Napping/Backing Up - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 06-24-2011, 12:22 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: British Columbia, Canada
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Napping/Backing Up

My horse, London, is a 10 year old thoroughbred gelding who I've owned for 2 and a half years.

Yesterday we were out on the trails at the back of the property, and I decided to turn onto a new trail. This trail is a few months old, but I've ridden my boy on it about 4 or 5 times before.

At the entrance of the trail, he stopped and refused to move forward. I clicked and urged him forward with my legs, but he still didn't move. I let him stand for a couple of minutes, and then tried again to make him move forward, but he still refused to move. Getting annoyed that he was ignoring my leg, I turned my toes out and spurred him. Still no forward movement.

Instead, he became more stressed, and started to move backwards quickly. When he moves backwards, I let my reins loose and use my legs to push him forwards. The more I insisted that he move forward, the more stressed he became. He even reared once, something I obviously do not want him to get in the habit of. at that point, I decided it was too dangerous to carry on the argument, and turned back onto the regular trail. I hate to let him "win" and get away with not listening to be.

Recently, when I've had group lessons, whenever it's our turn to jump the course, London will get cranky and back up when I ask him to move away from the other horses.

Last night, I read over "The Horse Behaviour Problem Solver," by Jessica Jahiel, and she says that when a horse naps, you should sit and wait, not allowing it to move left right, or backwards, but not insisting on forward movement. Eventually, the horse will feel sufficiently safe or bored that he will move forward on his own. Sometimes it can take up to an hour, but the waiting time decreases each time you do it.

Looking back at my post, it seems that London does not trust me enough to feel safe with me when he is scared. This makes sense for the trail situation, but what about in the arena with other horses? It seems that he is just being stubborn when I ask him to move forward, because I know he feels safe in the arena.

I feel stupid that I got frustrated with him when on the trail, because the LAST thing I want is for him to feel threatened by me when he is already uneasy about a new trail. I want him to look to me for security whenever he's spooked.

I think he trusts me to a certain point, because we've been partners for several years, jump scary x-country fences, go through water, and trail ride regularly. The odd thing about that this situation is that I ride him out on the trails almost every day. He's napped occasionally, but he's always listened to me eventually when I insist that he move forward. This was the first time he's ever got his way and not had to go where wanted him to.

I think the reason he became really stressed and started rearing was because I got frustrated when I should have sat calmly given him time to relax and scope out the fairly new trail.

Lol, I think I may have answered my own question here, but I'll ask anyway.
Has anyone had any experience with a horse that naps/backs up? How did you deal with it? How can I train him out of his backing up habit?

I know I did many things wrong in this situation, and would welcome and suggestions anyone has for how I could have reacted differently or what method I could use the next time he naps.

I do have a trainer I will ask about it but I know there are many very knowledgeable horsepeople on this forum and I think it would be useful to get other people's opinions and experiences.

Thank you so much for any input! (and for reading all the way through )

Thea and London
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post #2 of 5 Old 06-24-2011, 05:08 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Colorado
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I don't have any advice, but I wanted to throw out there that maybe he saw or smelled something you weren't aware of? I know horses tend to think harmless things like buckets and plastic bags are full of tigers and death, but maybe there was a snake near the trail?

I hope you get it figured out! :)

Not all who wander are lost - J.R.R. Tolkien
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post #3 of 5 Old 06-24-2011, 11:05 PM
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I don't know anything about that horse problem person, but I would use a modified approach like that. I would ask the horse to move past the sticky place (like say if you are on a T intersection and you want the horse to turn off the main trail, you go on the original trail past the turnoff point, then turn him around and ride back to the turnoff and off him to turn onto it, if NO, then keep going , turn around , reoffer, ride on, turn around , reoffer, ride on, etc. . ..

You just keep going past that place and reoffer it as if there is no argument. But if he wont go, you dont' give up, you just rechannael the forward movement so as not to lose it, and you come back to the place again and again.
Might work!
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post #4 of 5 Old 06-24-2011, 11:28 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: British Columbia, Canada
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Thank you both very much for your input.

Goldi, I'm pretty sure he smelt a bear in the woods. It wouldn't usually be an issue, as we see bears regularly when out for rides and London is usually okay with them, but it might have been different this time because he could smell the bear but couldn't see it.

Tiny, it think that is a great idea. I think if I keep up with offering or suggesting that he move where I want him to go, he will eventually get bored of refusing and move forward. Heck, he may even forget what he's upset about! I will try that approach next time he naps.

Does anyone have any ideas or opinions on his napping problem in the arena with other horses? I would really love to get rid of his backing up issue all together, as it can be very unsafe when he backs into other horses, rears, etc.
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post #5 of 5 Old 06-25-2011, 12:10 AM
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One thing you might be able to do if space permits is to back him more, when he wants to back. Except that rather than hold both reins, you hold only one (I mean put pressure on one) and he should end up backing in a circle. So, if you ask for forward, he backs, you open the front door ask again and he still backs, close one rein down and use his own backing energy to back hinm around a circle, but don't apply any leg, only move backward if he chooses to.
If he stops backing , aski for forward. Repeat. If he really is willfully ignoring you, you can vigorously back him using one rein more than the other, but take care that he doesn't feel too close off and end up rearing. That's why I might use only one rein pressure and he is still moving but ends up circling. He could get mighty tired of that.

Bears? yikes! I like bears in the distance.
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