If you ever rode a horse that would stop and refuse to go forward, then you would know how annoying it is. Why do they stop? Because that’s their reaction to a worrisome or unpleasant situation. Horses can stake themselves to the ground because they are apprehensive about leaving the herd or the barn.
What other reasons are there for napping? One is the horse simply doesn’t know what to do. They’d rather stop and stand than move forward. If your horse naps in a place, he’s familiar with then you should check your tack for things like a bad fitting saddle. The pain could finally become unbearable, and the horse simply won’t move. Often, horses will react to bad fitting tack by rearing or bucking. So, when tack is bad fitting, napping is a pretty good alternative compared to rearing or bucking.
Another place a horse may nap is riding around an unfamiliar area. If he naps during this then it’s likely he’s doing it out of fear. The same can be true if he sees unfamiliar objects. A secret tip about nappers is to closely observe where they’re napping. If you find they get nappy around certain things, then you might spot a pattern. For instance, every time your horse rides by a hay tarp and he stops then that is likely your culprit. But it could be lots of different things. It could be bushes, trees, dog pens, etc.
When trying to solve napping from fear, you should take the same approach as when you are working with a spooking horse. A horse that spooks needs to be treated kindly. He shouldn’t be forced into stepping over his “fear boundary”. You must talk to them, pet them, and be patient. It just so happens that this is one of the easiest and most effective ways to solve the napping problem. The tradeoff is that it also takes the most time. So what? Horse training is about patience.
What to do is simply sit in the saddle. You’ll want to give your horse enough rein to stretch his neck but don’t give him so much that he can graze. Then you simply sit there until he decides to move forward. Don’t let him go left or right. Don’t let him back up or turn around and head home. Don’t kick him. Don’t yell at him. You are telling your horse it’s okay to stand still but he doesn’t get to anything but stand there or move forward. At some point the horse should move forward. When he does, give him plenty of reward. The results from waiting for your horse to move forward are far better with patience and kindness than trying to force your horse to move. Sure, it may take a l-o-n-g time for him to move but he’ll eventually feel safe enough to do it – or he may get bored just standing there – and you should know that boredom and feeling safe are almost the exact same thing in the horse’s mind.
Next time you take your horse out and he naps it may take half the time for him to move. Then the next time it may only take a few minutes. It’s kind of like the old rule of training. The more you work on it the lesser time it takes. What do you do while you’re patiently waiting for your horse to move? If you’re with friends, then warn them beforehand this may happen. You may have to sit there and have a conversation. If you’re by yourself bring a crossword puzzle or even a book. Do what it takes for you to pass the time and not get impatient. Just remember to treat it like you would a horse that’s spooking. Most of the time, napping is a reaction to spooking. You simply need to be patient and wait it out.
Andy Curry is a nationally known horse trainer and author of several bestselling horse training and horse care books. For information visit his website at HorseTrainingAndTips.com.