Ask the Expert: Bad Behavior at Horse Shows

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Angry Horse
Q: I show a 15-year-old Quarter Horse mare. She always wants to break into the lope and kick other horses. How can I keep this from happening?

A: You will have to work this horse among others in an arena in order to address the behavioral issues she has developed. Ask a few friends with calm, well-trained horses to help.

One at a time, have your friends pass by your mare. Be sure they keep at least one horse length apart for safety. Each time she demonstrates the aggressive behavior, bring her to a walk or stop, let the other horse pass, and then put her to work. Do a circle at the walk or jog, and give your mare a job to do whenever she decides to lope off and aggressively take on another horse. This process will take her mind off the other horses and bring her attention back to you. Consistently give her more work when she is naughty. You don’t have to overdrill and do 10 circles, but you must ask for transitions or ride figures to make her listen to you.

Practice transitions and figures such as walk, jog, lope, jog, circles, walk, lope, stop. Each time your horse is good, ignoring the other horses and paying attention to your cues, do a downward transition to give her a relaxing reward. If not, go to the lope and make circles, stop, back, then lope again. It’s important to stay consistent so your horse begins to understand that when she misbehaves, she has to work harder; when she is good, life is easier. This should help improve her behavior at shows as well. Giving your horse a job and having her listen to your aids is what training is all about.

Liked this article? Here are others on problem solving for horse shows:
Handling Bad Behavior
Keep Your Green Show Horse Calm and Focused

CARLA WENNBERG is an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), National Reining Horse Association, and National Snaffle Bit Association judge, as well as an AQHA Professional Horseman and a Certified Horsemanship Association master instructor.


This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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