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Rising K Ranch

Klay Klemic is a showcased Cedar City, UT horseback riding lessons instructor on!

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Tuesday, March 21 2023

   We start a lot of colts here at Rising K Ranch. After they have learned enough in the round pen, I take them out on a trail ride with a little company from my wranglers and assistants. At a few points, or at least at some point, the colt is sure to spook at something, whether that be a log, a branch brushing up against them, or one particular boulder out there that every coly so far mistakes for a bear.

   Everyone who rides horses very long end up dealing with a spooked horse at least to some degree. While there are several methods out there that can work for getting a horse used to obstacles and objects and noises, my method is simply to ignore it and move on. In the case of the scary boulder, for example, I very well could spend fifteen or twenty minutes riding my horse in large circles around the boulder, gradually making my circles smaller, or I could work on other things like hip and shoulder control at a certain distance from the boulder and gradually get closer until he doesn't even pay the boulder any heed. I have done all these things before and they do work. However, I have also found that if you simply ride the horse every day and constantly expose him to new things, you really don't have to spend any dedicated time towards such desensitization, as the horse will naturally learn to trust you anyway.

   Therefore, if I am in an arena and the horse is afraid of one certain side or of something just outside, I do not focus on the frightening place and attempt to desensitize the horse. Rather, I simply continue to look ahead where I want the horse to go and continue working on whatever particular thing we might already be working on (loping circles, counterarcs, etc.) Even if the horse does shy away and makes it impossible to make the perfectly shaped circle I was attempting, even if we end up riding in oblong shapes rather than in circles due to the horses' shying away from one end of the arena, I continue to look forward where I want the horse to go and continue to train the horse rather than make a concerted effort to desensitize him to a certain area. It is very rarely more than two or three rides in a row until the colt is over his fear and is back on track just focusing on his training. 

   The same holds true for the trail riding. If the horse is afraid of a particular place or thing, I simply refuse to acknowledge said thing, and I continue to keep my own eyes fixed ahead as I ask the horse to move forward. Even if the horse moves past the object by veering off the trail further than I would have liked, he still got past it and almost never takes more than two or three more trail rides before he feels comfortable walking right alongside the scary boulder or whatever object it may be. (I will say that streams are a bit of a different situation, as you have no choice but to cross them when you get to them, so that is a time when you simply must take the time it takes to teach your horse to cross a stream; but I will write on that more specifically at a future date.)

   Perhaps the most important thing to remember where spookiness is concerned is that, no matter what, training a solid, confident horse in the arena and trail requires more than just a day or two- it requires daily exposure for several months, This is why we haul young horses to horse shows long before they are entered- it prepares them for all the activity. And this is why, if you are going to be showing a horse in a trail course or going hunting with him, you should have him prepared long before show time or hunting season. Preparing months in advance will take all the haste out of the situation and allow you to train your horse in a much more professional fashion, and will do much to reduce nearly all risk of injury both for the rider as well as for the horse.

Posted by: Klay Klemic AT 05:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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    Rising K Ranch is a Horseback Trail Ride and Riding School in Utah, located perfectly between Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

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