Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price
To dispel the myths surrounding how to deal with napping equine behaviourist Michael Peace offers some effective solutions on tackling the problem.
What is napping?
Napping is basically what happens when a horse decides to stop, even though you’re asking him to go forward. It’s usually as a result of fear about what’s ahead and is especially prominent in young horses.
Allowing your horse to continue to nap will make it a habitual behavior and the reason for the fear will be secondary. He may just want to stop because he is bored. He will eventually become so used to napping that he doesn’t even think about why.
You must help your horse to learn how to solve his nappy problems. There are many things you can do to help your horse stop from refusing to move. Here are four methods.
1. Take control of his tension
Napping begins somewhere in your horse’s anatomy. You can feel it in your horse’s shoulders, quarters or mouth. If he tightens up in one area, he will inevitably nap. To ensure he doesn’t stop, you’ll need to mobilize that part. You can catch it early and your horse will continue moving.
You need to be careful not to overcorrect or under correct your horse. Concentrate on the area of tension you are noticing and what is going wrong. For example, if your horse is tight in their right quarters, push them on with your right leg. If he is tight in his left shoulder then use your left hand to pull him down. The majority of napping is done from the horse’s front end, but more experienced nappers will use the back.
If a horse is actively whipping his front end around to avoid a situation, the same solution would apply. In this case you’d need your hands and not just your legs.
2. Take the initiative and be a leader
It’s okay to lead your horse if your horse won’t move even after you have tried everything. It’s common to think that getting off your horse means you are conceding. However, 99% of horses sleep because they fear something. Your horse will learn to trust you by getting off and leading him through an obstacle. Your horse will gain trust in you if you lead from the front, and allow him to follow.
3. Teach him how to do lateral work
Lateral work can help your horse learn to listen and improve his flexibility. Start lateral work with your horse in a safe place like an arena if you have never done it before. You will be able to control your horse’s movements and allow him to place himself anywhere you wish.
You should not force your horse to move. Instead, you need to be able correct stiffness in your horse and get him to a point where he is pliable. If your horse is refusing to go near an object, lateral work can correct him. Although you may be certain that the object will not cause any injury, your horse might jump to one side or the other to escape it. You can ask your horse not to put himself or anyone else in danger by having the lateral groundwork in place.
4. Do not forget to give him praise
Give your horse a pat. It may seem simple, but it can make your horse feel loved and appreciated. A pat for your horse can also disrupt his thought process and prevent him from thinking about napping. If your horse isn’t feeling safe, it’s likely that he’s afraid of something. You can give your horse a pat and remind him to listen to you.
People freeze when confronted with a napping horse, which can lead to tension in the horse’s eyes. With a pat and a reminder that you are there for your horse, it is possible to stop this from happening. You should be able to help him see you as the solution to his problem.
Learn more about Michael Peace, a specialist horse trainer who works with problem horses of all levels and all disciplines. Michael brings many years of experience to the Think Equus philosophy. He has worked with problem horses around the globe for many years.