By Frank J. Buchman
It’s a problem when a cowboy’s best friend becomes just a bit too cozy.
Certain horses just don’t seem to know when to leave their appreciated master alone.
Actually, it’s an obnoxious habit, poor manners that horses often get into at a young age.
Whether it’s “shouldering in,” “crowding the handler,” or “falling into you,” it’s a trait that “needs to be stopped,” according to trainer Jason Smith.
When a horse is “shouldering in” on the handler, it has to be worked with in a confined area like an arena or pen, especially with a young animal.
“If for some reason something happens, and the horse gets away, it sure doesn’t need to be out in the open,” Smith said.
“First, you have to understand that ‘your space’ with your horse is from about the ear back to the withers. So the handler should be standing right behind the poll or toward the middle part of the neck,” Smith said. “The handler should be no farther than a foot away from the horse, in that space.”
It’s important to not get ahead or in front of the horse, because if it would rear, the handler could easily get pawed. If behind the horse’s withers, it can kick the handler.
“I’m not saying you won’t ever get hurt in ‘your space,’ but if the horse does paw or kick, chances are it’s not going to hurt as bad,” Smith said..
“When I walk, my position is still the same,” Smith explained. “I’m still in this area between the ear and the withers. I stay in this same position to correct the horse.”
When leading a horse, it’s actually just like riding “You don’t want the horse’s shoulder to drop. You want the horse’s shoulder upright, and you want the horse moving square,” the trainer said.
If the horse doesn’t respect its space or ‘your space,’ it can’t be square and travel even. “You want your horses upright and square, traveling the way it would if you were riding,” Smith detailed. “You want to accentuate the horse’s movement, just like you would with a pleasure horse.”
To keep that horse’s shoulder upright, the handler and horse have to be going forward.
“As soon as a horse shoulders in on me, I’ll give it a little tug on the shank to get its attention,” Smith said. “Then I will push the horse away from me, either backing a few steps or turning to the right or sometimes both.”
Backing the horse teaches it not to push on the handler. “Turning the horse to the right keeps the shoulder up so it’s not shouldering in on me,” Smith continued. “As soon as you get the horse upright and pushed away, the shoulder automatically tilts back up.
“If the horse is not responding, moving to where I want to go, I push her really hard with the chain,” Smith said. “As soon as the horse does respond, I take the pressure of the chain off.
“Everything I do in correcting that horse is all from my same space,” Smith summarized.