Taming the Turn-Out Monster

Turning horses out to pasture or paddock is a straightforward task – until the horse decides when it’s time for him to leave. With all this cold weather we\’ve been having, sometimes it\’s hard to muster up the gumption to go out and ride. So if the frosty temperatures have been keep your feet out of the stirrups, now might be the perfect time to work on other areas with your horse that may need improvement. Practicing ground manners, for instance, is a great task to challenge your horse with – without getting him all sweated up in the dead of winter. Here are a few tips from professional trainer, Clay Webster for bringing your Turn-Out Monster back to reality.

Horses that receive daily turn-out are sometimes likely to kick up their heels a little when they see the sunlight in the morning. As the handler leads the animal out to the turn-out paddock, the horse may seem two steps in front of his person. Then when it comes time to walk through the gate and release him, the horse is blowing past the handler with little to no concern for the human.

Although it may seem like the most basic training principle, there are significant safety concerns for handlers when horses are ready to leave the halter before the person is ready to undo the latch or knot.
STEP-BY- STEP Instructions for Improving the Ground Manners of a Turn-Out Monster:
1. If I’m the person taking the horse to turn-out and there are other horses in the same paddock, I want to ensure those other horses aren’t positioned near the gate. This can be dangerous as it can initiate one horse to kick at another, and myself or the horse I am leading would be directly in the middle. You don’t want to turn your horse loose where you put yourselves in danger. If other horses are hanging around the gate, I want to shoo them away first prior to entering through the gate myself.

2. Once we’re through the gate, I want to turn my horse to face the gate and essentially position his rear end away from it. This allows me to use space and positioning in my favor. As I turn my horse loose, he won’t run by and potentially kick up at me along the way.


3. A safety tactic to ensure my body is in a good place before I let the horse go is to position my feet in front of the horse’s front feet and at the horse’s eye. This way I prevent myself from being stepped on and I’m in a good place, should I need to grab on to the horse again.


4. I usually put the horse’s lead rope over his neck prior to undoing the halter so I can hold my horse there, even when the halter is no longer in tact. It’s no different than the safety precautions you would take with a horse during bridling (and removing the halter). But in a way, I’m also testing my horse to see if he will bolt away or if he will stay with me until I instruct him to leave.

5. This is where the “Turn Out Monster” will rear his ugly head, if the horse is particularly used to running away from the handler. It’s important not to let go of the lead rope and give the horse his freedom until he is absolutely quiet. And when that happens, it’s okay to release the rope gradually and let the horse go. On that note however, if the horse makes even the slightest notion of bolting, you must ensure to stop him with the neck rope and try it again! Repetition and the release of pressure are what will properly train the Turn-Out Monster out of your horse. That’s why it’s imperative to continually retest the horse, even when he is not trying to bolt. Our horses need to understand that they will not always be released immediately after the halter is removed. The animal must be listening to you at all times.


In many cases, if my horse is absolutely tuned-into me, he will actually “stick around” once the halter is removed. If he is in no rush to leave my side and he doesn’t crowd my space, I know that he respects me.

BIO – Clay Webster is a professional reining and cow horse trainer based near Calgary, Alberta. Throughout an equine career that has spanned over 20 years, Webster has handled and trained thousands of horses. His horses are required to perform high level maneuvers in the show pen, but one of his biggest pet peeves are mounts with few ground manners. Horses that break prematurely away from their owners in anticipation of turn-out fall into this latter category.


1 thought on “Taming the Turn-Out Monster”

  1. Great article! Some things there that I do out of habit because I was taught that way, but I could never explain it as well as you have. Thanks for a great article that can help keep people safe!

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