Help for distracted horses!

Help for distracted horses!

Submitted by: Jan Snodgrass
Phone: 540/364-7673
Email Address: excellenthorse(at)
Date Added: 2/22/2014

This is part 3 of a series that can be found at

Helping your Horse be more "There"

It's probably an understatement to say that many horses need to be more "there." That is, they need to be more focused on what we humans want them to be focused on. A more focused, less distracted horse is more responsive to our requests, and safer to be around. Unfocused behavior is habitual. To put it simply, your horse is behaving in a certain way because he doesn't know there is an alternative.

The way to change any habitual behavior is to introduce something non-habitual. This interrupts the habit and shows the horse that there is different way to behave. To refocus a distracted horse, you must bring his attention back to himself. A great way to do this is to use the Zig Zag TTouch on the large areas of his body.

Zig Zags are angled strokes done mostly with the finger tips. Press your finger tips against your horse's body and slide across the hair dragging the heel of your hand. Angle your stroke towards the rear of the horse. Slide up about 8 inches, then turn your hand, press your finger nails against the horse and slide your hand across the hair and down. Turn your hand and go up again and then down. You will make a pattern on your horse's hair coat that looks like this ^^^^. Each up or down stroke should take a half second to a second to complete.

Do these strokes on the larger muscles--the neck, shoulder, back and croup. They should feel comfortable and scratchy to your horse. Not so light as to be ticklish and not so hard to be annoying. You will quickly see your horse turn an ear back to focus on what you are doing. He may even turn his head towards you to see what is going on. You should allow him to do this as long as he keeps his feet where they are. If he does turn his head, acknowledge him and say "good boy." (or girl).

Now that your horse is beginning to focus his attention on the zig zags, it is time for the magic of the wand! The "wand" is a 4-foot long white dressage whip. It is a bit stiffer than your average dressage whip and it is used to stroke the horse's body. Introduce it to your horse by turning the wand upside down and holding it about 12 inches from the button end and allowing the horse to sniff it. Then begin stroking the horse's neck and shoulder with it. Once the horse understands what you are doing, turn the wand around, hold it near the button end and begin stroking all over the horse's body with long, firm strokes. Make sure to stroke all the way down each leg to the ground. Stroke slowly and with enough pressure to create a slight bend in the wand.

Once you have stroked all over the horse's body on both sides, turn the wand around again and use the button end to gently tap the outside of each hoof several times. This will feel quite unusual to your horse and he may pick up a foot, don't worry about it just tap another one and he will put it down.

All this work should be done in a very calm manner. You will have your horse's attention like never before and you can go on with what ever exercise you would normally do. If your horse loses his focus, return to the zig zags or the wand stroking and tapping until you get his focus back.

These simple exercises can dramatically change a horse's behavior in a very short period of time! Have Fun!!! Let me know how it goes!

Read parts 1 and 2 at:

For more information on Jan and her training methods go to:

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