Here's an easy leading lesson from Linda Tellington-Jones, to encourage your horse to move forward safely through obstacles on the trail.
Exercise: Dingo and the V, from Linda Tellington-Jones.
What it is: Linda Telllington-Jones performs theDingo leading lesson in a V formation. (For more on the Dingo, click here.)
What it does: The Dingo leading lesson teaches your horse to trust you, and trust that you won't ask him to do something impossible.
Before you begin: Cuttwo strips of heavy from tarps, 2 feet wide and 10 feet long. Lay them in an enclosed arena in a V formation. Position the tarps so that the wide end of the V is 8 feet wide and the narrow end is 4 feet wide. You horse needs to be able to walk comfortably through both openings, to start.
Step 1. Get his attention. Standing next to your horse, give him a signal on the lead a few inches from the halter ring to get his attention.
Step 2. Stroke his back. Usingthe Tellington Wand, a dressage whip, or a willow stick (not a crop), stroke your horse's back two or three times, withers to croup. (Your horse should stand still and wait for the "go" signal.)
Step 3. Go forward. Immediately signal your horse to step forward with a forward movement of your hand on the lead a few inches from the halter ring. At the same time, give him the verbal command, "And walk."
Step 4. Reinforce with tapping. Tap your horse's croup with a circular movement to reinforce the step-forward command. (Make small clockwise circles in the air with the wand, with the bottom part of the circle touching his croup.)
Step 5. Mount up. Mount up, and ask your horse to go forward by tapping lightly on the top of his croup. (Only do this in a situation that you know you can control.)
The Plastic V
After doing the Dingo exercise on the ground and in the saddle, introduce your horse to the plastic V. Here's how:
Step 1. Lead your horse. Begin with this exercise from the ground. Lead your horse to the V. If your horse shows concern, all the better! Drop small handfuls of grain on several places on the plastic and let him eat the grain off the plastic. Eating overcomes the flight reflex.
Step 2. Mount up. Mount up, and cue your horse to take a step toward the V's wide end. If he refuses, have a helper on the ground open up the dimensions of the V to make it less imposing.
Step 3. Move forward. Ask your horse to move forward through the V by stroking his side and tapping his croup, just as you did on the ground. If he balks, set him up for success by opening the V as wide as you need to, for starters. You want him to trust you and go forward when you ask.
Step 4. Reward him. As soon as your horse walks through the V (entering from the wide end and exiting the narrow end), reward him with food from your hand. Do this the first few times.
Step 5. Narrow the V. Gradually narrow the V's wide opening, until the strips of plastic come together and your horse is walking directly over them. You can also just narrow the area between the strips and allow him to enter and walk out the bottom of the V. The final goal is to negotiate the V smoothly and confidently.
For more obstacle-training exercises from Linda Tellington-Jones, see "Negotiating Trail Obstacles," Joy of Riding, The Trail Rider, September/October '11.