I'm enjoying my new pony mare. She's 17 years old and a kind of "been-there, done-that" horse. She knows a lot (undersaddle-wise) and halters, ties, tacks etc great. BUT...I'm starting to have a problem.
This mare does not respect me. She is not blatantly disrespectful or aggressive or outwardly rude, but it's more disrespect that comes from years of being a child's pony-she'll haul you around and even work if you really
make her, but she would rather do her own thing and is used to getting her way, and it has been the subject of a fair few disagreements between the two of us.
The thing is that I don't know how
to make her respect me. I don't know if it's right or not, but I'll be honest and say that I'm very...bold, when it comes to my horse and any other horse I have to handle for an extensive amount of time. If the horse steps out of line, I'm going to correct it immediately. If it wants to be a prick, then yes, I will give it a smack. I always try to be as quiet as I can and not start fights, but I am not going to let a horse walk all over me. My other mare has been handled this way for several years and she is perfectly respectful and has impeccable manners.
The pony...is different. Just, for example, if I stand in front of her and tell her to back up, out of my space, she will be very slow about it or might not move at all. In which case I'll give her a few smacks on the chest with the lead rope to send her back. She'll go, usually almost bolting backwards, but it will be in a state of incredible alarm. Her head shoots up, her neck goes stiff and she gets that look on her face like: "
You...you HIT me!" It's what I do for any other horse and they handle it fine, but when she does that, it makes me second guess myself and wonder: "Should I be doing this? Am I doing it right? Why is she so traumatized?"
We mostly trail ride, and on the trail you need a horse who respects you. Today we ran into trouble-it was a camper trailer or something parked at the end of a forest path, and she was TERRIFIED. Balked, would not go, I had to pull her in tiny circles to make her walk, even tried spinning and bolting a few times but I shut her down. I eventually got her up to it and made her do some calm, even circles before going away, but I went up that path last year with my other mare, who is years younger and has much less trail experience than her, and I never had a problem. Of course, it may just be that the other mare wasn't scared of it anyways, but the pony mare is slowly becoming more insecure, and she does not look to me for guidance.
My paint mare is quiet because she genuinely respects and trusts me, but this pony is quiet because she was trained that way. If it ever came down to it, a life-or-death situation, a pack of wolves advancing on us, even though the paint is a decade younger and has a fraction of the life experience the pony does, I would much rather be aboard the paint, because I know she's going to listen to me and trust me. I need the pony to trust me if we're going to keep riding alone and going new places, but I can't have her trust if I don't first get her respect.
Even in the pasture with the other horses, she's the low man on the totem pole, but she is really miserable about it. The other horses will move her off and she'll go, but her ears will be pinned, she has a sour look on her face, and sometimes she'll even flick a leg at them. If she's that miserable to other horses that boss her around, what will she be like for me?
How can I get her respect? What should I do? Should I treat her the way I do everyone else and take a "get over yourself" stance, or take a more "gentle" approach?