All I did was ask him to canter. What he did next nearly sent me toppling over his head into the dirt below. He dropped his head and lifted up his rear end so fast and high, I felt like I was heading down the steep side of a roller coaster track. Luckily I was mostly prepared because he had done it before. When I recovered and reached the sidelines where my audience stood watching the show, a question emerged from one of my students. "What happened back there?" she asked. I replied with a sly grin, "My horse had a hump in his rump."
Lots of horses resist the suggestion to go forward when asked. Some will lift or hump up their rear end and kick out their hind feet, some will rear up the front feet, some will just freeze in place and offer you nothing at all. If you've ever had a question about what to do when your horse has these types of resistances, this article will help immensely.
Let's take this time for knowledge and strategy:
First, as to why a horse would resist, it's simple, they never asked to be put in that position in the first place. Don't take it personally, just make sure they feel valued every day whether you ride or not. That's basic psychology. "Horses don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Pat Parelli
Also, as to why a horse would resist, it's important to know that how you ask matters. If you ask without concern for their balance and timing, you will most certainly get feedback like kicking or rearing.
Lastly, as to why a horse would resist, it's important to know that when and where you ask matters too. If you ask a horse to go forward into a space they don't want to be or away from a space they would rather be, you will get feedback. It's to be expected, don't get frustrated. It never helps to get frustrated, NEVER!
Now as to how to resolve basic resistance in a horse that won't go forward when asked, or worse, tries to remove you from the picture if you ask.
1. Ask nicely, then gradually increase the intensity of your ask while being considerate of their balance. Sometimes you have to prepare a horse for a transition before you make the transition. In other words, if you want to canter on a left lead, you must make sure the left front leg is NOT dipping low and placing too much weight through that shoulder and foot. That leg must be free to move forward, so it helps to prepare for that lead with a slight shoulder yield to the right before you ask for the canter to the left. Does that make sense?
2. Ask nicely, then gradually increase the intensity of your ask while being considerate of their psychology. Sometimes you have to realize that horses are pattern animals. If you watch closely you'll see how they do the same things often. The same types of resistance show up with every forward transition, not just the canter. It only intensifies with the canter. What that means is, you can work to improve the quality of the more basic transitions forward first. For instance...
If I'm on the ground with my horse, asking for a trot to canter on a circle, I must notice whether or not I use my stick to support the new gait. If I do use my stick, it means my horse resisted the transition. No wonder he resists when riding too. No wonder you have to use a crop or kick harder when riding. It's not even good on the ground yet.
Or, consider riding, asking for a walk to trot transition, if he doesn't respond instantly, and calmly to my suggestion I wouldn't then expect him to respond well to the advanced transition. I find it odd how many people don't understand this. Do you understand this? Get the lower transitions from halt to walk so smooth and snappy that your horse isn't so hesitant with higher level transitions. That means you simply have to practice the basics a little longer in preparation for more challenging tasks later.
3. Follow through! This term "follow through," means two things. First that when you practice anything, you have to repeat that practice for a few days in a row, don't expect to get good results when all you do is one training session. Secondly, follow through means, persisting past the resistance. Don't reinforce the resistance by giving up. Go back and get the basic transitions good then end with one higher level transition. Be consistent through it all.
Lastly, I have some common misconceptions about resistance, that are extremely important to know. Here they are:
Don't force your horse through a muddy puddle and expect to not be muddy on the other side. The old cowboy way of bucking out a horse that wants to buck is only good if you're a cowboy who can handle that kind of rodeo. Be smart, if you're not that cowboy, don't do it that way. Even on the ground, don't do it that way. There are better ways. Ask for a little at a time and be natural and rewarding with the horse's effort. The most common mistake I see people make regarding horses with humps in their rumps is to hold the gait once the transition has been made. It looks like this in real time... I ask my horse to canter, he resists then he finally gives me one step and I slam on the gas pedal to make sure he doesn't fall out of the canter. After-all it was so hard to get there I don't want to lose it, right? Wrong.
Reward often, that is your new strategy. If your horse offers one step of canter, reward him for it and work over the next few minutes toward two steps. Be smart, be playful, and don't follow old traditions of force and fear tactics unless you're competent enough to deal with the fallout.
One last thing. Never assume your horse is good at anything, even if you've seen him do it before. Be considerate of the fact that just because a horse can canter without bucking, it doesn't mean he will canter without resisting when you place 100 plus pounds on his back and turn him in a direction he doesn't want to go. Don't assume anything, just ask questions. That's my motto. Ask your horse if he's ready, then if he says yes, by responding to a simple suggestion then ask him to perform something a little harder. If he says yes to that, you can keep climbing that ladder to the top, but if he says no. Don't climb higher, not yet, not even if he did it yesterday. Be considerate and wait until you get a yes answer.
I love that you love to read my articles and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of your dreams with horses. I would love to hear from you. Comment below on how this article has impacted you and share it with your friends.
PS. If you haven't received my book yet, take a look at Leadership and Horses
Thank you, Don Jessop