Horse Tack Review

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Equine Partnering: Stop Sneaking up on Your Horse

Lauren Woodard

There’s a cartoon Mountain Dew commercial with no words. It’s the old fashioned style where the line drawings move. Like you drew each in progress action in a thick pencil on a card deck and then flipped thru them. There’s a ‘man in black’ who is hunched with bent head, arms, hips and knees and he travels in a stealthy, tip-toe manner. Even before he tries to steal the Mountain Dew, we know he’s a bad guy.

STOP SNEAKING UP ON HORSES!!! If you do, they know you’re a bad guy. At the very least you’re being dishonest. They MUST wonder what you’re hiding! They MUST withhold their trust! As a prey animal, it’s their job to run, roll their eyes, try to escape, rear, kick, shy, charge or just shake in their hide when they sense a predator approach.

Do you attempt to approach your horse with the halter and lead behind your back? Do you think for one minute that the horse doesn’t know you have it? Stop thinking that because they always know. Are you leaning forward with that slippery, stealthy, tip-toe manner like you’re oh so sweet and nice, and quiet and delicate, when as soon as you’re close enough, you’re going to throw the rope over their neck and snag them? Are they ever surprised when you behave this way? Or ready and wary of you?

No. They’re never surprised by this. They just don’t like it. It’s dishonest.

If you were a mountain lion, would your approach be any different? No. Head slung low, legs slowly inching forward, body slightly crouched in a circuitous, syrupy manner. If another person walked up to you with something behind their back in this manner, you too would step back and prepare for trouble. It screams trap. And, since we’re not even prey animals and we know this, how much more a prey animal. As a note, women should think about being by themselves on a deserted street at dusk with a guy coming toward you. Do all your senses heighten while you assess the man and your surroundings? Yes, women are prey animals, too!

There is a difference between moving slowly with honesty and moving slowly like you’re stalking or sneaking up. And you know it or you wouldn’t be trying to sneak up! It’s not necessary to run up to your horse swinging the equipment, but it is also nice to be able to do this if you need to or want to.

When you approach horses and want to put a halter on, carry the halter and lead right out in front. At least the horse knows you’re not trying to trick him. He may still run if he doesn’t know you, respect you, want to be caught or just wants to play with you, but let’s just admit that you want to get control of him and get on with it. That is what you want, right, or you wouldn’t have the stuff in your hand. If you’ve been sneaking up on your horse or not reached an agreement with him where he comes to you (which is a beautiful thing and I never, ever get tired of it), you can’t expect him to come to you or even stand still, but it certainly will get his attention and he will wonder why you’re acting differently. There are many ways to cause your horse to want to come to you. One is to take a step backward when he looks at you. If you study your horse’s actions and reactions and learn what to do, where to be and how to be, any horse will come to you in somewhere between 5 minutes and an hour. This is my first meeting with Dylan who knew that in the round pen you ‘go around’. He was coming in in about 8 minutes.

Lauren has been teaching riding and training for 30 years and riding for 45, from hunter/jumper and basic dressage to living on a working cattle ranch and trail riding (blazing). She teaches equine partnering now and is committed to helping people expand their awareness of and respect for the intelligence and gifts the horse has to offer thru her seminars “ ‘til I Came to Realize’ “ with Cuz Coste. Lauren can be reached at 480-951-1546 or