he moved forward with ease.
He was arena sour. He’d learned that in the arena he was asked to do things his body was not yet ready for, and it was painful for him.
So, how to teach my big boy that we could have fun riding together?
I began working Banjo in a large grass field. I don’t recommend this to everyone, but with the ground work and solid foundation Banjo and I had, we were safe. In the field, I let him pick the pace and often the direction. I just let him move forward without applying a lot of pressure. We moved around the field with no agenda, just being together.
As the days progressed, Banjo began relaxing and moving freely and lifting his back. As he relaxed, forward became a natural thing. When I asked for the trot, all I had to do was think forward, lighten my seat, and he was willing to go!
It was Banjo’s way of thanking me for taking the time to listen to him.
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