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How young is your horse when you start training?

This is a discussion on How young is your horse when you start training? within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category

     
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        11-24-2010, 06:14 PM
      #11
    Foal
    I agree with trailhorse rider. As for the nips, rearing, etc, he is testing you because he's young. Better for him to do it now when he's easier to handle and train then if he was 7 or 8 and doing the same thing.
         
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        11-24-2010, 07:47 PM
      #12
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by racerider    
    I agree with trailhorse rider. As for the nips, rearing, etc, he is testing you because he's young. Better for him to do it now when he's easier to handle and train then if he was 7 or 8 and doing the same thing.
    I think he is 'testing' because he has not yet been taught not to. Also he's ungelded, so the extra testosterone may make him more.... interesting. I don't personally think it has to do with him being young so much, except that young horses are generally less well trained.

    Personally I think the 'difficulty' between starting a young horse or an older one is not so different, although a lot depends on what previous experiences they have and the way they're approached. It does seem to be easier to desensitise a baby to 'scaries' and new experiences than an older horse who has experienced little, but again I think that mostly depends on how it's done & how much trust the horse has in it's handler. I haven't noticed babies have less attention span than unhandled older horses either. I don't believe they need to 'mature' to be trainable any more than I believe a horse is 'too old to train' if they're over 10yo, 20yo or whatever age people deem to be the limit.

    There is no good argument IMO for starting horses under saddle or doing other things that will compromise them physically when they're very young - depends on the breed too - some I would hesitate to ride before they were 6 or so. But physically, for the sake of getting them exercised as much as possible, not to mention being good for regular hoof care, worming, teeth, etc, etc, I think it's vital to at least do enough to make good management easy.

    I personally do like to train horses to do all sorts, including going places, desensitised to various, taught to play games as well as do 'tasks'... basically teach them everything & anything as young as possible, because it means there's much less new stuff to do and they're already solid & confident with a lot of stuff by the time they're started under saddle. It isn't such a big or stressful thing, just one more small step.
         
        11-24-2010, 09:15 PM
      #13
    Green Broke
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by loosie    
    I think he is 'testing' because he has not yet been taught not to. Also he's ungelded, so the extra testosterone may make him more.... interesting. I don't personally think it has to do with him being young so much, except that young horses are generally less well trained.
    Do you have any suggestions for getting his attention and letting him know I'm serious? I carry a dressage whip and I do use it, but especially when ponying, I can "correct" all I want and he still will bite the pony horse, chew my tack, etc. I am not afraid to smack him hard on the butt, but he just can't seem to help himself! In hand, I have him moving out of my space by making a kissing sound, and he does pretty well at that. I am trying not to be a softy on him, but I just can't seem to get through to him.

    2-3 weeks and if the weather is good he is getting an appointment with the vet. I would have gelded him already but the vet will only do them as early as 5 months, no earlier (due to risk of hernia I guess).
         
        11-24-2010, 11:03 PM
      #14
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by trailhorserider    
    Do you have any suggestions for getting his attention and letting him know I'm serious?
    Sorry, I thought I'd already given you my suggestion in your thread about him. I would continue to 'correct' him(make it unpleasant for him to do those things) if/when necessary. Just make sure they are actually taken as punishment, not as a fun 'tit for tat' game that he enjoys also, or something that's a bit annoying, but doesn't make the behaviour less worth doing.

    But more importantly than 'correcting' the 'wrong' behaviour I believe, is teaching/reinforcing/rewarding the 'right' behaviour. Make a point of catching anything Good he does & giving him a treat or something he really desires as a reward. Eg. He's walking calmly beside you - reward it, rather than ignore him until he acts up. He's got 'four on the floor' & his mouth to himself while you're ponying - reach down & offer him a treat. Making sure the Right behaviours work a lot of the time, in addition to ensuring the Wrong behaviours never ever do(even if they're in conjunction with something Good) is the best way of strengthening the desirable and getting him to quit doing what you don't want.
         
        11-24-2010, 11:16 PM
      #15
    Green Broke
    Thanks loosie! (and sorry for high-jacking the thread).

    You know, I am a believer in treats as I've had very good luck with them. For instance, with my adult horses, I taught them to back up, sidepass, and stand for mounting, all while using treats as a reward.

    I've actually tried to avoid treats with the foal, because everything you read says "no treats, it makes them nippy." And I've given him a few treats at the fence, but I haven't used them as a training reward. Maybe I should try that, because that is much more my style than being a disciplinarian.

    I feel like focusing on discipline has kind of soured our relationship. And yet most people I talk to tell me that I am obviously not correcting him enough if he is still doing the behavior(s).

    Today I ponied him down the road and he actually did GREAT 1/2 way to the forest. All the way until a neighbor's loose dog came out and barked at our heels. Then after that he was a jiggy, nippy mess again. But for a while there we had some progress.

    Next time I'll take the horse cookies and if he does good like that, stop and give him one, rather than waiting until he acts up and whopping on him. Now if he acts up I guess I'll have to whop on him anyway, but the point is, I should try to catch the behavior I want before I get the behavior I don't.

    Okay, thanks again. Wish me luck!
         
        11-24-2010, 11:45 PM
      #16
    Yearling
    Me personally, I prefer the minimum handling of young horses. There are a couple of things I like to have them done with while still very young: I like to let them have a good fight of a rope which inevitably they lose; in my experience this solves any future tying and leading issues. I like to have the feet sorted very young as well and this includes tying up legs. What I aim for is that resistance is futile. If you have got the basics good and solid there generally is no need to ever revisit them, leading, tying and feet are a natural part of a youngsters life.

    Other than these things I see no reason to do anything with foals and youngsters. In my own experiences I have found that horses change by degrees as they mature, the thing that never bothers a 6 month old foal may become a major issue to the same animal at 3yrs. Infact a friend of mine had his neck broken by a horse that he brought on from a foal, he got complacent and let the young filly follow him into a shed fully expecting it to be no problem, she got spooked reared up and came down on his head. I know it is an isolated incident but I think that people can become dangerously complacent around very well handled horses.

    The other thing that I think is that you have to work very hard to get the respect of a horse that may have viewed you as a play mate. I believe that you have to be the right type of person to change the nature of the relationship you have already established. I will eventually get a foal out of my mare, when I do I will do the basics and then turn out the horse until I am ready to break it in, around three yrs of age.
         
        11-25-2010, 12:17 AM
      #17
    Trained
    ^that's a good point about complacency...I am never too complacent even around well trained horses, as they are still a fight or flight animal. I know of a young girl who was killed when her pony flipped out at the trailer...horse had been shown, been in parades, etc forever, and freaked out for no reason at all. Doesn't matter how well broke a horse is, you need to watch where your body is in regard to the horse's.
         
        11-25-2010, 01:43 PM
      #18
    Foal
    I prefer to start training at day one. There are things you can do to make your training easier later on. I just keep those sessions real short and make them a positive experience. The training you do has to be such that you treat the foal like a horse, not like a pet.
         
        11-25-2010, 02:28 PM
      #19
    Green Broke
    Training starts as a foal. Learning to lead, tie up, pick up feet, load into trailers/lorries walk over tarpaulins, past scarey tractors etc, all best done whilst they are very young.

    Work like lunging and long riening I don't do untill they are over 3 years old. I don't ride them untill they are 4. They then have a **** good start, are taught to go correctly from day 1, NO slopping around with hocks in the next county and nose a mile in front.
    They do a light show season as a 4 yearold in the novice classes, a few basic dressage tests etc just to get them out and about and used to the show atmoshpere and having to work dispite the exciting distractions and other horses.
    At 5 I introduce jumping under saddle.
         
        11-25-2010, 07:33 PM
      #20
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by trailhorserider    
    I've actually tried to avoid treats with the foal, because everything you read says "no treats, it makes them nippy."
    Yeah, a lot of people believe that, when they don't understand the principles. I personally find treats a very effective tool for 'correcting' rude/dangerous/aggressive behaviour! It's not the *type* of reinforcement that's the problem, it's the *behaviour* that's reinforced when people aren't paying attention, don't appreciate the importance of timing or such. Eg the horse does something Good, they offer a treat, the horse, not 'knowing better', snatches at it, has ears back, 'mugs' them for it, whatever. If the handler allows this & gives a treat, guess what?? They've just begun training & reinforcing the horse to be 'rude'. Ensuring you pay attention to what behaviours you're getting & reinforcing will take care of that. Learning the principles of behavioural/learning psychology(not as heavy as it may sound) is invaluable in helping you be effective with whatever techniques & reinforcement you use. (It'll also stop you confusing this type of thing with 'respect' issues too)

    Quote:
    most people I talk to tell me that I am obviously not correcting him enough if he is still doing the behavior(s).
    Yeah, it's a matter of learning the principles, listening to all opinions & making your own informed decision. I find it interesting that while most animal trainers(human teachers included) have realised and embraced the value of focussing on teaching & reinforcing the Right behaviours rather than just focussing on 'correcting' the Wrong, the horse world seems slow to catch on to the importance of positive reinforcement. Considering the fact that these principles are effective for every other species it's been tried on(even cats & husbands!) means it's likely to work even with horses.

    Quote:
    Next time I'll take the horse cookies and if he does good like that, stop and give him one, rather than waiting until he acts up and whopping on him. Now if he acts up I guess I'll have to whop on him anyway, but the point is, I should try to catch the behavior I want before I get the behavior I don't.
    Yes, but just try to ensure you reinforce the behaviour you want *when it's happening* rather than after it has stopped. It also doesn't have to be food - there are other ways of rewarding an animal, just that food is a strong & convenient 'tool'. If you're going to use food for training regularly, rather just as an occasional treat, it's also a good idea to use something healthy & low sugar/starch rather than 'junk food'. Eg pinch of chaff or of whatever the horses' regular ration or supp, diced carrot, fruit tree leaves, rosehips, cabbage, spinach, other vegies....

    As for 'whopping him anyway', no, you don't even have to do that. Ensuring you reinforce the Good behaviour, especially if it's in contrast to the Bad(eg. If he's walking calmly, he isn't jumping up) will cause that Bad behaviour that doesn't work to fade away.

    There are many 'purist' positive reinforcement trainers who claim not to even use negative reinforcement, let alone straight out punishment. Even well used, punishment also tends to come with 'side effects' and is frequently misunderstood by the animal(iow they don't understand it in the manner we intend them to). I personally find it hard to even imagine training a horse for everything we want of them without pressure/release(neg. Reinforce.) and IMO there is a place for punishment too. But IMO it's a small place and it's important to understand the pros & cons of it & make sure it's well applied, or don't bother IMO. It is also a tactic that is often short lived and the nature of it is that it may *weaken* a 'bad' behaviour if it's effective, but it is not likely to actually stop it. Therefore I tend to use it more as an 'emergency response' and work on teaching the animal alternate behaviour in more effective ways.
         

    Tags
    horse training, natural horsemanship, training foals

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