Gaining a horses confidence to hack alone...?
I would really appreciate any tips on getting my horse to hack alone. He is a 13yr old dutch warmblood who has jumped and dressaged his whole career. The one thing which made himso affordable to me was that he would not hack out, with or without company! As he will just refuse to leave the yard and end up rearing and getting all upset. He is extremely spooky and can be nappy! I've trield both a firm approach and soft and neither do any good!
I have worked very hard on him and now although nervous and still very spookily he will hack out in company but the other horse has to be very confident. He is actually better the more horses he goes with and found him almost perfect when out with 3others. I can now get him to lead out of the yard and all the way down our drive but as soon as he hits the road the other horse has to take the lead. I try and make sure he's not hiding behind the other horse by keeping him up along side it and he has got better and better. He will also now go off down the farm tracks round the feilds with me alone but was a quivering wreck the whole time.
I have been told by many that at 14 this year he's never going to change but I have already got him so far I really don't believe that for a moment! Do you guys have any suggestions?
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The problem is he's looking to the other horses for confidence, not you. Don't ride/walk him away from the yard until you have the full 100% of his attention. Don't expect it to be perfect the first couple of times, herd bound horses are really hard to break. It takes alot of time and patience. Start walking and leading the trails until you start to ride. If you can't keep his attention on the ground you won't when you're riding. Turn him out alone? there are alot of steps you can take to help him.
Orrr you can try to wean him? I've never tried this but it would sound nice.
Everytime you ride start with two or three horses then slowly take one away? until for awhile you're riding only with one horse and then one day take him away?
I like White Foots idea of weaning him. Try doing that where is comfortable before he gets to the road have the other horses stop and try and make it a couple of feet. Put his feed pan out ahead filled with apples carrots the whole load! Make it an extremely positive experience. He might be two scared to eat so make sure he gets treats when he is comfortable. Just like teaching a horse thats scared to load its baby steps and leadership, I am not a believer in aggressive types of leadership. My guys respond to kindness and consideration. Liken it to something you or a child would be afraid of. You wouldn't expect a child to go in a dark basement by himself. I think you are doing it exactly how you should nice and slow. Yes he can learn and enjoy to hack out alone. Maybe hack out with the whole group and have a helper along the way handing out apples so he expects nice things out there?
Oh excellent! Sometimes you just don't know of your doing the right thing?!
I know he's not nasty so I gave up on the firm approach very very quickly, he is genuinely new to hacking and is much like a 4year old about it. He's quite a nervous horsey in his whole nature but because he was a stallion up until 5years ago, if he's in doubt he just tries to take charge! Which never helps! Lol
I'm def guna try leading him out in hand as your are very right in that he needs to trust me and listen to me instead of other horses.
Brilliant stuff! Thank you guys!
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My input here depends on the answer to this question. When you do ride him out on a hack, what do you do with your reins? Do you ride him out on the bit with full contact, loose rein with just the occasional emergency correction in mind, or somewhere in between?
Well he's not a horse that you can have long reins on so I tend to keep a gentle relaxed contact on him. I find if you have him too much in your hand that he gets quite on his toes n like a coiled spring, he also shys more. If you completely relax your hands on him and allow him to have his reins he becomes very backwards, deliberately not keeping up with the others so that he can hide. But if you have him in a gentle contact he's much more up for it. Lots and lots of legs is needed to and lots of voice and congratulations when he's doing it right which gets him much more relaxed! :-)
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Okay, so he's definitely looking for someone to look out for him. It's good that he wants a little contact, but doesn't need to be contained in a tight ball. That's just an explosion waiting to happen. I have a few suggestions.
The first is to extend your arena so to speak. If there are any ground poles you regularly use when you're schooling, bring them out into an open area outside the confines of the arena. This gives him something familiar in an otherwise unfamiliar venue. Walk him over and around the poles with the goal of maintaining a relaxed horse. If he stays relaxed, move up to trot and even canter if he'd doing well. He needs to know that even though he's in a new area, you're still up there to guide him.
The next exercise can be done with or without familiar objects or ground poles. Walk him away from the familiar area 20 steps, at your choice, turn around and come back. Then go 40 steps, turn around and come back. 80 steps, etc. The goal of this game is to keep a steady pace. If he walks the first part at a snail's pace, he comes back that way. He is not allowed to rush home. Again, this shows him you're there to take care of him. If he's so nervous that we won't even walk away, try the next exercise, which is the drunken walk.
The drunken walk involves keeping the horse's attention and "forward" motion without force or feeling trapped. This one works well for horses who freeze in place and like to grow roots instead of move forward. The rules are, use only one rein at a time, no leg and sit square. Simply walk away from the barn in a zig zag pattern. Take up contact on one rein to lead the horse off to one direction, then drop that rein and switch to the other one. This is an insanely simple exercise that does wonders for keeping the horse focused on its rider rather than scanning for anything that wants to eat it.
The ultimate goal for any of these is to end with a calmer horse than you started with. Just take your time. He'll get there. Hopefully one of these will help your horse. Good luck.
Oh these do sound simple but can see they would be very useful! He does that drunken walk thing on his own! Lol especially to a xc fence that he's unsure of! But the weird thing with him is that he's nervous but I don't actually believe hrs scared! I almost think the planting himself, running backwards and rearing is a learnt behaviour that I believe he found to work with his previous owner. As she told me he wouldn't hack when I viewed him. She said she had taken him out a couple of times and decided that it was such a hair raising experience that she wouldn't hack him?
He is also not in the slightest bit affraid of the hugest traffic? However if a bird flies out if the hedge, or there is abit of cardboard on the side of the rd he's silly! Also peoples driveways are very scary? He's an odd ball! I can take him to any strange arena or practice field etc and he will school up better than at home, like he knows it a show and he has to show off! Lol
I am nearly the whole way to getting him to run xc on his own but roads and hacking alone really are his hangups!?
Thank you! :-)
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He sounds a bit like my horse in his way of spooking. He doesn't spook at obvious, genuine things but rather at silly inanimate objects, haha.
I had a lot of problems with hacking my youngster out wen i first got him. He napped a lot. Rearing, running backwards, spinning and planting.
If he is genuinely very nervous and not confident, you could slowly wean him away from other horses. Once you progress to one horse, you could have someone go out on foot. Gradually they can move from walking in front to further and further behind until eventually you can hack out alone.
Is he generally a forward going horse or is he not particularly responsive or forward thinking?
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