How do you know you have your horse's respect? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 11-22-2010, 09:28 PM Thread Starter
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How do you know you have your horse's respect?

That should be a fairly straight-forward question, right? So why am I having so much trouble with it?

As you guys may be tired of hearing, I have a 4 month old colt that I am trying to train. I imprinted him at birth. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do in hindsight, but I can't undo it now.

So the thing is I can get him to do just about anything I want, but he has attitude doing it. For instance, he leads, ties, ponies, picks up his feet, trailer loads, etc.

But, when he ponies, he tries to bite and climb on the horse I'm riding. When I lead him, he can get prancy, rushes ahead, tries to nip, occasionally rears, etc. He doesn't do those things non-stop, but he will try several of those things in a leading session. I do carry a dressage whip and correct him when he does those things. But it seems like I am constantly correcting. So that gets me really discouraged and depressed. If he doesn't respect me now, how will he ever respect me when he's a 2 yr old?

Today, towards dinner time, when I gave him his creep feed, I practiced going in there and making a kissing sound (his cue to move his feet) and "claimed" the feeder. I basically made myself the dominant horse by kissing and making him back away from the feeder and stay away until I let him come back. He did that willingly several times, never pinned his ears or gave me a dirty look or anything. It LOOKS like he respects me in that situation. He even seemed to give up and went to the other end of the pen and stood there without trying to get back to the feed.

So do I have his respect or not? How can he be so good with that, and still be a bugger to pony and lead? I don't know if I am expecting too much, or not enough. Or if things will only get worse. Raising this foal is one thing I do NOT want to fail at, because it will be bad for both of us. It is my lifelong dream. And he has a deformed leg, so it's not like there are people lined up wanting to give him a good home. I so don't want to fail at this.

Sorry for posting again, but I just need to talk to someone. I would leave him alone for a while, but I'm afraid he will get worse instead of better. I try so hard, and yet I still feel like I am failing. How can one try so hard, and yet fail so miserably? I work with him almost every day. I have owned horses for 15 years (trail riding, a variety of breeds, often alone) but this is my first foal. Are they THAT hard to raise? Can someone devote their life to horses, spend time with them every day, read and watch everything I can get my hands on, and STILL not be able to train a foal?

I know there really isn't an answer I guess, but I just need to get this off my chest. I have loved horses since I was 5. I'm 34 now. How can this be THAT hard to accomplish?
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post #2 of 11 Old 11-22-2010, 10:14 PM
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He's still just a baby. Think of him the way that you would think of a human toddler, they are into everything and have an attention span about as long as a grain of rice. They set their mind on something they want and throw a hissy fit if they don't get it. If he keeps being a butt on the pony lead, then start leaving him home until his mind has matured some or stop taking him quite as often. One thing that I have noticed so many people doing with their babies is that they work so much on getting them desensatized to this and that and this other thing but they don't remember to sensitize them to other things like your touch and smooch to move over or raised hands and kiss to get away from me. That's one of the reasons why I like horses that haven't been handled much when they come for training. Horses that aren't really comfortable with people are much less likely to step right in the middle of you if they get a little spooked or buck right up into your lap. I really wish you had some access to quite a bit of land where you could just turn him out for a year or so after he's weaned. If you were closer, I would offer my pasture to turn him out in.
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post #3 of 11 Old 11-22-2010, 10:57 PM
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post #4 of 11 Old 11-23-2010, 12:18 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you!

I really need to not mess with him so much. It's like I do a little, he acts up, and then next thing I know I am out there for an hour arguing with him. It's not good for either of us. I have horses to enjoy them, not to get upset every day. I love him so much, I just need to keep my hands off him more and give him more time to grow up. I keep thinking little problems I have with him will mean he will turn into a monster later.

I don't have land to turn him out on. (That's kind of you Smrobs to offer. ) That's one of the reasons I am trying to pony him. So he can run loose out on the forest when I ride the adult horses. That may also be part of his problem- excess energy and no one his own age to play with.

So I'm going to take a step back, relax, and enjoy my older guy/girl and not get so wound up in the baby. It's like I spend more time worrying about the baby then riding my adult horses, and that's all backwards!

So thank you for letting me vent and putting up with my whining! I will try to be good, worry less, and mess less with him, while still demanding respect when I do mess with him. He has gotten pretty good at getting out of my space when I "kiss," so hopefully he's still on the right track.
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post #5 of 11 Old 11-23-2010, 12:25 AM
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After you have had some distance and feel refreshed, two thought that occured to me; One let someone else work with him. If I had to do all the schooling of MY children, we'd kill each other! ANd, when he acts up a bit, ignore him . The horse that is the confident leader is so confident that he can just ignore a lot of "stuff" that comes from the less dominant horses.

Good Luck and I bet you will have a really nice horse in a year or two.
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post #6 of 11 Old 11-23-2010, 12:53 AM
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Hmm, I agree that horses generally have a short attention span, but not so sure whether foals have much less, or whether they're like I have found young humans to be - very short attention span *if things don't interest them*.

I actually think the more *good* handling when young the better, and physically, if you can't even turn him out, I would consider it an absolute necessity to do stuff with him & exercise him a couple of times a day at least. Horses are built for near constant movement and cooping them up potentially causes many health issues. For eg. most domestic horses don't get a chance to develop good strong feet & useful digital cushions because they live in cushy paddocks & get too little exercise. To keep them locked up so they don't even get as much exercise as a paddocked horse is asking for hoof trouble from an early age IME. Also as you mentioned, the excess energy from being locked up may be a large part of his behavioural issues.

Regarding 'respect', there seem to be a number of definitions of this word and for many seems to be similar to 'fear' and unquestioning obedience. Therefore I personally would forget about 'respect' and just work on training your horse well. Horses do what works & quit doing what doesn't work. So I'd continue to 'correct' him when he makes a mistake, ensuring great timing, so you can punish him *at the time of* the behaviour you want to change, not after. Ensure that if you are going to use punishment, that it's effectively seen as such, not taken as a game by him. Likewise try to ensure the 'bad' behaviour doesn't inadvertently work for him in any other way.

But more important than punishing mistakes is teaching and reinforcing him for the 'right' behaviours. Eg. if he's walking calmly next to you or while ponying from another horse, be sure to reward him for it as much as possible. If he learns what behaviours 'work' for him, especially if they're in contrast to the 'bad' behaviours(eg. he can't rear or rush while he's walking calmly), he'll start doing the 'good' stuff more & more & quit doing the 'bad' that never works.
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post #7 of 11 Old 11-23-2010, 01:57 AM
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I don't think he is too young for training, I don't believe that is possible for the simple things you are doing. But at the same time it sounds like he is testing you, as all but the best trained horses will do. Be big back, as big as it needs without being too much, so as soon as he understands, back off.

I don't think it really matters how cute, how young, YOU are the leader, and you tell him when it is ok to be stressed by your own actions, when it is ok to trust. You are leader of the herd. Your own body does this more naturally than you think possible. I have foster kids, and when the kids are with me, my horse is more stressed, I don't think I am doing anything differently, but my horse does not lie to me.

If he is mounting other horses, it might be time to get him gelded.
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post #8 of 11 Old 11-23-2010, 02:03 AM
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I don't really have any advice to give you, but I just wanted to pop in and say that I understand and send you virtual hugs.

I have a kind of similar story:
I found a barely 5 week old kitten in the forest over the summer, barely alive and completely alone, so obviously I took him in. However, I've never had a kitten before. I've never really interacted with kittens before, and I haven't even spent much time around cats in general. Anyway, to make a long story short, he's 6 months old now and he's really into that crazy kitten stage. I took lots of time with him when he was really little getting him socialized to everything, but now he's a little too socialized. He also has a major biting problem that I'm praying will go away with age since he knows he's not supposed to bite. I'm just terrified of doing something wrong becuase I plan to have him for as long as he lives, so any problems I create now are things that I'm still going to be dealing with in 15-20 years. It's a terrifying thought.
I've found that if I forget about the long term and just focus on the short term and correct him when necessary, things go better. I stay less worried and therefore less "fun" to freak out. Another thing I've found to be helpful was to stop expecting him to be bad. I had realized that every time he came towards me like he was going to bite, I'd warn him off. However, that was just making my fears come true becuase he took that as engaging him to play (and bite). What I've started doing is waiting to correct him until he's actually biting me. I've been noticing that most of the time he makes an obvious decision to not bite me (since he does know the "rule" is no biting), and in that I've been learning to trust him more.

And, funny story! Like your boy in the "special needs" department, my boy is allergic to many things so he'd basically be impossible to rehome. That's interesting how their stories are very similar (unexpected "surprises," we have no experience with them, etc) yet they are completely different species...

Anyway, I'm totally on board with you with the "out of your depth" sort of feeling. *hugs*

6 months from now, we'll probably look back and laugh but right now I don't feel much like laughing!

I think you're doing a great job. Practice "living in the now," he does! I know you can do it. :)

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 11-23-2010 at 02:06 AM.
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post #9 of 11 Old 11-23-2010, 07:24 AM
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I think you are doing just fine. You do the things you should in respect to discipline and getting the response you want. I kind of agree with just letting him be a baby and waiting for awhile to teach him things. You have close to two years before he actually needs "training". What you've accomplished now is wonderful and just repeat it with him in the paddock. Let him make mistakes in being disrespectful but make sure you correct it swiftly. Take your rides on your horse without him and he will continue to become more independent. He'll scream and run and put up a big fuss but he'll learn how to calm down and be confident that you leaving on another horse isn't going to kill him. Again, your doing great just let him grow mentally now. Then pony him next year. Have fun with it! Good job!
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post #10 of 11 Old 11-23-2010, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by mbender View Post
You have close to two years before he actually needs "training".
But the horse is locked up full time, so NEEDS to be exercised. Unless they're doing as much as wild horses on rough terrain, they also need regular hoofcare from babyhood. They need worming, need their teeth done and may also need veterinary care in case of accident & emergency, so IMO it's imperative they learn at least the basics well asap.
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