Apparently we've forgotten everything
Alright, so after the fiasco of Monday with Aires getting his feet trimmed, I decided that we need to go back to basics for a little while. This was reiterated to me today after picking out his feet.
To be fair, he wasn't nearly as bad for the farrier this last time as he was the very first time, but he was still not very good. It didn't help that the farrier took almost an hour and a half (not even exaggerating, unfortunately) and it was a different farrier than we usually use. He also hasn't seen the farrier very many times (only about four or so). However, that should not excuse him basically running over me at times.
Anyway, today I went to turn Aires out while I was cleaning his stall, just to give him some free time. On the way out to the turnout, I decided to make him stop to make sure he was paying attention. Well, he kept going for a few steps when I stopped and then got kinda pissy when I asked him to back up and stand still. When we started forward again, he decided to be an idiot and did a little mini rear and bucked, then acted like an arab (head up, tail "flagged," ears perked, prancy). He tried to bolt when we got into the turnout and was ticked when I wouldn't let him go. I made him stand like a gentleman for a minute or so before I would fully take his halter off, then when I finally let him go, he ran a couple of strides and then hardcore bucked AT me. Needless to say, he got chased for a little while.
So, I went to bring him in and he ignored me when I got to the gate, so I went to get him. He was fine leading out and even stood very nicely for the gate to open and let me go first. Up we went to the hitching rails and I tied him up so I could pick out his feet. Here's what I don't understand about his feet. He'll give them to me just fine. I don't have to fight him or lean on him. I run my hand down his leg and gently pull his fetlock and he picks them up for me. He will sometimes try to pull away his front left a couple of times, but then he'll give up and stand there all nice. He's fine with his right front and his right rear. He'll give them to me and won't even fight me at all. However, his left rear he is AWFUL about. He will try to keep it away from me and once I have it in hand, he will try to kick me HARD with it. He did this three times today. My shoulder is still only about 45-50% healed, so I was NOT in a mood to deal with his BS. The first time he tried to kick me, he got a HARD slap on the flank. The second time, he got a close-fisted punch on the flank. The third, and hardest, time he tried to kick me, I will admit that I hauled off and kicked him back. Maybe not the best solution, but he got the point and gave me his hoof without complaint. I finished picking out his feet, but by the time I was done, I was almost in tears because my shoulder hurt so badly. :-(
So, now we're going back to basics. He knows how to behave, he is just testing his limits. Now, persuasion doesn't really work with Aires. If he doesn't want to do something, he doesn't. If I correct him by making him back up, he'll back up about three or four steps and then just plant his feet. No amount of shanking, pushing on his chest (with hand or carrot stick or whip), or shaking the lead rope will get him to move further. So, we'll go into disengaging the hindquarters, which he will do until the cows come home if you ask him to. Then back to backing up.
So, I've decided that I need to carry something to back up my "threats." I have a crop, a dressage whip and a lunge whip. I'm thinking carrying the dressage whip will be better, yes? It gives me more extension to my arm and I can reach his hindquarters if I need to.
We will probably work exclusively on ground work and manners for at least a week, so I am also looking for games and such to do with him to keep him interested. We will be going for trail walks, like we used to, but I want some arena games we can do as well. I'm definitely going to teach him to lunge on the line (we free lunge right now...when I put him on a lunge line, he thinks that because he's attached to me, he needs to be right next to me...we're gonna work on that), and then we'll do some lunging over trot poles, for sure. Would it be too much for him to get him to trot over a small (6" or so) crossrail? Only one and just to keep his mind occupied and listening to me. My friend used to lunge her mare in the arena and would set up two of the 55gal drums so that she had to trot (or canter) between the two of them. Maybe do something like that? Any other ideas?
Also, because he has such issues with backing up, what's the most effective way to teach him to back up? I taught my old gelding to back with just slight pressure from my hand on his chest and the word "back" until I said "ho" to get him to stop, but he was much more willing to give to pressure than Aires is. What's funny is that you can push one finger into Aires' hip when he's standing and say "step" and he'll move over until you take your finger away. Going back, however, is like trying to move a freight train from a dead stand-still.
The dressage whip is the best tool to apply some serious discipline.
It gives much more reach than a crop and much more control over where it strikes than a longe whip. It is also much faster to strike than a longe whip.
Finally, because it is long and flexible, it seems to sting much more than a crop when applied with force.
That's what I was thinking, mildot.
My old gelding didn't have hardly any ground manners when I got him (he would climb up your shoulder if he "spooked") and I put a good set of ground manners on him, but he was a HECK of a lot smaller than Aires and, like I said, more willing to give to pressure. He was only 14.2hh and maybe 900lbs...compared to Aires' 16.1hh and 1500lbs.
I like the sound a dressage whip can make, too, whisked through the air. That will often get a horse to smarten up fast.
Aires is part draft, right? Many draft horses find it harder to back up than non drafts, not that that is an excuse.
Yes, he's half draft. He's not getting any more excuses, though. lol He CAN back, he just won't. I have backed him under saddle for four or five steps and he does just fine.
I go through a lot of the same stuff with my coming 2 yr old. The dressage whip is my best friend. If I carry it, he backs like a charm. If I don't, he will only back if he wants to. So unfortunately I feel like I have to carry it, because I want to be able to back up my requests. Walk softly but carry a big stick...... I mean dressage whip. :lol:
Best of luck. But I must admit I am glad I am not the only one!
With my guy it's like each foot has it's own brain. One foot is great, one foot he will always try to jerk away, one foot he will hold up and hop around on the other three legs, it's really weird. Like each foot has a mind of it's own.
Do you have a rope halter? If so, does he drop his head and give when you put gentle pressure on the noseband? I taught my horses (draft crosses, but I imagine less "bullish" ones than your guy) to at first drop their noses to soft pressure and then to back up. Which also sets them up for reinbacking from a soft feel. Once they back from pressure on the noseband, which is a good way to start as it's more sensitive than you prodding their chest, I add other "back" commands that I might use, such as a wiggly lead rope, me poking their chest, or ideally, me stepping into their space with a certain amount of energy and saying "back."
Another method that feels a bit rough but if that's what you need, it might work, is to stand back from the horse and snap the rope, kind of like Linda Parelli was doing in that awful video that was posted here a while ago. Except you don't have a metal clip to hit the horse in the face and as soon as he takes a step back, stop and tell him he's a good boy. Rinse, repeat, 'till he's backing off you gently bobbing the rope, rather than snapping it.
Then, the key bit of this, increase what you're asking. Now that he's understood the command you've taught him, he has to look pleasant while doing the behaviour. I have found quite a few horses will back, but they'll look like surly teenagers while doing it. If he's slowly shuffling backwards with his head up and ears back and his body braced, you don't really have him. You want softness in his body and his feet as this will make every single thing you do with him a squillion times easier. So ask him to back (at this point, you don't need to use the snappy lead; use whatever method you want) and keep asking until his expression softens, ears come forward, and he's moving lighter on his feet. To start with, back until maybe the head lowers a bit, or the ears flick forward. Then stop and praise. Rinse and repeat until you have softness.
I see a lot of horses that will give to pressure, both under saddle and on the ground, but they do it like surly teenagers being asked to do the dishes. My theory, and it is just my theory, is that this gets to be a vicious cycle, since horses are such embodied creatures: if the horse is braced and tight in his body when his handler asks him to do something, then it will feel somewhat unpleasant and even stressful, far more unpleasant than grazing, hanging out in the field with his mates, and doing whatever he wants. So this increases his attitude of resistance, which then makes his interactions with his handler more stressful for both parties, and on it goes.
Draft horses are bred to push forward through pressure, that is why they are so good at pulling heavy loads. Since Aires has draft in him it will be harder to teach him to back lightly and politely.
For a close range back up I put a little pressure on the lead, if my horse doesn't respond quickly and respectfully I start tapping with a whip/crop/stick/end of lead line, (whatever I happen to have) on their chest increasing the tempo and intensity of the tap until I get a "yes ma'am" back up, then stop, pet, or rub with whatever I was tapping with if I had to really get after my horse. Repeat as needed. I like using a stick best because you can get more precise with the firmness of your taps, but I'll use whatever is on hand.
I missed the last paragraph of your post, this thread has gotten to be mostly about backing some how.
Yes, I love your ideas about setting up obstacles for him to deal with when you are lounging. When lounging it is really easy for a horse to just zoom around in circles without really thinking, putting things in their way makes them take more time, use their brains, and think about what they are doing with those feet. For building respect I also like setting up trail courses and taking my horse through them in hand, so my horse learns to really listen to my ground cues in a variety of different tasks.
Wow!! Naughty naughty Aires!!
I had a trainer out a few months ago, I felt stuck with Rodeo, and didnt know what else to work on. He gave me this awesome exercise to do, you have him go in a "C" shape around you, not too far, but not too close. You have him, get to a certain point of the "C" and then turn him around, and go back and fourth. Rodeo at first would get EXTREMELY pissy about it, to the point where he let out a major kick out at me. The trainer told me that it is all about controlling their feet, and that Rodeo was getting pissy and an attitude because he likes to be in charge, ect, ect.
But anyways, its like a complete turn around since we have started to do that. I also just watched a Clinton Anderson episode the other day, where this woman's mare kicked out at them all the time when picking the back feet. Every time that the horse would kick out at him, he would make the horse move. Seemed to make sense, and the horse figured out that it was more worth giving in and letting him pick her feet than it was to run around.
Good Luck!! Hope your shoulder feels better soon ;)
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