What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Understand why napping can become a learned ‘go to’ behaviour for your horse
- See how seemingly ‘little things’ can quickly escalate to ‘bigger things’
- Use your horses short concentration span to your benefit here
- Become clear on how to make your horse ‘want’ to do what you ask
Napping… Whoever decided that this was a good word to describe what is literally the equine equivalent of a two-year old throwing a tantrum? When we speak of napping outside of equestrian circles, we think of peaceful ‘cat naps’. However, when we think of napping as it relates to horses; it is almost the opposite scenario that springs to mind!
Simply put, napping is when your horse decides to be a little ‘otherwise’ with regards to going where you want him to go.
It is frustrating, time-wasting and, in many situations, downright dangerous for both horse, rider any innocent bystanders who happen past the horse throwing the ‘hissy fit’! This is definitely a behaviour that needs to be replaced when it comes to how your horse reacts to certain situations…
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast we look at practical ways you can nip this in the bud with a less experienced ‘napper’. We will also discuss what to do with a more seasoned pro.
Why Napping Can Become a ‘Habit’ for Horses
Napping, especially when it becomes a viable ‘way out’ of doing something for your horse, is really dangerous behaviour. It can often leave you, the rider, with very little influence over the situation. It can also lead to tempers on both sides becoming flared.
In order to effectively deal with napping, the rider must be committed to their outcome. It is also essential that the rider keeps a level head at all times.
I have found that there are three big reasons that riders often end up drawing the short end of a stick when it comes to napping.
- The rider has no confidence in their abilities to deal with the situation
- Many riders struggle to remain level headed and lose their temper
- And finally, some riders worry about what other bystanders and onlookers are thinking of their skills at handling the horse
This is why it is absolutely essential that you are ready to take correct appropriate action if you find yourself faced with a ‘nappy’ horse.
Be Clear on Your Outcome; Mentally & Physically
One of the easiest ways to allow your horse to gain the ‘upper hand’ in a napping situation is to lose sight of your end goal. It is vitally important that you keep thinking and moving forward.
By thinking of what you want to make happen, you will physically act that way. This will help you to ‘encourage’ your horse to rather align with your desired path!
It is easy to allow yourself to be led by your horse in this situation. Focusing your attention and efforts on what your horse ‘is’ doing, rather than what you ‘want’ your horse to do.
Horses align with their riders. It may take some a little longer than others. However if you are committed, your horse will eventually come around to your way of thinking.
Learn to Nip the ‘Little Things’ in the Bud
The clearer you are on your desired outcome, the clearer your application of your aids will be. Often a horse who naps; a ‘nappy’ horse, is created by an inconsistent rider.
Riders who allow the little things to regularly ‘slide’ literally train their horses to not really respect their aids and desired outcomes.
Consistency is not just a nice added extra when it comes to horses. It is absolutely essential for you to build a relationship both in the saddle and on the ground. Your relationship between you and your horse should be built on respect.
If your horse sees that you are a little ‘relaxed’ when it comes to what is allowed and what is not, he will begin to push the boundaries.
‘Little’ things that are allowed slide tend to escalate and build momentum. What started off as something small and insignificant can quickly snowball to big things; such as napping.
Use A Potentially Short Concentration Span to Your Favour
Horses are a little like toddlers when it comes to where they focus their attention and energy. It can seem intense at times, however it is also usually short-lived. They are easily distracted by something different or new.
If your horse begins to throw the proverbial tantrum, try distracting him by asking another question.
This can look like turning or changing rein. Shallow loops work well. Maybe you can transition or prepare for a transition. Another way of distracting is to use your voice or weight aids in a different way.
What is important is that you do not lose sight of what you want or where you want to go. You are simply taking a slight detour in order to avoid what feels like an inevitable train smash on the track you are currently riding.
You still get to where you want to go, but you are just getting there in a slightly different way.
Remember to Reward Quickly & Frequently
Horses like to please. They like to be told that they have done well or ‘done good’. Depending on your horses age or even temperament, sometimes those rewards need to be very frequent.
Often simply ignoring the undesirable behaviour and then praising any step in the right direction can be enough to get you both ‘unstuck’.
Remember napping is a learned behaviour. Your horse has learned at some point that if he doesn’t want to do something, he can throw a wobbler and usually get his own way.
Your job is to make him want to do whatever it is you ask him to do. Regular praise and rewards are the surest way to make this happen.
Maybe a Different Rider is Necessary to Get ‘Unstuck’
Take heart in the fact that because napping is learned, it can just as easily be ‘unlearned.
As I mentioned at the top of the post, often napping occurs because the horse has learned that the rider is ineffective in riding them through or out of the situation. If this is the case, sometimes the simplest way of dealing with the situation is to put another rider on board.
A different, perhaps more experienced, rider will use a different approach in order to ride the horse through the napping episode. This is often a combination of different mental and physical aids.
You can also use a person on the ground to help you, if necessary. Obviously safety is paramount. However, sometimes a gentle ‘encouragement’ from someone behind the horse is enough to either distract them, or simply get them moving forwards again.
Positive Communication is Essential at All Times
Finally I want to stress that however you decide to deal with a napping horse, it is essential to remain positive. You want the outcome to be your horse moving forwards in a happy and relaxed as possible way.
In the saddle, it is important to give the horse ‘somewhere to go’. Often opening your hands wider than usual will do the trick here.
Think of your hands as being like a big neck of a funnel. Then your other aids, legs and voice being the main ones, encouraging the horse into the funnel.
When you are dealing with napping, remember to always approach the situation with a positive approach and a level head. Remember, the key is to make your horse ‘WANT’ to go wherever it is you are asking him to go.
Other posts, episodes and resources that relate to this topic:-
- Overcoming Resistance in Your Horse While Riding
- Riding a Horse Who ‘Won’t Listen’
- Accountability in Your Riding
- The Daily Strides Podcast on iTunes
- Daily Strides Podcast on Google Play
- The Daily Strides Podcast on Stitcher Radio
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