Can Natural Horsemanship help my nervous napper?
I am the proud owner of a beautiful 17.2 Gelderlander. I have only owned him for one month but have loaned him for almost 2 years now, and so far everything has been going perfectly, including the move to his new yard. I have always had problems hacking him out alone. He naps frequently and often I just can't get him through them. He doesn't rear or run away, just either spins to face the other way or backs up at high speed. He is usually fine to hack with other horses, however for the first time this week I forced him out alone at his new home and on the first hack had to give in to his napping as it was in a dangerous place, but the second time managed to ride him through 7 or 8 naps in a row and got round the hack succesfully. However I went for a hack with my friend and her horse last night and he refused to go on either of the routes where he had gone on his own last time, and would not listen to any of my aids. I don't like to smack him as it doesn't work and only makes him more upset. I know he doesn't like to be by himself in the field, let alone riding out, and so was wondering whether any of you had any ideas about whether natural horsemanship could help us out? Any help would be much appreciated, as I really want to help him overcome this and he is such a gentle giant in every other way. Many thanks xx
What do you mean by napping? I sure hope he's not falling asleep!
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By napping, I mean refusing to go where I want him to. For example I try to take him somewhere he doesn't want to go and he goes all tense and won't listen to what I am telling him to do and refuses to go forward. Not falling asleep thankfully!
Absolutely it will help him. Two of my babies were doing that when going out on trail, and you're right - smacking does very little.
However, it's a respect issue, so I go back and do all of the natural horsemanship exercises.
Then, I attack the problem: I have the mentality that I must NEVER let them get away with it or they will learn to do it more and more. Therefore, I almost always get off. Why put myself in danger, when I can just lead them over? I usually ride in a mecate rein or Indian hackamore so that it's safe to do groundwork. One of the babies would follow me right away once I got off, so I would usually get off between 3 and 4 times per ride to lead her over places she didn't like. I did usually try applying pressure first. Then when that didn't work, I'd hop off, back her up to show her I wasn't happy, and then led her. Then hopped back on 10 ft later. It was good for her because she's 4 and flighty but stands super quietly for mounting.
I really needed the hackamore for the second baby- sometimes leading wouldn't work. Then, I'd yield her hindquarters over and over again on the ground and back her up (exercises that I perfected in the ring first) and eventually she'd agree to walk forward.
But if you've already ridden through some naps, you shouldn't even have to get off - in fact, your horse is huge, so it would be really hard. What I would do is apply these same concepts when he refuses: make it HIS idea to walk forward by making him yield his hindquarters under saddle when he naps. Then, give him a chance by facing him head in the direction you want to go and applying some pressure. If he takes even a HALF step forward, reward intensely, and let him rest for a second before resuming. It's important to tell yourself that you will take as much time as you need, one hour, two hours, just doing this, but that you will never give up.
Also, ask for just a little bit at a time. I started just asking these babies to go on 5 min hacks, then 10 min, and then progressed to 30 hour and eventually 45 min. Doing this exercise for a whole 3 mile hack would have stressed them out. I had pretty low standards at first but made sure that I was the the one to decide when to go home.
It's invaluable to push your horse's buttons in the ring, first, too, where you feel the safest. Many riders have trouble doing this and wait until they have to, but usually when they have to isn't the safest situation. So, grab a tarp or something scary, and practice this exercise in the ring until he knows the whole hindquarters and pressure thing and stands on the tarp. I did that with the first baby (not the second, and I had SO much more trouble with her) and it helped so much!
Sorry for the novel, but this is one of my LEAST favorite issues so I hope that this advice helps a little! You can call it "Natural Horsemanship" but it's just basic horse training - try to make it HIS idea, reward the slightest try, make sure you have good timing in your reward and application of pressure, etc, etc.
You horse sounds beautiful btw - good luck with him! Do you have any pictures?
Thank you so much for your advice Juliane, you are very kind. And I'm so glad not to have been the only one with this problem! I will give your ideas a go and hope for the best. I am definitely willing to put the time in because I really want to help him, and he's such a good boy in all other aspects that I really think with some work we could solve this. I am going to try hacking out again with a friend tomorrow so I will give your tactics a try and report back! Here is a picture of him, he really is beautiful! Thanks so much xxx
WOW! What a looker! Is he a jumper?
I hope that it all works out for you! And I think it is a very common problem... Actually I just remembered a QH I rode that also had it. It puts such a damper on a nice trail ride.
Definitely let me know how it goes :)! If you ever want training advice btw, you should check out All Horse Stuff...my brother,the founder, is the real training guru...I am just learning from him!
He LOVES to jump Juliane, and he is fantastic at it. I have no idea how high he can go, as so far everything I have ever asked him to jump he has cleared by miles! I will definitely check out All Horse Stuff, as I like the way you have suggested dealing with him in a kind manner, and if these are also your brother's ideas then that is great!xx
Hi, I'm Juliane's brother. He's a good looking horse!
I agree with Juliane, I would redirect the negative energy of napping into something positive, such as yielding his hindquarters or making him work hard in some way. He will start to learn that napping just leads to more work and that going where you want him to go is the easiest option.
I do think doing this gradually is a great idea too. Start small, such as practicing in the ring. Then gradually ask more and more from your horse.
I made a video a few months ago showing one way to redirect negative energy into something positive: How to Stop a Horse from Rearing and Bucking
I hope that helps. I am curious to hear about how it goes, stay safe!
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