Washington 5 year old Fox trotter ridden in  western snaffle with a doughnut and  Western saddle in pasture by experienced rider.

Question: I'd like some ideas on how to discourage my mare from following too close to the horse in front on trail rides.  She doesn't try to pass, just likes to follow too close and I
end up pulling on her more than I like.  Any ideas? 

From Panelist Jonathan

Well this may sound like a simple problem but it isn't . After a year and a half of forming this habbit it will take some time to stop it . On problems as this I depend on some old fashion common sence . When she starts getting to close just pull her up strongly and say no . Then release her when the distance between the horses is satisfactory and repeat as many times as it takes . Now , more than likely that is exactly what you have tried so , add to this  a little turn around heading back where you came and or stopping with a back up . All of these seperate or together will get her mind off the rear of the horse infront and back on you where it belongs , you .

So , mix it up make it fun for you so it will be fun for her and remember this one will take a lot of time and patience .


From Panelist Carol


Thanks for your letter.  Here's one idea that works pretty well.  Have the rider of the horse that she is following turn around and send your horse backwards by flopping a crop, a shirt, or whatever is handy in your horse's face whenever she gets too close to the horse in front.  The object is to make the following horse back away from the leading pair, not to scare the follower to death, so instruct the leading rider to do just enough to set the following horse back a bit and repeat as needed. 

Hope that this helps.

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelsit Liz

There are a few things you can try here. Yes this can be an aggravation and maybe a good way to get kicked.

One would be stopping the horse and backing it up a few steps and then going foreword again and when it crowds again repeat. Also doing teaching a half halt may work, this is done by dropping your weight down into the saddle and giving a bump to the mouth asking for a slight hesitation in the horses forward motion. Then you could also just turn the horse around and go the other way a bit and then turn back and follow the group again. I recommend the first to options first. Your horse is just not paying attention to what you are asking and getting it focused and responding to your commands and aids really is the way to take care of this.


From Panelsit Erica

Try keeping her busy. Ask for speed changes - walk, trot, turn, walk, turn, trot, walk, trot, turn, turn, walk, etc. She is paying more attention to her position in the group and non on her rider.
Erica Frei

From Panelist Stella

It is really up to the rider, and not the horse, to keep a respectful space. 
Your cue should come the second she starts speeding up,midst the very first 
stride, not wait til she gets too close. You also want to give a RELEASE to 
pressure as soon as she submits to your command.
Personally, I'd start with a couple sessions of "review" alone, either at 
home or trail, to focus on the idea of her staying at the speed you ask of 
her ("cruise control!"), and not changing at her will, only at yours. You 
want to give her some release as soon as she slows to get the idea; use 
"give and take" rather than steady pressure to get her slowed down 
gradually(step by step) to where you want, releasing as a reward for each 
time she slows down so she can associate the "reward" with the action that 
elicited it. Initially it is not as important that she slows to the point 
you want first pressure, but that she did give the correct response; she 
knows this is, by the reward of the release (Later, you can work on 
associating varying degrees of pressure to degree of slowing down)By working 
alone a bit, you can re-establish her focus to your commands, the reward of 
release, and extinguishing the consequences of steady pressure in her mouth 
by sustituting give and take.Then, its time to apply to a trailride with 
another horse...
Start with plenty of extra distance between you and the preceding horse, not 
so far back that she gets more insistent on catching up, but perhaps 2-3 
horse lengths, rather than just one. It is up to you to gauge the speed 
necessary to stay consistently at this distance; if you feel her speeding 
up, check her, give the release when she responds; if she doesnt, stop her 
and ask to stand quietly, relaxed, with a release. It helps if you can get 
the other rider to work with you and stand or slow their horse too, if she 
doesnt stand and relax very quickly. I suggest this mainly to avoid any 
additional anxiousness on her part that would take away from her focus on 
you, should she lose sight of the other horse. Remember that horses are herd 
animals, so you do not want to make her positive response to you associated 
with "losing" her companion; but rather, that by responding to your will, 
she will still be able to maintain it, but at a reasonable distance. This 
may take many repeats, as you are having to erase a habit and rebuild new 
ones both for the horse, and your own use of the bit, but consistency and 
perseverence until you achieve this is the key. Your success really depends 
on your heightened awareness and response of changes in speed, and providing 
the release at the right time.



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