Introducing Your Young Horse to the Bridge, Part 2
Once your horse displays confidence in approaching the bridge, he's ready for you to ask him to walk across it.
January 5, 2015
From The American Quarter Horse Journal
In Part 1 of this series, you learned how to get your horse to willingly approach a competition-style bridge. New, let's talk about how to get him up and over.
“I try hard to interpret when he gives me a positive response, like smelling the bridge or getting one foot on it or closer to it. Each time he gives me a positive, I’ll pause for a minute and stroke him on the neck. I’ll even release a little pressure by walking him out and going back around, then I’ll offer it to him again. By doing that, he’s going to build confidence.
“Once he gets his nose on the bridge, you’ve just about got him over. He’ll tell you when he’s ready for you to ask him: It’s when he thinks, ‘This is OK. I know that it’s not going to move, and it’s all right for me to go across it.’
“Then you get one foot, then two feet, three, and the next thing you know you’re standing up there on all four. Just slow down and stop if he’ll let you, and pet him.
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“The main thing is not to make an issue out of it, not to rush, and not to over-anticipate. It’s really, really on his terms that he needs to accept going over the bridge, not on yours.”
“You want to break the task down to the smallest elements so you can get the horse to accomplish something -– and it’s different for every horse,” Terry says. “If your horse doesn’t have the confidence to start with this bridge, you don’t want to force him.
“Break it down into steps he can do. Start with crossing something like a tarp or a piece of plywood. Or use a smaller platform, that’s flat on the ground, with no arch to it like we have here.
“You want to keep him relaxed, and sometimes you have to take things in smaller steps to do that.”
You might not cross the bridge the same day you introduce it -– it all depends on the colt. And there’s nothing that says you have to introduce the obstacle while riding him.
If you're looking for more useful skills to teach your horse, check out AQHA's FREE Tailing Your Trail Horse report. You'll learn how to teach your horse to climb uphill while you hold onto his tail from behind.
“If you’ve got a horse that has a little more steam or energy or is a little more nervous, offer the obstacle at first from the ground,” Thomas says. “Do that, if you don’t feel comfortable being up on his back introducing something new.
“You can do it on the end of a long line. Walk your horse in circles and then step him up and offer him the bridge on the ground.”
Stage 3: Repeat
Terry says that once you offer the bridge to the horse and he knows what your intentions are and assumes that it is safe for him, then it will be just another chore you are asking him to do.
Terry adds that if the horse is being more hesitant, then all you do is break it down into smaller steps. “Not every horse will go over the first time he sees the bridge. That’s OK. You have to work on his time, not yours,” Terry says.