Zelador has developed an annoying “trick” while I’m riding him. If he thinks it’s time to finish our session (when I halt or rein back) he’ll move his head to the ground, preparing to bow. From where I sit, it is difficult to get his head back up where it belongs. My only option is to tell him to walk forward. He knows I don’t want the bow and he knows that his downward head movement has interrupted what I want to do. Grrr…

So, what’s the answer? I know I have to change what I’m doing to change what Zelador is doing. But I’m not pleased that he’s controlling all these needs to change. I searched my brain for HELP! Philippe Karl came to mind. He mentioned something in a DVD I saw a few weeks ago that just might help me and Zelador. Here’s the scenario: Someone asked Philippe, “What do you do if a horse stops at a jump that he’s jumped happily many times.”

Philippe Karl’s response was: use psychology. He mentioned that most people would use more leg as the horse slowed down on the approach. Over time the rider has to use more and MORE leg. Before the rider realizes it he’s using his legs twenty or thirty metres before the jump and the horse STILL is not going over it.

What Philippe does when the horse stops is he immediately turns the horse away from the jump and has him go as fast as possible. He continues going fast around the arena, then brings him back to the walk and once again prepares to jump. Philippe says that he will do this “turn away and go very fast” as many times as it takes. Finally the horse figures out that he has to work really hard if he slows down before a jump AND the horse happily goes over the jump.

Hmmm… “psychology”…

Today I entered the arena with a PLAN. If Zelador decided to take control of our session by preparing to bow I was going to send him forward (FAST) and keep him moving. Needless to say, when I asked for a halt (about twenty minutes into our ride) Zelador lowered his head and prepared to bow. I instantly said, “No” and sent him trotting forward. After one trip around the arena I brought him back to the walk. A minute or two later I asked for the halt. Down went his head. I said, “NO!” and sent him trotting forward. Around we went. Back to the walk. Back to the halt. Down went the head!!!! Immediately I sent him FORWARD.

The fourth time we went through this routine I noticed a change in him. Just as he was preparing to lower his head at the halt, I saw a different look in his eye. This time he lowered his head very slowly and when his nose got below ‘riding level’ I quickly sent him forward. It was as if he was measuring every centimetre of his downward movement to determine at what precise point I sent him into the trot. I could almost hear him thinking, “Ah…now I’ve ‘got’ it!”

The fifth time I asked for the halt he did NOT move his head. I took my feet out of the stirrups, vaulted off, gave him a treat and told him he was the BEST horse in the world! He agreed.