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Hickory67 02-20-2012 07:08 PM

Learning the horse language
I've been a horse owner for less than a year so I'm under no illusion that I have a clue yet - and I need some advice.

I have a 13yo OTTB mare that I just got back in Jan. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't an impulse buy and that she isn't a whole lotta horse for a novice - but done is done and my philosophy is there's no way around but through. So I'm working on building a relationship with her, just doing ground work and spending time with her right now.

I think she's warming up, but with her personality it's hard to tell. She doesn't care for me petting her nor for grooming - she walks off if she can. But at the same time she comes to me, most of the time without being called, and when I walk around the field she stays right next to me. Then I put a halter on and suddenly she wants to lead or, as she's begun doing the last couple of times, dips her head and pushes against my hip to knock me off balance.

Just seems like mixed signals to me. I know she's challenging me at times and I don't let her get away with it, but I also want her to choose to be compliant rather than forcing it all the time.

How do you find the balance? Could she be trying to tell me something and I'm just not getting it?

Palomine 02-20-2012 07:35 PM

When she is pushing your hip and knocking you off balance, she is showing dominance, and telling you to get out of way.

By letting her follow you off lead, you are getting into a nasty habit of letting her make the decisions. Never a good thing.

Each time you have walked along with her loose, it is making her think she is your leader, this is evidenced by the fact that she is walking off when you are grooming, or being pushy when you attempt to lead her.

Quit doing anything with this mare where she is not haltered and under your control. Each time you don't have control of her, and she decides what she is going to do? She is getting it more ingrained in her head that you are her inferior.

It will trickle over into every other aspect of owning/riding her eventually.

Do not let her get close enough to push against you, that is a bad thing right there. Distance generally should be elbow length or little more, and if horse enters closer, correction with lead rope to move horse out of space needs to be done immediately, and not with yelling/flailing away, but a quiet and calm, "back up" or even just correction with lead to put her where she needs to be.

Also, make sure you are not giving mixed signals. By this I mean one time she can follow close? Next time you make her stay back. She will have no idea which time is which, so better to set ground rules now that will benefit both of you.

Hickory67 02-20-2012 07:43 PM

Good advice - thank you!

Hickory67 02-26-2012 07:22 PM

I got her out yesterday and, after some pushing back and forth we finally came to the agreement that I was leading the way. We tacked her up - she was a royal pain the whole time - and my friend/coworker rode her for me. My friend is a very experienced rider and put her through some paces. We found out that she knows some intermediate dressage, even - nobody told us about that when we bought her.

It worked out pretty well, and I got a lot of good advice from Erin. She's going to train our gelding for English riding - my wife doesn't want to get on Lusty :-) The trainer/owner of the farm is going to train her for western. Gonna be a busy year.

xxBarry Godden 02-28-2012 12:30 PM

Maybe the previous owner gave the horse treats as a bribe for being caught in the paddock. The treats would have been kept in a pocket. So the horse is following on as previously handled.

You have to decide whether to give treats or not to - there are advantages and disadvantages either way. If you decide not to - then don't and gently tap the horse on the nose - I repeat gently and say: 'No way' - the horse won't understand a word but hopefully it will stop looking for a reward, just for being caught.

But then it might stop being caught. So then you have to decide whether to give it a treat - or chase it around the field. But you might unwittingly teach the horse how not to be caught - as if the horse didn't know.

That just may be an intelligent horse. It has worked it out, that it has to educate you, whereas you think you are thinking you are educating it.

As you say there is a horse language and you have to learn the version your horse speaks. Be satisfied if it will respond to: "walk on, trot on, woah, stand and OI!".

Have fun with your new horse.

AndreaSctlnd 02-28-2012 02:41 PM

I am glad you asked these questions. I too am "new" in to horse ownership and will be taking lessons starting next week. But as of right now, I go up as often as I can to see my Dee and when I lead her, she trys to get ahead of me. I guess, I will have to put the kibosh on that. I don't want her getting the idea that she is the boss. She is way too big for that! I sure hope more people comment...This could be a great learning thread.

Hickory67 02-28-2012 06:05 PM

Yeah Lusty is very treat oriented for sure, but I don't give her one until she does what I ask. Taking Palomine's advice, I've started defining my space and enforcing it. She's still a pain in the butt, but I don't expect that to change overnight, if at all. As long as I can learn to manage it and make clear what I expect behavior-wise, we'll get along alright. I've pretty much established that she doesn't dislike me, so that's a plus. And as much a pain as she is, I love every minute of it. She's very therapeutic.

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