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Step 19 – Common Problems When Leading With Energy

STEP 19 - common problems when leading with energy

We often hear how valuable it can be to witness people making mistakes and learning from them. While Warwick does provide insights into common pitfalls, sometimes it’s more effective to see these challenges firsthand. To facilitate your learning, we’ve included clinic videos and virtual lessons in the video library, organized for easy access. An excellent example of this is when Robyn embarked on teaching Rey the “Leading with Energy” exercise, resulting in a highly informative video series.

Today, we encourage you to watch the video of their first day working together and see if it resonates with your own experiences.

We understand that each horse is unique, and Rey is no exception. Just like your horse, Rey possesses distinct characteristics. However, this video series allows you to observe how we address some of the more common challenges associated with this exercise. These challenges often revolve around the handler’s body control and understanding the necessary steps to execute the exercise correctly.

Don’t skip watching these videos because you don’t have any perceived problems.  Having this information is important so you know what to do if a problem arises. 

For those working on “Leading with Energy,” head out and give it another try.  Work on the first side until it’s solid, which may take 5 days or more. We initiate on the left side, as it’s the standard for teaching horses to lead, and they are usually more comfortable with us on that side. This principle of beginning with the easier side remains a constant throughout our training process.

Take your time with this exercise and don’t rush ahead simply because we’ve provided a plan. You may reach Step 20 on the 50th day of following the videos, and that’s perfectly fine. What’s important is not to be on Step 20 of the plan on the 20th day after you start. Utilize the tip of videoing yourself and refer back to the “Leading With Energy” playlist for more instructional videos.

Work on this exercise (may take multiple days or weeks) until your horse is responsive, reading your body language and energy from the left side. They should be able to adjust their pace, turn, and respond promptly to your cues. When this level of responsiveness is achieved, it’s time to progress to the next step in your training which is the same exercise from the other side.

A reminder how to use this course: click on Mark Complete below and you will move on to Step 20 when you are ready for it.

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Harley did the same when I asked for his energy to match mine up into a trot he started to move away from me. I should have kept looking forward and just then pivoted. Thank you Robyn theses examples are helping.. Thanks guys.

Hello, Warwick
My horse seems to be doing exactly what Rey is doing, getting nippy on the hands. Except I feel like he does want to actually plant a bite. Pushing his face away works somewhat, it is early days, we shall see. Now he pivots and moves off with me pretty well, except he seems to be frustrated with me when we are slow walking. He does not always match my slowing down speed or energy and gets in front of me (bending his heads towards me), forcing me to pivot, because he is literally blocking me from moving forward. This does not happen every time, but happens enough – I would assume I should just keep working on transitions and changing speeds and energy till he stops getting ahead of me?
Sometimes I think he gets frustrated with slower walking, or may be he is just his regular playful hyper self, he will try to nip my hand, which is conveniently right under the knot and then jump away and do a kick or a buck cause he knows he did a no-no. I get his attention back with a flag, we face each other and reset. My question is – should I just keep doung that, even he is getting kind of belligerent sometimes? I do push his face away if he tries to put his nose on me, but sometimes it is a lightning fast nip attempt and then a jump away.
Pretty much the above thing happens when I try to increase his energy to jog – he gets explosive. He either big leap away or sideways, and we are forced to pivot and reset every time. He seems to not be able to handle the transition. Any suggestions?
Should I just keep on walking till he is nice and 100% settled at a walk on the left side, before moving to trot on the left side? Or should I get him to walk well and match energy on right AND left, before even trying the trot? Thank you!

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) March 5, 2024 at 7:54 pm

It seems you are trying to work on the leading with energy, while you are still having issues at the more basic exercises. The jumping away after he nips is because you have been slapping him in the previous exercises.

I have mostly resolved the nipping with him, although he still gets a little too fast and frustrated with having to match my energy, which is apparently too slow for him. We are having to pivot and reset a lot. However, it is definitely working better than before. I have resolved to “block” him with the flag if he starts getting ahead too much so we don’t have to pivot reset every 5 seconds. I do not smack him or wave it, just hold it kind of like a barrier in front of his chest and he seems content like that. he is not touching it, I would say it is 2-3 feet in front of his chest when we trot in hand. Is that wrong? He seems to control himself better when the flag is there. I keep trying to use it less and less and I think we are getting better at bot exploding every time I bring my energy up to trot.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) March 8, 2024 at 11:47 am

You could try that, but personally I think its controlling him instead of having him control himself. And if he isnt controlling himself at this point, he’s probably going to have trouble controlling himself later, under saddle, and that will be problematic. I would not suggest cutting corners now as it will just leave bigger problems for you to solve later.

OK, so just keep pivoting and restartng till he can control himself to stay at my pace?

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) March 8, 2024 at 3:43 pm

Yes, don’t be in disagreeance with whats happening, it’s happening, keep working on it until it changes. Holding the flag in front to slow him down is not changing anything, its just managing it

I have been working on the LWE. It’s been going really well. Yesterday I had an issue that I have never had with my mare in the 6 years I’ve owned her. I had just gotten her out of the pasture where it seemed all was good and I was in the process of leading her to the barn and she bit me on the forearm. This horse has NEVER bitten me. It was definitely with teeth and would have drawn blood had I not had a long sleeve shirt on. Needless to say I not only was shocked but let her know I was not pleased with her life choice. Unlike in the past, I did not come at her physically but probably had a high amount of energy directed at her- I did yell at her for her rudeness but didn’t hit her. Started to wave the flag at her but then stopped as I felt that wasn’t the best idea. After that we stood there a bit and I went back to LWE and I had no other issues. We did our grooming, checking for ticks and other scrapes (it’s unreal what they do!) and had a good small session before I put her back out in the field.

I have been keeping the sessions short if I get a few really good responses and that seems to be working for both of us. Friend showed up who had ridden earlier and mentioned she could be in season since my mare screamed for her horse the entire time he was being ridden. Don’t know- she certainly didn’t show much interest in her herd mates while she was up with me, and she could see them.

My question is what do you do with a horse that actually bites you out of the blue? This wasn’t a play bite and she is not a horse that normally bites. As I said before, first time. Did I miss something? Was I not present enough and she had an opinion about that? Am I over thinking this?

It would sometimes be nice if they could just tell us. It was such a “what the….!?” moment.


Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) March 15, 2024 at 11:17 am

“My question is what do you do with a horse that actually bites you out of the blue? ”
Theres nothing you can do once its done, otherwise you are just getting revenge, you aren’t solving anything. The big thing to think about when you get bit is “where was my mind? What was I thinking about?”

Hi Warwick, my horse is kinda like Rey, he is very mouthy when I’m standing next to him (after we did the standing still&relax), bites the lead rope etc. I keep pushing his face away or rub all over his muzzle if he keeps holding on to the lead rope, until he settles and has a lick/chew. When we walk, he tries to nip/bite my arm. I tried to push his face over with my finger, but since I’m walking and looking forward so I don’t always catch it. What do I do about that?
Thank you

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) April 30, 2024 at 11:23 am

” I keep pushing his face away or rub all over his muzzle”
Iwopuld do neither of these. Id engage with his muzzle, which means as his muzzle reaches you, hold you hand flat and let him engage with it.

I started working on Leading With Energy on the left with my 6 year old mare. She responds very well to my energy and moves forward when I lean forward (second step after raising energy). And it is ok when we walk, she can also go faster with my energy and slow down. On the second day I tried to jog. She starts to trot immediately, but pins her ears. I jog further and wait for her to change expression then I immediately stop when her ear/ears move forward. Can I do anything else? Should I go back to some other exercise?

She has a history of pinning ears and tossing her head when asked for a higher gate. She was also anxious about her surroundings before we started this course. Last two weeks I only did hanging out, connection through change of focus and Flow chart. I also wait when she twitches, to have a lick and chew. No riding, no other work apart from the 30 day start course. Did I miss something?

Thank you!

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) June 3, 2024 at 11:05 am

Does she pin her ears when asked to trot loose (say in a round pen) or when you are doing the Focus and Bend ?
If so, thats the best place to work on it.

Thank you! Yes, when asked to trot on the line, she sometimes pins her ears, mostly tosses her head (at the beginning of practice a few times). Should I ask for Focus and Bend, walk, trot and than…? What do I do when she pins her ears or tosses her head? She does Focus and Bend good, moves her shoulder out when I pick up the line (second step).

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) June 4, 2024 at 10:42 am

What do you do when she tosses her head or pins her ears?

Well, today I tried 4 or 5 times Focus and bend, walk, trot and waited for her to move her ears forward or stop tossing. So every time it was a very short trot. Then I asked her to come to me by stepping back (draw her in) without pulling on the rope. After that I finished with waiting for a lick and chew. She was very relaxed during the breaks and yawned a few times. Wasn’t perfect but I finished when she had a very long yawning session.

Before I started the course I didn’t know that it is a sign of stress/discomfort, so I just let her trot on. I thought she didn’t want to work cause it’s physical. I wish she would feel better during our interactions.

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