How do you get your horse to engage with you? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 11-09-2012, 11:15 AM Thread Starter
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How do you get your horse to engage with you?

My gelding is very submissive in the herd. He's out with a 38 yr old, a mini donkey, and a mini gelding because everyone else chases him around. Not surprisingly that submissive behavior directly relates to how he reacts to people. In the roundpen, he spends his time try to "respect" my space by running out of it and then running along the outside with his head hanging over ignoring me. That's what he does with other horses - runs from them and ignores them. I don't chase him. I don't push him. I just want him to engage with me and listen. He knows vocal cues but when he's running around like that, he blows through them (mostly because he just isn't paying attention to me).

What do you guys do to get your horse to engage? Do I need to take a few steps back and work on something else? He's a very energetic horse anyway, but I want to focus that energy and I would love some ideas on engaging with your horse in general. Thanks!

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post #2 of 8 Old 11-09-2012, 11:36 AM
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ground work, ground work, ground work. backing, yielding, walk, stop, trot stop, walk trot, etc transitions. get him so focused on you in hand, that you dont even need to touch the line, then, lunge him on a line instead of free lunging. every time he looks away from you, tug the line and bring his attention back on you. dont tug hard enough to stop him, just a wiggle on the line like "hey, i'm attached to your head still, listen to me."

my mare had a "pay no mind" attitude when i first got her, and after about a month of just ground work and on the line lunging, i was able to free lunge her, making her switch directions every time she started looking off to refocus her on me. look up "join up", as this technique may help you establish the "leader/horse" connection with your gelding. remember not to be threatening, (considering how submissive he is) just suggest that he pay attention, and make it fun. use some treats so your interesting, scratch his favorite sot when he does good. and Good luck!!
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post #3 of 8 Old 11-09-2012, 12:30 PM
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If your horse is worried and submissive, he might be looking for a place of comfort. You want to be that place of comfort. In the round pen, you are being as calm and available to him as possible, yet he continues to look outside the round pen for that comfort.
What you may have to do is make him realize that out "there" is not so comfy, and in "here" is. So, when he looks outward, do something to interupt his outward thought. Just enough so he stops looking outward. He doesn't necessarily have to look at or come to YOU, but he has to stop looking outward.

. all this can be done with him just standing out there on the rail, or with him moving around at any speed. And the thing you do to interrupt his thought can be as small as a wave of one finger, a scuffle of your boot in the dirt, or a huge wacked out wave of a flag with you jumping up and down like a banshee. It depends on how hard he is focussed out there. start small and go as big as necessary but stop INSTANTLY when he ceases his out ward focus.

Then, he will either chose to look at you, or look outward again . That is his choice. If he looks outward, simply interrupt that thought. Don't do it too quickly, however, when dealing with a timid horse. Give him a few seconds as he might change his mind and come back to you all on his own. And that is what we want; we want him to choose to find YOU more attractive than the outside., and sometimes that means make "outside" a place where he is irritated by these noises and such, inside where there is calm. If outside is calmer or more interesting than inside, he will never choose to come in.

once he looks at you with both eyes, you can "invite" him in by turning your core body away a bit, maybe taking one or two slow steps backward, and if he gets stuck and cant move, you circle a bit around to his hindquarters.

If he really gets stuck and wont move, belevie it or not, you do the same "interrupting" motion you used before, big enough to move his feet and inspire him to make a choice; either move away or move toward you.

Keep insiisting he make choices until he choooses you. If he won't come up to you the first time but will stop and look at you, you can go up and pet him . This is especially useful for a timid horse. If you are too forceful with "make a choice" he will not realize that there IS any other choice but to flee.
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post #4 of 8 Old 11-09-2012, 12:43 PM
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Agreed lots of ground work, direction changes, teach them to back up, I teach mine to move thier shoulder or hind quarters to touch. Lunge your horse on a line if he runs, moves before he is told ask for a woah make him face you couple if tugs to get his attention, he doesn't sound like he needs to be free lunged for a bit. If he won't woah move him on your terms ( point the whip at his shoulder then put the whip down. Do you keep constant pressure with the whip that may be why he runs a way from you as well. Then ask him to woah you may have to repeat this a lot till he stops gotta make woah a reward. He sounds like he doesnt feel safe You need to establish a confort zone. How desensitized is he to the whip? I also reinforce a behavior of keeping the horse facing me. I also play a game with them to get them to follow me. I square my shoulders and throw the lead over thier neck and walk forwards, change directions, back up. Just make the horse pay attention to me and I move them with my body. (I have a video of this if you want an example). Another thing I teach is join up. I can catch any of my horses even when they don't want to be. You have to probably start doing this in the round pen at first it takes a bit to get the body language down at first. But I teach this to all my horses and my colts already can do this as well. The way I ask for a join up is I may move thier body away if needed but even if I do that they naturally turn towards me and their head is facing towards me, if they don't I move them off a little more (kinda using my body language and hand as a whip or horse head toss). When they face me I angle my body ( turn body to the side and don't face them) and point my shoulder (both shoulders are squared) at thier nose I extend and arm outward but slightly pointing downward with a relaxed hand. I look at them a little bit (indirectly) just so I can see what they are doing. Usually they will walk up to me and put thier nose to my hand. I'll then rub them on the face then catch them or ask them to follow me. Practicing this is establishes a mental halter. I dont have a video of the join up but plan on making up kinda love to watch myself see if I miss anything so I can explain it better. It's really something that's easier to show than explain as your displaying body language to get a response from the horse. Another way to bond with your horse is don't work him everything you see him take him out and spend a while just loving and petting on them makes them more willing to come to you.
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Last edited by Peppy Barrel Racing; 11-09-2012 at 12:47 PM.
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post #5 of 8 Old 11-09-2012, 02:39 PM
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You need to look at some of the Monty Roberts videos on You Tube or better still, the Pignon brothers. You also need to start and understand the way horses communicate. I have two Clydesdales who I have to board out at a farm. During the day they are with a herd of mixed geldings. The pecking order changes from day to day and week to week and it is all about who is going to be the best 'horse protector' for that day. When you are with your horse, that 'protector' has to be you. However, from the horses perspective, we are predators. We look at them directly in the eye, our body language is 'aggressive' to a horse becuase we are upright and straight. There are lots of arguments about methods for 'join up' and a few years ago I thought that this was the only 'kind' way to get a horse to trust you. Tried did work to a point...but I found something even better. You don't need to chase a horse round and round a pen to get it to join up with you. You need to concentrate on your body language. Like some of the others have said, you need to invite the horse in. Do this by dropping your head and shoulders and turning away from the horse by about 30 to 40 degrees. Do not look directly at the horse. Wait, patience. Walk around slowly but not directly towards the horse...stop...drop shoulders and head, no eye contact, turn away slightly. What you are trying to do is convey to the horse that you are not a threat. There are some good videos on you tube but one of the best is by a guy called jean Francois Pignon. I've put a link for you. Used his methods with my two untouched Clydesdales and I now have these two giant horses follow me around like a pair of puppy dogs even when I remove them from their herd in the field. No head collars or lead ropes or whips ever used. I also spend time with them individually getting them to do groundwork but also giving them some 'play time' with me...doing free running through the meadow.
Anyway, hope you are inspired by these videos. The second one if part of 4. It is in french but you don't need to listen, just watch!
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post #6 of 8 Old 11-09-2012, 02:57 PM
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Here me kinda playing around with Joy. Notice how I angle my shoulders. Although she doesn't do it yet eventually she will back up when I walk backwards that is the only time I put my hands on to ask for a movement. Normally I do this with a lead and halter I just fitted a new bridle on her and it was her first time with a hackemore so ignore the head toss. She is super light to pressure and I hadn't fitted the curb quite loose enough so it was a tad too much pressure for her even though I'm barely touching the reins. All that's fixed now . Anyways I do this with all my horses I enjoy it kinda try to make it a game for them. I can even do this out in the pasture before I've even caught them.
Ps just a small note I don't normally allow a horse to walk that close that's something me and her are working on. She likes to be really close she doesn't really push on me but I'd still like her farther away. That's a work in progress.
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post #7 of 8 Old 11-09-2012, 03:47 PM
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He may not be displaying so much that he's timid when he look over the pen but rather deciding he'd rather not be here. What I do is move so that I am at about a 45* angle off his hip so that I am beside and a bit behind. Think of one horse moving another. Not so close as to get kicked. Start walking keeping your distance so you will make smaller cirlces than him. Keep your energy low so he doesn't start trotting. When he stops immediately stand still then see if he will turn to face you. Give him about half a minute and if he doesn't, ask him to move and commence walking. If he does look at you with both eyes, back up a couple of steps while not making direct eye contact- his mouth, knees, etc. If he comes to you rub his forehead then turn and walk away for a minute. This releases all the pressure. Don't look at him at this time. Then return and ask him to go the other way. Be sure to remove his halter and use just a short riding crop as an extension of your arm. By removing his halter you remove an invisible connection. You want him to connect of his own free will.
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post #8 of 8 Old 11-09-2012, 04:51 PM
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Ok I made a crude video for you this is me with the colts. Keep in mind I'm dealing with short baby attentions spans so they will kind of go off a lil so I snap a lil to regain their attention. Anyways they don't always join up perfectly so I'll change positions and ask again. I thought it would be good to show you with the colts cause its not perfect every time. Anyways establishing this mental connection early I can be pretty beneficial later and it will be for you and your horse. Notice I look at them but indirectly and my shoulders are squared but relaxed as well.

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