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.
My rescue horse, Banjo, was progressing well. I’d determined how arena-sour he was, and we were spending time getting to know one another just roaming around the property and local trails.
I wanted him to enjoy being ridden; in his limited experience before I got him, riding had been scary and painful. This was a very special time for us, and we really began to develop a partnership.
As we went along, he began to really enjoy himself. He’d keep his ears up and his eyes bright and would look all around as though taking in the scenery.
On the property where I kept him, I was fortunate in that there were many new things for us to experience. Banjo loved water! So, we spent a great deal of time crossing the creek and stopping for some play time. He loves to dig and splash in it.
Bridges were another matter! He didn’t care for them at all! So, just with all the training I was giving him, we took it slow. I’d take him down to the bridge in hand and just stand there with him, not pressuring him move forward, allowing him time to take it all in. Then, with gentle pressure and release, I began to move him toward this new scary thing.
Creating a soft, willing horse is all about pressure and release. The horse learns when we release the pressure. So, whatever the horse is doing when the pressure stops is what he learns to be the correct response.
With Banjo and the bridge, I’d apply gentle lead-rope pressure. The instant I felt him give in to me, I’d release the pressure. This “give” could be as little as a slight forward movement with his head or softening of his neck.
Working this way, Banjo came onto the bridge without a fight or even stress. He was nervous, but because there was no urgency from me, he felt safe and walked across the bridge quietly. He did have “big eyes” and checked everything out as we went.
When we crossed back over the bridge, he was much more relaxed. We did this many times.
When it was time to ride him over the bridge, I used the same pressure-and-release techniques with my legs. I gently squeezed with my legs until I felt the slightest forward movement; then I released the leg cue. He walked right onto the bridge calmly and easily.
Once we crossed the bridge, we were free to explore the woods, going over logs and around ponds. We even encountered some lamas! We went through all these new things slowly and quietly, which gave Banjo time to adapt to his new surroundings.
Each horse is different, but it’s always helpful to consider things from the horse’s point of view.
Think outside the box for solutions to your horse’s behavior issues. It sure paid off for Banjo and I!
If you want more information on rescue horses or you want to locate a rescue near you, please check outAHomeForEveryHorse.com.
Equine.com and the Active Interest Media Equine Network have joined forces with the American Horse Council’s Unwanted Horse Coalition to launch A Home for Every Horse Project. This project helps find homes for America’s 170,000 to 200,000 horses in need of care and shelter.
Here’s how it works:
• Begin the search for your next equine partner at AHomeForEveryHorse.com. You can search horses waiting for homes at nonprofit shelters across the country. Browse by rescue horse, or find rescue organizations in your area.
• Visit the site’s “Services” section to learn about your local rescue organizations. Find out how you can volunteer, donate, or simply spread the word.
• Look for upcoming stories on EquiSearch.com related to horse rescue.
If your 501(c)(3) rescue organization would like to join the Home For Every Horse Project, call (866) 467-7323, ext. 100.
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