How do you work with a horse that tries to leave the training ring?

Share your knowledge and help solve this problem! Presented by Boehringer Ingelheim.

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I have had this problem with my horse, and I found a couple of things that help.First whenever i get near that part of the arena, I make sure he is flexed VERY SLIGHTLY to the inside and I've got inside leg on him and that he is moving forward at a working trot or canter. it is harder for him to 'sneak out' if he is going at a 'good pace'. It will vary from horse to horse and only you know what the best pace is for your horse. Then as I get closer I say something to distract him. I use saying NOW NOW NOW untill we get past it. Then I make sure I praise him afterward. If he is confirmed at this you will need to be very careful as you approach this part of the arena because many horses will give clues that they are thinking of trying something. So if he starts to slow down, or begins to throw is head this could be a sign he is getting distracted and you need to get him back listenting to you. It might also help to begin planning some extra movements in this part of the arena, like circles or halts etc. If you can keep him wondering what you will ask for next he won't be planning any tricks
My first step would be to try to figure out why the horse is wanting to leave the ring. Is he afraid or confused by what is happening in the ring? or is it due to lack of rider control and horse's response to the bridle? If we better understand why it is happening, then it becomes easier to figure a way to change the behaviour.
If the horse is afraid or confused, the onus is on the rider to make a change and quickly. How you communicate your requests to your horse is very important but even more so is how you tell your horse he's done what you've asked. So often we don't remember to do this and all it takes is a release of our method of request or cue. So if you pick up your rein to ask the horse to turn to the right, then a release of that rein tells the horse he's done what you wanted. Sometimes we become so focused on what we want, that we forget there's another "being" involved here and he doesn't know what we are trying to accomplish. Yes, we need our horses to be obedient but they respond better to a confident and fair rider than they do to a rider that makes them fearful.
If the horse is not responding to the rider's rein requests, he needs to be reschooled on what the bridle means. Chances are he braces his neck and does not lower his head or soften in the bridle. Or he is rubber necked in that he can have his head bent around to the rider's knee and still go in the opposite direction. So I would start reschooling the horse on how he is to respond to a rider's request using a rein. I would show him that when I pick up a rein and he responds in a way that I want, I will always reward him with a release of the rein pressure. This will help him become more responsive to the bridle, not through more pressure or harsher bits, but by showing him you can be fair and trusted. Lots of repetitions of this simple request, building his response to where he immediately softens his neck, lowers his head and brings his chin towards his chest in response to a light request from a rein, will be needed. If he is rubbernecked, then you must also reconnect the rein to the feet. If you've used a method of suppling that has you stand still and bring your horse's head around to your knee without moving his feet, you have taught him he does not need to move his feet when you pick up the rein. This is never desireable and you will need to fix it by keeping the pressure on the rein until he wants to put his head forward, and do not release it until he moves his feet. Repetition again will reconnect the feet to move when rein pressure is used.
Runaways are never fun and the horse that does not respond to the bridle is running away with you, even at a walk!

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