I talk about this a lot, if you’ve been on my page for more than 5 minutes you know how much I advocate for walking your horses out in hand, but seeing the response to This Irish Cob Can’s experience a few days ago has inspired me to write again.
I cannot believe people are still being berated for this. Not only is getting off your horse and leading absolutely fine, it is often the best thing you can do for them in the moment. It is good training. We should be training with the least amount of stress we can.
Good experiences build confidence. Which do you think is a better experience for a worried horse? The rider getting off, helping them calm down and giving them a lead past something scary or, being kicked and growled at while someone hangs off their mouth. Horse’s have no concept of “winning”, if your horse is spooking its because he is worried, he is not plotting for you to get off so he can have a laugh about it. All a horse is trying to do is keep themselves safe.
It doesn’t have anything to do with being a nervous rider, I frequently get off horses if I think I can support them better from the ground. But if you do get off because you’re feeling nervous that’s completely okay too! You’re doing your horse a favour, a tense rider creates a tense horse.
It doesn’t even need to be out hacking, it can be in a lesson, at an arena hire or even in the school at home. Don’t let anyone pressure you to stay on board when you don’t feel safe, it rarely ends well.
I feel the need to caveat this with a note about safety when leading. I am not telling you to get off and lead a horse who is not well trained on the ground, but I wouldn’t be hacking out on a horse who is not well trained on the ground. We need to first train our horses to be great to lead in a safe environment before starting with short outings not too far from home.
I regularly train horses to be safe to hack by leading them, I don’t think twice about getting off as its something the horse already understands, is familiar to them and gives them the confidence they need to handle scary situations. The more they have pleasant experiences the less you find you need to get off at all because you’ve created a confident horse.
Its okay to get off, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
I actually got off my horse out hacking today. I didn't necessarily need to get off him, he wasn't particularly worried, but the ground was very slippy, it was raining and the last time we were in this field he got really stressed. I decided to take him in hand today to give him a good experience, mounted up no problem on the way back and had a drama free ride. 🐎