Discouraged again - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 11-12-2010, 09:29 PM Thread Starter
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Discouraged again

Hi all, I'm a bit discouraged so I thought I would vent. Just when I think I have everything going well with my colt (now 4 months old) it seems like we backslide.

For instance today, I took him for a little walk around the property and we had about 3 instances where he tried to get ahead of me and/or bumped his shoulder into me while we were walking. So I took the lead rope and spun him around to face me and backed him up several steps.

I try to back him up a lot in general just to get his attention and get him out of my space. Mostly, he backs pretty well, but sometimes he will ignore the cue (kissing and a tap with a dressage whip) and I end up smacking him harder, which makes me feel really crummy, but I have to get a response, right?

He also tried to nip me once today so I made him back 1/2 way across the pen.

I guess what discourages me is we have these battles and things get better, but then it seems we have these battles all over again a few days later. And again and again. I just don't know how much I should be expecting out of him at this age, and how to make an impression on him so he won't keep trying the same old stuff.

One day he can be perfect (especially after exercise) and the next day it's like we are re-inventing the wheel all over again.

Any thoughts? I don't want to be hard on him or expect too much, but I don't want him to grow up to be a disrespectful horse either.
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post #2 of 10 Old 11-12-2010, 09:43 PM
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I say you should consistently expect out of him what you will expect when he is grown so he does not get confused but then have the mindset to know, he is a baby and is not going to be able to give that to you all the time yet. Keep your cues and what you ask for/insist on consistent/unchanging and just know he is little so his mind cannot grasp it all, all the time. Slow and steady.

"Equine-facilitated therapy employs a form of biofeedback for practicing self-awareness, emotional management, and relationship skills that human role-playing exercises and discussion groups cannot begin to access." Linda Kohanov (The Tao of Equus)
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post #3 of 10 Old 11-12-2010, 09:47 PM
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Trailhorserider, honestly, I think you are doing fine with him. At his age, if he will lead, stand, and back well, you are doing good. The nipping isn't intentional disrespect, it's completely due to his age - all foals go through a mouthy/nippy stage. Just part of how they explore their world. While it certainly still needs to be made clear it isn't acceptable, I don't think you need to feel like he is disrespecting you by doing it either. He's still a baby, he's not a mature horse. Repetition and consistency are key right now. Just stick with a few basic groundwork exercises, and work with them as much as possible. At the same time, don't expect him to retain enough to "master" these things for a lot of months yet. I didn't really move past this stage where you are at now, with Finn, until he was about 8 months old, and some people thought I was still pushing him too hard. I think you are doing just great hon, don't be too hard on yourself (or him!) *hugs*
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post #4 of 10 Old 11-12-2010, 10:06 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys. That makes me feel a lot better.

With the nipping thing- it's like he knows it's wrong, but he just HAS to do it anyway. And it you are right, it IS his way of exploring the world. Everything goes in his mouth!

On the bright-side, yesterday we went for a short ride (Zane my colt, me and my Mustang John, my good friend with her QH and her yearling colt). Although Zane tried to chew my tack the whole way down to the forest (I ponied him), once I cut him loose he had a great time. That's him wearing the little hunting vest and cinch. And he was really nice and docile being ponied home. We also practiced trailer loading him, and he LOVES jumping in and out of the trailer. So that's a positive. So he really has a lot of good skills. I just have this fear he will grow up to be a holly terror or something!
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post #5 of 10 Old 11-12-2010, 10:11 PM
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You are doing fantastically with him.... children go through the whole oral fixation stage (Freud says so) so I am guessing that horses do to. It will be okay. Don't live in fear.

"Equine-facilitated therapy employs a form of biofeedback for practicing self-awareness, emotional management, and relationship skills that human role-playing exercises and discussion groups cannot begin to access." Linda Kohanov (The Tao of Equus)
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post #6 of 10 Old 11-12-2010, 10:14 PM
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You have a good start on him now so I would leave him alone for a while and let his mind mature. The reason you are fighting the same battles over and over is because he's not mature enough to retain what you are teaching him. If he were my horse I would turn him out as much as possible until he was two or three. Handle him when you need to for farrier work and worming and such but otherwise ignore him. As a trainer I hate getting horses that are so gentle and desensitized that you can't get any movement out of them. It always leaves me wondering when the blow up is coming.

There's nothing like the Rockies in the springtime... Nothing like the freedom in the air... And there ain't nothing better than draggin calves to the fire and there's nothing like the smell of burning hair. -Brenn Hill
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post #7 of 10 Old 11-12-2010, 11:04 PM
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Kevin, it interests me to hear you say that. I have had other folks say that foals that are imprinted from birth and raised really close to humans are hard to train. And you put it well, with regard to their being so desensitzed they don't even know how to have a good spook in place.
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post #8 of 10 Old 11-12-2010, 11:11 PM
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Human kids test us until they are in their 20s, horses test us til they about 5 or so depending on the training and experiences.

Sounds like your baby is testing you a bit. Back off and do what they know, maybe give them a bit of a break. Make it so that he can succeed, and if he is still a brat, then discipline him.

I want to be honest and tell you I have a lot less experience than others who have posted, but this is what I would do.
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post #9 of 10 Old 11-13-2010, 01:13 PM Thread Starter
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You guys have no idea how much I appreciate your advice and feedback! I was pretty down yesterday after our little leading lesson.

Basically, I think I need to back off a bit, at least with the "lessons." I will continue to handle him (maybe more than I should) because we don't have a pasture or large turnout area. He basically lives in a large pen with his mom and my older gelding. I really enjoy being around him and can hardly keep my hands off him, so that is probably part of the problem. He is my first foal and the fulfillment of a dream. I know that sounds corny to everyone who has been doing this for years, but really, it is.

But I think I will handle him in the course of doing other things, and not do the lessons for a while. For instance, he will get some leading practice when I pony him out (I pony him out to the forest and then let him loose get exercise and have some fun). He gets ponied out several times a week. (The vet suggested exercise would be good for him since he was born with a crooked leg and I don't have a pasture for him to run in.)

And he will get leading practice when I move him from one pen to the other (to get his creep feed separate from the other horses). So maybe that will be good for a while, and give him a chance to mature more mentally. I don't want to burn him out or make him desensitized to everything.
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post #10 of 10 Old 11-13-2010, 01:58 PM
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Exactly what everyone else said. Just stay firm, fair, and consistent. He is really growing up nicely .

Always remember that feeling of looking at a big, open country over the ears of a good horse, seeing a new trail unwind ahead of you, and that ever-spectacular view from the top of the ridge!!! Follow my training blog: http://robertsontraining.blogspot.com/
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