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How best to chastise a horse - that is the question

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        01-30-2012, 10:34 AM
      #11
    Yearling
    Aye, the way I see it, I don't want to be spending that much time "correcting" or "chastizing" (British or American spelling... I can't make up my mind) a horse. The only way to achieve that is to have consistent boundaries and maintain that 100% of the time. The horse knows exactly where those boundaries are and most of them are really happy with that. My horse, generally speaking, doesn't do anything that needs correction. That's what I want. An insecure horse who feels he needs to be dominant because you're not, or you're inconsistently dominant, is the horse who is likely to develop "behaviour problems."

    To do that, you need to be tuned to your horse's body language, so you know what he's going to do before he does it. I think in one of his books, Mark Rashid has some line about that. I'd rather be redirecting a behaviour BEFORE it happens, than punishing the horse after it happened.
         
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        01-30-2012, 10:40 AM
      #12
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Barry Godden    
    ...The stricter I had become, the greater was his resistance, When months later during one of his first rides after recovering from his lameness that he dumped me again I realised that the relationship between him and me was breaking down. I couldn’t trust him any more to want to carry me safely. I‘d made a serious mistake in not leaving him with his pride...
    Both the Arabian mare I sold and the one I kept are what I call "Please and Thank You" horses. They are mostly willing and sympathetic, but it is critical to leave them with their pride. The mare I kept is the lead mare. Even when she was sold (before meeting me) and put into a pasture with much larger and dominant geldings, she wouldn't give in. She lost 150 lbs (900 down to 750) but was still willing to fight them - and a 1500 lb gelding can deliver far more punishment than I can!

    So she was returned, and ended up with me. Handling her probably requires more judgment than I have. She is very friendly with someone she knows & likes, and very stand-offish with strangers. It is OK to insist she does something (provided she understands what you are asking), but it needs to come with a Please & Thank You. There is some element of respect and sympathy that needs to be conveyed, even while insisting she obey.

    A part of it is learning to read her, so I can push her a bit beyond her comfort zone, but not so far that she feels bullied. If I ever think, "Dammit! You're GOING to do this!"...we're finished. Now we're fighting, and she would as soon die as give in.

    For example, suppose I need to get her past a terrifying trash bag. If I take the approach of making the wrong thing difficult, I might try to work her hard until we get past the object. But even if we get past it that way, I will have established in her mind the idea that the trash bag means "Fight!"

    Instead, I need to calm her past the scary thing. Have her back up (or disengage, followed by a backup). Calm. Take a few steps forward. Calm. Do a "Head down". Wait until she has accepted the idea that she can be 15 feet from the trash bag. Then 5 feet forward, stop and calm. In small steps, ease her up to the scary thing. Then stand there and calm her while as close as we can get. THEN we can go on by, and she'll accept that it isn't scary, and that I'm not a bully. And the next time we encounter something scary, she is more willing to trust my judgment.

    My Appy gelding is closer to a "Dammit" horse. He is terrified of physical punishment, but he accepts hard work as a rebuke. If you are too polite with him, he'll decide you are weak and not to be trusted. When pushed too far, he doesn't rebel so much as he just becomes afraid and mindless. However, if you actually get angry, it is all over. He may obey you out of fear, but he won't give you an honest effort and he may try to dump you - if he thinks he can.

    I've met true "Dammit" horses. They need to be told, "My way or the Highway". The ones I've met were lesson horses or ranch horses. Perhaps experience had taught them that humans are incapable of having a relationship. Perhaps their temperament was that way. I don't know. But all they cared about was, "Will you make me? Or not?"

    I've seen the same continuum with dogs and people. Some people need to be inspired. Most accept punishment if it is deserved and proportionate. And some just want to know, "Can you make me?"
         
        01-30-2012, 10:58 AM
      #13
    Weanling
    Subbing
         
        01-30-2012, 11:11 AM
      #14
    Yearling
    To add: One of the benefits of being consistent is that when you are, the horse rarely tries you. He becomes confident in you and then he's pleasant to be around. It's only when the human is ineffective that the horse is always trying things. Though even the best horses are occasionally going to push somewhere as it's just the nature of the beast. I learned this lesson one time in a very poignant way.

    I was at a Buck Brannaman clinic in Steamboat Springs, CO and he was on a horse by the name of Rebel (I think). At that time Rebel was in the two-rein and obviously better trained and educated than most horses will ever be in their entire lifetime. In general, the way that Buck does everything is very slow and smooth (which I really took a lesson from). However, at some point during the clinic Buck asked this horse to do something and instead of responding with respect he shot Buck a dirty look.

    In response, Buck took the end of his romal and whacked the horse so quick and hard that it sounded like a gunshot. One time. From where I was sitting in the bleachers it literally felt like a shock wave. Then he petted/calmed the horse down and said "he'll be good for another 6 months now".

    That was quite a moment of truth and literally shattered a lot of preconceived notions I had. I'll never forget it.
         
        01-30-2012, 11:29 AM
      #15
    Weanling
    It really does depend on the horse, and I think that's what makes good horsemen - the ability to quickly recognize and differentiate these types of horses, and work with them in a way that...well, works. You can read as many books and watch as many DVDs as you want, and nothing but experience will ever give you the ability to work with all different kinds of horses.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Barry Godden    
    The stricter I had become, the greater was his resistance.
    This is so, so true, and I've experienced it so, so many times. I have a personality that wants to be in charge, wants to be dominant, and I get really picky with what I accept. I always shoot for perfection, and take my animals' 'failures' as my own. And I don't like failure

    It took me a long time to figure out what you said above - that the stricter, meaner, and more uptight and particular I get about things, the more resistant and ill-behaved the horse is going to become. It took me a long time to find that balance between desperate pushover and tyrannical bully. I have it nailed down pretty well with the horses I have now, but I have no doubt my perception will be shifted and I'll be searching for that balance if I am ever faced with a truly difficult horse.

    My three 'personal' horses now, I feel, are horses that I don't need to worry about. The two pintos are easy and naturally submissive. They don't try very hard or very often to test, something I guess comes because I have been consistent and effective with them. If they do, they're easy to read and correct. I rarely work with the youngster if my trainer's not there, so again, I don't need to worry about having trouble misreading something or messing something up with her.

    With all of them, I find that most of their problems are my problems. I always need to discipline myself before looking at the horse in a bad light (something I still work on). Most of the time, if they're in a fit about something, it's because I'm tense and pissed off. And if they're in a fit because of something besides me being tense or pissed off, I can always resolve it just by being confident and easy-going. It's been a long time since I've needed to punish them for something.

    It's always easier to just avoid bad behaviour from the start than worry about the appropriate way to correct it.
         
        01-30-2012, 11:34 AM
      #16
    Green Broke
    I think horses tend to ask 2 questions of us.
    "Why should I do that?" & "How can I do that?"
    It's our job to clearly answer the first question before the horse will ask the second. A well trained respectful horse will become a 'how' horse,IMO.
         
        01-31-2012, 03:53 PM
      #17
    Weanling
    I think the real question is, what is the horse actually doing?

    We can't perfectly know what's going on in their minds, we can only guess. Sometimes it's hard: especially with aggression, which is sometimes an expression of fear; sometimes of frustration; or, certainly, the will to be in full control.

    I don't like the concept of "chastise" because it involves a sense of punishment, which gets into a sense of right and wrong behavior. I don't think horses ever behave "wrong." There's some reason behind everything they do.

    When I'm confronted with a problem, I make a tentative guess of the WHY. If it's something I can't help, like with a horse barging through a gate, then I try to associate something unpleasant with this behavior. I don't think of it as "punishment" but as a connected instant. If the horse has been acting out of fear, then my "associative response" could make things worse. But I live and learn, I hope.

    I had several years with a very aggressive pony. He's walk up to you cute as could be, then turn and start kicking at you as hard as he could. Why why and why??? He also bit (he bit someone's head once) and I had to practically tie up all his legs to pick his feet. He was an extraordinarily intelligent Morgan-type, and I THINK all this was just his own way of dealing with a life of extremes: from being a spoiled pet, to hard work, then turned out to fend for himself for a long time, then thrown into a trail-riding outfit. He never figured out a routine, nothing was consistent. There was probably something satisfying in being able to get a predicted behavior from humans. . .

    Anyway, that's my take on it: horses should never be chastised.
         
        01-31-2012, 05:19 PM
      #18
    Showing
    Altho we may think we are giving horses clear signals, there's a good chance they aren't, not to the horse. Rather than chastise the animal I will ask the rider why they think it's not working and I will encourage the rider to experiment and see how the horse reacts.
         
        02-01-2012, 06:58 AM
      #19
    Green Broke
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Beling    
    I think the real question is, what is the horse actually doing?

    We can't perfectly know what's going on in their minds, we can only guess. Sometimes it's hard: especially with aggression, which is sometimes an expression of fear; sometimes of frustration; or, certainly, the will to be in full control.

    I don't like the concept of "chastise" because it involves a sense of punishment, which gets into a sense of right and wrong behavior. I don't think horses ever behave "wrong." There's some reason behind everything they do.

    When I'm confronted with a problem, I make a tentative guess of the WHY. If it's something I can't help, like with a horse barging through a gate, then I try to associate something unpleasant with this behavior. I don't think of it as "punishment" but as a connected instant. If the horse has been acting out of fear, then my "associative response" could make things worse. But I live and learn, I hope.

    I had several years with a very aggressive pony. He's walk up to you cute as could be, then turn and start kicking at you as hard as he could. Why why and why??? He also bit (he bit someone's head once) and I had to practically tie up all his legs to pick his feet. He was an extraordinarily intelligent Morgan-type, and I THINK all this was just his own way of dealing with a life of extremes: from being a spoiled pet, to hard work, then turned out to fend for himself for a long time, then thrown into a trail-riding outfit. He never figured out a routine, nothing was consistent. There was probably something satisfying in being able to get a predicted behavior from humans. . .

    Anyway, that's my take on it: horses should never be chastised.
    Disagree somewhat. They aren't machines that will run 100% providing you do everything right. They are animals, and you have to make room for errors in judgement, bad days and lack of concentration at points.

    They have character, and some are easier than others. School ponies, for instance, that I know, are easy going sort of horses that don't try at every turn to dominate a rider/owner/petter.
    My own, being bred for sport, is more spirited, and would never make a suitable candidate for a school/beginner/children's horse. I have worked and worked with her, and through mutual agreement we have respect for each other, but any weak moment we have (and lets face it, we're human so it happens) she jumps on and stomps on it to get the 'upper' hand.

    So sure, there may be a reason for the behaviour, but chastising and disciplining a horse is nothing I wouldn't do to my own child (which I would point out I don't have, nor would I use a whip ). I'm not humanising a horse's behaviour, but they're living breathing creatures that have cranky days too, cranky or not, however, if that foot is lifted in a menacing way, horse better watch out.
         
        02-01-2012, 07:47 AM
      #20
    Yearling
    I agree with both of you.

    I also think it takes years of experience, knowledge, and feel to tell the difference between a horse who is misbehaving because it's in pain, scared, confused, has poor or inconsistent training, etc and one who is just being a douche and testing its handler, or simply could not be bothered doing what the handler asks. Unfortunately, it seems as if quite a lot of people assume the latter when the problem is caused by any number of the former.

    At the same time, I'm not convinced horses have the same concepts of "bad" and "good" that we do. A "testing" horse has his own survival and well-being in mind, and his survival depends on having a clear hierarchy in his herd. If the human isn't going to be alpha in a way the horse understands, the horse will take on that role. The horse may have spent quite a while testing the oblivious human in small, subtle ways that the human didn't see, and then one day, the horse shoves the human through the stall door, or tries throwing a kick, and the person says, "What happened? He's never done that before" when it may in fact have been slowly building up for months.

    My boyfriend's two nieces, ages 8 and 11, take riding lessons and of course, they love talking about the ponies in their lessons. It always saddens me a little bit, because much of their chat is about how the pony did x (which can be pretty much anything) and the instructor's interpretation was "the pony is being naughty. Kick him harder." My personal feeling is that this is the wrong paradigm of equine behaviour to be teaching children (or anyone): the naughtiness-punishment method of dealing with any behaviour you don't like. And there is no need for it. When I taught children to ride, I would say stuff like, "If you sit up really tall and hold the reins like you're holding an egg, you'll help him trot," rather than asking the kid to smack the horse for not trotting when the reason the horse isn't trotting is imbalance in the rider. Why not teach kids from the get-go to be the quietly benevolent alpha?
    Beling and Corporal like this.
         

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