Wyoming horseman Ken McNabb shares his technique for handling a herd bound horse.
As herd animals, horses naturally find security in being with other horses. When riding in a group, it’s common for a horse to become anxious if separated from the group, pawing, nickering and pushing on the bit. Wyoming horseman and clinician Ken McNabb says the remedy for such angst is reconnecting with the herd bound horse.
“The horse is a social animal and is comfortable in a herd,” he says. “But you have probably worked in an arena with other riders, and when they and their horses have left the arena, he doesn’t have a meltdown. It shouldn’t be any different when you take him outside.
“You can have two horses together for 10 minutes and they become a herd. But when the other horse leaves, it’s important that my horse comes back to the understanding that I am his herd.”
Rather than simply fighting the horse’s urge to rejoin the group or its buddy, McNabb works to redirect its focus.
“I want my horse to have a familiar, go-to exercise,” he says. “It can be working on stops, rollbacks, or just doing circles. It doesn’t really matter what the exercise is. But if you have a go-to exercise that you’ve worked on in the arena, when things get bad outside the arena you have a tool to go back on. And doing a familiar exercise helps you get comfortable with what you’re doing, and soon the horse gets comfortable. He’s drawn to your emotional strength.
“I like to do some lateral movement drills and get my horse’s feet to move. I start drilling until my horse goes, ‘Oh yeah. That’s right, there is no release until I focus on Ken.’ ”
Read more about McNabb in the December 2020 issue of Western Horseman.