Spooky horses part 4 - Horses that get Distracted
Horses that get Distracted 😝😜🤪
These guys are the ones people often get frustrated with because they’re just not paying attention and are too busy looking at what’s going on around them rather than focussing on you. These are the horses that are generally labelled as ‘naughty’ or ‘looking for something to spook at’. They are often better out on a hack than in the arena because the changes in the environment keep them from getting distracted.
Adrenaline is also a factor with these guys as a horse that’s distracted and on adrenaline can be a whole lot of horse to handle, as I said in last weeks blog, adrenaline is like an amplifier, whatever you have, you will get more of it when they’re on adrenaline. Horses like this need a job that’s going to focus and relax them and not make them more tense as it’s easy to tip these horses into tension which will make the whole situation worse.
So what to do….for these horses you need exercises that are going to focus their minds and ideally get them back connected and listening to you. This means that you need to spot when your horse is getting distracted and get them back listening or thinking about what you’re asking them to do as soon as possible and reward them by relaxing yourself when they are connected. Sometimes this is the hardest part as it’s easy to get tense ourselves when riding a horse you feel isn’t listening.
Both on the ground and ridden transitions are great for getting a horse to focus on you, look for signs that his attention is going elsewhere for example if you are riding looking where his ears are going will give you a good idea about where he’s focussing. Any time you feel your horse is getting distracted or ideally before he does make a transition to get his focus back. Use walk and trot at first and stay in each gait long enough to feel him relax, or, if you’re really having trouble focussing your horse use a pattern, for example 10 strides walk, 10 strides trot, 10 strides walk, 10 strides trot and so on. Adjust the number of strides depending on how long you are able to leave your horse alone before he gets distracted. Using a pattern like this will keep you and your horse focussed on the job and it’s amazing how quickly horses learn to count!
Changes of direction ↩️↪️↩️↪️
Small turns are really good for a horse that is really tense as bending their bodies can really help relax them, small turns can be done from the ground or ridden and as your horse relaxes you can make the circles bigger until you can leave them going straighter for longer without starting to look in the bushes for Pokemons!
As with the previous exercise any time you feel your horse is getting distracted or ideally before he does make a change of direction to get his focus back.
Poles are fabulous for getting horses to think about where they are putting their feet rather than what’s going on around them, they are particularly good for distracted horses who do better with something that has a clear purpose. Make sure your horse has already done pole work when they are calm before trying it as a strategy when their brain is elsewhere. If you’re not sure, try lunging your horse over poles first to see how they react before trying in the saddle, it’s always better to watch them launch themselves than to try and ride that!! 🚀🚀
Lastly, a word on frustration. Distracted horses are often the one’s that people get frustrated with as it can feel like they are just being naughty and doing it on purpose. Of course we all know that horses don’t spend the night plotting and scheming about how they are going to frustrate their human 🤔 (however much it may feel like it!!) and we also know that getting ourselves upset usually makes the situation worse! So, if this is you, teach yourself how to breathe, relax and be calm. Remember he’s not doing it on purpose he’s just reacting to his situation in the way that makes sense to him (not you!) and your job is to help him find a different way to deal with it. If you are really struggling with this consider talking to your trainer about strategies to help or someone who coaches riders on their mindset.
Really lastly (!) - remember to enjoy your time with your horses and have fun!! 😊🦄💕
Before trying any training technique it is important to rule out pain or discomfort. Saddle fit, teeth, back, hoof balance and lameness issues should all be checked by a qualified professional before applying any training.
If you have questions or need idea's to help with a specific problem feel free to get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyla has been helping riders and their horses in the UK, USA and Europe for over 15 years. She has prepared horses for crowds of over 6,000 people with no calmers or ear plugs for venues including Birmingham NEC, Aintree, Bury Farm EC and Hartpury.
Lyla specialises in horse psychology and behaviour problems with a specific interest in dressage and has worked with horses from grass roots to Grand Prix across the UK and Europe including international competitors and Olympians from Spain, the US, Canada and the UK.
All training techniques discussed are from experience only, it is impossible for to accurately advise on horse/rider combinations without seeing them live. Lyla Cansfield & Equine Mind & Body Training strongly advise anyone considering using any of the techniques discussed to get live help and can take no responsibility for the outcome of applying any of the techniques discussed without supervision. Riding is a high risk sport.