A Case of Napping
As featured in Welsh Rider Magazine. Jenni Nellist is an Animal Behaviour and Training Council Registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist specialising in horses. She helps horse owners across south, west and mid Wales solve behaviour issues. Jenni will be sharing some extracts from her case book with Welsh Rider readers.
After veterinary referral, I visited ex-racehorse Tyler to help with napping. When first hacked alone, Tyler started napping, and reared when his owner tried to ride him forward. This pattern kept repeating, with a variety of riders, and was dangerous.
It turned out Tyler had never been ridden out alone before. Isolation from other horses can be very stressful. It is something they get used to if introduced calmly and progressively, but Tyler never had this introduction. Secondary to this, Tyler was not very well schooled. When panicked by separation and escalating rider aids, he’d quickly learnt the route to safety was rearing and spinning.
This called for a two pronged approach. Helping Tyler feel safe and confident away from others, and education in the aids: that “go” leads to an enjoyable reward, helping cement riding alone as a positive experience. I began by showing his owner how to “target train”: teaching Tyler to approach a “target” for food. Tyler was highly motivated in low stress situations. When he turned his nose up at food, his owner learned she was escalating the stress too far, creating fear and moving away from the primary objective of Tyler feeling safe.
Once Tyler got targeting, he could be ridden while a helper rewarded free forward movement by popping the target out ahead. Tyler would lengthen his walk further to reach it and get his treat. The team quickly began applying their new skills out and about, progressively building Tyler up to hacking without a helper.
Do you have issues with a napping horse? Contact me to arrange a consultation.