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Confidence building for your horse

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With Halloween right around the corner, I thought it was fitting to talk about spooky things our horses think will get them and how to build their confidence. We have all had horses that spook at the "horse eating banner" in the arena or some other form of spooky objects to our horses. It is easy for a spook to turn into a wreck or bad habit when working or running barrels . I will cover how to help your horse have confidence in you as a rider and leader.


There are two reasons a horse will be spooky. One, the horse is young and inexperienced, and genuinely afraid of something. Two, the horse is older and experienced but has learned that spooking at things gets him a release from the work he is doing.

Start without any spooky things in the round pen, and work your horse in figure 8's and serpentines, focusing on softening his nose at each change of direction, and keeping his feet moving forward. I like to work these exercises at the trot if possible. The goal here is to get your horse's feet moving and his attention on you. Once you have this without distractions, have your friend come into the pen and start adding distractions. Your responsibility as a rider is to keep working with your horse on the same exercises as if nothing has changed. If you lose focus and start looking at the new, scary distractions, you can hardly blame your horse for doing the same! Have your helper start small, maybe by just jumping around a little and kicking some dirt. See how your horse handles this. If he spooks, have your friend just keep at it while you keep at your training exercises. If your horse does not spook when something new happens, pet him and let him know that was what you wanted. Keep adding more distractions and scarier things, and you can move out to the larger arena once you are feeling confident.

If at a barrel race and your riding around the arena and your spooks at a banner or object, do not drive him directly at it to smell or look at it. Don't make a big deal out of it. Instead you as the rider and leader, need to show him its not a big deal and it didn't bother you. Instead keep him moving forward at a walk or trot doing large circles 20 - 30 feet from it, then as he relaxes , without stopping, move your circles closer to the spooky object until he rides by it with no concern.

You will never be able to expose your horse to every possible scary situation and thing he might encounter in his lifetime. So instead of trying to train for every specific thing you might come across, instead you are teaching your horse to control his emotions and look to you for guidance in any situation. Remember, the important thing is not how your horse responds to the scary object. The important thing is how he responds to you and your cues in the situation. Don't get after your horse and start punishing him if he spooks, just keep working on your forward motion, changes of direction, and flexing. If you start punishing your horse every time he spooks, it just adds more anxiety to the situation as he anticipates the punishment, and that is not what you are after. However, don't let the spook be a release. If your horse spooks, drive him right back up to the speed he was moving forward before the spook, or even a little faster. If he learns that spooking is a way to get the chance to stop and rest, your problem will just get worse.

 

 

Ride Tough,

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www.crosscreekrodeoranch.com

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Vana is no newcomer to the horse world and ranch life. Her father was a premier P.R.C.A stock contractor and owner of Midwest Rodeo Company, the largest rodeo production in the Midwest during the 70's and 80's. At the age of 19, Vana began her career as a professional barrel racer. Vana competed in the biggest stages in the rodeo business as she captured titles and awards along the way including: W.P.R.A Reserve World Champion, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo Champion, two time Calgary Stampede Champion, Reno, Nevada Champion, two time W.P.R.A. SE Circuit champion, and six time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in LasVegas. Vana's expertise is a vital asset at Cross Creek Rodeo Ranch where she now trains the next generation of barrel racers and is also capable of teaching horsemanship to any age.

Now residing in Edgefield, South Carolina as co-owner of Cross Creek Rodeo Ranch, Vana and her husband, Ed, have set a foundation in the Carolina’s for the love of rodeo and horses. . “We want to have a place that offers a chance for people to learn and grow regarding their skills as a horseman; years of helping have been the catalyst for me to now travel and conduct clinics.”

To learn more about Vana, what Cross Creek Rodeo Ranch offers, and clinic dates please visit www.crosscreekrodeoranch.com.
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