New game plan for my colt- how does this sound?
 
 

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New game plan for my colt- how does this sound?

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    04-30-2011, 06:11 PM
  #1
Green Broke
New game plan for my colt- how does this sound?

Okay guys, "correction" is not working for getting my 9 month old gelding to stop nipping (mostly at the air), chewing things (like reins on the horse I am ponying him from) and just being a brat in general.

The sad part about it is, I am really emotionally attached to him, and he does pretty good with all the ground work and such I want him to do, he just has to get his "nips" in doing it, and it is making me an emotional wreck. I am afraid if things keep going at the current rate, we will be another story on the "Playing the Hero" thread.

Once he gets a little energy released he is MUCH easier to work with, but he is living in a round pen (all my horses are in a drylot situaton) and I don't have pasture.

I am thinking up a new game plan for him. Please let me know what you guys think:

Step #1) Cut out most (or all) of his grain-based feed, and putting him on a pound of Purina Enrich 32 instead, to see if maybe he isn't so hyper-active.

Right now he gets 6 lbs. Of Purina Strategy GX along with alfalfa hay. The alfalfa is pretty rich. I'm assuming the GX is probably pretty rich too. I know if I fed the gelding's mother 6 pounds of Strategy, which is about what the bag recommends, SHE would be bouncing off the walls.

Do you think 6 lbs of Strategy and a confined living situation are contributing to his attitude problems? I try to pony him out about twice a week for exercise, but it has gotten so that our rides aren't enjoyable anymore. I spend most of the ride correcting the 9 month old.

Step #2) Get a grazing (or similar muzzle) to put on him when I pony him out, so he can't chew my tack or nip at my riding horse. If it wasn't for the nipping/chewing, I think we could have pleasant rides.

Step #3) I was thinking of trying clicker training with him. Maybe use a certain sound or cluck with my voice instead of a clicker to keep my hands free. I feel like I spend all my time punishing bad behavior instead of rewarding good behavior. Maybe if I had an effective way of rewarding good behavior, he would be more eager to please.

For instance, today when I picked up his front feet to clean them, he was pulling them away from me and we ended up in one of our little fights where I untied him, made him disengage his hindquarters a bunch, back-up, etc. to try to get his mind back on respecting me. It finally worked but it always gets me frustrated with him.

After that, I experimentally tried giving him a horse cookie each time I was done "picking" a problem foot and it made him much more willing to pick up his feet. I guess I am wondering if the clicker training would have him working more with me instead of against me?

I have been avoiding treats for several months because people tell me that will make him mouthy, but at this point I don't think he could get much mouthier. I am thinking about researching clicker training and giving it a try.

What do you guys think of my 3 step plan?

I really don't want to end up as another case of "playing the hero." I don't want to give him up to an uncertain future and I have doubts about him finding a good home as he really has nothing going for him. He's a 9 month old grade horse with a deformed leg and lack of manners.

I did get in 3 good hours with a professional trainer a couple months ago, and the colt respects the trainer, and me when I was working with the trainer, just not ME now that we are back at home. Yes, he does all the ground work pretty well, but he still nips. I know the problem is with ME and I am desperate to fix it.
     
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    04-30-2011, 06:27 PM
  #2
Super Moderator
Sounds like a great plan to me!
I think if you do try clicker training, try to read as many books as possible on the subject. I've found that it's very easy to mess up with clicker training and some of the "necessary to understand" concepts of clicker training are hard to wrap one's mind around. I think, done properly, it can be a great tool and I actually use it on my mare, but it's not a good idea to have a vague idea of clicker training and just go for it. You want to know exactly what you're doing.
I found this book to be really really helpful when I was first trying to understand clicker training:
Http://www.amazon.com/Reaching-Animal-Mind-Clicker-Training/dp/0743297776/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1304198517&sr=8-1And with the "mauling for treats" issue, I've trained Lacey to look away from me if she wants a treat. So she knows that if she wants a treat, she has to look away instead of mauling me for them which had been her "thing" before. It's been working really well. She's been trained to do that for about a year and I've only been mauled once or twice in that time, where she used to maul me all the time. :)

Also, is there anyway you could get him out more often? My mare (who's 26 and super high energy) would go absolutely crazy if she lived in a round pen and only got out 2 days a week. To have her be sane, I have to work her ever other day, at least. If I get her out and have her do some sort of work everyday (anything that makes her think, in her case, she doesn't need to run exactly, she just needs to get her mind tired) she is a much much better horse than she is if I try to just work with her once/twice a week.
Have you ever heard the saying "a tired dog is a good dog"? It's the same for horses, a tired horse is a good horse. I know you might not have the time in your life but it might be something to attempt and try for at least a few weeks, if possible.

Good luck! I think you're doing great and it's very admirable that you are sticking by him. Props to you!!

ETA- I think cutting the grain out of his diet is fabulous too. My mare is on Enrich 32 as well and she's a super hot cookie to begin with, but there hasn't been any increase in hottness since I started her on it (she wasn't on any sort of grain before), actually, I have noticed that her hottness has turned into a more controllable hot. Instead of just being wild, she's started seeming to consider the circumstances before she gets silly and act accordingly (being silly when it's ok, etc). So that's just my little "yay Enrich 32!" thing. Haha
     
    04-30-2011, 11:21 PM
  #3
Green Broke
Thanks so much Wallaby! I will check out the book.

I would just like to make things positive for a change, know what I mean? I feel like everytime I work with my young gelding, it is like a boxing match. I will win some rounds, but not all the rounds, and sometimes we have to duke it out before I feel I've "won." Somehow I didn't think horse training would be this way.

Teaching him to do "things" has been easy. I've even put a saddle on him a few times. But I don't really feel like I'm the dominant one in his mind. And I know I NEED to be, but I just can't seem to make it to where I need to be.

I really want to take him out a lot, but if he is bouncing around, chewing on things, and biting all the time, I just can't take it anymore. It ruins not only my ride, but also the people who ride with me.

I come back from rides really upset and frustrated. Sigh!
     
    05-01-2011, 12:20 AM
  #4
Super Moderator
No problem! :)
I totally know what you mean!
When I first got Lacey, I'd go out to work with her 3 days a week and when I'd get home, I'd just go cry and I am not an emotional person. But I just felt so hopeless with it, like "what in heaven's name have a gotten myself into!?"
And then, like you, I started trying to set her up for success and she started to see that and now it's not very often that I feel frustrated to the point of quitting with her, not every single day like before.

Another thing that helped me with Lacey is to realize that she's smart enough to basically be my equal in the training department. I started out trying to make her subordinate to me but I found that it was just hopeless. Every time I'd try something that was supposed to "make her see" my dominance, she figured out someway to get around it. So I finally gave up trying to force her into submission.
Somehow I realized that I was so focused on forcing her to see that I was dominant, that I had forgotten to behave like a good lead mare and so I was undermining my own attempts because there was no way that Lacey was going to trust a "weakling" like me! I straightened myself out, figured out the "battles" I could win, worked on those and ignored the ones I couldn't win. By the time I had "fixed" the battles I could win, Lacey had come to the conclusion that I probably knew what I was doing and the issues that were hard to fix before became simple little issues because Lacey had developed the respect necessary to obey me when I notified her that some part of her behavior was unacceptable.

And, I've discovered that to different horses, dominance/partnership means different things (I have very little doubt that he is attempting to be dominant with you, but you two might have differing opinions on what a dominant "horse" looks like). With Lacey (who's very dominant and likes to test), I know she respects me and I'm 100% sure that I am her "lead mare". But, if someone else watched her being with me, they might think that she's trying to dominate me. She likes to stand very close to me, she asks me to scratch her ears, she turns her rear towards me upon occasion etc, but at the same time, I have a set of rules that she must follow and if she's following the rules (no touching me unless I touch her, no nudging, if she's going to jump around, she better get away from me while she's doing it, absolutely no eating while attached to me on the lunge line/leadrope/reins unless I allow her to, responding quickly when I request something of her etc) I don't care what she does. I know that she gets POed when I start micromanaging her and that just makes her behavior worse, so I let her do things that I know aren't harming anyone because it's showing her that I trust her and I know that she respects me since she willingly follows my rules.

Another thought I just had is have you tried just ignoring all his ridiculous biting/rearing/whatever no matter how ridiculous he gets? He might be doing this stuff to watch your reaction... He sounds like a very smart, personable little fellow so I wouldn't put it past him to be doing stuff to you because he thinks it's "funny" when you correct him...

Sorry for the novel... Hopefully some of that was helpful! :)

Also, were you able to find a pasture for him to just hang out in with other more dominant horses for a few months? Or no such luck?
     
    05-01-2011, 12:38 AM
  #5
Showing
Oh, my. I had no idea he was being fed that much. That could certainly be causing some of your problems. I think, if it was me, I would cut him back to just alfalfa with nothing else but maybe a mineral block. He will still grow just as well without all the added stuff and he will be much less likely to get a 'high' from that diet. However, he is your horse and you should do what you believe is best for him. I'm just throwing ideas out there.

I think the muzzle is a good idea, it will certainly keep him from destroying more of your tack while he matures out of that stage.

I can't really say much for clicker training since I've never done it, but it couldn't hurt to give it a shot. Who knows, that may be just the ticket for him.
     
    05-01-2011, 01:41 AM
  #6
Banned
I bet if you cut that grain out, at least some of that behavior is going to subside. He is still just a baby so there has to be some room for error with him. I think the muzzle is actually a great idea. That way, you don't need to constantly correct every little nibble..because he wont be destroying your things.

I think you are doing it right girl. Stick with him. He will come around.
     
    05-01-2011, 02:02 AM
  #7
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wallaby    
No problem! :)

Another thought I just had is have you tried just ignoring all his ridiculous biting/rearing/whatever no matter how ridiculous he gets? He might be doing this stuff to watch your reaction... He sounds like a very smart, personable little fellow so I wouldn't put it past him to be doing stuff to you because he thinks it's "funny" when you correct him...

I know you aren't supposed to put human emotions on a horse, but I really DO think he is pushing my buttons so I will "play" with him. He knows he will get a negative reaction, and he is as smart as can be, so I think he is trying to "play" or otherwise get my attention. I have thought about ignoring the behaviors but I am not sure if it would be giving him mixed signals. Like one day I swat him for nipping, the next day do nothing? I don't know.

Another thing is, when I talk to other horse people (in person), they are very insistent on that I am not assertive enough with him, and that I need to swat him HARD so he doesn't think it's a game. But lately he has just gotten more reactive to the swatting, wanting to pull away and such, but still tries to nip minutes later.

I actually smack him with a dressage whip on the chest/front legs when he nips. I used to not want to actually hit him with it, so I would swing it and not hit him, or just tap him, and he got rather desensitized to the whip. Which wasn't good. The trainer I worked with said never to threaten- either keep the whip at my side when I wasn't using it, and if I needed to use it, whack him hard so he wouldn't ignore me.


Also, were you able to find a pasture for him to just hang out in with other more dominant horses for a few months? Or no such luck?
I haven't pursued that, but I've thought about it a lot. It would take a little research to find the right place. I think that is the next step if the current measures don't work. If I can't exercise him, and I get frustrated just working with him, then short of getting rid of him, I think pasture boarding him is my next best option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by smrobs    
Oh, my. I had no idea he was being fed that much. That could certainly be causing some of your problems. I think, if it was me, I would cut him back to just alfalfa with nothing else but maybe a mineral block. He will still grow just as well without all the added stuff and he will be much less likely to get a 'high' from that diet. However, he is your horse and you should do what you believe is best for him. I'm just throwing ideas out there.

Thanks Smrobs! I always really respect your opinion. He is thriving on his current diet, BUT, if I can't work with him, what good is a big, beautiful horse that I can't keep? I am going to drop all (or nearly all) the grain out of his diet for a couple of weeks and see if it makes a difference. It can't hurt to try. The only reason I crept his grain up to 6 lbs (which is what Purina wants you to feed) is because after I weaned him he seemed to stop growing for a couple of months. He gained no weight in nearly 2 months after weaning, so I was thinking maybe I wasn't feeding enough and he needed the boost. He has gotten taller though, so maybe he was growing in height instead of weight.

I think the muzzle is a good idea, it will certainly keep him from destroying more of your tack while he matures out of that stage.

If he would mature out of that stage, I would be so happy! It would probably cure 90% of our problems. If he's not nipping, he's chewing.

I can't really say much for clicker training since I've never done it, but it couldn't hurt to give it a shot. Who knows, that may be just the ticket for him.

I just feel like we both need some positive interaction. It's like all I do is correct bad behavior. He can't enjoy that (unless he finds it amusing!) and I don't enjoy always correcting him. It takes all the fun out of owning him.
     
    05-01-2011, 02:16 AM
  #8
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by corinowalk    
I bet if you cut that grain out, at least some of that behavior is going to subside. He is still just a baby so there has to be some room for error with him. I think the muzzle is actually a great idea. That way, you don't need to constantly correct every little nibble..because he wont be destroying your things.

I think you are doing it right girl. Stick with him. He will come around.

Thank you Corinowalk. Today was the last day for grain. Tonight when I passed out the "treats" that I give them with their dinner, all he got was a chopped carrot.

I began to suspect maybe it could be the grain because I have a couple other friends who have raised young horses, and theirs all seem so nice and docile. But they are QH's and Paints. My guy is a QH/Fox Trotter cross. It's hard to say what's his personality and what isn't. When he gets a chance to run, like if I pony him out and turn him loose, he just RUNS and RUNS and RUNS. It's pretty amazing how much energy he has. But his mom is pretty hyper active too. So I dunno. Wouldn't it be wonderful if I cut out his grain and he becomes a nice docile QH? Probably won't happen, but I can dream.

But honestly, everyone else's youngsters seem so docile compared to mine.

I know he's young and I honestly don't expect perfection. I think most people that know me probably feel I baby my horses too much. But I am afraid if he doesn't respect me now, how will this relationship ever work? I want to ride him someday. So that's why I fret so much over this issue. I wish I could "fix" our relationship so I could just enjoy having him, instead of worrying that the ship is sinking all the time.
     
    05-01-2011, 02:26 AM
  #9
Foal
He just sounds like a 9month old colt to me. The muzzle does sound like a GREAT idea since then you wont get in his face, and he wont get in yours.
Cutting the grain out of the diet sounds like a great plan as well.. how often do you get him out? I was working with yearling holsteiners and getting them out every day and they still had all sorts of bucks and kicks to get out in the pasture before I could even consider working on ground manners. Sometimes when theyre that young theyre just big balls of energy.
     
    05-01-2011, 02:28 AM
  #10
Foal
P.s sounds like you're doing everything right! He may just be a booger! He'll come around don't worry!
     

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