The First Thing I Do
What's the first thing I do when I meet a new horse? The same thing you should do with your horse today and everyday: Give them a "resistance test." If you have the typical horse - whether you'd call him a problem child or a horse with just "occasional challenges" - this is for you.
If you get one thing from reading this article, it should be this: Any resistance from your horse while he's hanging out, just standing next to you munching grass, will be many times worse when things get hairy. If it takes one pound of pressure today to get him leading (away from that grass), it'll take one hundred when he gets spooked on the trail.
You have to ferret out those "one pound moments" and eradicate them like weeds. They're seeds that can grow into major disasters very quickly on the trail. If your horse "only freaks out once or twice a year but is otherwise great" - then you're fooling yourself. You're overlooking slip ups from your horse, perhaps on a daily basis, that will sooner or later get you hurt. Remember, accidents are by their very nature "things we don't expect."
If your horse went ballistic out on the trail last week... it didn't "just happen out of the blue." He's been telling you for weeks or months that he was going to lose it when enough pressure was applied every time he resisted (however slightly) the pull from your lead rope or reins.
If he walks ahead of you while you lead him, he's telling you that sooner or later he'll blow past you as you go through a gate or knock you on your kiester with his shoulder when something scares him bad enough.
If the muscles in his neck bulge toward you instead of relaxing when you put the bit in his mouth, he's telling you that he'll do mach sixty when he gets spooked on the trail.
Deal with these situations by doing two things: First establish a zero-tolerance policy; nip bad behavior in the bud the instant it happens. Example: If your horse inches past you as you lead, do an about-face and back that horse up. Keep him moving till he quits pushing back. (If he freezes pull on his head to pull his butt away from you. Getting those feet "unstuck" will allow you to keep backing till he lightens up.) Be adamant.
Second, get proactive. The first thing I do with any horse - and what I do each and everyday with all five of my own horses - is to see exactly where they stand when it comes to "resistance." Luckily the test and remedy are fun.
And having fun with this is a key point. Realize that every horse has resistance tucked away somewhere. Like an Easter egg, your job is to discover it. Instead...