Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Washington state
"...he doesn't try to get us off his back,..."
LOL Yeah, I thought you might take that part literally. I was really just trying to make the point in general.
The stock answer is to say ground work and lots of it. And that's a good answer.
I would be looking for more information on just what the situation is with him on a daily routine. Is he a lone horse, are you his main handler, do you work with him, how and how often, how often is he ridden and under what circumstances, how is he fed, etc? How do you handle him when he does something you don't want him to do?
Clearly he has holes in his training but what I'm curious about are the holes in your interaction with him. From your post I gt the impression that he's a personal horse for trail rides and hacking around and that you aren't showing him or herding cattle. Of course horses are horses, (yeah, I almost went there didn't I? LOL) and there are some pretty simple rules for structure but not all horse human relationships are the same. So, you have to take into consideration all the factors involved. We often get so focused on training the horse that we forget how important training the human is.
1. Understand what your limitations are. Don't set yourself up to fail because you don't have X amount of time for X type of training approach or because X style really doesn't match your personality.
2. Give yourself and the horse simple goals that match both you and him and that you can both achieve consistently.
3. Be consistent. Be fair. Be trustworthy to always be consistent and fair. That means that if you tell him that if he does X = you do Y it has to always go that way. That's the first thing that shows him there is order to the chaos of life whenever he is with you.
4. Find out his "best thing" and be the sole provider and controller of that thing. Teach him that his best thing in the world is where ever you are. That will make him come TO you instead of you chasing his butt around the pasture.
5. Work with him on the ground. Whatever work you decide to do doesn't actually matter. What matters is HOW you do it. If you want to lunge him, teach him the Spanish Walk or teach him to fly a kite doesn't make a lick of difference. What does count is
Step #3, fairness + consistentency= trustworthy.
6. Do not hesitate or be afraid to reprimand him for stepping outside the lines. Be fair, swift and reliable and, make it count every time.
Try being quiet, patient and "listening" to what your horse is telling you. Watch for the small little communications that a horse gives off with everything they do. For instance watch closely what happens when you take him out and he wants to run back to the barn: watch him closely as you go farther away. Watch for the exact moment when he starts to get nervous, mark that spot. Take him back to the barn if he isn't back there already, haha and then repeat the exercise. This time make sure you are being very confident in your leadership, strong mental intention of where you are going with confident body language and take him a little beyond the spot you marked. Make him stand there with you for a bit and "show" him that you are watching the area for threats, that you're gaurding him and he's safe with you. Repeat.
If he's actually just food motivated for the barn then try setting up either "hey, there's no food for you there anyway" or "you get food here or where/when I say if you do my thing." The core of it is that he gets what he wants when he does what you want.
There are a lot of ways to get to the same place with a horse. Whether you natural horsemanship him or cowboy him the basic core of it is the same. You have to show the horse that you are in charge and in the horse world that translates to "that's the one guy whose keeping me off the lunch menue and I definitely want to be on his good side."