Horse Training – How to Stop a Horse From Balking

Balking is one of the most aggravating habits that a horse can have. You’re ready to go but the horse is not and probably will not be for a while. This is one of those challenging horse training problems.

A balky horse usually stands and looks back, as if it expected something to happen from the rear, and he is seldom disappointed, for the driver usually makes the air hot with a volley of words and the hissing of the whip. His words have absolutely no meaning to the horse and naturally he becomes more and more confused and his senses more and more blunted. It would be better instead of yelling and slashing with a whip to sing a song and step to one side and slash the fence. The horse’s confusion would change to astonishment and he would probably move off.

No horse balks simply because it wants to stand. There is no reason for a horse balking the first time; several repetitions of the cause, followed by a succeeding act, becomes a habit, and the habit remains when the cause has long since ceased to exist.

Balking is a confused, inactive and almost insensible condition of the mind that happens when the horse is faced with two conflicting problems. For example, if a strong willed horse wants to go to the stable and you jerk back to pull him on another direction these conflicts can confuse him. Since he can think of just one thing at a time, he becomes confused and sullen and stops. If the first stroke or two of the whip does not attract his attention to something else others will only lock his mind and make him all the more insensible to his surroundings.

In another example a young ambitious horse is hitched by the side of a slow, sluggish horse. The command “Get up” is given and the ambitious colt leaps forward, promptly, only to jerk on his tender shoulders, and mouth, because the old horse did not obey at once. When this is repeated a few times, he becomes confused, because he was jerked for going forward and whipped for going backward, and, in his confusion, he could only stand and prance.

This is same as when a man of keen intellect, who is an entertaining talker in ordinary conversation, freezes when asked to give a speech. He becomes unable to say a word, and so confused he could hardly tell his own name and not know enough to sit down. It is something of the same condition of mind the balking horse gets into. It would be brutal to abuse the man because his mind became inactive in the new surroundings, and it is still more brutal to abuse the balking horse with his lesser mental powers. But that’s exactly what many do.

The solution may surprise you, as may much of the advice given by Professor Beery in his series of books on horsemanship. Some is common sense but some expert advice makes you wonder how it would ever work, but it does.

The way to stop a horse from stopping or balking is just as he is telling you by his eyes and ears and motion of the head that he is about to stop, say “Whoa” firmly, and give a powerful wrench on the lines. By stopping him before he stops of his own accord, you have disconcerted him and thrown him into a thoughtful mood. When you feel that you have his attention drawn from balking, give a confident “Get Up” and at the same time a side pull on the line.

Naturally, there’s more to it than that, especially if you’re dealing with a horse confirmed in the habit so you should visit for help with this and other horse habits.