It is customary for horseback riders who are participating in certain events, such as parades, rodeos or as part of a drill team, to carry country, state and even group flags. While carrying the flag itself is not particularly difficult for the rider, this task can be made into quite the challenge if you are riding a horse who is not used to having the flag pole and flag accompanying every stride. It is absolutely essential to desensitize your horse to the flag and get him accustomed to carrying it before you attempt to perform in any public venues.
Introduce the flag to your horse on the ground. Have a helper hold your horse using a halter and lead rope. Approach your horse with the flag. If your horse backs away from the flag or shows visible fear, stand with the flag until your horse relaxes. Allow your horse to sniff the flag.
Practice waving the flag around the horse on the ground. Touch your horse all over his body with both the flag and the flag pole. Wave the flag around his head, bump it into his legs and continue touching him all over with the flag until he reaches the point where he pays no attention whatsoever to the flag regardless of what you are doing to him with it.
Saddle up your horse and get him warmed up as you normally would before working him. Have your helper approach your horse with the flag and wave the flag all around the horse while you are mounted. Make sure your horse shows no signs of stress or fear during this process.
Ride your horse with your helper walking alongside your horse's head waving the flag. Have your helper hand you the flag. Practice riding while carrying the flag. Repeat your earlier process of touching the horse all over his body with the flag. Do this at various speeds so that your horse will be prepared for anything when it is time to perform; when your horse carries the flag calmly with no reaction to it, you have mastered this skill.
- All horses are different and learn at different speeds depending on their intelligence, personality and previous training. It may take you 30 minutes to teach your horse to carry a flag or it may take you six months. Be consistent and continue practicing until your horse has mastered the skill. Be aware that very skittish, nervous horses are not the best choice for this task.
- If your horse is terrified of the flag, start with a smaller piece of cloth and work up to an actual flag.
- Your horse needs to know how to neck rein before you attempt to teach him to carry a flag. If your horse does not neck rein, you will need to train him to do so.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.