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My horse, Rusty, is an eight year old quarter/thoroughbred gelding. He is a great horse, and really gentle, but I hate riding with more than two horses because whenever the other horse gets in front of Rusty, he just goes crazy!!! He has to always be in front, or he will get an attitude, and jump, and try running ahead. I think its mostly because he is mostly Thoroughbred, but how do you prevent this from happening?

- L. K.

You aren't the only rider who has problems with the interaction between horses on the trail. Here's a different - but related - question:

Hi Bob,

Just found your website and am loving it! I have a question about a horse that we purchased in September. My husband and I are both new to horses. (I got my first one last March and we purchased one for him in September.) I have taken one season's worth of riding lessons and he is just beginning.

Yesterday, we took his horse out on a dirt road along with my horse who is her stable mate. My horse only wanted to go in the same direction as his horse. I did manage to keep her doing what I wanted, but not without a struggle. It ruined an otherwise pleasant ride. Any suggestions for getting a horse to be a little more independent of its stable mate?

- L. I.


First, if you haven't already done so, take a few minutes to look over the answers to these questions:
10.   Starting bits and separation anxiety
17.   How can I train my "handful" of a mustang?
23.   Can you help me keep my horse in check?
29.   What should I do with my rowdy horse?

If you haven't figured it out already, there is no quick fix to these problems, because you're working with herd dynamics and horse psychology.

The horse that races to be at the front of the line may be very competitive or it may be trying to stay where he can kick and not be kicked. The horse that acts up when she gets away from her stable mate has an obvious problem with separation anxiety. In either case, the rider needs to gain the animal's trust and establish a position of control.

Start in the round pen by building responsiveness to your cues. In the case of the horse that wants to be with her stable mate, you may want to have the other horse within sight for the first session. As time goes on, you should be able to work in the pen without the other horse around.

Now it's time to work in an open field. Have someone ride the other horse somewhere within your horse's comfort zone - not too close, not too far away. Ride comfortably and independently of the other horse. As you sense that you are approaching the limit of your horse's comfort zone, ease up on the pressure and cue your horse to do something different within the comfort zone. Stay in charge at all times. Don't let it deteriorate to a contest of wills - push your horse just to the point where you sense it is thinking about misbehaving. Before it has a chance to misbehave, ask it to something different back in the comfort zone. Continually ask your horse to keep its attention on you and your cues.

As you progress, you'll be able to ride toward and away from the other horse, next to it, in the opposite direction, anywhere you want. When this happens, you will have become your horse's leader - the lead brood mare, the protector and guide. It will take patience, consistancy, attention, and control.

Happy Riding!

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