Installing a "forward" button - on the ground?

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Installing a "forward" button - on the ground?

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    06-30-2012, 08:53 PM
Super Moderator
Installing a "forward" button - on the ground?

Today I finally think I've figured out what my foster's major issue is on the ground: she has NO concept of moving forward beyond the simple "poll pressure from the halter=forward".

And since I've never "installed" one before, I figured I'd ask you guys first.

She's great in the halter, moves off very little pressure when any is needed, etc. This week we've also cemented a great backup in the halter - very smooth and relaxed.
I've also been working with her on moving over/forward when she's poked in certain areas of her body. She's a little pissy about that sometimes but she's learning quickly and the pissiness is turning out to just be her way of expressing confusion.

Anyway, the problems really start when I try to get her to move forward any time I'm not leading her. I can wave my arms in a "sending" sort of way and she'll just repeatedly flinch, and not budge an inch. I can "bite" her on the patootie with the end of the lead rope and she'll just tuck her butt, no forward movement. I can snap a lunge whip near her butt and again, she'll tuck her butt and/or flinch with no forward movement.
I've tried tapping her with the lead rope and the only thing that gets a forward reaction is if I really snap her with it (otherwise she just keeps flinching and tucking). Then, she basically bolts forward, trots half a circle around me and starts shoving her shoulder into my bubble. Then it just escalates from there - if I try using the lunge whip to get her out of my bubble, she just acts like she's going to climb on top of me. If I snap the line she does that whole "throwing her head in the air with a 'threat' of upward momentum" thing. She hasn't followed through with any threats yet but I really want to avoid pushing her that far since I'm pretty sure that is just something she learned at her previous home that she'll give up on once she learns appropriate responses to pressure.

Anyway, I think the real problem here is that she doesn't know what forward pressure means.

So basically, how do you teach a horse that pressure on her patootie=forward?

She was an orphan, if that makes any difference. I'm pretty sure that is she had ever been bossed around but another horse she might have a better idea of this...too bad she was never with a bossy horse...
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    06-30-2012, 08:58 PM
Try getting a lasso and looping it over her hindquarters (not around the legs, just put it over her butt) and, with a lead and halter just in case, try leading her using her butt. If you're successful, maybe you can go from there.


I watched my last boss do this with a pair of yearlings and had them halter broke in less than a week.
    06-30-2012, 09:13 PM
Emily, is there a way to fence off a little bit of the land temporarily and make a little arena and then "free lunge" Lacey with Lady?

I find that horses that aren't sure of what something means, usually benefit from watching and participating with other more seasoned horses.

Have you tried tying a broken plastic bag on a stick and seeing if she moves away from that?

Just be careful!
    06-30-2012, 09:34 PM
She sounds very confused & perhaps has had some 'bad' desensitising training in the past, or likely your last comment about being an orphan without any experience of learning from other horses is what it boils down to. Time & again I've heard these sorts of stories about horses socially starved of other horses, but I've never had personal experience of an orphan that's truly never had other horses - many who have spent their whole adulthood in solitary confinement from their species though.

As this sounds like an extra difficult horse & you sound confused too, I'd suggest finding someone with experience to help you. At any rate, another helper would allow you to do things differently. I also suggest learning the principles of 'clicker training' as an invaluable 'tool' for any kind of training, and learn where/how to use positive reinforcement effectively.

As you say she's learned well how to yield to halter pressure, I'd make the most of that. If you have a helper, have them at her head holding the lead. If not, you'll have to be in a sort of leading position to do both. Start out applying light pressure behind her, rythmic & continual, and if/when she doesn't get it, 'back it up' with very light halter pressure. The instant she *starts* to think about forward, drop all pressure. With repetition, you should soon be able to do this without halter pressure or her reactivity.

When you then go to ask her without someone at her head, she should have had enough practice to understand. But if not, you need to elicit the behaviour in the first place, before you can strengthen and shape it, so I think getting her to move forward in any form - even if bolting to begin with - is a reasonable first step. I'd escalate that pressure behind her gradually, so she'll get the idea that she can avoid harder pressure by responding to the early signals. Then with repetition she will learn that the pressure in that place just means move forward.

The second part - her wanting to 'jump in your lap' when she feels threatened is also obviously a problem to be resolved. I would teach this first, that she must stay out of your personal 'bubble' *at all times*(consistently - I wouldn't even invite her in until much later in the training, considering). I'd consider starting out teaching this with a barrier(fence, gate, etc) between you & I'd teach her things like moving forward, where she feels threatened & confused, with a barrier between, so you can stay safe & do what's necessary.

I generally don't agree with getting really 'heavy' with a horse or doing things that frighten them. In the situation above, when she's trying to climb on you, it may well be in confusion & fear, her reacting without thinking. Regardless, remember it's nothing against you, just the way she's been brought up, so don't blame her or think of her as deserving punishment or such. BUT In that sort of situation, it comes down to safety(you won't always have a fence between you), so I would probably get VERY BIG to break through her unthinking reaction, to cause her to be more frightened of jumping on you. That is one of the few situations when I think causing her to think the sky is falling is probably warranted.

Now, hopefully someone with experience of orphans comes along to give you other suggestions!
    06-30-2012, 09:54 PM
Super Moderator
Haha that poor last sentence, such a garbled mess. Someone was thinking faster than she could type...
Anyway, it's supposed to read something about how Lady's an orphan and has never been around a really bossy horse and that I think if she had had the chance to be really bossed around, she might understand these things a bit better.

Thanks the the suggestions!
I do have a field that Lacey does like to run in and I've done some effective free lunging in, it's finally stopped raining so maybe I'll just head up there right now and get a short session in before the day is over. Good idea!
I expect that once Lady gets a better idea of what clucking and kissing noises mean, she'll probably be easier. Right now she looks at me like I'm talking alien speak when I make those noises.

Thanks loosie! I've really been working with her to constantly have her OUT of my bubble at all times. She's doing much better but she still reverts, obviously. I've been having her back up whenever she gets within 4ft or so of my person. That includes at meal times (if she takes a step towards me/her food without permission, she gets backed up at least 5 steps, a step forward then=6 steps, etc, today it only took her one rep before she stood totally still and waited for her food without getting in my bubble) and when she did this "jumping in my lap" thing, she got backed up so many steps - I didn't even count. Haha But yeah, backing up has been a great "I DON'T want you doing this" adversive tool at this point. It seems to be the only thing that really gets through to her as being a negative reaction. Even smacks on the neck don't mean anything.
I am very familiar with clicker training... I've clickered trained a dog, a fish, some guinea pigs, and Lacey all to do tricks using the clicker. I hadn't even thought of using it here though! That's a great idea. I'll try incorporating it into my training, maybe that'll get through to her...

Wow, I can't believe I hadn't though of asking her forward with the halter while "pushing" her with whatever stimulus I want to use for that session... I will definitely give that a try tomorrow! Excellent idea!
    07-02-2012, 06:41 PM
Super Moderator
Also, just for references sake, the free lunging has been the ticket so far.

I've only done it twice so far, since Maggie had that idea, but the effect has been dramatic. Lady's been yielding her hindquarters to me on a daily basis when I ask just by me flicking the lead rope at her hindquarters! Today I actually got her to back off her food in her stall when I set her grain down (one of my rules is that respectful behavior=food, pushiness=no food) without touching her (I had been previously been "forcing" her to be respectful by having her on a lead rope, etc) as well! Major progress!

I think having her see Lacey respect my space and seeing that I COULD do that to her buddy really flipped a switch in her brain. I haven't tried again with the lunging on a line thing but I think I'm going to go at it another way (aka, I'm going to put that on the back burner until my leadership role has really been cemented in her mind).

Also, today I saw Lacey boss her around!! Yay! So maybe Lady will get that dose of bossy horse that she needs. Lacey's not a really aggressive horse but she will exert her dominance (in the rare instances that she's the dominant one) when it's warranted.
tinyliny and Skyseternalangel like this.
    07-03-2012, 06:22 PM
Why are you asking us? You just said she goes forward if you smack her with the whip. You just get scared and don't want to do it again because she has a reaction, but it's still the correct reaction.
If she ignores the flick of the whip, tap her with it. If she ignores that, snap her with it.
I personally don't use lunge whips. They're too big and bulky. I use a dressage whip. They sting more than a lunge whip too, and you can use them if she get into your space.
I would suggest free lunging versus with the lunge line. It just gets in the way.
I'm assuming you know basic horse body language? Then you should do just fine.
Remember that you're asking for forward. Any kind of forward is fine. Even if she gallops forward that's ok. Eventually she'll realize "Hey, if I go when she flicks the whip, I don't get smacked", and she'll react less.
If she gets into your space, beat her out of it. It's dangerous to have a horse think it's ok to trample you.
I would suggest using a voice command as well. Just flicking the line could mean anything. A voice command helps her figure it out. "Walk" "Trot".
If she gets "stuck" (ie stands and won't move), you need to turn her. It still counts as forward, but you need to get her going off at a different angle. If she's on the line, just turn her head towards you and smack her over into a leg yield type thing. If she's off the line, step over behind her inside hindquarter and get her to go forward. (Try not to get kicked...)
    07-03-2012, 08:04 PM
Super Moderator
Hah, I won't hesitate to admit that I AM scared of being run over. I've had it happen to me enough times and been damaged enough that it's really not my favorite thing. There's nothing wrong with being scared, it's how you handle being scared.
I know this mare would not hesitate to just run me down if I pushed her and I kinda enjoy living so I'm choosing to go the route that doesn't get me killed.

I also have had enough experience to know that when a horse is looking for a fight, you do not give them that fight - especially if you are not skilled enough to KNOW that you will win said fight.
I know I don't have the skills to fight a horse that wants to fight so I choose to go about making myself "dominant" via other methods.

Anyway, since the problem is resolving itself, thank you for your thoughts but I'll continue with what I've been doing. :)

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