Behavior Issues – Part Two

Going Through A Gate With Something Moving Above
Crossing Water


You’ve got an obstacle course here. What is this exercise


We are after the same thing as we did inside the arena. My intention is for her to follow my feel and go through this gate – even though it has a low overhang with strips of tarp. The wind causing them to move is ideal. I have never done something quite like this with her, but again, I have been trying to find ways to get her mind into neutral and follow my feel.

First, I am going to try to create some life in her as I did before. The whole idea is not to spur her or whip her on the butt to go through there.

DSC02951If this gate were really, really scary, I might be back forty or fifty feet. She really doesn’t much care for it but I keep her feet moving, making sure that I get the hindquarters. Back and forth, I keep the life coming. Right, hindquarters. Left, hindquarters.


Again, I am letting her find it. I can shorten the arc. Sometimes, it can take what seems like forever for a horse to find it. I just continue keep that life coming while never loosing tract of my intention. Follow my feel through the gate. Hindquarters. Front quarters. Hindquarters. Front quarters. If I were to let her just get stuck here, that would set up the scene for her to bolt.

               There. She took a look at it.



Is your intention for her to go through the gate or to get comfortable with the gate?


My intention was for her to go through the gate. I don’t care if she is comfortable or not. Her comfort of the scary object is not the important thing here. A lot of people try to get their horse used to something but how many things in life might you have to get that horse used to?

No. If Belle learns to follow my feel and trust my support, with what’s going on around her, the obstacle or situation will makes no difference. I want a horse to follow my feel no matter what.

When doing groundwork, there is merit to getting your horse used to ropes, flags and tarps. However, if that is done properly, they will also be following your feel.

Again, everything should be connected back to your feel. If you watch me work with a flag, I am first offering a feel. I want them to understand that no matter what is going on, that flag or tarp, the rope, whatever, I am offering the horse a feel that is attached to me — and that is what they should find and go with. The flag eventually becomes of no consequence because the horse gets hooked on to what I am asking.

A lot of people use the flag to get a horse desensitized. When they try to do this, it often doesn’t work because the horse has not been taught to follow the person’s feel.


Belle made it!



Yes. And it was her idea to go through there.

I didn’t have to spur, jerk or knock her around. You can tell by her expression that she knows something is there in what I am communicating to her through my feel. The day will come, eventually, when she will say, ”I will go anywhere you want me to go.”

DSC02998What people don’t realize is that DSC02999when I pick up my reins  and arrange my  body to go, there is feel right there. I don’t need to kick her. Or use my legs necessarily. I just offered, “Can you go out there?” And she follows that feel in my hands.

Big difference from pulling or jerking a horse around.


DSC03001DSC03003So we are going to head over to a little water obstacle, and as I go along here,  I want her with me mentally .As long as she is with me, she is okay kind-of looking at the country. If she gets a little lost and distracted, I will ask her to come back. If she sees something that is different than what I would like her to see, then I would do something about that to get her to let go of that thought.

If I thought she was about to get afraid and go somewhere, I would get her hindquarters kicked out of gear. Then front quarters, back the other way, hindquarters, and front quarters. All to let her know that she can let go of those thoughts.


Water Obstacles

This is a common one for the trail; a creek to cross.


Most horses will readily go into still water, but water that is moving becomes quite a different thing.

DSC03009There is a little stream of water down her. We will see how she reacts to that. She might think that this is a bunch of baloney being down here.

DSC03026Here, I will use the same principles as we have done twice before. I let her work. Hindquarters. She wants to get stuck right there but I say, “Come on. Move your feet. All you have to do is move your feet.’
She says, “Well maybe I can cross that. No big deal. “





To tell you the truth, that worked a lot better than I thought. I was down here a month ago when the water got turned on. It was thirty minutes of trying before she would cross it. However, because of what we did in the arena and with the gate, Belle has found that she can move her feet around and be all right.

Often I am asked to work with horses who have been trained on. They might move their feet but their minds are not with you. They have never been taught to get centered mentally and be in a neutral place.

Now that Belle has crossed the small stream, let’s see if she will jump the irrigation ditch.


Okay. Sure. Sounds like fun.


When I first got her, Belle refused to cross this same irrigation ditch that is in their paddock without water in it– not even to get to her feed. Finally, after five days, she got so hungry that she figured out a way to get over it.

Belle does not like to go over something like this, even this small. In all the months that have gone by, even if the ditch is empty, it really bothers her. When there is water running in it, she becomes “I will go anywhere but there.” She wants no part of it.

It could be a depth perception deal. They don’t have depth perception like humans. You could sometimes take something that is only six inches deep and, to them, it is the Grand Canyon.


So just like the gate, you are going to offer her, through your feel, to go over it?


DSC03082DSC03084Yes, but if you will notice, unlike the first exercise, she is already really trying to find what is in between my hands. See. She is really trying to find it. Not so much back and forth.

She clearly has her mind set to find this. Now, a lot of folks don’t recognize when a horse is really trying. It’s not taking her long and part of that is that we already set things up with the two exercises that we just went through. We got her mind to thinking; to follow the feel.

Too many people get into a hurry instead of giving the horse time. If you spurred her, she might make a big jump forward across it but the next time Belle would come up the irrigation ditch, she would come up under tension.

However, if she were saying, “Oh I change my mind. Let’s go do something else,” I would let her roll out a little bit and then I would start the process all over again.


Oh golly!


DSC03085Yeah. Belle is really getting her belly way down; my stirrups are almost touching the ground here. She is really looking this over and I am giving her time.



Look at her go!

Good job.



You see that trip she did not prepare herself very well and her hind legs hit the water. We will try again. Watch, she is preparing herself a whole lot better.


DSC03091                         ~

Wow, that was way smoother.DSC03092


Yes and see how she was not in a hurry to rush away from the area. If I had rushed her, she would have probably kept on going, wondering what had hit her.

DSC03093Sometimes horses have been so driven, either with ropes or with spurs, that some hardness comes in. Oh they might be responsive but they sure don’t want to be with you. They are not thinking about what you are asking them to do. They are just reacting to what you are demanding.

To me, this was a good ride on this mare. We haven’t ridden the butt off her. We haven’t trained on her. We have created some life though the feel, managed to direct that life and have our intent became her intention.

And she was quite happy doing it. Yes, this was a good ride. And, the day will come when, offered a good feel, she will almost instantly prepare herself and go where you want.



click here to go to

Turning Behavior Issues In Opportunities:
Helping Your Horse To Learn To Follow Your Feel

Part One

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