Anger Management Issues - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 12-13-2010, 10:44 PM Thread Starter
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Anger Management Issues

I feel really bad having to ask for help with this because I shouldn't have to...

But I have REALLY bad anger management issues with my horse. I don't know why, she's not bad or anything. When she does something "wrong" it's because I asked wrong or because she doesn't understand. We (or I) have our good days where she's learning a lot or where we're just getting along. But then we have our BAD days where I get so angry at her that I yell at her, call her bad names, and...hit her. Most of the time, it's somwhere in between there. Kicking, jerking, yelling, slapping her neck, stuff like that. I normally end up leaving the barn in tears, hating myself. If someone's with me, I keep control better, faking that we have a "relationship". But I keep her in my friend's backyard so I don't have anyone there all the time to watch me.

What kills me the most about all of this is the lack of trust between us now. It's gone, she doesn't trust me at all. It seriously breaks my heart. I want her to trust me, I want her to want to be with me, not away from me. But no matter how much I want that, I always lose my temper and break whatever trust and bond we had. I cry and tell her I'm sorry, but I don't change. We've both lost SO much confidence and it sucks.

I guess I just need a bit of help. Words of encouragement, training exercises to build our confidence in each other, just something to know I'm not alone. I feel like I'm the only one who feels like this. I don't have any other horse people to talk to so I rely on the people of this forum (and my YouTube friends) to get me through horse issues. Maybe some of it could be stemming from school/friend/family stress (I'm a high school senior )

Sorry about this insane novel, haha. Thanks for putting up with me!
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post #2 of 31 Old 12-13-2010, 11:59 PM
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I'm not going to tell you it's wrong to hit and kick your horse out of anger because I think you already know that. I will suggest that getting a trainer to help you out would be a good way to make some positive progress with her.

When people lash out it's usually because they feel like they have no other option. So hire someone to give you options.

If you truly aren't able to control your tempter around your horse then maybe it's time to question if you really need one right now.
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post #3 of 31 Old 12-14-2010, 01:09 AM
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Just Jump It,

It takes a ton of courage and caring to be able to admit what you just did. I applaud your bravery.
I related very much to what you were saying, but in a different way and in even a worse way.
When I was a young mother, I loved my son so much but he was a difficult baby and toddler. I often found myself with such RAGE in my heart that I would literally envision myself throwing my little helpless son off the deck of my house! I then would dissolve in self hate, shame and despair at the total monster I was. Many times I hit him (not like punched, but I slapped him) or worse, I litereally pushed him away from me when he NEEDED me. It was more horrible than I can say. I could not share this with anyone for my shame.
Fortunately, I never gave in to my worse impulses and as I became less sleep deprived, it got better.
One thing I remember helped me was to literally say to myself, soft and under my breathe, was "I feel like hitting you, . . . but I won't"
So I would admit the powerful urge was there, not deny it's existence, but I would not allow it to take ME away from myself.

Perhaps you can do something like this. Say what you feel, and then let it dissolve as words that just go up in smoke, unrealized.

You absolutely CAN change this. Never allow yourself the false luxury of thinking otherwise.
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post #4 of 31 Old 12-14-2010, 01:31 AM
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A lot of people, probably most people, get angry because they can't control what is happening around them. Whether its other people's actions, unforeseen events or past events that no one will ever be able to change. Anger often stems from a certain helplessness. When you're arguing with someone are you angry because of what they're saying, or the fact you can't control or change what they are saying? Or angry that you can't control the truth of what they're saying?

Horses can be tricky because training them is all about control. They are big, heavy animals, and unless they choose to follow our commands there isn't a lot we can do to control them. So we trick them into obeying us using fear, natural instincts, bribery, pain etc.

When your horse does something wrong it becomes obvious to yourself that you cannot control it and it makes people angry. Sometimes I get irritated with my horse when I know he knows how to do something yet chooses not to, or when I am trying and trying to teach him something and he doesn't understand.

I'm going to take a huge unfounded leap now and presume that somewhere in your life anger has solved either your problems, or the people's problems around you. Whether its through fear, blackmail or whatever, at some point you learned that anger was the best way to solve a problem. It's pretty normal. I had a friend who was in the army and when something got a little tense with someone else he'd start yelling because in his training he had been taught to obey the person yelling - yelling solved his problems.

It's not a conscious thing - think of it like a horse bolting when he's scared, he doesn't usually choose to run it's just that he has learned that running away from danger is the best course of action so he'll do it without thinking.

Sit down and think about training, whatever your philosophy is. Horses don't understand anger, they might pick up on your tension and feel uncomfortable but they do not understand anger. It will teach the horse nothing. So while you are not angry think of solutions to all your current training problems. For example, if he gets pushy decide to back him up, not yank - so when the situation arises you already know what "tool" you need, you don't have to get angry, you just have to act.

Many people have difficulties controlling their actions and emotions. With effort it becomes easier, you just have to be aware of what you are doing. Some people for whatever reason cannot control their actions or emotions. By all means try, but if you cannot resolve your issues regarding anger and control then perhaps having a horse is not good for you.

I strongly reccommend that you try and find coping mechanisms for a large range of situations - if you have problems with your you will find yourself having problems in other situations as well.
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post #5 of 31 Old 12-14-2010, 01:43 AM
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I sometimes feel my temper rising when I'm working with my horse. I can relate to your feelings of hating yourself and ending up in tears! What I have learned to do is as soon as I begin to get fustrated/angered when riding Candy when I'm trying to work on something/teach her something - I stop what I'm working on, stop asking her, stop nagging her and do something fun. You have to remember that we don't always have a 'work' our horses so to speak, but just relax and do something fun! Go for a canter around the arena on a loose rein, jump on bareback and go for a trail ride, hop off and bond with your horse by brushing them. Plait their mane, tail, do some carrot stretches - anything that you find fun. The best way I have bonded with Candy is through grooming her - its such a stress relief for me and her and she is usually half asleep by the end of it. Good luck and if you feel your self getting angry STOP and count to ten!
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post #6 of 31 Old 12-14-2010, 02:27 AM
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I think you have made a huge step not just in admitting it, but what is bigger is that you are understanding what you do, and why.

We all make a ton of mistakes, but there are few of us who look in the mirror and admit that. You are one of the ones who do, and this is huge.

However, I think you need to take some time away from your horse, so that you can work on the issues that you are aware of. If she is boarded, I am sure she will be fine without you for a few months, if you keep her on your property can your parents or anyone else help, even if that means riding for free for them?

I don't think it is far to your mare to subject her to your moods until you can get some balance and that will hopefully come with some space. And some thinking? You don't have to answer here, but I would ask you to think about what you are so angry about? Who are the people you are angry with? What can you do about this? Can you talk to them? and on and on....

I have a very stressful life, I have 4 teenage boys as foster kids, I could chose to take out my stress on my horse, or I could chose to view him as my stress relief, my time alone for me and him. I do the later, but even then it is hard, I often ride when I have kids with me, they argue and fight as my attention is not on them. So I want to yell and shout, but I cannot as this would affect my horse. So I have Lucas walk over and I point my crop, and motion 'you two apart now'. This is done with a side to side motion of the whip. When I need to tell them to shut up, this is an up and down motion of the whip.

I guess this is not relevant to you, but what I am trying to say is that the other things in your life that make your stressed and angry don't have to transfer to your horse. If I were so inclined, it sure would be easy to take things out on him, however I chose to view him as my sanity time, my time for me, doing something I enjoy. You need to take some time so you can view your horse in the same way.
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post #7 of 31 Old 12-14-2010, 02:55 AM
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AlexS , I just had the cutest image of you "directing" with your crop, back and forth, up and down, in commanding silence!
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post #8 of 31 Old 12-14-2010, 03:06 AM
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Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
AlexS , I just had the cutest image of you "directing" with your crop, back and forth, up and down, in commanding silence!

Thanks, it is a shame that it is kind of like dog obedience training. Side to side means apart, up and down means mouth shut now. I would like to treat them as humans and not dogs, but you gotta do what you have to do I suppose.

My general point is that I have a ton of stress all the time even when I am riding, and it is about directing it in the direction that deserves it. Cos gawd forbid I have to get off my horse, someone is sitting at the table for a week. But my horse doesn't suffer, and it would be easy to lose it if I could not direct my anger.
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Last edited by AlexS; 12-14-2010 at 03:12 AM.
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post #9 of 31 Old 12-14-2010, 04:27 AM
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OP, well down for coming out with it :) Not many people would be brave enough to admit that they're having problems like this.

As a young teenager, I suffered from anger issues also. Not only with my horses, but with my family. I felt such horrendous self hate, I had no self respect or confidence, and as a result would take it out on those who meant more to me.
This is something that you really need to work on step by step. With my family, when I felt like getting angry, I would take a deep breath and go for a walk to cool off before coming home again.
With my horses, when something went wrong I would go back to walk, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then halt, pat my horse and say 'I love you, I don't want to hurt you, I know you're trying your best and my aids are confusing you, so we'll just settle down and move to something simpler before trying that again'.

Maybe try taking a break and either not riding for a while, just mucking around on the ground with your horse, doing some ground work, or sitting out in the paddock and watching her graze.
Or maybe go for a few trail rides? Reins to the buckle, go out for a nice long ride with a friend and have a good laugh. You need to break the cycle of anger with her and have some good times to try and re-establish that bond.

You could also try having some lessons which would help you to overcome any of the problems with your horse, that are causing you to become so angry at her.
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post #10 of 31 Old 12-14-2010, 07:07 AM
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This is a great thread! I admit the same thing. I'm 39 now but I will tell you when I was getting stressed, I would take most of my anger out on my dogs! No different because they are helpless animals. I can't believe the loyalty they have. I don't do this anymore but it took me a very long time to figure out how to control myself.

I've never hit my horses but they knew when I was in a mood. Everything went wrong. So, I gave up on what I was doing and sat by myself and just thought. If I felt better I would continue what I was doing. If not, I just left.

When I was a teen, I used to punch holes in the walls, throw my brush at the wall, hit myself, and I mean hit! Its like a wave of evil came over me and to say "stop what your doing and walk away", is and was not happening. It was terrible. I felt terrible about myself, felt embarrassed because I would go to school just after having an episode. Feeling like everyone knew, except they didn't.

I agree with the other posters, maybe you need some time away from your horse. What discipline do you ride? Instead of going out to ride or work your horse, just spend time with her. Can I ask you a really personal and deep question?
Be honest: did/does hitting, seem at the time, a release? Not so much a good release but kind of? I am going to be very honest with you. It did for me to hurt my dogs. I know this sounds horrific and brutal but I am being truthful. Not something I am proud of now or then but felt a release. That's how I can describe it.

All I can tell you is you are not alone! As you can see by others. The only one that can break the cycle is you! As hard as it is going to be, and as easy it is to say! My father used to abuse me when I was younger and that's all I knew. Anger and hitting and beating! I broke that cycle when I had my son!!! Never laid a finger on him and never abused him verbally! I had a decision to make and I opted not to continue an abusive childhood for my son!!

It all comes down to what you REALLY want. If anything, see if you can talk to a counselor at school. Its going to be hard but like I said, you are the only one who can change this. Good luck and if you ever feel like talking, you can PM me.
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