Horse aggression during round pen training
I'm doing some research into round pen horse training and aggression.
I am specifically interested to know if aggressive behaviours are common or rare in the average round pen session. Aggressive behaviours would include kicking out at you when you approach (not when you chase them away), laying ears back when you approach, charging, biting, rearing, pawing or striking, particularly when you approach or cue the horse to change direction or follow you.
Kicking out when you initially chase the horse away is more likely to be a defensive reaction (Waring 2003), but kicking when you come towards them are more likely be aggressive. If you've ever been chased out of the round pen am I particularly interested to hear of your experiences.
Thanks in advance!
A young mare I'm currently working with sometimes displays aggressive/disrespectful behavior towards me, but being overly dominant is sort of her main issue. She is pretty much over her bad behavior, but she used to rear quite a bit, even in response to simple/mild cues to move.
I've never had any problems with any other horses in that regard.
I've used the round pen with three horses of my own and helped approximately twice as many other people with their horses in a round pen. Not once I have experienced aggression.
Aggression in a round pen is a 'people problem' and not a 'horse problem'.
Any person that has a problem with a horse acting aggressively in a round pen would more than likely have a horse be disrespectful on a lead, a longe-line or under saddle. Unless the horse come to a person very spoiled and very aggressive, like a trainer might get in or like you might come up with in a 'sale barn purchas', aggressive horses are 'taught' to be aggressive by inept wanna-be trainers and owners with good intentions but little skill or horse knowledge.
All it takes to make some horses get aggressive is to step back away from a horse at the exact moment you should step forward toward him and take charge. This is a 'people problem' and not a 'horse problem' and surely not a 'round-pen problem'.
I agree with Cherie. I have a mare that is/was aggressive in the round pen. We sent her to a trainer who used a lot of round penning. We don't really know what happened but she had the horse under saddle in three days. Then a month went by and we got a call saying the mare had an epiphany. Three days later we were called and told the mare was "dangerous and was going to kill someone". We took the mare back sort of confused as to what had happened. I had halter broken this mare as a yearling and found her smart but safe. The mare went to the track and did not make it as a racehorse (she interferes) but the trainer liked her attitude. We asked the trainer what we should do with a "killer horse". The trainer suggested selling the mare. Which we thought would be unethical. If this horse is going to kill someone how do you sell it with a clear conscious to someone? We started to hear about how the trainer had an alcohol problem and started to wonder.
The mare went down to a friend in Florida who has been training horse for 20 odd years and said she would take look at her. Nothing was really adding up and we were wondering if we were that breeder blind about this mare. The Florida trainer said that she could not get the mare to mis-behave and do something dangerous. She rode the mare through an area that had a forest fire go through hours before (trees were still smoking) and the mare did not bat an eyelash. We took the mare back and started to figure a few things out.
The first time we put this mare in the round pen to warm her up she turned into a devil mare, bucking, kicking, rearing she never hit us but she fired warning shots. We took her out and lunged her no problem, likewise if you just saddle her up and go. Not much flusters her on the trail. She can get caught in wire and stands nicely while you untangle her. She has sank into a tree stump and just stepped out of it. I can swing off and tie her to a sapling and sort out the rider with me. The horse behind her can spook, rear and bolt off sans rider and this mare will take a step to the side to not get hit as the horse runs past her. I can take this mare out after a year of not being touched, saddle up and go for a trail ride and she is fine.
As near as we can figure, this mare was round penned without a pressure release. She got to the point where the pressure was never taken off and/or she managed to intimate the trainer and learned that the way to get out of the round pen was to act dangerous. This idea even generalized to rope halters. I never used one on this mare and they never use them at the track. The only place she would have been exposed to them was at this trainers. To this day (its been 5 years) if you put a rope halter on this mare her ears go back and for lack of a better word she gets pissy. Ask her to do the same task in a flat halter and she does it ears forward and willing.
I had tried to do some round penning/join up when she was a yearling and I halter broke her. The mare did fine with that always joined up and never kicked or reared at me. Thats been my experience with round penning horses. You should not do it if you don't know what your doing and pressure release is really, really important.
Unfortunately the round pen is all too often seen as a place to make the horse move with speed and going around too many times. This plus the addition of mixed signals confuses the horse and he reacts in a defensive manner. I've read of people being angry with a horse's behaviour on the trail so when they got home the horse was worked to exhaustion. The horse learned nothing except to maybe rebel the next time it sees the pen. Much can be accomplished if the handler keeps the energy low because the goal is to keep the horse relaxed. A relaxed horse will try to sort out what is being requested. A relaxed horse is forgiving of handler mistakes as we must be forgiving of their.
Ahhh....the old "round pen them until they drop of exhaustion" method. Seen it and always amazed at how people can get the theory but not the concept.
Way too many people have bought into all sorts of "training" ideas and they do not understand anything other than the first little bit of it.
I agree about the trainer pushing the round pen too much, but also wonder if this mare, is not smart enough to figure out that she knows what she is to do, and sees no reason for some fool to chase her around a pen?
Palomine, that is why I like to keep the energy low with lots of direction changes. The session may last 10 min. or two minutes. The horse needs to be taught to turn inward with direction changes and to move out on the rail again. Even at the walk we are making him move and directing where he goes.
Even in the wild, after a horse is kicked by a more superior horse and the less superior turns away or does as the higher up horse wants, the higher up horse releases the pressure by walking away, not kicking, or ignoring the other horse. We have the same concept except through physical pressure and eventually with verbal pressure/commands.
Anyways. I hope this was easy to understand..
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