Work as punishment - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 01:54 PM Thread Starter
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Work as punishment

So often I see someone ask about a disrespectful horse (usually in the form of biting). I always see an answer along the lines of "don't smack the horse! Make them do circles until you say stop!"

The point of a punishment is to associate the unwanted action with the consequence, therefore breaking the horse of the unwanted action.

I fail to see why making a horse work as a form of punishment is a good thing. I've seen plenty of horses take advantage of this, continue the habit yet go off and do circles on their own. That or they resent doing something like circles all together because they associate it with punishment.

Do you use work as punishment? If so why?
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post #2 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Paso Fino View Post
So often I see someone ask about a disrespectful horse (usually in the form of biting). I always see an answer along the lines of "don't smack the horse! Make them do circles until you say stop!"

The point of a punishment is to associate the unwanted action with the consequence, therefore breaking the horse of the unwanted action.

I fail to see why making a horse work as a form of punishment is a good thing. I've seen plenty of horses take advantage of this, continue the habit yet go off and do circles on their own. That or they resent doing something like circles all together because they associate it with punishment.

Do you use work as punishment? If so why?
I don't use work as "punishment", per say, but I do operate on the philosophy that to get a horse to respond correctly to what you're asking for, you need to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. I don't punish horses, because I don't take mistakes or their behavior personally. (Issues I've dealt with have stemmed from previous lack of boundaries, fear, or lack of understanding, rather than the horse being "out to get me".) I correct them. And corrections aren't just getting a horse to run endless circles around you. They need to be well-timed, tactful and concise. I have found that this is a better method of maintaining a relationship with a horse that respects me, rather than fears me.
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post #3 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 02:21 PM
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It's useful for somethings and not for others. If a horse biting they get a firm whack in the face. On the other hand let's say you have a horse who doesn't want to stand, is extremely distracted or maybe kicks, a smack may not get the point across in these cases. That's were working them comes in handy. YOU assert yourself by controlling their moves, just like an alpha would. Horse play the "i control your feet" game all the time with each other.
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post #4 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 02:26 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SlideStop View Post
It's useful for somethings and not for others. If a horse biting they get a firm whack in the face. On the other hand let's say you have a horse who doesn't want to stand, is extremely distracted or maybe kicks, a smack may not get the point across in these cases. That's were working them comes in handy. YOU assert yourself by controlling their moves, just like an alpha would. Horse play the "i control your feet" game all the time with each other.
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I agree on the standing part. My mare sometimes will not stand to mount, so I back her a couple of feet and she will usually stand. This is more directed at a question I saw that was addressing a biting issue. I personally address biting with a firm smack, either in the mouth or the neck, whatever is closest. I've never created a head shy horse from this as I react immediately and only hit once.
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post #5 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 02:28 PM
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If a horse is corrected for unwanted behavior under saddle by circling and it continues the behaviour and circles on it's own, then the rider does know how to circle properly. There is a technique and a position to get the horse to flex, compress and lift it's back muscles on a very loose rein and no horse does that on it's own if it's acting up.
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post #6 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by waresbear View Post
If a horse is corrected for unwanted behavior under saddle by circling and it continues the behaviour and circles on it's own, then the rider does know how to circle properly. There is a technique and a position to get the horse to flex, compress and lift it's back muscles on a very loose rein and no horse does that on it's own if it's acting up.
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I meant circling on the ground to correct biting, that is the topic of discussion. Nothing under saddle.
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post #7 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Paso Fino View Post
I agree on the standing part. My mare sometimes will not stand to mount, so I back her a couple of feet and she will usually stand. This is more directed at a question I saw that was addressing a biting issue. I personally address biting with a firm smack, either in the mouth or the neck, whatever is closest. I've never created a head shy horse from this as I react immediately and only hit once.
I agree. I guess to each their own though. Also, hitting a horse isn't right for every horse. I work with a haffie that you could beat until she has black eyes and she still won't be head shy. Meanwhile the TWH I work with will have a meltdown if I so much as raise my hand to fast to pet her. Her "punishment" is light as a HEY! And maybe a quick stomp towards her. We have NEVER mishandled her, yet she acts like we tie her up to a tree and beat her. It's all in the horses personality
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post #8 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 02:57 PM
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Good question.

I'm thinking attitude has a lot of weight when communicating with horses. They are so sensitive to one's state of mind/emotion. In general, they KNOW the difference between a enthusiastic, gleeful pat, and a smack of disapproval, even if, to me, they look alike. Or "bad circles" versus "working circles."

As for punishment, I don't use it, hardly ever. In my mind, I see "reprimands" as "consequences" of behavior, not punishment. Again, one's attitude, I believe, makes a difference.

But then, I've got mares, and I like them to express themselves. (They don't bite or kick.)
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post #9 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 04:18 PM
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Circles can be a tool. A firm smack can be a tool. A verbal correction can be a tool. It all depends on the undesirable behavior, the situation, and the horse. I rode with a cantle pack for the first time ever today, Jayne thought it was a horse eating monster I wanted to toss on top of him, but we were in his stall- not really the place for circles, and adding energy to his already brimming nervous energy is a recipe for badness, so I made him yield his shoulders and hips. He WANTS to run circles in mindless fear, but it's not the right tool in this situation to get him to calm down and focus on me and not whatever monster he's imagining. When he's just being fidgety and not wanting to stand properly, then backing or circles come into play and suddenly he's square and quiet.

Use the right tools at the right time to get the acceptable behavior.
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post #10 of 25 Old 05-25-2013, 08:32 PM
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I have question to add to this.
I worked with a TB filly that was way too smart for her own good. She also was a pissy, 'don't love on me', type of horse. If I petted or groomed her too long she would bite, strike, or kick at me. I would correct her firmly every time with a sharp "Hey!" and a elbow, slap, or whack with the back of the grooming brush. As I worked more with her and got to know her warning signs earlier and earlier along, I could catch her almost before her ears went back, with a quick, "Hey!" and she would stop. But I also knew what made her mad and learned not to groom or rub on her for so long.
As long as I walked up like I meant business, snapped the lead on, ran a quick brush over her, and then went to working on the saddle pad, surcingle, saddle or bridle right away she was less irritable.
She was still mouthy though and I learn one day that if I put a headstall with a snaffle on her she wouldn't try eating my clothes.

Do you think I did the right thing with this horse, or should I have pushed her farther and made her accept me grooming or rubbing on her longer?
I only worked with her for 6 weeks. She was a long yearling, and I giving her and another gelding (who was a sweet heart) a head start before they went to the track in Saskatoon the next spring.

I figure if a girl wants to be a LEGEND, she should just go ahead and be one. ~Calamity Jane
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