The process of turning a horse out may be discouraging for the inexperienced person. The horse is excited because it is looking forward to the freedom of an open field, and will oftentimes be too anxious to wait for you. At the same time, if you are nervous or unsure of how to proceed, the horse will soon be aware of it, and can exploit it.

Owners often make life difficult for themselves by not maintaining their gates. Opening a stiff gate can require all of your strength and concentration, leaving neither for controlling the horse. Remember that it is always you who is turning out the horse, and not the horse turning itself out. If you release a horse in front of an open gate, it may gallop through, but there is also the possibility that it will back up. Never release the horse until both of you are in the field and the gate is shut. There are potentially disastrous outcomes if this process is executed incorrectly. Never try to turn out two horses at once; always delegate one horse per person, or make multiple trips.

The Correct Procedure:

1) Position yourself between the horse and the gate, so that you can control the gate and stop it from hitting the horse. Hold the horse firmly, and unlock or unfasten the gate. Open it wide enough for both you and the horse to pass through easily at the same time.

2) Lead the horse into the field. Do not let it push in front of you so that you find yourself following the animal into the field. Then, while still holding the horse, turn back and close the gate.

3) Lead the horse a considerable distance into the field, well away from the entrance. If there are other horses in the field, keep your horse away from them. Turn around so that the horse is looking toward the gate again.

4) Face the horse and take the halter off quietly. Hold it and the lead rope carefully, so that you do not frighten the horse. Then pat the horse and step back from it; do not slap it on the neck or hindquarters, as this may excite it and encourage it to gallop around the field.

5) Once you have turned the horse loose, do not turn your back on it. Instead, walk backward steadily toward the gate, with a constant watchful eye on the horse. By doing this, you encourage the horse to stay where it is, or move further into the field, rather than to follow you toward the gate, which will make it easier for you to open the gate and let yourself out of the field. You will also be able to see if the horse kicks out in excitement, giving you a chance to get out of the way.

If you anticipate trouble, take precautions. Wear a hat and gloves, and protect the horse by putting boots on it, so that it does not injure itself while galloping around. Never let go of the horse until you are fully in control and well into the field. Use a long lunge rein as a lead rope; these allow you to stand further away from the horse if it rears or bucks, and still hold onto it. Sometimes, a horse already in the field can cause problems when you lead another one in. If this is the case, first go in by yourself, and tip some feed on the ground away from the gate before taking your horse in. This will occupy the other horse until you can release the one you are holding.


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