Teaching your horse respect
 
 

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Teaching your horse respect

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  • Teaching foal respect personal space
  • Teaching a horse to be calm in the middle

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    07-09-2012, 10:38 PM
  #1
Foal
Teaching your horse respect

So I have a question.

I have been reading forums on training lately and basically I've noted that it all comes down to respect. Makes sense. However how exactly do you TEACH respect?

I recently bought an 8 y/o TB gelding. He was kind of a pasture puff for a bit and now I have him and am working with him 3-4 times a week. However, he does have little respect for my personal space.

Now before I get the token "This horse is dangerous, train him or sell him" I get that. This behavior is not safe, thus my asking for suggestions. I am an experienced horse person, have been around them, including helping to train green horses. I have how ever never dealt with this problem.

So now for the behaviour. So first issue is standing in the cross ties. We have been improving, however he still likes to side step into me if he decides he wants to move. I put him right back where he was before plus let him know I don't like him invading my space (generally with a loud HEY and poke in the offending flank) but this doesn't seem to be overly effective as of yet.

Next is in the field. He is the low man in the pecking order, plus he was until recently the new guy. He still gets chased a little bit, plus he seems to not like horses coming towards him in general. When they do he runs away. Now this is fine, except when I'm trying to catch him. Twice now he has ran through me, and one f the times he almost pinned my bf (who isn't super horse savvy, but is learning) to the gate. Now I get he's freaked out, but how do I get him to either stand his ground while in hand, or at least avoid mowing me down?

Now he and I have only been together for 2 1/2 months, but I think he is beginning to understand I am his "herd leader" he does listen. He does understand when I yell that he has done something wrong, and sometimes does correct his own behaviour (ie goes back to where he was standing) I just need to nip this no respect for my personal space business in the butt before it becomes a real problem.

There's my novel. Thank you for reading it... I appreciate any and all suggestions.
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    07-09-2012, 10:52 PM
  #2
Super Moderator
Well, first of all yelling only works in the sense that it interrupts the horse's thinking about something that isn't where you want him thinking. Horses dont' yell at each other, but rather use body language, which would be your best bet, too.

Better would be to catch his thinking leaving a good place (on you) and going somewhere else, when it's just barely going away. You need to practice observing your horse and watching where his mind is. When it's on YOU and how quickly it leaves you. Learn to get him thinking on yOU, and learn to interrupt his thought when it leaves you, but catch it really really early.

If he's in the cross ties and he starts to even focus his ears elsewhere or put a bit of a bend in his body that is pushing into you, then his thought is leaving you, toward something external. Scuffle the ground, or slap your thigh or hiss at him to bring him back to looking at you, then when he does, continue what you are doing in a calm and pleasant manner. So, if you can catch him before he is actually pushing on you, then you don't need to do much. IF he gets to the place of pushing on you, you need to up the push back, fast and hard enough to break him out of that thinking.

In the field it's a lot harder because he will be fearful of the other horses. That is a dangerous situation. I would probably carry a dressage whip and if he moved to run me over, I would whale on him , enought to really startle him.
     
    07-09-2012, 11:14 PM
  #3
Foal
Thanks! That does sound like what the problem is. He's not paying attention to me. I'll definitely give that a shot. :)
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    07-09-2012, 11:28 PM
  #4
Super Moderator
It's amazing how little it can take to get your horse's thought back on you. Watch their eyes and ears because they are like barometers that indicate the upcoming "weather change". I often find just scuffling my foot acrosse the cement is all it takes to get my horse to flick his ear on me, then I may try to pet him or draw himn a little more toward me, mentally.
     
    07-09-2012, 11:36 PM
  #5
Foal
Unless you want to make your horse fearful of you, you will not TEACH him to respect you, you must EARN his respect. To have a good relationship with him, you also need to earn his trust. By earning both his trust and respect, you will build his confidence and he will feel better with you than he does with his own herd mates. In your horse's case, it sounds like he is uncomfortable even with the other horses so he is stressed, anxious and lacking confidence even with the herd. He needs to feel safe somewhere & if you can provide that, you will develop a great bond with this horse.

Yes, you need to set boundaries about your personal space and, yes, you may even need to have a whip to extend your space. But, you don't need to "whale" on your horse or yell at him to get your point across. Most thoroughbreds are very sensitive and have a very strong flight instinct (after all, that's what makes a good race horse).

Your horse needs you to be calm, clear and consistent in your communication and behaviour with him. Stop yelling (horse's have sensitive hearing). Become less reactive and more pro-active in your training. Take a lunge whip when you get him from the field. Use it to define your space by moving it in an arc in front of you, but no higher than the mid-line of your horse's body. If he wants to come in calmly and politely, then point the whip at the ground and away from him (or drop it if he is really nervous about it). You can also use it to move the other horses away from your horse. When he sees you move the other horses, he will perceive you as a higher ranking herd member. He needs to see you as a safe place - his protector - not as a threat.

These 2 articles give some tips on how to work with your horse to develop mutual trust, respect and confidence - the first one is general and the second one is about teaching your horse to stand calmly while tied.


Creating a Winning Relationship With Your Horse

Teaching Your Horse to Stand Quietly While Cross-Tied

Cheers

Anne
     
    07-10-2012, 12:13 AM
  #6
Foal
I think people are mistaking my yelling. In fact yelling probably isn't the right word. Sternly saying might even be better. But I do understand your point none the less.

I don't think I'm overly comfortable with bringing the lunge whip out to the field with me. I think that would cause a horrible ruckus. Maybe a dressage whip.

I think right now my issue is that I'm torn between being his friend and protector, while being his "herd leader". Maybe I just don't know how, but the two in my head conflict. I know it obviously needs to be a balance, and I try to provide that. I talk nice when he's behaving, give him treats when he's especially good. I tell him he's a good boy with pats and a nice voice when he is being a good boy. However, I still need to punish him when he misbehaves, this to me conflicts the being the "protector" I know herd leaders chastise their herd when they misbehave but I can't very well kick him or pin my ears at him so I don't really get it.

Thanks for the articles though. I will give them a read and maybe that will help. Sigh....
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    07-10-2012, 12:23 AM
  #7
Foal
In other news, Anne you appear to live quite close to me!! My horse is located near Port Perry, Ontario!

This is really only relevant if you are the same Anne Gage that is in the articles, which I assume you are!
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    07-10-2012, 01:46 AM
  #8
Green Broke
Bringing a dressage whip instead of lash whip will only let the offending horses get closer to you. Simply put? Within kicking distance.

And. The praising and good boys do nothing at this point. Horse doesn't care what you think of him, it is what he thinks of you that is the crux of the problem, and he doesn't think highly of you at all.

And earning a horse's respect? Please.

You get their respect by showing that you are the leader, and that is not accomplished by showing they can trust you first, with the exception of when you are dealing with a frightened/abused horse possibly. And even then, the respect issues have to be dealt with, in terms of horse has to see you as the leader first.

You can't waffle between being his friend and being his protector, and throw being the leader in there too. Won't do a thing except confuse horse even more.

2 and 1/2 months is way too long for this to still be going on. Should have been straightened out the first week or so. As long as you are not clear on what you want, you will see no difference. And as long as you don't seem to want to effectively discipline this horse, you will see no difference.

Tell me this. When he was barreling you over? Where was the lead horse of the group? I would imagine your horse was avoiding that one at all costs. Makes sense, because he knows that horse will not put up with it.

And what and where were the other horses, if that is what he was running you all down over, in relationship to you? If they were also milling around you, and causing this, then you don't have any respect from them either, and that also is a large part of the problem.

Quit babying this horse, and expecting it to behave like a dog is my advice. Horses operate differently. You get respect not by teaching it, but by demanding it. And I don't mean by beating horse, or yelling either.

It is demanded by quiet attitude and firm handling, such as feeding time, where horse is made to stand away from pan or hay pile, until handler lets it come in. Or leading, when horse walks at side, stopping and/or slowing down as owner's stride dictates. Or by standing tied quietly, because horse has been reprimanded for moving around.

Even TB's know to stand quietly if the lead mare/horse wants them to. You don't have this horse's attention, or respect at this point. And if you don't change what you are doing? You never will.
     
    07-10-2012, 09:20 AM
  #9
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by Linzee    
I think people are mistaking my yelling. In fact yelling probably isn't the right word. Sternly saying might even be better. But I do understand your point none the less.

I don't think I'm overly comfortable with bringing the lunge whip out to the field with me. I think that would cause a horrible ruckus. Maybe a dressage whip.

I think right now my issue is that I'm torn between being his friend and protector, while being his "herd leader". Maybe I just don't know how, but the two in my head conflict. I know it obviously needs to be a balance, and I try to provide that. I talk nice when he's behaving, give him treats when he's especially good. I tell him he's a good boy with pats and a nice voice when he is being a good boy. However, I still need to punish him when he misbehaves, this to me conflicts the being the "protector" I know herd leaders chastise their herd when they misbehave but I can't very well kick him or pin my ears at him so I don't really get it.

Thanks for the articles though. I will give them a read and maybe that will help. Sigh....
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I understand you're concern about causing more "ruckus" in the herd if you use a lunge whip. But, it does give you a longer reach and allow you to create a big bubble of safety around yourself by keeping horses further away from you. Think of it as your hind legs to "kick" at a horse or your teeth to "bite". You don't have to necessarily touch a horse with the whip for it to be effective. You've seen how horses threaten each other with a kick or bite directed at another horse without connecting. They don't usually intend to hurt each other because an injured horse is a liability to the herd. And you can "pin your ears" so to speak through your body language. Watch a horse's face when he pins his ears & you will notice changes in the face as well. You can mimic that "look" in your face.

You can warn your horse not to step into your space rather than reacting after he has done it. The higher ranking horses in the herd are very good at doing that. It requires you to increase your awareness and really be in the moment when you are with your horse. The more he knows where the boundaries are the less stress he will feel. But your energy will also affect his stress level. You can be firm, clear and calm as you block or push him out of your space.

Horses don't feed each other treats so avoid hand feeding him for now. Talking to him with a calm voice and scratching him on the withers (mimics how horses "groom" each other) when he is behaving well are good.

There are many forms of leadership. Dictators are leaders - but they lead through fear and intimidation. Some leaders assume their positions (i.e. Royalty, the boss's children, etc.) but this does not mean they have real leadership skills and, if they don't, aren't respected. In my experience, the best leadership comes from benevolent, confident leaders. They have empathy for their followers. They are consistent in their behaviour. They are clear in their communication. To develop a positive, willing partnership with your horse, he needs the same thing that you want in a leader.

Check out this blog post about demanding vs earning your horse's respect.

Cheers

Anne
     
    07-10-2012, 11:48 AM
  #10
Started
As far as friendship/protection/leadership goes, an analogy that works for me in describing "the way it should be" is to think of it as a similar balancing act to good parenting. You are the "parent" of a "child" who is ignoring, back-sassing, and doing his own thing. It's time to delineate some boundaries, as a matter of safety.

Horses exercise leadership over one another by moving each other's feet. A strong leader creates "pressure" through body language, escalates that pressure if necessary, and releases the pressure when a lower-tier member of the herd complies. If that lower-tier horse resists or "pressures" back, and the leader submits by moving their feet and "giving ground", then the lower-tier horse gains "points."

Strong leaders in the horse's world are not tyrants -- this is where "friendship," as the horse understands it, enters the picture. As long as the leader's position is not challenged, he/she is content to work with the other members of the herd; swishing flies off of one another, sharing lookout-duty, etc. The leader doesn't go around actively enforcing their position, but goes about life in a relaxed, even passive way until the behavior of a lower-ranking horse necessitates an appropriate response.

Protection comes in when we understand how lower-rung horses percieve superior horses and the herd boss. Because the leader is confident, he/she is the last one to spook in a crisis situation. Each horse is going to look to the horse above him in the hierarchy for cues and updates about current safety and security -- If I'm at the bottom of the pecking order, and the guy three steps up the scale sees something that scares him, I better pay attention, too. If there's something happening that even the Leader isn't confident about, it's really something for me to worry about. So, each horse relies on the ones over him in the hierarchy to tell him something about his own safety. The Leader doesn't have anyone to take those cues from -- he is then responsible for his own survival, as well as that of the rest of the herd, since they are all looking to him. So, the Leader's position is rather stressful.

Why do horses challenge one another (and their humans) for leadership, then? It's a matter of safety. As low guy on the totem pole, I want to be certain that the guys farther up are up to the challenge of telling me when I need to run. The only way to be sure of that, is to see if they can keep me in line. If they can't do that, how can they protect me any better than I can protect myself from the things that go bump in the pasture? Without any other effort or change in tactics/approach, then, by becoming your horse's leader, you are also his protector in his mind.

Becoming a leader that your horse understands is a matter of confidence, attitude, and being able to respond to your horse's responses to you the way a boss mare would. Some horses take a subtle hint; an assertive stance and eye contact can be enough to get the point across. Others are a bit harder to convince, and require their leaders to really demonstrate some competency. Groundwork can be a great way to get the ball rolling and establish a pattern of calm assertiveness in you, and of relaxed, giving submission in your horse. Focus on getting him to move his feet out of your space, and reward the smallest change and the slightest try. Get him moving forward, backward, left and right. Depending on your horse's particular needs, be sure to balance this kind of "sensitizing" training with "desensitizing" to ensure that he isn't reacting out of fear of you or your equipment. As far as rewarding a good response, most horses absolutely love it when pressure is released. They understand release of pressure naturally as a "reward" for good behavior; it isn't something that an association needs to be created to understand. No treats required. For very pushy horses, the last thing I want is to be percieved as a giant walking treat dispenser anyway.

I'd definitely take a lunge whip with me into the field. Personally, I don't much care if there's a rukus about it, as long as it happens well out of my space and I am able to enforce that space when necessary. If you aren't familiar with it, study up and practice "whip etiquette," and how to clearly express "get out of my space" versus "I am approaching you now, do not run." Whip handling can be an art in itself sometimes, lol.

Anyway, there's my 2 cents on the notion of leadership, respect, and how to get it from horses... amazing how tricky it can be to put it all into words in a forum, eh? Hope that's helpful to you, and good luck!
     

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