Space bubble issues

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Space bubble issues

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    05-28-2013, 02:06 AM
Space bubble issues

My horse has always had issues to being a bit too close for comfort, especially when being led. I usually end up with stepped-on ankles... It's not that she's trying to push me away or is being aggressive; she's a very sweet horse and just has a tendancy to wander into me. Even if I give her plenty of lead rope or push her away, she'll still get very close. Any suggestions? I don't think my ankles can take much more of this...
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    05-28-2013, 04:37 AM
Originally Posted by Em Jay    
My horse has always had issues to being a bit too close for comfort, especially when being led. I usually end up with stepped-on ankles... It's not that she's trying to push me away or is being aggressive; she's a very sweet horse and just has a tendancy to wander into me. Even if I give her plenty of lead rope or push her away, she'll still get very close. Any suggestions? I don't think my ankles can take much more of this...

While I'm generally very reticent to use the term 'respect' generally, IMO this is one sign your horse has no respect for you as a leader & you allowing her to walk all over you will tend to lead her to become more pushy & possibly aggressive, as she realises someone must be the leader & in control. That is not in the least to say it's 'bad', 'naughty' or deserving punishment. It's just the situation she's found herself in & is going along with.

It does mean that you need to start taking control & being consistent & effective with her. As you've allowed it for however long, I'd also expect she may well become pushy & throw a few 'tanties' when you try to take control, as she may see your change of behaviour as an insubordinate challenge to her leadership. Therefore I would also be inclined to find some experienced hands-on help to show you how to handle her safely.

Essentially, you just have to be consistent at NEVER allowing your horse to invade what you decide your 'personal bubble' should be. To me & most people I know, arm's length away is the 'line' not to be crossed. There needs to be effective consequences EVERY time the horse crosses the boundary without express invitation and you can combine that with reinforcing her positively for walking at a 'respectful' distance. I also make a point of not hitting out *at* her or being predictable, so she learns that it's not your intention to attack her, but her behaviour that causes her to get *herself* hit.

So... the best way I can think to explain my tactic is 'swatting flies'. I sporadically & randomly wave my arms around me. I don't aim at the horse, don't even look at them particularly, but if they get themselves in the way of my arm, they get swatted too. They soon learn to stay out of the way. If walking single file with a horse following, I also might suddenly go into an energetic reverse & if the horse doesn't get out of the way, I'll be stepping on their ankles. They soon learn to stay at a safe distance & pay close attention to my bodylanguage!
    05-28-2013, 03:41 PM
I agree with Loosie, this horse does not respect you. Not leading properly is dangerous, so you need to start there with basic groundwork. You need to pick a boundary that is your "bubble" and be 100% consistent about enforcing it. I do the arm waving thing too if my horse is crowding me, whether it be leading, on the ground, or in the cross ties, and it works extremely well. Or a quick elbow swung inconspicuously to connect as the horse steps towards you works wonders too. And the trick is to correct it right that moment, and immediately go on like nothing is wrong or ever happened. The horse also needs to be paying attention to where and what speed you are going. Lots of leading, turns, stopping & backing up, will help. The horse should be doing all of this on a slack lead rope, if you're having to pull and tug and push, you need to do more homework and be more firm with your requests.

The horse "asks" in small ways long before it ever disrespects you outright. The horse should absolutely not come into your bubble unless you have invited it. People think that when a horse gives "cuddles" or rubs on a person, that the horse is being cute, or friendly, or that the horse "loves them", but what is really happening is that horse is testing you, asking "Are you the one running the show here?" And if it's not corrected, the horse takes it as a "No", and it escalates little by little, until the horse is outright walking all over you. Horses look to us for guidance, and if they don't get it, they take charge. It's just how they're wired. That's not to say you can't ever pet your horse or gives them hugs and kisses, you absolutely can, but it has to be on YOUR terms and only when you allow it. I'm not a fan of hand feeding treats either, usually it will create a pushy horse, which then gets rewarded with a treat, which reinforces the pushiness, so then they get worse, and it snowballs.

So it's catching those little things, the little step towards you when tied must be corrected. You must require the horse to be paying attention to you 100% of the time. You can ask them for little things while grooming or tacking to reinforce the focus on you. Moving a bit over here, asking for a step back there. Requests, if not responded to in a timely manner, need to be reinforced. Like moving over in the cross ties, for example, a green horse of course gets a little more leeway and understanding while learning, but still is required to respond in an appropriate manner. My mare, who KNOWS about cross ties, and has been familiar with them for years? She gets asked once nicely, and then gets a big smack to move over. It usually doesn't take more than that to get my point across the odd time she "forgets". However, the next step after that has been the broom, which she has gotten a time or two. Big disrespects get big consequences. Less dramatic corrections for the smaller ones. The trick is learning to recognize and address the small issues, long before they ever become big ones.

And then it all translates to under saddle too. Ask, tell, demand. Catching the small things will help prevent things from escalating and having to deal with the major things a horse might do to disrespect you under saddle as well. Once they get to that point where they're ignoring and running all over you, you run the risk that if challenged, they may challenge you back, and that can be scary and dangerous. At that point you need an experienced horse person to deal with it, that's not territory that most people want to be in.
Corporal and swimminchikin like this.
    05-28-2013, 09:58 PM
Not to distract from the original question, but what does everyone recommend for a horse who moves into your space when they are afraid? Say they are walking respectfully beside you, but then a plastic bag blows by. The horse is then petrified and wants to be right up against you as much as possible? My friend's mare does this, but only when she is afraid. It's like she is seeking comfort when she is scared. How would you correct this behaviour? I don't think you can treat it the same as em Jay's issue.
    05-28-2013, 10:14 PM
I don't think she understands that you want space. A horse in a herd may allow a horse to come close as she is doing with you, but they immediately tell her to move on over or move away if they don't want them close.

If you want her close to you, continue. If you don't, then you need to communicate that to her.

Bagheera, this applies to your horse too. Teaching her to spook in place involves provoking her slowly so that she learns if she stands really really still, it'll end.
    05-28-2013, 10:20 PM
Yes, she must learn to watch you. I still test my horse from time to time, just because. My horse is good and doesn't crowd me (unless she is asking to be scratched, which is asking, not not respecting my space), but every once in a while I'll throw the lead rope up front or suddenly switch directions or put something between us -- just as a constant training thing.

Bagheera -- as your question is completely different that the OPs I think you'd get a better response with a separate thread.
    05-28-2013, 10:23 PM
I find that pushing on them right behind the cheek works well.
    05-28-2013, 10:25 PM
Originally Posted by ni8840    
I find that pushing on them right behind the cheek works well.
The thing with that is it's great if they don't realize how strong they are in comparison. Once the latter is known, however, things become way more difficult.
loosie likes this.
    06-12-2013, 07:23 PM
Thanks guys! I've been randomly waving my arms around and she's getting the message.
    06-14-2013, 06:20 PM
Thanks for the great thread. I'm having the same trouble with my youngster. I'll work on it now with confidence! Thanks, guys...

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