It is incredibly annoying and sometimes even dangerous when your horse decides to stop suddenly and for no apparent reason. This unwillingness to proceed is called napping and you should try to eliminate this troublesome behaviour. Here's how to help improve horse napping behaviour when you are out and about.
Is Your Horse Really Napping?
It is possible that your horse is being spooked by something rather than simply napping. This means that he is scared and the problem could be a noise, an unfamiliar object or an unexpected movement. It is important to decide if your horse is spooked or is simply reluctant to continue in the direction in which you wish to go. It can be hard to tell what is happening as napping can manifest itself as rearing, spinning or bucking. Your horse's ears which will provide the best clue. If your horse is spooked then his ears will probably be pointing forward. If he is napping then his ears will tend to point backwards.
What Causes Horse Napping?
Napping may be the result of a lack of trust or respect in you but could also be caused by pain. It is important to eliminate medical issues as the cause of the behaviour before taking any further action. If you are in any doubt then get your horse checked over by your vet. You should also ensure that your horse's tack fits correctly as ill-fitting tack might be the issue that is stopping your horse in its tracks.
Addressing the Problem
Make it clear to your horse that you are in charge. Horses are pack animals and look to their leader. That should be you! Work on his general behaviour to improve his manners. Use positive reinforcement in the form of praise and treats when he behaves well. Look out for signs that your horse may start napping and nip them in the bud immediately by keeping your horse moving, even if it is sideways. He must learn to do as you ask and that moving forward is the easiest option. If your horse is not in the habit of responding immediately to your legs then spend extra time schooling him. He should not be permitted to get away with delays before responding to you whether you are in the school or out hacking.
Vary Your Routines
If you always ride the same route and in the same direction then your horse will get to know the point where you turn for home. If your horse learns to associate a particular area with going home then you could be storing up problems for yourself. It is much better to vary your route in order to prevent your mount from trying to make the decision to go home for himself. Perhaps try to find circular routes rather than routes you have to turn around on.
If your horse misbehaves then don't give up and head for home. This will merely teach him that poor behaviour will get him what he wants. Keep trying to get him to move forward. If he continues to behave badly then next time, ride out with someone who can help encourage him to move past any trouble spots.