HomeExpert AdviceMy horse insists on being at the front when hacking out – how can I make him listen to me?

My horse insists on being at the front when hacking out – how can I make him listen to me?

Posted in Riding Schooling and Training Hacking

Q: My gelding is a very forward-going, strong ride and whenever I hack him out with other horses, he insists on being in front. If I try to go at the back, he jogs and pulls on the reins, and I sometimes have trouble stopping him. What can I do now to make him listen to me?

Tina Sederholm answers:
It certainly sounds like you’ve got a handful! Horses who have got away with this kind of behaviour for a long time are difficult to retrain, because the habits are so ingrained. However, there are lots of things you can do to help alleviate your issues.

My first suggestion is going to sound quite radical. I appreciate you have had his feed checked by a nutritionist, but providing he is in good condition, I’d take away all his hard feed, and let him live on grass, hay and carrots. There is no point putting in more petrol if the turbo is being ignited, and some horses just cannot cope with concentrated food. I have event horses who have competed up to quite a high level, living on a similar diet, and they’re happier for it.

Work ethics

You do not say if he lives in or out, but if he is stabled all the time, I’d recommend you turn him out as much as you can. The kind of energy he has cannot be suppressed – it has to be diluted with more freedom and exercise, and less fuel.

 

Manners, manners

To re-educate his manners, I’d work him quite hard in the school before hacking. Ride or lunge him until he’s sobered up a bit (or better still, is a bit tired). Then take him out with one other quiet horse. Let him walk beside the other horse. If he tries to overtake, take a light check (or several!) on the reins until he is level again. Don’t try to keep him behind the other horse. If a car comes, then he can go in front momentarily, but then stop him until the other horse is upsides again.

Only take him on quiet hacks until he behaves. If he is good one day, then the next time work him for a shorter time in the school, then hack out. Take it a step at a time – if he gets excited one day, next time, do more school work and a quieter hack.

Back to school

You say you’ve taken your horse back to basics and achieved nothing. Did you ask an instructor for help? If they couldn’t find the key, try a new instructor. Your horse needs to learn to accept a half-halt, so that you can have a conversation with him. If he doesn’t listen to you in an enclosed space, he won’t listen to you on a hack.

Finally, bitting. A horse like this who gets overexcited is never going to be ‘controlled’ just by a new bit. However, a Pelham – with its action on the horse’s poll – encourages him to tuck his head in, making him hard to stop.

As an interim measure, I’d try a Kimblewick, which works a bit like a Pelham, but with less poll pressure, then ask your instructor for advice. Remember, the bit is just the icing on the cake – the real work is management, and reschooling with patience and consistency. Good luck!

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January 2018

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