We, as horse people, do a lot of discussing and problem solving for how to work with fearful horses, and teach them than being around humans is a good thing.
But it’s not uncommon, especially in Miniature Horses and especially when we’re training with positive reinforcement, to have a horse who likes to be with us so much that they prefer to be touching us all the time we’re together, which can make training challenging!
So what can we do with these “velcro horses” to gain enough distance to work together effectively, without damaging their enjoyment of their time with their human? It’s wonderful they like to be close to you so much, the last thing we want to do is chase them off and make them scared.
My favourite way to encourage a horse to be less “cozy” is to work with them through obstacles.
Have the horse weave a line of cones or go between a pair of barrels, while you stay outside. Have them walk over a tarp, or poles, while you go alongside.
This is going to work best if you aren’t micromanaging them – give them a loose leadrope (or even better, work at liberty) and give them a chance to take responsibility for completing the obstacle without you directing their every step. This makes them think more about what they’re doing and less about keeping contact with you!
Obstacles also naturally help them gain confidence, as long as they are introduced the right way (ie, you never ever push, pull or drag your horse through them), and velcro horses often lack confidence, that’s why they stay so close to their big brave human.
It won’t happen overnight, but the more you can encourage them to step away to work through a fun challenge like an obstacle, the more they’ll realize that you’re still working together, even if you’re not glued together, and that the truth is it’s a lot easier that way too.
If you’re looking for help with obstacle training and many other groundwork skills, check out the Groundwork Masterclass!