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[RC] rein pressure and spooking - Donna DeYoung

"This young man has maintained solid contact with his mouth, putting him on the bit and
collecting him -- all very nice I must say, I'm quite impressed."
 
What he was doing is giving the horse something to do, other than spook. For an insecure horse or one that spooks or you haven't yet developed the trust/experience bond with, riding WITHOUT contact on a loose rein and holding on to the horn is the worst thing you can do. You are basically giving the insecure horse permission to spook or buck or run-off or all those things that riders say their horses only do during certain times (my horse only acts that way WHEN ...)... What that really means is the horse isn't thoroughly broke and isn't ridden correctly. A horse with head and shoulders free (because of no contact) and hindquarters free (because of no leg contact) can go anywhere at anytime. If things are quiet, he'll be fine. But raise the distractions, and oops, horse no longer under control.
 
A horse trained to cue for softness and relaxation via the head/neck because of the way you use your hands, as well as one that will side pass/ move hindquarters at the slightest leg cue, can be stopped in the middle of a mild to medium spook. And most likely won't throw a major spook because he knows you are in command.
 
What works better than freedom is what your friends are doing, maintain light contact (always giving and yielding and looking for a place to release and reward him) and give the horse a job (always giving more of a job the more spooky a horse is, and less where less is needed).. As his confidence in you increases, you'll be able to loosen the grip on the reins and give him is head when he is in a "relaxed state". as soon as his head picks up and he is nervous, looking for a spook, he needs another job. And a nice job to give a horse is some contact on the bit, leg pressure, some bending exercises, etc.
 
Sounds like you don't want to HAVE to do the work. Some horses need it and will eventually get better.  Others may never improve or need much more elevation of distraction levels to bring out their worst and work thru it.
 
I've used this technique w/ my green and race-brained Arabian and now he is learning that I will let him go at his pace as long as he is relaxed and confident. If he becomes pushy, fearful, or spooky, he gets to do dressage down the trail. Or turn around and stand facing the other way. At first his episodes of requiring rein contacted lasted throughout a ride. Now he is down to just a few miles of needing that confidence builder. I used to have to use a full neck bend (his nose to my leg) to get a slow-down response, and now a simple lift of the rein can accomplish the same thing. keep working at it!
 
Donna in Texas