Now you have a vocabulary to “talk” to your horse.
You know the joke “where does a 500 pound canary sleep?”
Answer: ”anywhere he wants to!”
A horse averages over a thousand pounds, so I doubt many of us have the strength to force him to do anything. However if you teach him a “language” of pressure and release, and if you make light pressure your goal, by using light signals and reinforcing them only as necessary with something like a stick, you can direct your thousand pound canary with a feather!
So let’s ride up to that horse-eating gate again.
Using the leg signal and holding him straight with light rein signals, ask for a sideways step, just one, toward the gate.
If that gets him even slightly anxious, stop. Caress, and wait.
In a while he may either take a deep breath, or lick his lips, or even softly chew the bits. Now you may softly ask for one more step.
But only one.
Again, with the soft caress, and wait for signs of relaxation.
By approaching his first gate this way, you can avoid a fight, and he will “learn his way in” with confidence, instead of fear.
If you get near the gate, I’d suggest you dismount, lead him away and live to teach another day.
Next day, do it again.
Get so that you can side pass to the gate and sit there, then side pass three steps away, stop and side pass to the gate again.
When you can side pass to the gate, and side pass away and back three times, you are ready to begin handling the gate.
There are essentially seven separate movements in going through a gate:
- Approaching the gate, first you become parallel to the gate, and then side pass to the gate.
- You unlatch the gate, then usually you will need to back-up a couple steps while holding the gate.
- Next you side pass with the gate in hand to open it.
- Then you do a turn on the forehand while holding onto the gate to get to the other side.
- Now side pass the gate closed.
- You will sometimes, then, need to back up again to reach the latch.
- Now you can side pass away, or just leave the gate.
Teaching this procedure to the horse it is best to break it up into clearly defined separate movements, with a rest or “dwell” of a second or more between each movement to prevent him from hurrying to get through it.
Make him wait for you.
Otherwise he will take over and get you in a bind.
Watch videos of the pros, and practice. Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, only “perfect practice” makes perfect.
Do one thing at a time.
Give your thousand pound canary time to digest each lesson, and each part of each lesson. Then repeat these basics often.
Enjoy the journey, after all, you’re riding your horse!