RIDING & TRAINING
THE SHYING HORSE
Ulcers shy way more than if they haven't got such
more riders fall off horses due to the horse shying than
bucking. Shying is a description for the horse unexpectedly, suddenly and
violently jumping one way or the other and is caused by the horse exhibiting
fear of something that it has seen come into it’s surroundings. This fear of
whatever, and the resultant leap to escape is caused by the natural inbred
flight response, which forms part of the makeup of the horse and stems from
their evolution as a hunted animal. Their eyes are set on the size of their
heads in order to have a field of vision measuring almost 360 degrees and they
are ever vigilant.
Some horses shy only because of
this natural instinct and yet I have met others that purposely manufacture
things to shy at. Others do it to get out of flat work. I have met more than one
budding 'Dressage Queen' who has been chopping down the odd spooky tree.
Horses shy far less in company
than when ridden alone. The lead horse will shy far more than the rest of the
following horses and normally they don't at all. Reason? That the lead horse has to be the total leader. It's
head is one meter in front of the rider's and therefore, in it's mind, it is
doing all the leading. The trick is to convert the horse's thinking that you are
the one doing the leading and it is only the vehicle. To have it be totally
confident in your leadership. It doesn't want to lead, it wants you to.
Certain types of
rider’s can suppress or enhance shying, depending upon their attitude,
personality and riding style. I have a saying, which I think is one of the
truisms of riding horses.
“A bold rider
makes a bold horse and a nervous rider makes a nervous horse”
The quality of the Horse starting is crucial. Those who do not 'Bush Bash' and
'Road/Traffic Train' expose the Horse to a less confidence career. All of mine
have gained much boldness from this.
The effect that a nervous rider has on a horse is amazing. It happens
immediately and has a lasting effect; increasing in intensity the longer that
nervous rider is aboard. It is so evident to
I could send
a lone nervous rider around the
block on a horse today and tomorrow I could ride
the same horse, around the same course and write down the location and describe the events
that happened the day before. It is therefore evident that failure by the rider
to make horses confront their fears causes a compounding of this negative
reaction. Put simply, causing horses to shy more.
( I have done it)
So you can see,
the rider not only has a responsibility to support a horse to overcome its
inherent fears, but also to insist that the horse does
listen, thereby making it a
safer ride. So what causes the differing levels of boldness in horses?
I find that
breeding does have a marginal effect, but not a huge one. There is no doubting
that certain breeds of horses have a higher propensity of being “lookers”, than
others. I don't ride
many, but I can always quickly identify a potential Eventer, during the first
few rides of the breaking in. However, I have learnt from riding thousands of them, that the
overwhelming reasons are:
A lack of boldness and
aggression in riders'
A lack of knowledge of how to
ride such horses, largely caused by inadequacies in Educational systems.
I ride shyers for
a living, almost every day of my life, including today. The one I rode today,
was caused by the owner, having her first ride on her newly broken in horse and
that young horse feeling the vibes transferred by the owner, who, was as nervous
as hell. Understandable true, but the reality of life is that the vibes of the
rider causes a high degree of shying. Hence my sayings:
I ride every horse that I start out in Suburban traffic. An 80k main road.
Regardless of the breed, they rarely shy. It never matters
what breed they are and so this is what has always made me believe that shying
is all about the rider. I often ride horses in this traffic on their 4th or 5th
ride in their lives but recently, I rode one out on it's second only ride. No
The last one I met was was trucked 1,000k to me as it was fearful of everything.
He was fixed in one ride.
Shying is all about the flight response kicking into gear and that instinct
being directly fostered and fed by the attitude of the rider, versus it being
cancelled out by the attitude, confidence and ability of the rider. So there is
a direct relationship, up and down the scale.
If one presents a horse to a horse float and the horse fails to load, a
percentage of handlers will then turn that horse away from the float and
represent. This gives the horse "Reward and Relief" for not floating and
immediately signals to the horse that it is now training the owner.
If one approaches a cross-country jump and the horse runs out to the right, a
percentage of riders will then circle to the right and represent to the jump.
They have immediately given the horse "Reward and Relief" for running out and
the horse immediately knows that if it runs out again, it will be supported in
it's endeavours by the rider who actually co-operates and assists in the run out
process by continuing
their circle on the right rein rather than making the horse go back to the left,
the rein that it failed to answer in the first place. The horse therefore is training the rider.
As an extension to this and many other arguments similar, if there is a goat
chained to a fence that you are going to ride by, and that goat is on your left,
the horse will shy to the right. When the horse veers, bends or shies to the
right, the rider has very few options. Pull on the left rein and keep the horse
looking at the goat until you manage to get past it and go on, pull on the right
rein and do a one rein stop, spin, circle, take your pick or to counter bend
and leg yield
horse towards the goat in an effort to stop it from ending up in the middle of
You can rule out leg yielding for almost all riders as
horses will be so trained off the leg as to over come the fear and desire to
flee. (Other than the Western Show world of horses) If you pull on the right rein, you are giving the horse
precisely what it wants. You are showing the horse "the out" and inviting it to
take the escape route. If you are supposed to be the leader then, what is the
horse to think? "If Mum points me away from the goat, Mum must be bloody
terrified of goats and if Mum is,
surely must be more frightened. You are
pointing it's nose to the direction of escape and when you do that, that is
exactly what the horse will do, escape, run, whatever. Even if you complete the
one rein stop to the
and win a partial battle, you have not trained the horse. You have
nullified it's run, but you have not progressed in it's training.
I would however, be quite proud
of you if you did do a 'One Rein Stop" though. However,
I ride them all the opposite to this.
ADVANCE AND RETREAT
The moment the horse signals a rise in it's suspicion and fear level, I commence
on the left rein. I never want to take the horse nearer to the goat or up to the
goat; all I want is for it to go past the goat without shying to the right. I
use the left rein in a direct percentage of controlling the angle of the horse,
in order to nullify any chance of run to the right. If I have to end up side
passing by the goat, I will, but I will not be pulling on the right rein. I may
even turn the side pass into a leg yielding training opportunity, as I am a
complete smart ass. If I have pulled on two reins
I would be telling
the horse that I
am frightened because I have
done what all nervous riders'
As well as this rein control, I use what ever level of energy that is
required to keep the horse going forward and then as I feel the fear level
subsiding and as the goat passes by, I go progressively more right rein and
straighten up, continuing on in an un-interrupted trail ride with the minimum of
fuss and on a loose rein. Pleasure horses must be ridden on a pleasure rein.
Holding a contact on pleasure horses is without doubt, the second biggest cause
of tension in horses on trail rides to rider’s vibes. It is the cause of the
dancing, prancing horses or the world, the piaffe, passage,
(rider pioofed) and
rearing. For a horse to be relaxed on a pleasure ride it must be able to lower
its neck and a horse cannot lower its neck if it is on a contact.
shyer, one must win each
and every battle and as you do so, each new and frightening item is cancelled
out. Cancel them all out and you have the perfect trail horse.
One major mistake that I see
people make with 'shies' is to make a bigger issue of the frightening . They try to force the horse to go up to it, sniff it, touch it.
This is buying on an argument that most cannot win and is simply not fair on the
horse. It is also against correct training technique imho and I know a lot of
Trainers' agree with me. It is far better to go past an object within a
reasonable distance than trying to approach it and lose a battle. Over time, the
horse will feel comfortable in going closer to each of these frightening
objects, without a major fight.
Speed has a direct bearing on the
amount and intensity that a horse may want to shy. It is twice as difficult to
rider a shying horse at the trot and three times as hard at the canter. The
reason? Everything is coming at the horse faster and it has less time to assess
each object for it's danger.
The success of
cancelling out each shying category is found in the rider winning every time, no
matter how frightened the horse may be.
If this occurs, there is a benefit to the horse in terms of cancelling a large
percentage of fear in that particular item on the long list of things that the
horse might like to shy at. Cancel them all out and you do not have a shyer.
Success breed’s success, confusion or partial failure equals
propensity to shy.
If you make a horse
into the opening of a
no matter how hard the horse tries to evade that bridge
negate the horse's
attempts at turning it's head away, whilst generating the horse forward to the
point where the horse must go forward, then it just has to go over the bridge.
End of story.
Now the rein control for this exercise is definitely two open
reins. Your forearms are still in proper dressage position, the rein hands
travel past the hip, but your hands should be set a little wider. So, as
fast as the horse tries to evade left and right with its head, the rein hand
negates the opportunity and cancels out the attempt.
Only one rein is used at a time with the other loopy. Never pressure on both
side of the mouth.
No different to loading onto a float. If the front handler simply does not allow
the horse to ever look around the side of the float and the rear handler, say
the whip person can generate the horse to go somewhere; the horse must go in the
entrance of a footbridge is however, a continual series of shies, together
forming the evasion. Rein control stops evasion and whip, spur etc, provides the
forwardness to complete the rider's wishes.
Sophistication should be added however, rewarding the horse for slight forward
movements, allowing the horse to put it's head down to sniff, etc. Incidentally,
this will almost always happen, just before the horse proceeds and is a sure
sign that the horse has already decided to cross. Providing you don't make any
mistakes at the last moment.
When a horse is facing directly
at the bridge opening, you must be giving with both reins. No contact on the
mouth at all. This is highly important and I keep saying it in various ways. I
can't think of a reason why contact would be made to the mouth of a horse during
a battle over evasion.
do we ride a shying horse? Why do so many people fall off them? I know I have
the luxury of lots of practise, but I believe it is the riding technique that is
the cause. The technique that
is not taught at Riding Schools.
earlier that you must temporarily forget your dressage training, the moment you
run into trouble out on the trail or anywhere else for that matter. Dare I say
it, even on the Dressage Arena. So to ride a shying horse, you must ride like
the rider of a "Cutting Horse". After all, the cutting horse has to be the most
violent shying horse in the world and the Cutting Competitors' have to be the
best riders of shying horses.
When a horse shies to the right,
you are forced off the left side of the horse by the opposite force. The major
reason good riders' don't fall off the horse that shies is their ability to read the event
before it happens. You are then prepared. The other reason is reaction time. The
more you ride them the better you get at it. Finally, the way you use your
position and how you hold your legs has a major bearing on your stability.
Forget about everything you have
ever been taught regarding dressage position. That will cause your dislodgement.
If a horse shies to the right, here is what you must do:
twist your hips to the right
lock up your left hip, knee and
Basically have a straight left
leg, from stirrup to hip.
Throw your left leg forward of
Now, as the force that is throwing
you off the left side of the horse commences, you will have locked against it
and become part of the horse, which, as it travels to the right, catapults you
to the right with it. The left stirrup iron becomes the slingshot and you the
missile. Only thing is that you are traveling in the same direction
and at the same speed as the horse and arrive simultaneously at the same
As I said, the cutting horse is
the best continuous shying horse of all and the cutting rider is simply reading
the impending change in direction, locking the appropriate leg and being
catapulted with the horse. It matters not what the other leg is doing at all.
SHYING ON AN ARENA
Often horses will use shying as
a way to get out of work on
arena. They will pick certain spots or objects and basically drive the rider mad
To fix this particular horse, you must
have them basically more respectful of your spur or leg than the so
called frightening object. We get horses like that regularly and fix every one
of them. You must teach them the lateral movements so good that your leg aids
simply 'outgun' the desire to run against them.
teaching the horse to leg yield)
So I do hope that you have
gained some tips through this article and I wish you all the very best of luck
in the future.
RELEVANT ARCHIVAL NEWS ON THIS SUBJECT
27th November, 2004
Well, my 3 year old young Warmblood, the first foal of my wife's Stallion, goes
home today. Yesterday morning, I led my wife around the block on the main road
during the morning rush hour traffic and I was very proud of him. He hadn't been
on half of the trip and it included a roundabout and heavy truck movement with
some of the main road only allowing a distance of 2 metres from the cars.
I want to mention this as I found it a very interesting observation. You know my
saying, "A bold rider makes a bold horse" and that is exactly what has happened
her because this young one was not the worlds bravest, but during this ride I
had an interesting first hand look at the proof of the statement. I wanted to go
second, just to give the young horse's brain a rest from the pressures of having
to confront everything on his own during the last week. I thought that if he
could follow, on a loopy rein, that it would mellow him further and be the icing
on the cake but I didn't figure on what happened. Mrs. HP's was riding the
rising 20 year old 'Gazette', who apart from being a total A hole, will emit the
nervous vibes on a ride too. I found that the young horse was actually worse
walking behind Gazette than he had been the morning before, on his own. I put up
with that for 1k and then said to my wife that I would like to lead instead.
Immediately and progressively, he go less nervous to the level of the day before
and then improving on that for the last bit of the ride. So what did we learn
That a horse will be supported more by a 'Bold Rider', than the company of other