Jonathan Field: The secret to safe turnout
To reform a horse who is illmannered at the pasture gate, revisit basic groundwork exercises and establish your leadership.
Q: I recently bought an 11-year-old gelding with a potentially dangerous habit. This horse is a bit high energy, but he generally behaves well in the barn and under saddle. The problem comes when I turn him out each day. As we approach the gate to his field, he rushes up to it. He will not stand quietly while I open it, and once inside it is a struggle to get the lead rope unclipped before he runs off. He sometimes pulls so forcefully that I cannot keep my grip on the rope, and I have no choice but to let go for fear of being dragged. He behaves this way whether or not his buddies are already in the field.
I would like to be able to lead him calmly to the gate, through it, and then turn him to face me so I can unclip the lead rope before he moves away. There seems to be a lot to contend with here, including herd mentality, his desire for the freedom of turnout and his sheer strength when he decides it’s time to go! How can I break this habit and get a safe, well-mannered horse at the gate?