Tight rein when horse is nervous
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, December 15, 2007 07:19 PM
It was very warm, +1C, and snow was sliding off the roof in the arena. The sound sometimes sharp and loud, sometimes eerie made horses very nervous and jumpy. The human logic tells you to shorten the rein and keep contact tight in case of any new jumps. That makes the problem worse. When horses are nervous they tense their necks and raise their head. If you keep rein short you will make them even more nervous and tense, and you will eliminate any opportunity for them to lower their head - first sign of relaxation. The horse feels trapped on a short tight rein, nowhere to go and he will jump even more. Riders who do not have a very balanced seat or do not understand horse's nature will usually resort to a short rein. Learn to sit better on a calmer horse and learn to listen and watch your horse's reactions to understand him better. The fact that a horse spooked from a sudden noise is normal, that what horses do. If there is no consequence to the repeated noise your horse will start to relax and ignore it. Engage him in simple tasks like going in particular direction, changing rein, big circles to get his mind off the spooky noise.
For example, Arab mare I'm working with was jumping off the wall because of the noise. Riding correctly around arena was a challenge on it's own. At first I wasn't worried how she went as long as she went where I directed her. That helped me to avoid too much rein contact and making her feel trapped. And I invited her to lower her head. In 15 minutes she was trotting nicely around arena listening to my requests and even though I could still feel her tense up here and there she didn't spook, stop or jump.
Another example. My student was riding at the same time and was having problems. Her horse was very nervous and spooky with eyes popping out of her head. The girl kept the rein short and tight. I explained her the situation and in 5 minutes her horse lowered her head and blew her nose and were merrily trotting around with nice soft expression on her face.
Happy riding...
 
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