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%
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.