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Openings and Adrenalin


Most accidents with horses on the ground have something to do with gates (or stall or barn entrances). The ingredients of going through a gate are some of the first things that I teach students as it is important to keep students safe.

It is not coincidental that gates, doors, or stalls create a heightened response for horses and if left ignored can create situations that are unsafe and even dangerous. Most horses in the herd respond to an opening of any kind with a conditioned response of adrenalin for these reasons:

  • excitement for joining up with buddies in the herd 

  • an invitation towards green grass

  • the first steps to freedom of movement in open spaces

  • when returning to the barn, it means a place where feeding time is imminent

  • a need for the herd leader to move others around to be the first

Any of these conditioned responses can result in horses barging past you or even more dangerous “through” you. If other horses in the herd are near you their escape route is right in front of them, jostling each other to see who will be going first and the rest following….. all situations ignoring you and definitely putting you in harm's way. 

What your horse needs to understand first and foremost is that you are the leader in this situation, long before you open the gate. “Prior and Proper Preparation” is definitely a priority for this. If you spend some time understanding the way horses think and then help them to understand how you can be a fair but firm leader for them, you will not only avoid accidents but with proper practice, it will allow you the opportunity to feel in control of a potential catastrophe. 


Your checklist of things to ask your horse to understand should look like this :

  • Can I drive a group of horses away from my horse when he is online?

  • Can I ask my horse to walk behind me with slack in the line and when I stop he stops? 

  • Can I send my horse to a spot and then ask him to stand still?

  • Can I ask my horse to disengage his hindquarters? 

  • Can I ask my horse to back up out of my space? 


Remember, if your horse is close to you, you will not be able to react quickly enough if your horse becomes emotional and moves into your space. You have a better chance of preventing an accident if your horse is at the end of your line. Heck, he can even see you better out there. Then that you can control the gate, the other horses that are lingering about the gate, your horse, and the entire situation, and become a leader for your herd of two.

If you are having trouble with gate safety or any kind of opening, don’t hesitate to seek help from an instructor that agrees that this is very important.  Stay safe.~JG~

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