Look Out For Equine Magnets
With Richard Winters Horsemanship
Chances are, you played with magnets when you were younger. You understand how they work. With two magnets in your
hand they are attracted and pull towards each other. You can also turn the magnets around and they will then push away or
repel from each other. Something very similar happens when riding our horses. There are areas and directions that they are
drawn to and are always attempting to drift towards. Then there are other areas that they attempt to fade away from and feel repelled.
It's important that we are always aware of these magnets playing out in our horse’s mind. If we are passive and don’t address
these issues these magnets will get more powerful and our problems will get bigger. However, if we are proactive and ride
smart, we can begin to eliminate these mental magnets and develop a horse that is much more balanced.
I recently saw this exemplified during a short visit to my daughter, Sarah, and her husband Chris Dawson, at their training
facility in Texas. This is the time of year when they are starting all of their two-year-olds and the young horses are very green.
On this particular morning Sarah was riding some two-year-olds that had never been in this particular large indoor arena
before. With almost every colt she could feel the hesitancy of them wanting avoid the corners of the four sides in the arena. In
other words, the magnets were pushing the colts away from the corners. Those youngsters were pretty sure that there could
be monsters or some other dangerous thing lurking just on the other side of the wall in those corners.
As Sarah worked a colt around the arena, at the trot and lope, when it was time to give the colt a rest, she rode up into the
corner as far as she could go. There she stopped the colt and rested, allowing him to catch his breath. After a few times you
could see the colt getting more and more comfortable about going up into the corners. The place initially thought as scary and
dangerous was proving to be a comfortable spot where they could stop and rest. Sarah was systematically removing the repelling magnets.
A little later that morning, Sarah was on a different two-year-old and one of her interns was riding another very green colt in
the same large arena. As they moved around the arena, the intern’s colt felt comfortable moving out only if he could follow
Sarah's horse. That was the young horse’s comfort zone. It was a definite magnet pulling the intern’s mount toward Sarah’s colt.
Sarah instructed the intern to quit attempting to steer the horse away. If the intern’s colt wanted to come toward Sarah, he
should allow it. Now, when the colt got near Sarah's horse, she instructed the intern to take the end of his lead rope and
create some commotion and keep his colt’s feet moving forward. "Don’t let him stop and get comfortable next to me”, she
instructed. After just a few moments of busy feet trotting around her horse the intern’s colt drifted away. "Now relax, rub and
pet your colt. Show him that the most comfortable spot is out there with you and away from us," she said. Soon the colt
became more independent and trusting in the intern’s leadership rather than depending on the other horse as a babysitter.
Sarah helped the intern diminish the magnet that was pulling his colt toward her horse.
What was exemplified in the arena that morning? The same principle that's true in every training situation: It's our job to make
the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult. Being creative in these situations help to change our horse’s mind about their
preconceived ideas. Before long, our ideas become their ideas, enabling us to begin to work together, when presented in a manner they understand.
It’s not only when training two year-olds that a rider might experience these magnets. You can feel magnets with your horse
almost daily. There's a pretty good chance that there is a magnet on the gate of your arena. Do you ever feel your horse
wanting to move quickly through the arena and back towards the gate and then move slowly while leaving the gate area? If
you want to eliminate this magnet, it's important that you not stop and rest or visit with your friends near the gate. Let your
horse work harder around the gate and then ride over to the other end of the arena to stop and rest. I will often dismount and
lead my horse out the gate, at the end of the session, rather than ride out of the arena to get back to the barn. I want to eliminate, not encourage magnets.
Consider how Sarah dealt with the pulling and repelling magnets in her young horses. Use that same principle with your horse
in or out of the arena. Be proactive and set up situations that will give you a balanced, magnet free horse.
Hey Sarah, where did you learn those techniques? I asked. Oh dad, you know, she replied. Her response made me feel
Cheryl and Richard Winters
Richard Winters Horsemanship
115 Columbia Hill Court
Reno, NV 89508
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