Is asking a horse to stand still the wrong approach?

Of course it does. It shows that you’re not empathizing with him and questioning WHY he behaves the way he does. You just write him off as a Neanderthal. It’s dismissive.

You can call my advice bad training all you want but my 4 year old warmblood sounds way more sane than your 20 year old warmblood and that should tell you that one of us is on the wrong track here. You were the one who asked if your approach is wrong. It is. It’s just way easier on the ego to blame your horse’s issues on anything else besides your own horsemanship.


My horse had 10 owners by the time he was 11 years old, professional riders included. But yes, the problem must be with me. :stuck_out_tongue:
Your horse being great has nothing to do with my horse not being great, there’s no connection there. I’m just realistic about my horse and what he’s like. You may not believe it but I am still capable of treating him kindly and without anger, the one thing he has taught me is to be very good at leaving my emotions at the gate. It’s not his fault he’s a dick, I’ve given him 10 years of a good life, vet care, working within his limitations, ignoring my own aspirations with him because he’s unable to reach them, giving him a job to do so as to keep him exercised and when he develops enough age-related wear and tear to be unsound he will be put to sleep.

To be honest I think you sound almost overly emotional. Your horse is probably your “everything” and you buy all the pretty browbands, matching saddlepads and wraps but probably spend less on coaching, yeah?
If I sold this horse or gave him away, even if to what seemed like a suitable rider, one day he may well end up in the hands of someone who isn’t. He’s been through many hands, he’s had plenty of chances of taking good training and it made no difference. There are owners like me who keep unsuitable horses out of the community for the good of the community. It’s an ugly truth, yeah.


Wow. I almost don’t want to respond because I’m hoping you’re a troll and not truly this awful… You’ve called your horse a dick, a Neanderthal, and that you won’t be sad when he goes lame and you put him down? And you’d like everyone to believe that this attitude doesn’t effect your horsemanship and that all his issues must surely be genetic because clearly it’s definitely not you. Ok.

Also, my horse being my “everything” isn’t a bad thing. You know what is? People that see their horse as a piece of equipment. And since you asked I spend most of my money on good quality hay, access to 24/7 turnout, feed/ supplements, meds, fly masks, blankets, etc… you know things that make HER happy and healthy. And yea sorry no, I do not spend a lot of money on training for my 4 year old because she’s 4 and doesn’t need to be in full training right now. Crazy.


@Equkelly I think the OP is being blunt and emotionally detached in her description on purpose. Many times with threads like these people will latch onto the horse’s behavior rather than “how should I handle X issue.” Instead of getting advice on introducing the horse to trails, they will be told to get a trainer, start from square one, etc, etc. I think if the OP didn’t care for the horse he would have been put down a long time ago.

The OP is being realistic about the horse. Some horse’s brains aren’t wired quite right. Instead of jumping all over the OP for giving this horse a chance for 10 years, we should be applauding her for sticking it out and setting their goals aside in order to work with the horse they have and decided to keep.


I have to ask… what breed is this horse!!!

Firstly, trail riding comes with many unexpected dangers; I wouldn’t start on a horse known for rearing and bucking. But, as someone else mentioned, while accomplished in the arena, it sounds like he’s green to trails. I’d start small and build up. I’d call five minutes a win and hop off. Ten minutes the next day. It sounds like you have quite a bit of property to work with. Is leaving the property a must, or could you be happy to hack around? With my guy, the one of the first times I trailered him out alone, I didn’t even ride him. I fed him, groomed him, and just hung out at the trailer. Then, I hand walked him down the trail. It gave me a good overall picture of what to expect from him. Perhaps start there. If he’s still a spitfire at 20, this new adventure might be too much for him. You know your horse best.

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Based on your description not asking for a stand right now is probably best. It sounds like he can get used to the idea though, just as he did for the arena.

Maybe start by getting him a bit tired from walking then when you ask for a stand you do something lttle that wont get him going. Like take off your sunglasses, then walk on. These little stops can get longer. Make them less about him obeying and more just for a unrelated-to-him-reason?

Also maybe standing can involve something he reliably enjoys?

Just suggestions. Good on you for trying to keep him fit and healthy into his old age!


That’s a great way to put it. I do care for him but I would say that I am a bit detached and not just in my description of him. He’s not interested in being anyone’s friend, if you get complacent around him you may well lose your teeth so I’ve never felt that he’s one of those special horses that you really adore over time. Have you ever had one of those horses who really try to please under saddle and have a willing nature so they’re a joy to ride? That’s the complete opposite, he’s not willing to please at all. If you teach him something new and then come back the next ride and ask for it again, rather than say “I know what you’re asking and here let me show you that I remember what to do!” he’ll say “I’ve come up with a new evasion to get out of what you’re asking me to do”. I think that’s the reason the professionals gave up on him as his lack of trainability honestly makes me laugh at times.
Many years ago I sent him away to a professional rider for 3 months and he came back fitter but no change in his mind. He also spent some time eventing and didn’t make the grade there either so he’s very talented but difficult to get much out of.

He’s a hanoverian. Leaving the property isn’t a must, I just thought there might be some things out there that he’d enjoy seeing as he’s quite bold and I didn’t want him to spend his whole life in an arena. I’ve been riding around the property for probably 6 weeks now and he’s definitely better than he was, at the start he planted his feet and refused to go. Even with other horses coming along, he just didn’t want to go. There’s no whipping this horse so sometimes as a compromise we’d just stand there for 20 minutes facing the direction I wanted to go before he’d finally agree and would walk on.
Then I’d get him about 50 metres away and he’d want to turn around and go back, cheeky thing. That lasted a good two weeks, I just kept him faced in the direction that I wanted to go and ignored his acrobatics to try go the other way.

It’s been probably 3 weeks now where he’s been comfortable to walk away from the arena area on the buckle and I’ve been trotting and cantering him up some hills which he seems to enjoy. So I actually thought he’d made good progress by getting him 1KM away on his own on the buckle, all to have a little meltdown at having to then just stand there doing nothing. That’s a new one for me :smiley:

But yes maybe that’s too much to ask of him, maybe keeping him moving is the best way to go with him. Do you think it’s counterproductive to try and burn some of that energy off? If you have a horse who’s getting a little nappy, is it a terrible idea to let them trot/canter up a hill and burn it off? Does that fire them up even more or do you find that satisfies some of their urges? Trailering him somewhere and just chilling is a great idea.


You’re making progress! I think sometimes it’s difficult to see the small steps that are building on good experiences. Trail work is often dismissed and not thought of as advanced work, but it’s mentally and physically asking a lot of the horse. Six weeks is nothing. I say let him canter up the hill. If he doesn’t want to stand still, he trots. He canters. He has two choices: be lazy or canter up that hill. I think you’ll continue to see good results from a wet saddle pad.


Id agree if he’s getting nappy, let him work that attitude right off. As long as hes not the type to get worse when tired. Maybe being tired and having a break like Ceffyl_Dur says, will show him the light.

Arena riding may be harder in the moment, but the trail horse has to do hard stuff and still have gas enough to get back to the yard. This could be where he reacts, unil his mental endurance is better just fyi.


Tough problem for you and I’m only reading about it online…

One thought: as a sport horse he has spent more time in the arena than outside so, as someone suggested above, he is a very green trail horse, regardless of age. You want to get off property but actually working him successfully around your own pasture is a big achievement. From something you said, I suspect you are in Australia. Guy MacLean has been doing some interesting short Facebook posts on training and I really like his quiet approach. He does all his training in a couple of paddocks, making use of terraine, and an obstacle course that engage the horses brain.

Second thought: feed? I’m not an expert on nutrition but it does occur to me that a dressage horse would need different energy from a trail horse.


See, and this is the fluffy pretty little pony “my horse can do anything if I just keep trying” crap that gets amateurs hurt.

There is such a thing as a horse who is so untrainable or so mentally damaged that they will never be “quite right”. The sooner people realize that about their horses and limit their expectations accordingly, the better off they will be.

Now, I’m not saying throw in the towel after 30 days of trying. But the OP has owned this horse for 10 years. He/she knows what the horse is capable of, and what they are not.

My late mare was a ball of anxiety. I loved her, she had the heart of a lioness and she would do anything for me. But there are lots of pieces of her personality that I do not miss in the slightest - she was difficult and fussy to handle. That’s ok. I knew she was never going to totally let go of her anxiety, and I worked around it. It would be better some days, and back to square 1 on others. I wasn’t going to make true headway on that aspect of her personality.

Not every horse is going to be a perfect little angel, no matter how much you train them, or with what tactics. That’s ok.

Hats off to the OP and knowing her horse.

To the topic, I agree with just keeping on until he’s got some miles under his belt. At that point, I’d use a “one rein stop” if he walks off of a whoa on the trail - if he wants to move, you’re going to make that idea hard for him. Most horses are more forward out of the ring, it’s something to be worked on but also something to enjoy. Even my lazy old man horse will typically try to walk off once after a whoa, and he’s been with me for 18 years now. I just repeat the command, and he gets the jist.


Very generally, most anxious horses do better when they are allowed to keep moving forward-- the more you try to make them stand quietly the more likely they are to explode.


Or another example - not every dog has the mental fortitude to be a schutzhund or ring dog.

Some can keep it together in the tense environment with exciting work. Others go over the top on aggression. Others will break down due to anxiety.


Remember also OP that anxiety and confidence can be closely intertwined. It takes great confidence and faith in himself for a horse to learn how to figure out and do difficult movements. They need to presented in a systematic manner that will allow them to conquer each challenge (even the ones as simple as yielding hindquarters) and then build upon then in succession.

You have no way of knowing how all those riders in all those years actually did this. I would worry that the transfers resulted in trainers that felt pressure to get the tricks on, not being provided with the year + that can take to lay the very basic ‘learn to learn’ approach. The horse never understood that he CAN do it, that he is smart and clever and can figure it out. He did not develop a strong, confident approach. Part of that might be genetics, but even the ones with fantastic confiden genes can have them quashed if pushed too much and too soon.

Trail riding is new to him. He might not understand. He does not have the confidence to step into the role that you are asking him to do. He is scared which results in negative behaviours. Your job is to teach him that he is wonderful, the next Einstein, and can walk around the trails by himself. That can only be started by beginning with very easy and delicately, carefully and systematically teaching him that challenges can be surmounted by him: because he is THE best. Give him time. Do what he is good at for a week (even if that is just walking around the pasture), ask him to take a slightly different way back (on the outside of the pasture?), set him up for success in a new situation/question and then tell him that he is THE best.

Once he learns to learn, he will start developing the confidence of figuring out how to problem solve. Your job is to not rush. Break it down into small enough questions and pieces for him to succeed. He may surprise you.

(PS - my best hacker - on the buckle, always, does not spook, will happily go anywhere, will tote friends/family, go out alone, cross creeks - is bred to go to the olympics (Indoctro son out of Voltaire mare). He is also one of the most sensitive horses I’ve ridden … but we’ve developed a relationship of trust over a decade + together)


Yes to asking him to canter up the hill when he’s being naughty. My own personal mantra with my horses has been “Bad horses have to work harder.”

So don’t just ask him to canter. Ask him, once you’ve reached the top of the hill, to do some of that lateral work that he’s done in the ring. Make that connection–between what he has learned about being ridden in the arena and what you’re asking him to do outside of it–for him.

And, as always, praise, praise, and more praise when he gets it right.


I am a little confused. You say he won’t “stand”, but you also say he is “nappy”. To me “nappy” means a horse that won’t move forward, the opposite of a horse that won’t stand. Maybe it means something different to you.

I agree with taking small steps. If 1 Km “fried his brain”, drop back to 1/2 Km for a while.

I also agree with “ask him to do something else” if he won’t stand, whether it is a loooong trot or canter, circling, turn on the forehand, or something else you know you can do safely.


OP, I only do trail riding and my horse is like yours in that he doesn’t like to stand still for very long. I have a couple of suggestions that might help.

First, add a step back to your whoas. Make it one smooth movement, with no pause between the whoa and one step back. Whoa-back-rest. And with the rest, a big release with the reins. Then, just before he decides to walk off, ask him to move forward. Do this every time you stop, and gradually lengthen the time you before you ask him to walk off. Don’t expect too much at first. Like others have said, this is new to him and he’s a little anxious about it. If he’s really antsy, you may have to ask him to walk off almost immediately at first. Soon, he should start anticipating the step back, and this gets him thinking back instead of forward.

Second, when he gets jiggy, try trotting him in figure eights. This lets him move his feet, which he needs to do, and it’s vigorous enough to burn some energy. And with figure eights instead of circles, he also has to think about changing directions. Do this until you feel him relax, and expect that it may take a long time at first–thirty minutes or more.

In addition to making your horse work when he does the wrong thing, look for ways to reward him when he’s good. Maybe let him lower his head and graze a little or grab a few twigs off a tasty shrub. Just be sure that this is your idea and not his. You don’t want to create a bad habit; you’re just trying to teach him that he can relax and enjoy being away from the barn.

Good for you, for trying to find a way to keep your older horse active. You said you solved these issues in the arena, so I’m betting you can solve them on the trail too.

  1. Puppy walks… Put the halter on him and lead him all over the places that you want to ride. Especially when you’re taking him out of his comfort zone, having someone on the ground can be reassuring to them, plus it sounds like he has better manners on the ground. Do it enough and hopefully you eventually get it in his head that this is what we do now.

  2. Work in the ring. Spooking and spinning on the way out, speed walking home, and motivated by laziness? Sounds like a recipe for the classic: let him strolllll along on the way out, only go a little way (where he’s behaving pretty solidly), then turn around and take him to the ring and work. Eventually he will see the value of prolonging that trail ride! (He may become worse in the ring, though. But sounds like that is OK?)

  3. Bribery/“creating a good experience”. Let him snack, or even take a scoop from his meal and save it to give to him at the furthest point out (on the ground or in a bucket). Going out = good things are going to happen. It can be useful to have some cue for this, so you don’t end up with constant snacking.


I’m using my phobe at the moment and it’s a nuisance to type on so apologies for not reaponding to everyone, I’ll come back on my pc later but wanted to say it’s a shame that it’s often dismissed. it’s proving to be pretty difficult and there are skills needed there that a dressage rider won’t learn. Even things like my horse doesn’t want to walk from A to B and will refuse to go, but i’ve figured out that if I walk him in zig-zagged lines 45 degrees either side of B, I can get him to B without him realising that’s where he’s going. But if I attempted a straight line there he just won’t go and will argue about it. That’s something that people never really have to experience in an arena and I bet a lot of dressage horses wouldn’t cope if their riders took them out and expected them to be OK about it.

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To me it sounds like you’re making progress. But it can be a very slow process. I spent quite a while getting my mare used to going out alone. If she was really melting down, I’d get her calmed as best I could, and then ask for just a few more steps, quit, and go back to the barn. I also take a lot of short grazing breaks as she is very food-motivated.

It’s still not her favorite thing in the world, but per another current thread (on Off Course), I’ve ended up at a barn that gives her excellent care and ticks all my boxes too, has great trails access May 1 to December 1, and… it’s very hard to find anyone to ride out with, so most of the time we’re alone. I try to be fair to her and make our rides as pleasant as possible, stay away from things she’s terrified of (cattle, sheep etc.) But it’s not always easy.

I do get the feeling of resentment, sometimes, of having an older horse who isn’t quite what one wants, but for various reasons that’s the horse you have, and you make do. Trust me, I’d love a horse that was more brave about going out alone and could handle being in a large group, too, could work cows, could be trotted and cantered more, etc. I absolutely love my mare, but still…