Asserting dominance - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 03-30-2009, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
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Asserting dominance

I realize that the best way to handle a horse and work with him is to be the dominant partner. If you first meet a horse and do not establish your role as leader, will that effect your future standing, or can you establish your role as leader? Once established, how often is it challenged??
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post #2 of 7 Old 03-30-2009, 10:20 PM
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I think if you do not establish yourself as leader, the horse will test you. But most all horses test you. The horse may get pushy or whatever, and you will need to correct him. Some horses will test you once or twice but others will test you every time you work with them.
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post #3 of 7 Old 03-30-2009, 10:51 PM
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If you don't assert yourself right away, chances are it wont cause a huge problem in the future. I would recommend establishing dominance quickly, but if you just rescued an abused horse, it may just be best to wait until you get to know the horse a little better. Especially if the horse isn't dangerous. A dangerous horse I will establish dominance IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise, i enjoy feeling out the horse and weeding out faulty personality traits as i get to 'em ;)

I hope these examples help:

Joey is my "herd leader" among the horses. He is #1 out in the pasture and he knows it. When i get him in hand he KNOWS im the boss, but as Spastic said, he will still test me to make sure I am still boss hoss. It starts small by him just "allowing" himself to graze even though i didnt let him. Then, it would bump up a bit to him just putting his head down as im walking him, causing me to tug the leadrope accidentally. Then, im sure if it went even further than that, he would put his head down and DRAG me away. I nip it in the bud by reading him to see if he is about to put his head down, then putting some tension on the lead. He knows when he's been caught ;) He likes to challenge my authority in small ways. Thankfully its nothing dangerous. But every so often I have to INSIST that he listen to me.

Charity, on the other hand, was EXTREMELY timid and headshy when i bought her. I never once had to school her, nor did I have a "commanding" posture around her. I stayed a steady handler, even when she felt the world around her was unsteady... and from that, she respected me, had faith in me, and i became the dominant.

So, it all depends on the horse i guess. Some horses want to act like ripsnortin' nasty teenagers (NO offense guys! I was an awful boody emo teen! LOL!) and WANT to challenge you so they can be put in their place. Other horses just want stability and feel submissive to the consistent hand... if that makes any sense :p

What i've found in my personal experience, is that even the pushy rank horses who challenge the handler DAILY really DONT want to be in charge.. but it makes them satisfied to be "reminded" that they don't HAVE to take on the role as leader. From what i've found, most horses are very happy to follow so long as you'll step up and just be consistent with them =)

I hope that makes sense! Again, this is my personal opinion, and it may not work on every horse ^^

-Skippy! The Wonder Horse!
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post #4 of 7 Old 03-30-2009, 11:27 PM
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I don't think all is lost if you don't establish yourself as the leader right away. But yes, it definitely is important in a horse partnership. Think of yourself as the "alpha" horse in the herd. What does a dominant horse do to a passive horse when its in his space? He pushes him away, of course. He asserts his dominance and shows the other horse who is boss. And the passive horse will back off and keep his distance. This is kind of how you have to view it when dealing with your horse. I don't mean act aggressively, but be confident and assertive, showing your horse that there are boundaries that should not be crossed... such as being pushy, nippy, getting in your space, being overly curious. These are the kinds of habits I think you can fix through acting like the alpha.

The other day I had my mare in front of the barn without a halter or lead, as I was brushing her because she usually stands really good for me without being tied. Well, she started to get a little antsy and wanted to wander away. The MOMENT I felt her moving away from me, I planted myself in front of her chest and tapped her, telling her verbally to "back up." Everytime she tried to move, I'd push myself against her (not aggressively) and ask her to back up and stand. It worked! Her head actually went down and she licked her lips, showing me she was submitting to me.

The more you show your horse who is boss, the more your horse will respect you and the happier both of you will be!

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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post #5 of 7 Old 03-31-2009, 12:28 AM
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I agree with what Skippy said.

My gelding will totally take advantage of anyone that doesn't know what they are doing. He will bite and walk all over some people but his life would flash before his eyes if he did that to me.

I had another gelding that was just an angel for everyone. A 3 year old could walk and trot him around. Would never step into your space or take a wrong step. The funny thing is tho that he was the dominant one in the pasture and my gelding now was the submissive one. Weird huh?

So I think you have to be on your guard all the time. Most horses will test you and you have to be ready to be that Alpha.

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post #6 of 7 Old 04-02-2009, 10:31 PM
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Horses will test you every day, see who is the boss that day.

you can start with nothing, and out of nothing or no way, a way will be provided.
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post #7 of 7 Old 04-02-2009, 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by wanderlust View Post
I realize that the best way to handle a horse and work with him is to be the dominant partner. If you first meet a horse and do not establish your role as leader, will that effect your future standing, or can you establish your role as leader? Once established, how often is it challenged??
Horses live in the moment. So, if you let's say, are leading your horse and you allow him to step into you on Monday then decide you had enough and on Tuesday you redirect him (say for example, every time you lead him and he steps too close you stop and back him up until he is no longer stepping into you).

You may find the horse will still step in to you a few times, but if you are consistent....every time he steps into you, you stop and back him up. Then he'll soon learn there's pressure if he steps in toward you and there's no pressure if he just leads alongside.

If you allow this unwanted habit of his stepping into you, dragging you around, etc...for a while, days, weeks, months, years....then you will come across what I call "junk" and you must go through the "junk" in order to get you and the horse through the "transition" into better habits.

So, if you let your horse drag you around on the lead for weeks, months or years, therefore establishing a bad habit (you are training him to step into you if you step away instead of telling him to back up) can get a horse that then "over-reacts" when you decide one day not to take it anymore.

By "over-reacts" I mean, your horse might rear up, come toward you to push you out of the way with his shoulder, try to bite you, etc.... because essentially, you told him for the past however length of time: "you're the dominant one and I'm submissive" and now suddenly you want to change the rules and so, you'll have to earn that respect. Because he'll feel the need to "put you in your place" no different than if you were any other horse. (because he only knows what instint tells him to do)

Horses, just like people, need time to get into the "new" routine. Just like we need time to memorize things for school and work, so do they...and that's where your being consistent is extremely important. Once you've established the good habits and broken the bad ones, you don't want to "lie" to him and go back to your bad habits of letting him drag you around, otherwise, you'll just keep bouncing back and forth between good days and bad days.

That said, if you're consistent now and don't get angry or over-use or under-use pressure (wail or nag) and every single time he steps in to you, you stop him and back him up. then he'll see that you're being fair and you're leading and you are no longer submitting and he'll let you take the lead.

Horses don't want to lead humans. We're too weird compared to the simple horse.

Last edited by Calamity Jane; 04-02-2009 at 11:41 PM.
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