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
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