Disrespectful horse when lunging
I have had my 13 year old Thoroughbred gelding for about 4 years now. He use to be very good at lunging, but just recently I have brought him out of an agistment paddock where he was on a very long spell [nearly a year] while I concentrated on my final year of schooling. I didn't completely neglect him while he was on the spell, I would ride him a few times, brush him, talk to him and lunge him lightly and he was fine. The problem started when I brought him home :(
He developed this habit of throwing his head around and cutting into my circle while I was lunging him and if he was being at his worst, swinging his back legs towards me. I took it as disrespect and I have been working on the lunge with him, and every time he shows some disrespectful behavior I literally growl at him and smack the whip on the ground and he will throw his head up, put his ears forward and behave for awhile then he will try again. Today when I was lunging him I kept him in a smaller circle, so that I could get him to really concentrate. He did the head tossing and tried to cut my circle a few times, but on the whole he was pretty good for what he usually is. Towards the end of the lunge however he started to go sour again and jumped away from me and did a huge buck and threw his head around. As soon as he did this I smacked the whip on thr ground and growled loudly at him and he just froze and stood facing me with his head high, ears forward and started chewing. I started him again and for the whole lunge he kept his nose to the ground and lifted it a couple of times to watch me, the he put it down again.
His bad behavior has really jolted my nerves, and I don't want to give up on him. I would just like some advice on what I should do to improve his behavior. Please and Thank You :)
The first thing I would be concerned about is: Is my horse in pain??? He/she is acting up because ???? Fear, stress and/or pain will cause any horse to behave "out of the ordinary". If this behaviour is not normal, check his/her health - hotspots; does the sheath need cleaning; - even a change in diet/hay can cause stress, etc. Or is he/she just "blowing off steam. I have Arabians - I can tell the difference between rearing (or even bucking) due to: Yippee, I'm feeling good; or Ouch, that hurts; or I'm really scared about what's going on in this new environment. I am more lenient with the younger horses but the older ones should know better so if they tend to defy me then I know something is wrong. Maybe a "Wellness Check" by the Vet is needed.
It's very hard to give accurate advice without seeing the horse, its environment, etc. but I hope I have helped a little bit.
Good luck to you and your favourite companion!
He has always had a bit of trouble with his hooves, he had an abscess removed from his front left hoof a few years ago and ever since then it has had a permanent little crest and the end of his hoof. The farrier said that its not much to worry about and that it shouldn't cause him any pain, but I do get the feeling that sometimes his feet just get a bit too sore. He will be having his feet done again this afternoon, so I will check the hooves for any cracks etc. If it's not his hooves then by your advice he might be stressed by leaving the agistment paddock. He has recently had a health check up and he was fine. Do you have any advice, if he is upset about leaving his agistment paddock and getting back into work, on how to settle him? Thank you :)
This is typical behavior as a horse learns that there are no significant consequences to him getting in your space or out of his space in the circle. Growling and tapping the ground may distract him once or twice, but he's not stupid and will assume that is as far as you're willing to go and it seems he's right. Start working him at a walk first and make sure you can move his body out when you indicate by either pointing the stick at his shoulder or barrel (part of this depends on his position in the moment so you're going to have to observe and adjust) and asking that he move out as he's going forward. If he doesn't tap him! In the same places. It's a good idea to become efficient at swinging the stick in an upward direction so the string comes up under the belly in a swoop. This is a clear 'get out there' signal.
This is a good start.
Thank you Lauren. I do admit that my confidence is shaken from this behavior and that I need to assume a more dominant roll. Thank you so much for your advice on pushing him out, I will be defiantly be trying this when it is time to lunge him again :)
I would agree with Lauren you do have to be more dominant, part of it is moving out, and part of it is moving forward. Sometimes, especially coming back into work, horses will have a bit of an attitude at first. Like "but I didn't have to do this!?!?!?" so you will have to tell him you mean business. If he bucks, tap him on his rump. Just like you would if you were riding, move him forward, make him think about moving his back feet and not bucking and carrying on. If he has time to buck, he's obviously not thinking about going forward or paying attention to you.
Also, if your horse turns in without being asked, take that as a sign of disrespect and a "challenge" of him saying "do you really mean work?" or "make me!" it's also dangerous, on a lunge line for a horse to turn in as they could get tangled in the line.
I'd also consider, if you're not already, lunging him in side reins, it will cut down on the "playing" so you can focus on the work part.
He just sounds like a horse who thought he had been retired. First make sure your longe line is long. The further away from you he is, the safer for you. If at any time he turns his butt towards you, pins his ears or does that neck thing, immediately get after him with your crop and chase him into last week. I'm not talking "please don't do that", I'm talking a come to Jesus meeting. You have two things massively in your favor. He's a TB and a gelding. He's smart and wants to be a good boy, just a little opinionated about having to go back to work. Just like when he turned in to you and licked his lips the first time, all you have to do is get after him and he'll cave almost immediately and be a good boy again.
This is free lunging we are talking about? or on line? If free lunging, do plenty of changes of direction if he starts to thinking about bucking. He can buck, but he will end up having to turn and go the other way. Don't get mad or upset, just move him on. Do NOT get emotional when he kicks out , but if he comes in to you, move him out immediately. The sooner you can cautch that behavior, the easier it is to change. If he starts to come in when you are asking for forward on the circle, don't wait unti he's close to you. He already made a decision counter to your request; he decided to come in. YOu interrupt that decision before he gets to act three steps on it. from then on, you watch his face and if you see him thinking about it, you give him more work to think about. I dont' mean you punish him, you just put your request for "forward" more obviously in the front of his mind. YOu remind him that you are there and you are a meaningful presence and he'd better be looking because he cannot assume what you are going to do, he needs to watch for the next direction, be it, turn , speed up, slow down, back up , come in to me, go out from me, stand and face me , etc.
The horse is "complaining" about the changes in his life. But, if you give him a lot to think about he will let go of that irritable resistance.
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