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Pulling Bit, Follow too Close

As far as your horse that is pulling, first, if you have not had your horse checked recently by an equine dentist, I would highly recommend that. There are many dental complications that can cause a variety of negative responses from your horse.  Grabbing the bit and pulling could be a dental problem.  I recommend a real Equine Dentist, not just a vet.  You want one who sedates the horse and uses power tools. 

Next, you want to make sure when you are riding that your energy is down and calm.  Don't start pulling back on him, become angry or frustrated and get in a fight with him.  That will only make the situation worse.  It's your responsibility as a leader for him to always be emotionally stable.

After that I would ride him in the arena with the pinchless snaffle bit and teach him lateral flexion thoroughly so he will understand the release or comfort he seeks is in him giving to the bit, not in pushing against the bit.  Pick up a small amount of bit pressure and wait for him to release his jaw and soften the rein into your hand.  Teach this in several sessions in a controlled environment first before you go out on the trail with him.

As far as your horse following too closely to the horse in front of him and wanting to speed up, I set a ten foot barrier between my horse's nose and the tail of the horse in front of me.  If my horse breaks that barrier and gets closer to the horse in front then I start doing lateral flexion, zig zagging left and right across the trail, shoulder-in and even disengaging the hindquarters in a full circle if necessary.  In other words, I am giving my horse some extra work to do to use that energy without him speeding up on the horse in front and without me getting in a fight with him trying to hold him back.  Instead of trying to hold him back, just use that energy to move his feet in ways that are constructive.  Then trust him and give him the opportunity to walk calmly and maintain the ten foot interval but as soon as he speeds up and breaks the barrier you put him back to work.

I like to mix up the one rein circling with spin on the haunches, side-pass a few steps, back up a few steps, shoulder-in, etc.  This way you keep his feet busy doing constructive maneuvers that you request which keeps him focused on you because you are changing the maneuver every few seconds and keeping him really busy physically and mentally so he doesn't have time to think about crowding the horse in front.

You can't make a horse stay back and slow down but you can control where he moves his feet and give him enough to do to make walking calmly look pretty good to him when you offer it.  Of course all these maneuvers must be taught well in a calm, controlled situation in order to have them to use in a highly distracted situation. 

Enjoy the Journey,

Ed Dabney is an internationally acclaimed clinician, presenting horsemanship and riding clinics all over the US and in Europe.  In 2007, Ed was named Champion of the East Coast Trainer Challenge Series by Equine Extravaganza.  Ed was honored to have been selected by the University of Georgia to teach their senior level Young Horse Training course.

His training articles have appeared in many major national magazines.  Ed produces instructional videos and the “Gentle Horsemanship” TV program which has been seen on RFD-TV.

Ed's blending of natural horsemanship and classical equitation has made an indelible mark with students all across the United States and now also in Europe, drawing the attention of serious riders searching for the lightest touch and the deepest connection with their horses irrespective of breed or discipline.