The Extreme Alpha Challenge! - Page 2

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The Extreme Alpha Challenge!

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    08-15-2010, 11:08 PM
Originally Posted by kaydeebug    
my mare is a thoroughbred, she was originally suppose to race but never did. I do ride her two times a week and I have my horse shows. When I am riding her and she bends her head and tries to bite me I kick her in the nose. That worked. I don't think shell ever hurt me, she is just a runner she always wants to go. She would be a great high school rodeo horse. I just don't high school rodeo I had a choice I chose not to. So I ride in a riding club I also race her on the track just not professionally. I wish I was brave enough to take her in the hills im just afraid shell take off wanting to run. She's a great horse you just got to be ready for a hot horse

Wow! You are brave! Maybe she will the time she is 30! Lol
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    08-15-2010, 11:12 PM
Ya that's like 39572 years away. Jk she's only 9 tho. But itll be lucky if she's calm by then ughhhhh hahaha
    08-15-2010, 11:25 PM
Shelley, I meant have someone come to your place, not ship him out somewhere, just for the record. I see that you know that's better. I hope that you find an able person who'll turn things around for Aries/teach you how. A reminder: horses are not brats/other derogatory terms: they're just being the horsenalities that the Lord made them. You might want to learn about left-brain introverts, of Parelli's 4 basic horsenality types, also, & learn how to handle this type (make me! Type).
    08-16-2010, 12:40 AM
Seems I've written an essay & it won't fit in one post, so here's the first installment!

Originally Posted by Cadence    
How do I know if I successfully instilled leadership in this horses mind?
He will trust you & follow your lead willingly without compulsion 100%

How long does it last?
Depends. On the horse's personality, your personality, what you're asking of him & how...

Why would a horse (seemingly) randomly in the middle of an exercise "challenge" my authority?
Depends. Perhaps you never had any 'authority' in the first place. Perhaps he's one of those types that is always up for a challenge, always wanting to be the Boss. Perhaps something is worrying him & making him reactive, perhaps he's bored or otherwise had enough of whatever you're asking of him.

Is it normal for a gelding to challenge me 8 different times/ways in a 20 min work period?
Yep, normal for a gelding, mare or stallion, depending on the above.

Do I have to be "on" 24/7 around this horse?
If you mean alert & on guard, sounds like it, for now at least.

What do you do when your horse hardly lowers his head, licks and chews...
I gather you’re talking about ‘Join Up’? IMO the first thing I’d do is stop doing that. If he’s not doing those things, he is either confused/frightened/not confident about something, &/or he’s otherwise irritated by you & wanting out.

The basic premise of ‘Join Up’ is to emulate one type of behaviour of an ‘alpha’ horse with a recalcitrant one in a natural herd. When a horse ‘misbehaves’, the more ‘dominant’ horse(using ‘alpha’ & ‘dominant’ loosely – won’t go into an essay on my perception of these terms as relates to horses) may chase them out of the herd and prevent them coming back until the horse shows ‘submission’. It assumes first & foremost that the ‘naughty’ horse ‘respects’ the ‘lead’ horse – or else he may choose to stay & fight, rather than allow her to chase him away – and that both horses in question want the‘naughty’ horse to be back in the fold. While that is generally the case, it often isn’t. Perhaps the lead horse is fed up with the other. Perhaps it’s a lead mare chasing away her ‘teenage’ son, or a stallion chasing out either son or daughter. Perhaps there’s another band across the hill who the ousted horse decides he’d rather be with…

When the above behaviour does happen, it doesn’t happen without good reason – it’s not something that the lead horse just does to others for the hell of it. It’s also about the recalcitrant horse being ousted from the security of the herd & being left alone on the outer. It’s not about chasing a horse around & around in an enclosed space that he wants to get out of.

For the above reasons, I think ‘Join Up’ type exercises can be valuable ‘tools’ to have in your box of tricks, depending on the horse, your relationship and how you go about it. But it is not something that is appropriate for any horse, in any situation. It is not The Answer, but one of many possible ‘ingredients’ that may or may not be helpful as part of the whole.

Now I’ll get off my soapbox about that & back to the questions at hand…

Horse Background: The horse is a recent purchase, a 5 yo QH/Arab gelding. He bites, doesn't like his hind feet picked up, barely tolerates grooming, and likes to show his hindquarters when we longe.

When I first got him, he attacked me in his stall, tried to kick me in the head, would run me over when I tried to lead him, wouldn't tie, wouldn't tolerate longing or grooming. Don't even think about touching his feet!
Sounds like an ‘assertive’ personality! Either that or he’s been abused & learned that offense is the best method of defense. Sounds a dangerous type to get confrontational with. I would firstly not bother with doing anything to him or invade his personal space or otherwise be confrontational wherever possible for now. I would instead concentrate on building a good, positive relationship with him and establish the basic ground rules & ‘manner’s in a non-confrontational & safe manner. Ie. With a fence or stable door in between you, to keep you safe without having to resort to offense becoming your best defense! I’d use positive reinforcement(rewards) to teach him that I was a Good Thing to be around & teach him how to behave(& how not to behave) in my presence.

How I handle Him: I work Aries pretty much everyday for 15-20 min about the same time each day. Here is my routine, I spray him with fly spray, longe him, groom him, try to clean his feet, saddle him and carefully add my weight across the saddle while standing on a mounting block.
All of this is about doing stuff TO him. Sounds like none of it's Good Stuff, from his perspective. Have you first tried to make friends with him, get to know him, gain his trust? Do you spend time just hanging out or doing nice stuff WITH him? IMO with any horse, this is what I’d be doing first & foremost, with the doing things TO him coming after the relationship was established – and still being done respectFULLY with lots of Good Stuff happening too.

There are a number of questions & problems I see with what you’ve told about lunging him in my opinion. First the questions… Why are you lunging him? Why do you use a chain to do it? What is ‘goood boooy’ supposed to mean to him & do you think he understands this? How do you know? Do you know if he has actually been taught to lunge well? Do you know how he was taught, what cues? “I even have to shift my gaze and stand sideways before he will walk.” may be one of the cues he was taught. Do you know if you’re doing it in the same manner as it was taught to him? If he’s ‘an angel’ counter clockwise is it possible he was taught to go that way but not the other? People are very good at generalising & horses are very bad at it, so they may not have even considered he needed to be taught on both sides.

I think a big part of the answer about the abrupt stopping & ‘pulling other tricks’ lies in the “after a few rounds of successful trotting, and me saying, "gooood boooooyyy!" and “Once I get a few successful times around, I say, "Whoa!"”. Horses learn by association to do what works for them. They don’t understand abstract ideas(that don’t have direct association) & have a VERY short span of association. That means that they need instant reinforcement for their behaviour, in order for them to learn what is ‘right’ & ‘wrong’. So, ‘after a few rounds’ is a few rounds too late to begin with.

When your communication with the horse is well established, you can build up to those few or more rounds before reinforcing him, but if you want to teach him to do it for you in the first place, you need to reinforce it effectively when it STARTS to happen so that he knows what works. Saying ‘goood boooy’ or whatever else you say/do as you continue to make him work is meaningless, as it’s not associated with anything other than him going around & around. So the ‘tricks’ he tries are him trying other behaviours to see if they work, because he’s found that what he was doing wasn’t working for him. The threatening to kick are also his way of showing his frustration, that you’re continuing to pressure him & he doesn’t know what else it is you want.

When we are done, I ask him to come to me in the middle. It takes him a minute. I bow down and avert my gaze and he comes in ...slowly...
Sounds like he doesn’t want to, is perhaps also nervous of doing so, perhaps nervous of your focussing on him, but he has been taught that Worse Things may happen if he doesn’t. I personally like my horses to want to come to me because I’m a Good Thing, not because they have any repercussions to fear if they don’t.
    08-16-2010, 12:41 AM
When he tears it out of my hand I yell, NO and try again, but sometimes he gives a little kick and slams the foot down hard. I am afraid of getting hurt, because he came really close to kicking me in the head with that foot!
This is a very dangerous position to put yourself in, especially as you seem to be doing it in a rather confrontational way. I would instead work on getting him to trust & enjoy you just being close to him & allowing you to touch him. Then once he’s comfortable with you touching his legs, then you can gradually teach him to pick up his feet for you. That is, don’t just try to grab it, hold it & try to keep it in one hit – I’d try to kick you if you did that to me too! – But again keeping in mind that they learn to do what works with instant associations, start with just reinforcing the smallest tries. Ie. Ask him to pick up his foot & reinforce him by quitting hassling(& pref positively too) the instant he shifts his weight or begins to raise the foot. With repetition he’ll become reliable & comfortable doing this for you and you can gradually ask a little more before reinforcing.

I worry that there might also be a foot issue. …. The farrier is back in two I will have that foot looked at then for soreness...
As a hoof care practitioner, I am very sorry to hear the horse is 5yo & apparently not had regular hoofcare or been taught behaviours that allow for his basic welfare. But then you say the farrier checked him out already, so is it possible this is just your problem with his feet? If it is a general one – he hasn’t been taught – I’d be inclined to work on teaching him well first & ensuring you choose a farrier that is patient & considerate of him for the first fair few trims at least. I know regular hoofcare is important, but for the sake of good hoof care for the rest of his life, it’s worth putting it off a few weeks or more in order to get him confident with the procedure to begin with.

He also accepts me standing up over him and leaning on the saddle. I just talk to him and pet him. He will SOMETIMES take a deep breath when I am up there... mostly he just watches me and rarely does he walk away.
I would personally not bother even thinking about riding him or doing anything else to him, until you’ve first established a good relationship & communication with him on the ground.

I am ashamed to admit that when he bites or attempts to bite, I smack him hard on his neck and yell, "NO!" really loud. All he does is calm down and let me do what I needed to do.
Why do you do this if you’re ashamed of it?? I don’t think there is anything wrong with using punishment when appropriate so long as it’s used in a timely manner. Ie. at the time of the behaviour you want it to be associated with, not seconds later. BUT punishment is one of those methods that can be risky, badly taken & misunderstood, depending on the situation, individual, etc. Therefore it’s important to understand the principles that govern it – the psychology behind it, to know when & why it may or may not be a good idea.

For a great little easy to read/understand book that explains the principles and use of punishment, effective positive reinforcement, and other principles of learning/teaching, Karen Pryor's 'Don't Shoot The Dog' is fantastic - it's not a dog book BTW, but a general book for the training of any species effectively - yes, including husbands, tho IME they're definitely one of the hardest beasties to train!

I also don’t personally think it’s a good choice of tactic in the situation & with the horse you describe. Firstly, the horse is ‘attempting to bite’ to communicate with you, that either what you’re doing to him is unpleasant &/or you don’t have a right to do it. He would have tried other ways of communicating before ‘escallating’ to this. Therefore you’ve been effectively punishing his communication already by ignoring him & continuing, then when he tries to ‘tell’ you, he gets walloped for it. Of course, dangerous behaviours must be addressed & not allowed, but I don’t think ‘tit for tat’ is the fairest, or most effective method generally.

Secondly, with a horse who is already rather assertive, perhaps is a natural challenger anyway, to fight fire with fire frequently just leads to a bigger blaze. He might see it as a ‘dominance game’ – something he would like to play. He may also see your retalliation as you being insecure of your ‘rank’(being more ‘alpha’ than ‘leader’ orientated) & wanting to challenge him too. Therefore I’d be hesitant about using pysical punishment with him, or indeed getting into any confrontations with him that could potentially be avoided.

When he invades my space I sharply wrap the lead line with the shank and he draws back. If he doesn't have the lead rope I wave my hands in his face, give him an angry look and hiss. He stays away.
Don’t know what you mean by “wrap the lead line with the shank” but I’d be starting politely & escalating to harshness only if/when necessary. I also like to set things up so he’d get himself in to trouble with the Wrong behaviour, rather than it coming directly from me, especially with an assertive type. Eg. If you’re randomly waving your arms or the rope around(like waving away flies) and he walks into that pressure & gets himself bumped for it, it tends to be a lot more effective and less likely to be taken as a personal insult or challenge than if you directly start ordering him round & punishing him for it.

Also, most importantly, don’t forget to acknowledge and reinforce his Good behaviour(his moving/staying back), so he learns what TO do, not just what NOT to do. People tend to be good at giving feedback to an animal when they’re doing the Wrong Thing, but give them little if any reinforcement when they’re doing the Right Thing.

So, any advice you have for me on being Alpha…
I wouldn’t aspire to it, wouldn’t rise to any challenges. Rather try to come at it quietly *and respectFULLY* from other angles. Mark Rashid describes a similar sort of attitude and differentiation to what I’m trying to explain on his site as ‘Passive Leadership’ and Carolyn Resnick also describes the behaviour of ‘lead’ as opposed to ‘alpha’ horses in her book ‘Naked Liberty’.
    08-16-2010, 12:46 AM
Originally Posted by kaydeebug    
ugh unfortunately I know the feeling. My mare is so dominate she thinks she rules us humans as well. She will bite me when I got to feed her. But I try to not hit her in the face cause she is close to being extremey head shy from previous owners. She is just a pain. I can hardly do anything, she is cinchy so shell try to bite me and she is stirrup soar so shell try to bite me and when I kick the lope her she pins her ears back and when I turn her head to bend her neck she tries to bite my feet. She practically broke a fence down going after our new horse. To show that she is the dominate one
Sounds like it's overdue time for a change of tactics with this mare!
    08-16-2010, 12:57 AM
Haha I do not want to sell my horse. She is worth almost 3500. Yes she has a bad attitude and her mind is always set to win and she wants to overrule me. But that's just her tryin to be dominant. I am hoping to get a new horse here soon. So ill have two.... plus my mare is my horse I am only 17 and a half and I own her, not my dad or grandpa (i live with them) I have the papers she is mine. So she is my first owned horse. And when im older I hope to breed her. And hopefully ill keep the colt and make him a professional racer. Cause she was suppose to be if you know race bred horses. Her sire is simi dancer and her grandsire is belindas boy
    08-16-2010, 05:15 AM
Oh, I wasn't talking about selling her. I meant you changing your tactics of how you deal with her, so you can BOTH 'win' without any arguments. If she's well bred to potentially grow a good race horse, that's one thing - if they can run fast, that's all that really matters, but IMO I would be hesitant to breed from a horse such as this for other reasons, as if she hasn't got the easiest personality herself, she'll likely pass on this 'difficult' attitude to her foal & you might as well give a foal a fighting chance from the beginning by ensuring dam & stud are of sound & tractable mind to begin with.
    08-16-2010, 10:17 AM
Green Broke
I agree with loosie on just about everything. Don't give up on her. It sounds like you wont. But here's the one thing. Take your time. To truely get a great partner out of her and a trusting relationship, you must first establish it. It took me a year to finally get the trust out of my horse and even longer for our great relationship. I again agree with loosie on the breeding part. I will tell you how exciting it can be to breed a horse you love hoping you can make the foal exactly what you want. But you can't do that without making sure you and your mare are on the same page. I think I said it before,, when you go out to her, instead of working her make it something fun for you and her. Touching, talking and just making her feel secure with you will greatly improve your relationship. All the other bad habits she does now will probably deminish as she gets to know and trust you as her leader. Spend time with her and get to know how she acts relaxed. What makes her relax. She isnt constantly aggressive is she? About feeding time and she wants to bite, are you talking about giving her grain? Is she alone right now? I mean in a seperate area? All I know is, that if you give her time and love without hassling with too much training, things will get better. Its up to you on how slow you can go. I hope some of this makes sense and I also hope you and your mare can establish a great relationship. Again, stay safe. You know what the limits are on saftey and how far you can go with her without a confrontation. Always end your time with her on a positive note. Good Luck and keep us informed.
    08-16-2010, 02:45 PM
Ya I totally agree with you guys. She is by herself in her area because she wants to state she is the dominate one to our new horse. But she gets along with the gelding. So there all three in seperate areas. It goes my horse in front then the gelding then the new mare. But on the ground me and her get along great. I can walk up to her pet her walk around holding her tail. I guess you could say she pulls me around I just hold on to her tail(lightly) and she walks around sometimes making her own pattern or shell walk in a circle then hurry and turn. It doesnt bother her she shows no sign of aggression when we do that. The only time she is a pain when its time to ride. She becomes really hot. When I go to put the saddle on she pins her eyes back and turns her head. When I tighten the cinch she does it again. She is calm when my gpa goes to hold her head when I get everything situated. So I dunno if she's wanting attention while that's being done or what. And then when I go to lope her and I give her a kick she pins her ears back so I get after her. But when its time to go in the arena she is so hot that she freaks out.. I mean saturday was her first time not wanting to go thru the gate. She was acting like a high school rodeo horse and she's not. I only ride in a ridding club. So when I finally got in she was antsy, and crow hoping and so finally when I went to go she calmed down when we was running. I mean I have to go first on everything because she just doesnt stand. I have practiced and practiced. But when she is on the track she does just fine. Its so weird... she is just a hot horse and its hard to get her out of that. And for the colt I could totally understand the behavioral problem... sept if I ever breed her it would be for a colt to race professionally then when the colt gets older like normal race horses and retires mayb id think about keeping it for arena work.... like I love my horse to death but there is always a point in time when you get tired of it and you want to just have a nice calm easy going horse. Hek I could careless if the horse knew how to even run. Its always nice to just have a easy going one

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