by Nicky Moffatt
Bargy behaviour is a common problem among horse owners and it usually results in the horse being strong to handle, pulling and barging into the owner while being led or generally being disrespectful of their handler’s personal space.
Equine behaviourist Michael Peace advises: “Use a long rope attached to your lead rope so you have more space to start with. Then take your horse into a safe environment such as an enclosed arena. Walk a little in front of him and ask him to follow. Then stop and see that your horse stops, too, without invading your body space. If he does, turn towards him, send vibrations down the rope and ask him to step back until he’s at a reasonable distance away from you then reward him with a pat.”
Repetition and consistency is the key with any successful training and using firm, but fair, signals will make it clear what you want from your horse without frightening him.
Are you and your horse a perfect match? Here are some top tips to help you create the perfect bond.
- Spend time with your horse watching him in the field so that you learn more about the way he behaves around other horses.
- Be clear with your signals so that he knows the boundaries – what he is and isn’t allowed to do. Make your signals firm, but avoid aggressive behaviour and remember to reward good efforts.
- Find places he likes to be scratched or tickled to help you enjoy some special time together.
- Groundwork is a positive way of improving your relationship. You can teach him a lot of ridden exercises from the ground, such as lateral work, rein back and transitions.
- Make sure you provide your horse with everything he needs to stay happy and gauge his behaviour to check he’s calm and relaxed in his life. Horses must have food, water, friends and shelter from the elements.
Banish bad behaviour
If you’re having trouble getting your horse to cooperate in certain areas of his life, try some of these ideas.
Very few of us have the perfect horse and common problems include refusing to load, be clipped or be caught, napping and refusing to go out of the yard, bucking, rearing or biting. If you can relate to one of these problems, or have an issue with something else, follow our checklist to get you back on track.
- Have your horse checked over physically by a back specialist and an equine dental technician. Also, get a saddle fitter to check his saddle isn’t causing him any pain.
- Try to discover why the horse is refusing to cooperate. Is he scared? Is he showing a lack of respect for you? Is he in pain? Is it purely excitement in the event of a horse bucking, for example?
- Get the right help from a respected trainer. There are plenty of equine behaviourists out there as well as riding instructors, so do your research to find out which method is best for you.
- Decide whether the problem can be fixed and be honest about your abilities. If your horse is scaring you there could be someone more experienced out there who could offer him a more suitable home, allowing you to find a more suitable horse for yourself.
- Persevere with your training if you feel you want to crack it. There aren’t any magic cures and improvement may take time, so you will need to be prepared to have plenty of patience.