Halter Horse Training: Your Space, My Space

Remember to stay in ‘your space’ from the ear back to the wither to get the best out of your horse. Journal photo.

AQHA Professional Horseman Jason Smith offers horse-training tips to teach your horse to respect your personal space.

Whether you call it “shouldering in,” “crowding the handler” or “falling into you,” it’s a habit that needs to be stopped. Listen to what Jason has to say about teaching your horse to respect your personal space.

The Right Place to Learn

When you have a horse that’s shouldering in on you, you can’t correct it at the horse show. It needs to be worked on at home.

The first time you work with a horse, you need to be in a confined area like an arena or a fenced-in pen, especially with a young animal.

If for some reason something happens, and she gets away from you, you don’t want to be out in the open.

The Handler’s Space

First, you have to understand that your space is from about the ear back to the withers, so you should be standing right behind the poll or toward the middle part of the neck. You want to be no farther than a foot away from the horse, in that space.

You don’t want yourself ahead or in front of the horse because if she should rear, you’re going to get pawed in that position. If you get behind her withers, she can kick you. I’m not saying you won’t ever get hurt in your space, but if she does paw or kick, chances are it’s not going to hurt as bad.

When I walk, my position is still the same; I’m still in this area between the ear and the withers. I stay in this same position to correct the horse.

When You’re Leading

When you’re leading a horse, it’s just like riding; you don’t want the horse’s shoulder to drop. You want her shoulder upright, and you want the horse moving square.

If the horse doesn’t respect her space or your space, she can’t be square and travel even. You want her upright and square, traveling the way she would if you were riding her. You want to accentuate her movement, just like you would with a pleasure horse.

To keep that horse’s shoulder upright, you have to be going forward.

As soon as a horse shoulders in on me, I’ll give her a little tug on the shank to get her attention, and then I will push her away from me, either backing a few steps or turning to the right or sometimes both.

Backing her up teaches her she’s not supposed to push on me. And turning her to the right keeps her shoulder up so she’s not shouldering in on me. As soon as you get her upright and push her away, her shoulder automatically tilts back up.

If she’s not responding, moving to where I want her to go, I push her really hard with the chain. As soon as she does respond, I take the pressure of the chain off.

Everything I do in correcting that horse is all from my same space.

American Quarter Horse Association
1600 Quarter Horse Drive
Amarillo, TX 79104

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