Q

GATE­WAY RUSH My horse is well be­haved on the ground apart from in one re­spect − when I let him through gate­ways. He seems to want to dart through as quickly as pos­si­ble, as if he is scared the gate will shut on him and squash him (per­haps this has hap­pene

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Trainer Neil replies:

Your horse has ob­vi­ously been jammed in a gate­way and has prob­a­bly hit his hips and hurt him­self. This has been a fright­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for him and one he’ll never for­get.

This is a good ex­am­ple of one bad ex­pe­ri­ence stay­ing in a horse’s mind for­ever. Even though he’s been through hun­dreds of gate­ways, your horse still re­mem­bers the one bad ex­pe­ri­ence and now ex­pects a drama ev­ery time he moves through a gate­way.

Your horse must learn that what­ever you want to do is more im­por­tant to him than his con­cern for gate­ways. Your horse must learn to con­cen­trate on you and what you want, rather than think about what he wants to do.

Don’t yell at your horse and don’t pun­ish him for this be­hav­iour. Re­mem­ber, he rushes be­cause he’s fright­ened. Though he’ll never for­get his bad ex­pe­ri­ence, you can im­prove the sit­u­a­tion by care­ful, con­sis­tent train­ing.

Start by teach­ing him to walk along­side you in an arena. Lead him from both sides and make sure your horse moves ex­actly where you ask, at the ex­act speed you ask. Teach him to stop when you ask. Also prac­tise mov­ing him one step for­ward then stop­ping.

Spend a week or so work­ing on this, un­til you feel you have more con­trol. Take your horse to a wide gate­way. Make sure you and your horse have plenty of room to fit through.

Im­me­di­ately your horse takes one step faster than you ask, make him stop and stand. Stop for 10 or 20 sec­onds and give your horse a rub to show him it’s easy and pleas­ant when he stops and stands. Then ask for another for­ward step and stop again. Re­peat this process un­til you walk through the gate­way.

If your horse pan­ics and rushes off, pull him around in a tight cir­cle to make things un­pleas­ant for him. It must be un­pleas­ant for him to rush off. Equally, it must be easy and pleas­ant to do as you ask.

You must be con­sis­tent and you must con­cen­trate ev­ery step of the way. You must teach your horse to move for­ward at your speed, one step at a time.

Trainer Ch­eski replies:

I think you’re right – quite prob­a­bly a gate has shut on him in the past.

I note that you de­scribe him as well be­haved and po­lite on the ground, though scared the gate will squash him. If he is scared, he is not be­ing badly be­haved, or rude, he is be­ing scared. Any ex­pres­sion of frus­tra­tion or anger is not go­ing to help al­lay his fears.

Your train­ing pro­gramme to help him get over his pho­bia must be run with an

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