Horses Choosing to be Tacked Up and Ridden?

This topic is all about horses choosing to be tacked up and ridden – is it possible that they actually will choose to be ridden and, if so, how can you train it?

Choice is a huge part of Connection Training and giving horses a voice and allowing them to participate in the decisions you make together is key to building a strong, trusting relationship. But, how do horses express their opinions?

This all comes down (as always) to the emotions your horse displays. Horses communicate their preference by obvious signs such as walking towards or away from the mounting block when given both options, and small signs such as tail swishes or posture showing whether they’re happy with the situation or feeling some tension. By watching for these signs and listening to them, you will always be working with your horse, giving them a say in everything you do. For example, if you approach with the saddle and your horse walks away, stiffens up or swishes their tail, he’s clearly saying, “no” to being tacked up and it’s then up to us to listen and stop. 

Changing negative emotions and tension into joy, enthusiasm and relaxation is a key training area of CT – think about despooking, ‘problem’ behaviours, resistance or anxiety. In this video, I look at some specific areas you can work on to help your horse feel so positive about being tacked up and mounted that they say a very definite, “YES!” when you ask if they’d like to be ridden! This is the grounds of a fantastic ridden partnership and, honestly, is one of the best feelings in the world!

Hope you enjoy it and find it helpful. Please leave any comments or questions below 🙂 

You can see this session in full, along with hundreds of other video tutorials in the Connection Training Club. I’d love for you to join our friendly, supportive and fun global community and learn more about how to use CT in a practical way with your horse. Head over here to find out more. See you there!

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4 thoughts on “Horses Choosing to be Tacked Up and Ridden?”

  1. Kimberly Smiley

    My horse will come to the mounting block if I give him a little bit of encouragement, a very slight pull on the leadrope, definitely not a battle, but hardly enthusiasm. I reward him, and he enjoys that, and he is MUCH better than he used to be, still, it is more as if he is saying, Oh, alright. I even stopped using a saddle in case that was the problem. I wonder if my treats just aren’t appealing enough. I was giving him things like carrot and apple, but I was treating him so much that I thought I should switch to something else. I still give him some sweets, but mostly Romaine lettuce, which he seems to like. What do you feed? You’ve probably answered that before, sorry.
    Thanks, love you videos and help!!!
    Kimberly Smiley

  2. I really love your positive approach and giving horses choice.
    But what do you do if your horse has an unseen injury that makes them uncomfortable?
    Is there a chance of training them to override their discomfort which may cause further problems?
    I would love to see you talk about this a bit more.

    1. Hi Cynthia, yes that’s a hard situation and some horses are very reactive in that situation, too. One part of Connection Training is teaching our horses how to overcome challenges by quietly thinking through and working with you to find a solution. This begins right at the early stages of them learning to keep away from the food to get the food, but also builds into other exercises, too, such as stopping and turning to you when spooked rather than running away or that they really can offer a little trot when they’d rather snooze in the sun. By focusing on the emotions and making this training progressive, the horses learn that it’s very rewarding to stay calm and try, even in tricky situations. As they experience success, such as discovering the flapping plastic bag was interesting rather than scary after all, they have more trust that it’ll work out, even when challenged in a big way, such as when working with medical procedures. So, the more training you can do with your horse where they experience lots of little successes in overcoming challenges, the more resilient and better-equipped they’ll be when facing larger ones.
      For some specific videos on medical procedures, check out these videos: https://connectiontraining.com/treating-wound-reward-based-training/ and https://connectiontraining.com/training-medical-procedures/

      As always, there are more in-depth videos and support available in the CT Club: https://connectiontraining.com/learn-ct-online-2/

      Hope that helps to explain it. It’s a big question and often causes conflict in the horse. We can never eliminate pain or discomfort entirely in many medical situations, but we can greatly reduce the fear and work with the horse, which changes everything.

      1. Oh, I just realised you might have been referring specifically to ridden discomfort… Well, you can certainly get a horse to do ‘stuff’ for treats, but they can’t fake relaxation as that tension is displayed through their facial expression, calming signals, muscles tension etc. We focus on these signs of tension vs relaxation throughout the training, so that we can spot conflict, tension or anxiety in the horse, even at low levels and take that into account when training. I think this is a huge part of the communication and, in my experience, when we just slow down and listen to our gut feelings and really watch our horses, everyone knows their own horse and knows when they are truly relaxed and happy or when there is some tension or conflict present.
        This is another big question, but I hope that helps to explain that further, too 🙂

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