Midas has this annoying little habit of yanking on the reins when he’s standing. He’s done it as long as I’ve known him, and it’s pretty much never been a priority for me to deal with.
First lesson was don’t move your feet without permission. There were days when it was 10-15 minutes before I asked him to walk from the mounting block because he would not wait for permission to leave.
Those days are past (not without occasional reminders) and we’re not working well enough under saddle that I feel I can spare some time to work on the yanking habit.
My seat has improved to the point that when he yanks he’s mostly just yanking on himself, he does not succeed in pulling me out of the saddle or the reins out of my hands. (Yay for tucking your seat under!)
But it’s a habit, and he still does it.
Monty Roberts once recommended in his “Ask Monty” column that you back a horse each time he yanks, eventually he’ll figure out that if he yanks he has to work more. I originally intended to pursue this method, but I may have stumbled on something simpler for Midas.
Yesterday I took the time to throw halt transitions in with our regular work. Not just halt, but halt and wait. It only takes a couple seconds for Midas to yank on the reins. Then we would wait more. When he passed the couple seconds mark wihout yanking (often replaced with a sigh) then I give him a loose rein.
Then I gather up the reins again and wait (this is often accompanied by feet shuffling, which I wait out, since I didn’t ask him to move his feet and he’ll get no reward for it.) Once he is standing, and accepts the contact–passing that couple second mark without yanking (again, usually accompanied by a sign) I give him a loose rein. After repeating this a couple times, I ask him to move forward. Sometimes with contact, sometimes without.
He responded really well. Each time we did this there was less yanking and more waiting quietly. The last time I don’t remember him yanking at all.
I’m sure it will take more than one ride to break a habit he’s had for at least 10 years, but I think he’s starting to realize what he’s doing and that there is a better way.