A high-spirited horse can be a thing of beauty when observed from afar, but sitting astride a high-spirited horse is often a different story. Fear of being run off with or thrown off in a sudden bolt can freeze you into a position least likely to keep you on and almost sure to add fuel to your high-spirited horse’s already-lit fire.
California-based dressage trainer and rider Heather Robertson has had plenty of experience working with spirited horses. Most of this mileage came with young horses?her own and those she worked with during five years riding for 2010 World Cup dressage champion Edward Gal in the Netherlands. But the strategies she developed apply to horses of any age. This includes those who normally run hot and the “Steady Eddies” who find themselves with excess energy on a windy day or after a few days without exercise or turnout.
Heather is often dismayed to see ?attempts to quash a horse’s energy or high spirits by over-longeing or punishment. She prefers the idea of positively directing that energy, even when there’s too much of it. This process starts, not on that brisk, gusty autumn day when your horse wants to buck and play, but long before.
“Let’s say your horse is fantastic 80 percent of the time,” Heather says. “You might not want to be as disciplined with him on a sunny summer day. But remember, there are going to be situations where conditions are not so favorable. If you want your horse to be crystal clear about responding to your aids then, you better work on correct training and making sure he responds to your aids every day.” In this and all aspects of her training, she uses the literal definition of “discipline,” which is “to teach,” rather than the frequent ?interpretation of punishment.
Learn how to work through your horse’s spooking with Heather’s system. Download a PDF of the full article here: Direct Your Horse’s Excess Energy
This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.