Battling respect issues - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 03-22-2013, 08:58 AM Thread Starter
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Battling respect issues

I'm having some trouble with a 10-year-old gelding of my mother's.
He is very quiet, has good ground manners, etc. He used to be ridden by a little kid with cancer. My Mom bought him as a horse for her to go jump on and ride. But my Mom has been battling cancer, and hasn't had much time to ride him. So every couple of months, my boyfriend or I jump on him and take him for a spin around the section (about 4-5 miles).
The last time I got on him, he was very barn sour, and did not want to leave the place. We realized that he had this issue from the beginning, so he has been by himself (across the road, in another pasture) since he arrived almost a full year ago.

I now have him with me, and I am going to give him a "tune-up" before the summer. My boyfriend is also going to ride him in a roping clinic (which the horse is perfectly familiar with) at the end of the summer, so he needs to act like a gentleman.

The first thing I did was lunge him. All seemed well, although he was a little slow on transitions. But still, he was calm and seemed to be listening "okay" (not perfectly, but "okay"). I felt comfortable with his behavior, so I went and tacked him up, and took him back into the arena. I planned on just working on mounting and dismounting, as he likes to walk off. I did that for about 20 minutes, until he stood well with weight in one stirrup, then mounted. Of course, he walked off. When I tried to stop him, he just pulled right through the bit. It's some kind of long shanked, split bit (I don't know my bits very well, my Mom just gave me this one). It spiraled downhill from there, although there were no fireworks. He just wanted to return to the barn, and wouldn't listen to me AT ALL. I had to call someone over to hold him while I got off. (First rule I broke: End on a good note with good behavior.) I didn't want to end it like that, but I hadn't planned on taking so long with him, and had a night class to get to. It was disappointing, to say the least.

After seeing what I was battling, I called in the help of my riding instructor to see if she had any ideas. I had planned on riding him for a lesson, but his total lack of attention on the lunge line before she had even arrived convinced me that we needed to focus completely on ground work and respect. Our lesson involved half an hour of lunging, focusing on attentiveness, but he did not want to pay attention to either of us. In fact, I have not been able to get his eyes on me. At all. He just started listening to me yesterday, and his transitions were much better. His behavior also improved, as he only tried to change directions without being asked once. Seeing that he couldn't pull me across the arena, he stopped doing it.

My problem is that this horse will never give me his eyes. He looks EVERYWHERE but at me. It's like he has ADD, honestly. He looks out the door, he looks at the mounting block, he even stares at the WALL. But he refuses to look at the handler. It's like a big "F U". I always give a twitch with the rope (or tug, depending on his behavior) until his focus is directed towards me. And I growl, stomp, etc. until he pays attention to me. But it's exhausting! My instructor said that he's one of the worst she's ever had with that problem. In her words, "Usually they get it, after so long. But he's ignoring us intentionally. He's flipping us the bird."
He'll pay attention to verbal cues, but just refuses to look directly at me.

Anyone ever have a horse with this issue? Anyone have any exercises to try and gain that respect, and get those eyes on me?
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post #2 of 6 Old 03-22-2013, 09:17 AM
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Seems to me that this horse has had a lovely life doing pretty much nothing and is now suddenly being pushed back in at the deep end and he resents it and resents the people who are making it happen
Try to spend time with him doing just basic handling work that he enjoys so he gets to see you as someone he can like and trust (horses are capable of liking people (since they are capable of also disliking them) and start his progression back to fitness slowly so he barely notices its happening - and be sure to let him know you're pleased with him every time he does it right
He might have done all of this before but he thought he was retired - its all a huge shock to his system!!!
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post #3 of 6 Old 03-22-2013, 09:50 AM
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I think Jaydee has a good idea there. My old horse is like that, no where near as bad, he knows the limits of what he will be allowed to get away with (now he is and old codger and retired I, admittedly, do coddle him a bit) but he does get cranky on the rare occasion he gets ridden; and the sneaky old fart will throw in a buck or two coming out of a jump or something when he thinks he might have you loosened up a bit, but then they are half-hearted at least.
Sounds like the horse just needs to learn to get his mind on the job, which can be a hard or easy prospect depending on just how bad he has gotten and how much experience you and your BF have dealing with this stuff. I guess how to get towards it would be to be a bit tough on him. Not nasty, but what I mean is don’t take any crap off him. And when you pull him into line it will have to be decisive and with no ambiguity that you have come out on top. You could be at one of these points where if you don’t deal with this right it could get much worse. Just remember to be consistent and decisive, don’t peck away at him, and, when he does as he is supposed to, just leave him in peace (even if you are on his back). As for the actual techniques to use they would be better found from a trainer, in one way or another, than I could type here.
Just a note on the ending on a good note part, and only because it was one of the toughest lessons I managed to get through my thick skull. Remember, the tone of the good note is relative. What you have in mind as a good note to finish on may be a bit above what he can deliver. What he delivers may be only slightly better than what he was doing, but even that is a good place to end it if thats the best he is capable of at that time.
Good luck with it.
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post #4 of 6 Old 03-22-2013, 02:55 PM
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When you take a horse out, you are his leader. He should be happy to be with you and pay attention to you, because he trusts that you'll keep him safe. If he is not convinced that you're his leader, then he's going to be desperate to get back to those that he is convinced are good leaders: his buddies. This could be in a disrespectful way or a fearful way.

The way he's acting is like he feels he's on his own. He doesn't trust you to lead and protect him, so he's just going to ignore you and try to figure things out himself. This means most of what you do is just going to annoy him. Roundpen work is really good for this kind of thing because you can teach the horse to pay attention to you and only you because you are the leader. When he looks away or tries to get back to his buddies, you put pressure on him, and when his attention is on you, you take it off. When he does something you want him to do (like turn to the inside when you ask him to stop) then you stay calm and keep pressure off. When he does something you don't want (like turning towards the fence and running the other way when you ask him to stop) then you swing the whip and put pressure on him to make him uncomfortable. When you control every aspect of the situation, he's going to look to you for answers, essentially voting you the leader.

Here's a good video (in two parts) demonstrating how you would go about teaching the horse to pay attention and respect you. It only takes about 10 minutes a day, and if you do it for a week, you'll have your horse paying attention to you all the time.

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post #5 of 6 Old 03-22-2013, 03:21 PM
Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Western Maine
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a milder bit maybe?

I found that using just a halter or bitless bridle on starting back up seems to make my horses happy. Once they get back in the swing I ride with a bit, both of my horses ride in eggbutt french links and were both headtossers ( and one was VERY barn sour and would just trot home) they totally changed once I got this style. But of course not all horses like the same thing.

For mine walking them in tight little circles when they want to head home really helps. They hate tiny circles

good luck!
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post #6 of 6 Old 03-22-2013, 03:25 PM
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I didn't have a round pen but I still managed in a field. Plop down a flake of hay and allow him to approach it. Circle way around behind him and with the least energy possible make him move. Stand at the hay half a minute then move off and let him return. Again circle around behind and move him. He'll start making it harder for you to circle around as he'll start watching you with both eyes.
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