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Don Jessop

Your horse is tight, tense, ready to explode, and you're just keeping it together, knowing any minute now, everything could go up in flames and you could be in serious trouble. Sound familiar?

Some riders enjoy the thrill of training out the bucky, bronco behavior in a horse, but I come from a different mindset. Even if I'm capable of riding the explosive horse, do I really want to? And furthermore, what message does that send to more novice riders? Do they see a good bronc ride and hope to be good enough one day to not be afraid of doing the same? Do they think they have to ride it out, because that's what training is, and anything less is not good horse training?

It's a pet peeve of mine to watch advanced riders tell people they should ride like a pro, either by words or by example. If I make a video for you it's going to be made with you in mind, not just the horse. I want to give you tools that you can use today. Not hope to, one day, grow into.

So here's the tool of the day and on our topic of riding a time bomb...

Get off before it explodes and work from the ground to get all that bubbly energy out of the horse. I know there are circumstances where that doesn't work as well, but I will happily outline a few scenarios where you can safely achieve your goal of riding, AFTER the explosive energy is gone, and not have to ride through it, or ride timidly to avoid it.

Scene one. You've just tacked up and you're still near the barn or arena where all your tools are. You know..., like your longer ropes and sticks and such. You notice your horse is tense and if pushed, will start to explode. It could be the cold back, it could be the other horses playing in the field next door, it doesn't matter. You notice the ticking time bomb and you know you need to do something, but what?

Get off if you're on already. You're not Lane Frost, the pro bull rider, and you know it. Stop trying to be a hero. Help from the ground and get your horse right. Get all the bugs out of his system, or hers. For me that means a longer lead line, a stick and string, and a program of turns and transitions couple with exposure to sudden, flashy movements from my flag or stick.

The goal is not to wear the horse out in mindless circles. The goal is to cause the blowup that you know is hiding under the surface and to contain it from the ground. In principle, if you cause it on purpose, you're in control of it instead of victim to it. My favorite techniques involve asking for trot and canter then, while cantering, wave my flag suddenly. Not at the horse, not a message or cue, just random noise to solicit a reaction. Then, shut the horse down. (Usually, stop him, turn and face him, and wait.) In short... he just exploded, and I contained him, proving I'm in control.

Next. I do the same thing again, but the other direction. The turning to go the opposite direction is better than mindless circles that cause injury and it also gets their attention plus exposes them to the other eye.

It's highly likely I'll have to test this multiple times each way until finally, and this works every time if you're persistent, my horse will stop reacting to my flag or stick. He'll trot or canter without bucking, pulling, rearing, whatever. It takes many attempts, but it's ten times safer than trying to manage it all from his back.

And finally, once he can prove a non reactive state in both directions and different speeds, I feel safe to ride. He'll show both a willingness to transition and turn, and at the same time, a willingness to keep calm under the pressure of a random stimulus.

If he hasn't let it all go yet, don't ride. Do more of the same thing. I've spent up to twenty minutes working on this before a horse proved to let it all go. No one wants to ride a time bomb.

One quick word of advice. Don't walk on eggshells. I can understand that while riding you want to keep everything from exploding so you ride timid. But you're on the ground now. Bring out the big guns. And remember to be kind and rewarding with every noticeable effort to be better.

Scene two. Your ride started out good but now you're deep into the trail ride and a long ways from your tools. The techniques above won't work if you don't have some decent footing and flatter ground with long ropes and flags. Now all you have is a bridle and saddle and two arms.

Still... for the average rider, I recommend getting off. Lead your horse like you lead at home (hopefully you've paid attention to my leading games to make sure you're doing it in a fashion that guides the horse to be smarter.)

Most people lead from point A to B without thinking of the horses mindset. Not you, you've taught your horse to lead without ever stepping in front of you and being distracted. And now it's paying off. In this scene, you get off your horse and lead down the trail, correcting his attention and position over and over, after a mile or two his energy will inevitably change and, it's likely you can ride again. I've done many trail walk/ride combos and I'd do it again today if I needed to. No need to be a hero or feel like a failure if you don't finish your ride on your horse.

In summary... get off, get out the bugs (ALL OF THEM) and get back on at the end.

For more support on a personal level, all about you and your own horses, contact me. Your first call is totally free. I want to get to know you, help you, and understand your situation.

Here's the personal free coaching call link

Comment below and share your thoughts. Don

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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Don Jessop


Don opened up a community, full of people on the same journey you are!
To share LIVE Q&A's and help people and horses transform Confidence.

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Don shares his  passion for writing with his passion for helping horse owners see the horse and themselves for who they truly are.

Don Jessop


Don believes every horse owner should have access to the Principles of Horsemanship and he shares them freely here.

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