One minute you’re riding through the countryside astride your horse, the next you’re lying on the ground, watching it go home without you. All because it shied and you weren’t expecting it.
Not only is shying dangerous, it can be irritating. The danger comes when your horse is so preoccupied with dodging a piece of paper in the fence it has no concept of the huge truck on the road. It becomes irritating when it spends the entire ride looking for something to shy away from rather than concentrating on its work – especially when you can’t see the imaginary things. You, as a rider, can never relax and you often feel you need a strong tranquilliser.
The cause of shying can be that the horse is really scared. However, it’s more common that it’s over-fed, underworked and finds it fun to jump all over the place. It’s common for a horse to shy if the rider is too harsh on the reins. As the horse is expecting something to happen, he tenses up in anticipation. This can become a vicious cycle.
Solving the problem
The cure to this behaviour problem? First, you will need to decide whether the horse is genuinely nervous or just plain naughty. If it has real fear, then you should walk it quietly to the object it fears and let it get used to it. This will give him the confidence to pass it next time. Never pat a horse before or after a shy. This might just give it the idea that it’s doing the right thing. If you’ve discovered that the shying is habit or plain naughtiness, a firm approach is best. Don’t beat up your horse, just put your legs on firmly and ride it past the object.
A friend was complaining that her horse was shying away from everything. I jokingly said to her, ”You’re riding Julius too slowly; you give him time to think about what he wants to be afraid of.” It wasn’t long before she and Julius were winning endurance rides! This isn’t always the best way to handle your dressage horse. But the general idea is to encourage the horse to move on and past its fear with as little fuss as possible. If your horse trusts you, it should know you wouldn’t harm it. Spend time introducing him to new things. Get large pieces of plastic and long-line the animal over them. Find scary objects and introduce your horse to them in the safety of a lunge arena. Give it the time to investigate what’s frightening it. This way, there will be less for it to be afraid of. Contact Kim Dyson at 082 888 6511. |fw