Last month I discussed Spooking and I promised I would cover Napping this month as it can be hard to distinguish between the two!
So just to recap from last month:
If you are not sure if your horse is napping or spooking then look at their ears and you will know!
You can tell the difference between a genuine spook and evasive napping by their ears; if they are spooking, their ears will be pointing forwards at the scary object and you need to be sympathetic with them. Conversely, a napping horse will generally have their ears pointing backwards and you may need to be more assertive in your riding.
Having read last months and this months articles, if you’ve decided the problem is napping you may be left asking yourself: Why do they do this and how can you prevent it?
There are two circumstances under which a horse will nap; either he is worried about where he is going so he refuses to go forward, or he is thinking about wanting to go back to where he has come from. Both of these situations indicate a lack of trust and respect for the rider as the horse is not willing to take on new challenges or is seeking comfort by wanting to return to familiar surroundings or even their friends.
The best way to resolve napping is to recognise the signs and nip it in the bud before it becomes too ingrained! So, to increase the level of trust and respect between you and your horse, there are two main areas that you can work on; being able to move the hind quarters left and right and making sure that your cues for forward are clear AND that your horse responds immediately to them. My on-line programme “Your Horsemanship” has videos and learning guides covering these topics for you to work through with your horse.
Control the Hindquarters:
The control of the hindquarters is necessary for you to be able to realign your horse, should he drop his shoulder and try to nap home. Disengaging his hind-end has the added benefit of taking away his power, as a horse that is crossing his hind legs and pivoting round his inside foreleg cannot spin or run away. See my videos on hind end control in my Your Horsemanship on-line programme.
By making sure that your horse responds immediately to your queue to move forwards, you are limiting the chance of you nagging your horse or letting him have time to think about napping. The key to this is to ask them to move forward with a gentle squeeze, give them a second or two to respond and if they don’t, reinforce your “ask” by tapping with a whip behind the girth. Be prepared to tap as softly as possible but as hard as necessary to get a response (I use a schooling crop). When your horse moves forwards, stop asking and give them some time to realise they have done the right thing.
Another good tip for getting your horse off your leg is to make sure that your horse goes up a gait whenever they are feeling behind the leg. This is best done in an environment you are both happy with. So, if you are walking and your walk slows down, use your leg in the way described above and make your horse trot on or even canter before coming back to a walk. There are two very important points for this to work: when you use your leg aid, your horse must push forward not just dribble on or ignore you. Only when your horse pushes forward can you be sure your horse is thinking forward because they are required to try. Secondly I will say again DON’T KEEP KICKING – when they think forwards, reward them by releasing your leg pressure. Also be sure that you are committed to going forwards yourself and that you don’t’ catch them in the month and hold on if they react as you’ve asked and get moving! I meet so many owners who have horses that have simply switched off from being nagged too much… owners that revert to spurs and then the horse goes on to ignore them too. You need to address your timing if this is happening to you: when your horse responds, stop asking, otherwise there is no reward for your horse. With repetition, your horse will become more forward thinking, and hopefully napping will become a thing of the past. Be consistent and in time you will see results.
Bye for now,
Take a look at the Your Horsemanship Napping Video where Jason is helping an owner with her napping mare: https://vimeo.com/140005405