How I Establish & Maintain My Superior Rank - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 08-31-2013, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2013
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How I Establish & Maintain My Superior Rank

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned when it comes to handling horses is that if you let the little mistakes go, you won’t have to wait too long before you have a much bigger problem on your hands that will likely be much harder to fix. Whenever I’m around my horses, I know I’m teaching them how to treat me. Weather in the pasture, in the roundpen or on the trail my superior rank must always be made clear. If anything, the goal is to have my horses be a little in awe of me. Here are some of the behaviours my horses use to challenge my dominance that I will correct within a single second;

Nudging at me with the nose
Turning the hindquarters toward me (including during roundpenning)
Trying to snatch food from me
Coming into my personal space without a signal to do so
Take eyes off me during training (horse may miss my signal for change)
Have a quick nibble at the grass during groundwork or under saddle (again, may miss the boss’s signal for change, which will inevitably mean a correction)
Not making themselves available to be caught
Not standing still for mounting
Pulling the head away from me during training (if the horse already has a halter on I will use it to pull the head back into the required position: once the horse keeps the head still for a few seconds I will withdraw as a reward for the right response)
Change of gait without a signal (all my horses a trained to do a one rain stop)
Change of direction without a signal
Stopping or moving off without a signal
Looking outward in the roundpen (I correct this by asking for change every circle or so)
Kicking out in the roundpen (this is a horsey temper tantrum)
Head tossing during groundwork or under saddle (temper tantrum is a symptom of disrespect)
Going through a gate before me
Not keeping pace with me when walking beside (too fast or too slow)
Not responding to a signal to withdraw in a snappy fashion
Expecting me to step aside if I just ‘happen’ to be standing on the spot they wish to graze
Moving away from me before given a signal to do so when released to pasture

As you can see, some of these misbehaviours are pretty obvious, but some are ever so subtle the challenge to my superior rank can go unnoticed. Most corrections use body language, but there are times when body language alone isn’t enough to motivate the horse into giving the required response. In those instances, I use an artificial aid (stick/crop).
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post #2 of 4 Old 08-31-2013, 06:42 PM
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Florida
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Absolutely. Some of those passive disrespectful behaviors are so common and I want to whack the owners, and the owners make a joke of it. "Oh he just loves me" as they get nudged, then knocked over by their horse.
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post #3 of 4 Old 08-31-2013, 06:57 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Minnesota
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Agreed. However, make sure you do not bore your horse to death in the round pen. I know someone who is in it every day with the same horse for months and months and months. By now, it is difficult for the horse to keep his attention on anything for longer than 3 seconds in the round pen - I refer to it as the punishment pen in the context of talking about that friend.

Most people make the mistake of insisting on the same thing over and over - horses learn and once they learned they do not need to be drilled into oblivion. If there is an infraction, you need to deal with it but overall if the first few lessons were real lessons and the horse learned them, they generally do not forget.

The other thing is - horses need to do various things. I knew of a top reiner who NEVER took his horses out of the arena. I know a hall of famer cutter who, when I asked about trail riding his cutters, laughed and said "no need".

Then I met a great reiner who worked his horses on cows and mixed in daily trail riding with the same horses. Guess whose horses were best behaved and happiest ;)

Horses are not machines - they need outlets to "clear their heads" just like people do. Provide these and the animals will be much better adjusted.

Finally, a few people over-dominate their horses. They get into the mode of watching for an infraction in every move of the horse and asserting themselves at every step, often even before the animal made a move. This will produce a nervous horse or a sour horse (depending on a bunch of factors including genetics). In general, horses look to get along with you.

Consistency is key...

My $.02
ognend is offline  
post #4 of 4 Old 08-31-2013, 08:53 PM
Join Date: Aug 2011
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When you truly become that person you'll no longer have to 'act' like it or do so much to prove it. Watch any master horseman in the discipline of your choice and you may notice how much they're able to get done without seeming to do much, if anything, to cause what they want to happen.

Edit: Btw, I like your sig. That's a good way to put it!
Ian McDonald is offline  

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