Monty Roberts Equus Online University
Horse Training Video Instruction Program

Learn all about Equus • Dually Halter • Shy Boy Mustang • Jumping Horses
• Story of a Horse Whisperer • Riding Horsemanship • Dressage Horses • Willing Partners
• Horse Training • Round Pen Lessons • Performance Horses • Join-Up

← back

Horse Behavior and Training

Horse runs home when I try to walk him away from the barn alone

My horse has issues leaving the savety of the barn. He does everything I ask as long as we`re in the arena but he is very stressed when i want to go walk or trail ride. We´ve practiced for a long time, he is fine on 1 trail he knows by heart now, as long as there`s a second horse with him. On unknown trails he is extremely stressed an needs a highly ranked horse with him to go at all. When I try to walk outside with him alone he doesn`t want to follow. He does after asking a few times but at some point he decides it`s too much and he bolts home. I don`t have the strengh to stop him bolting so he can`t learn that nothing would happen to him if he keeps coming with me.

I want him to trust me enough to come with me calmly wherever I go, I`d like him to relax outside and enjoy going on Trail rides with me.

I just bought a dually halter and he responded really well to it in the arena. I didn`t try it outside yet. 

Do you have any advise for me how I can get my horse to relax and enjoy Trail rides?
Kicki -- Sweden
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed
Hi tinaundrocky!
Welcome to the Uni.

This isn't really at my end of "expertise" but I will try out a beginning to an answer and hope the others chime in and expand on it.

I'm happy to hear you have the Dually. I don't know how experienced you are with it or if you have watched the lessons here about the use of it, so I will start off by suggesting that's were you start. (I assume you have, but just to make a starting point.) 

Once you get the hang of it, I think your main goal is to make him respect the halter and trust you to follow your lead, so a couple of successful join-ups and follow-ups in the arena would be a good start. Then you move on to teaching how to lead properly. 
Not just ambling along but with focus on you; stop when you stop, walk when you walk and so on. 
Watch the vids to make sure you know how to react when he either balks or tries to scoot ahead. How to turn and "square up" on him before he gets too close for comfort - or safety!  Turning to face a horse that is already about to trample you won't work. He won't be able to see you that close up, nor have time to stop. So keep half an eye over you shoulder so you catch him in the thought rather than the act. 
And use a looong line!

Once this works in the arena, you take it outside and practice leading just going around the stable or back and forth in the yard, or wherever you know he feels calm and relaxed enough to concentrate on what you are asking of him. 

Make it simple for him to get it right! Lots of praise (voice, rubbing and caressing - no food!) when he does. Keep it short and sweet and do several short ones in one day rather than one long. 

Don't be tempted to do "one more" when it goes well. End on a good note. And if it doesn't go as well as expected; lower the bar so he can't go wrong, praise and stop - and start fresh at another time. 

Work like this until you feel he is with you at every turn - aim for a week of practice to begin with - then you venture further away. Don't expect miracles out of him or yourselves at this time. This will take plenty of time and patience - but it will get you started. 

Advance only when things are working smoothly at least three times in a row and make sure he gets time to rest and think it through in between. 

Before you venture out into the "twilight zone" - try mixing things up at home (in the arena to begin with) with desensitizing exercises. Plastic bags on sticks, umbrellas etc. (Check lesson vids on this!) Anything to build his trust. 

Finally, I will recommend taking a look at Tristan Tucker's website at 
His aim is to make tense horses relax by learning to manage themselves and their bodies. The methods are free from violence and pain and I've found them an excellent addition to Monty's methods. A lot of it seems very similar too.
I particularly like the part where he advocates giving the horse its own choice - as in not having all decision taken away by the rider/handler. And the part where he stresses that there are no quick fixes. 

Best of luck with your boy!

Hi Kicki,

thank you for your answer.

I watched the dually halter DVD before using it, so I would use it the right way. My boy responds well to it. After seeing the difference in his behavior and see him relaxing and licking his lips I searched for more Information and found the Monty Roberts University and signed up immediatly.

I watched the lessons about Join up and tried this with my horse. He gives me all 4 gestures and turns inward towards me and takes a few steps, but doesnt join up all the way. But this was only my first try, I will continue trying.

I started using the dually halter on a paddock furthest away from the barn, he was nervous at first but he watched my step, stopped when I did and always stayed at my shoulder. He did really well an relaxed after about 10 minutes and I stopped.

In the next few days I wanted to try join up again and do some desensitizing in the arena (but he does that very well already, he is only scared outside of the arena) and continue training him in that paddock away from the other horses. After that I would try walking away from the barn on the trail he already knows. Not too far, but out of sight from the other horses.

I`m Always happy to get new ideas.
Please upload your photo 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed 650 lessons completed
Hi Tina. Excellent ideas from Kicki. I have a few extra bits to add - I'm picking up on your enthusiasm for new ideas. Firstly, I'd like to recap on the basics. The Dually halter: most effective when the human reactions are fast & light. Instant but not strong. Too much pressure, that is not released immediately when the horse shows even the slightest willingness, will result in lack of cooperation - just as any tool used badly is ineffective & dangerous. Secondly, Join up is so NOT just dependent on the horse giving the four gestures - they are the first steps in the horse giving you a chance. Your body language, your breathing, your adrenaline levels are key to your success ( or not ). Slowing your movements, controlling your eyes, keeping the inevitable excitement you feel as things go well in check, are all your responsibilities in this "conversation". Daunting, yes. Worth the effort, YES, YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES! Your boy has shown willing to give you the opportunity to become his TRUSTED PARTNER. However, your part in the conversation didn't quite ring true for him, hence no true follow up. You need to practice what you preach with him. Be calm & consistent with him - ALWAYS. Be mindful of your body language at all times. Be quick to praise even established behaviour, with a lovely scratching of his withers. Be unhurried but clear in your instructions. When you lead him, have him come with you, not simply trail behind. When you stop, he stops with his nose at your shoulder, not a step behind or in front, always. And when he's right, show him your appreciation. 
Your boy gets frightened when away from his ' home environment '. Just like us humans, some horses are bold & others are more ' followers '. Some just plain panic when left to their own evinces. If you learn to become his trusted rock he will be your partner. He will still feel anxiety but will trust you to keep you both safe. This trust will not be achieved if you don't recognise & address his anxiety. For example, riding forcefully past a spooky object will only cement his fear. Allowing him to stop at a safe distance from it & letting him have time to process that you feel no fear will cement trust. You have calmed & reassured him, he hasn't experienced pain. This will allow him to relax, to trust your judgment, to approach the spooky thing. Not overnight but through time & repartition. You have started on a journey, together. You will both find it very rewarding if you learn to work together. 
I've told this story before but it has relevance here. Before Bella had her foals I had her, Humphrey & Max. Their field is next to a road with a junction, behind a thick, high hedge. I was in the field one Sunday morning when we heard a car coming to the junction. I don't know what happened but the car shot out of the junction & hit something solid just over the hedge. It was a very loud accident & the engine revved uncontrollably afterwards. My guys were closer than me & they all bolted in perfect symmetry. No one came close to knocking me down. No one could see anything because of the hedge. I turned to check my guys had not bolted into trouble to find all 3 lined up only 20 feet behind me, looking expectantly. They trusted me to deal with the ' monster ' & if I couldn't then they still had enough space to flee! That is pure trust from a flight animal. 
Tina, have fun on your journey with your boy & keep us updated on how you both get on. Cheers, Jo.
Hi Jo,

thanks a lot for your ideas. 
On my second try I got a full Join-Up from my Boy, but not a follow up yet. I guess I got too excited when he did Join-Up. It`s really hard to always keep my emotions in check and not get too thrilled when things go right :) 

I`m not worried, that I could be too rough with him, I think I`ve been too soft with him most of the time and that`s why he thinks I can`t protect him. But I`m doing my best, learning to be aware of my body language at all times (thats not easy as well) and give him reason to trust me. I hope we learn to rely on each other and he can learn to relax around me, even away from other horses and the barn.

I`ll keep you postet and I`m still always greatfull for new ideas.

Kicki -- Sweden
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed
See! Progress already! ;) 
Looking forward to hear about your endeavors. 
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed
Hi Tina;  You have received FANTASTIC ADVICE from Kicki and Jo.  However, learning about these methods will probably take some time to implement.  In this conversation that we have with our horses, you need to remember to be authentically you.  So, the question you must ask yourself is how do I enter into this conversation with my horse and find my way to instilling a confidence in him for ME to be seen, by him ,as leader with regard to his safety.  The dually will help tremendously because of the FEEL that it places on the horse.  It shows the horse, through FEEL, that he, can make a DECISION [come off of the pressure] and into your request and it feels good.  When he looks up and sees you on the other end of the lead-line, that conversation has come full circle because your on the end of that line.  NOW, it has released its pressure and set him free to move his feet,  Tina, the number one item of importance in training, softening and or gentling any horse is the release of pressure.  The overwhelming key to the release of pressure will be your TIMING  I cannot stress this enough,  It is the single most important part of OUR conversation back to the horse that we can give.  The more quickly he finds your release of pressure, the easier he will be to train.  The dually gave him a reason to stop what he was doing and in the moment LOOK to you for an answer.  Your answer was the release of pressure.  Decisions were made by both human and horse without the use of pain.  You gave him a REASON to trust and comply.  Take some time to think all of this through.  It will allow him to see you as a leader as you will be ahead of him as you introduce your thoughts.   This is where it all starts.  Set up your boundaries so both of you are safe.

  I wish you the very best on your journey.

Hi Bud,

thank you very much for your advice.
I got a full Join-Up und follow by now and he follows me wilingly around the barn. He is still tense when we leave the barn even though i don`t go far yet, but he did fine when we tried yesterday. He stopped a few times, the dually got tighter and I gave him time to decide. The decision to come with me came faster each time he stopped. He was still nervous but he did fine so I turned before things could start to go wrong. 

I think my release timing is quite good, but sometimes I`m not sure if I`m doing things right or how far I can go before it`s too much for him. His warnings are not easy to see, sometimes he stoppes because he just isn`t sure if he wants to go any further with me but is fine with it once he made the decision to follow me himself, another time he stoppes because it`s getting too much and without warning turns around and bolts.

I`m sure it`s because of me, sometimes I´m confident, so he is too, sometimes I´m just a little unsure myself without even noticing but he does. It`s really hard for me to controlle my emotions and movements (I think I`m getting better at that but its`s hard to tell sometimes).

Maybe I should look for a Monty Roberts Instructor in my region, but I don`t know how expensive it would get to have someone take a look at us. As he`s very uncomfortable driving it`s hard to take him somewhere. He does enter but he`s so scared of driving he`s wet and shaking when I reach my goal and it`s hard to make him enter some time after that. He always needs a brake before I can get him to enter again.

Kicki -- Sweden
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed
Congrats to your progress, Tina! If driving makes him uneasy, one reason could be all the sounds around him. It's probably a mix of things, but you could start chipping away at them by working on desensitizing him to sounds.
Once he learns to stand or "park" for you, you can start with that training. It's roughly the same as before - ask him to be still when you make small noises with plastic bags or whatever, and reward him by removing he sound when he does. (Do look for the right lessons! I don't have the space here to elaborate on it.)
This might also help when you venture outdoors if sound is what gets him going.
Other things that triggers flight in a horse is movement or things approaching - so you can start working on that too if you think they are issues for him.
Remember it's important to find the cause for the behaviour and work on that rather than trying to snuff out the symptoms.
Hi Kicki,

thanks for your advice. You`re absolutely right, it`s important to find the cause and that`s the problem. Sometimes we take a walk or ride outside and from one second to the next he get`s nervous and I see or hear absolutely nothing. There are no people, cars, trains or anything else that. But I noticed that sometimes it`s enough if I think about something that annoys me or makes me sad. That seems to be enough to cause him to stress out about nothing in particular. When he get`s stressed, I get nervous because I`m afraid he might run away again and could hurt himself.....

You see the problem.....

I don`t really know how to brake that circle....sometimes I manage to stay calm and relaxed but sometimes I don`t even realise I get nervous..
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed 400 lessons completed 450 lessons completed 500 lessons completed 550 lessons completed 600 lessons completed
Hi Tina;  The more that you can be with your guy that causes him to see you as a leader, the more you feel a confidence in yourself to be his leader.  Remember, when looking for that moment that your horse needs a brake in the circle that has come to an edge of an outburst, allow the horse to MOVE his feet.  THIS IS HARD WIRED INTO TO THEIR PSYCHY .  In  the very next moment for them would be for us to show them a space for a PAUSE.   In this moment, Information can be settled, and they will demonstrate that by relaxing.  This is where true learning comes into the light of day.  Remember Monty`s description of PICNIC AND THE TIMING THAT ACCOMPANIES the whole process.  When these moments have passed, ask for another step from him to continue the conversation.  Then reward, take him back to the barn, and wait for the next day.  I do not know how old your boy is, but it probably has taken some time for him to build up these road blocks with his thought pattern.  His first order of business will always be slanted toward flight.  Some horse are always going to be closer to that edge than others.  Confidence in a horse is usually handed down thru the dam to the foal.  Many times that confidence is pushed beyond those edges by human intervention.  The journey that you are on will have many twists and turns, but the rewards are immeasurable.  Our horses have the ability to complete us as human beings..  Good luck on your journey.