Need advice if I'm being played!
Hi, I'm getting very discouraged and can use some advice.
I'll try to keep it short. 4 months ago I bought at 14 year old TB gelding from a feedlot. After a month of quarantine, I brought him to the barn where I board him. First two months were spent putting weight on him, getting his shots, hoofs taken care of, letting him relax and just bonding time. I groomed him in his paddock and on cross-ties, he was affectionate, sweet and just a good boy. He's had several vet checks, healthy as a horse. LOL. I had no problem haltering him, hand walking him including on trails, grooming, whatever, easy boy, and everyone that handles him at barn says he's the easiest horse and does whatevers asked correctly.
NOW, the change. He has started pinning his ears when I try to halter him and walking away. I eventually can, just not as easy as before. If I try to groom him he pins his ears, whether in paddock or cross-ties. He's also gotten pushy with me, I back him up and move his feet when he does, but the confidence I felt with him is slipping away. I am working with a new trainer (to figure him out riding wise since I don't know his background or what he knows), he doesn't do this behavior with her or anyone else. Some people say to be firmer, others to be gentler. Nothings changed in how I approach him from the beginning to now, so why is he doing this? A friend at the barn says he playing me and testing me and I have to address it. But what is the right way to address it?
I'm fully aware that it has to be me doing something wrong, so please be kind. I want to go back to having the relationship we had. Is he playing me? and how would you address it? Has anyone else ever had this situation, where he pulls this stuff on you and then is an angel for everyone else? I can see him looking for me when I arrive and he whinnys when I walk to him, so he must like me a little, I hope. Thanks for any insights.
Since he's only doing it with you then I'm afraid you are being played.
You dont want to become his enemy but you do need to correct any bad behaviour the instant it happens
I've always found with horses that fair and firm works best, clear boundaries - as long as they are treated right 99% of the time they accept punishment for the 1%.
Get your trainer to help you do groundwork with him as well as riding so he sees you as the person in charge - right now he's trying to push himself into that position and it wont end well.
You've lost your confidence and he knows it. Thats the difference between you and everyone else.
He's been testing you for leadership. Be the confident leader.
When I was relearning how to handle horses, my instructor told me that the horse I was working with needs to understand that I'm the scariest b***h in that barn. Why? Heres the reason:
Horses need a confident leader, not someone they can intimidate. Not that you have to intimidate your horse. You need to lead it and put him in his place very quickly and very firmly. If you are the scariest b***h at your barn, he will also look to you for safety, because NO ONE messes with the scariest b***c in the herd. The scariest horse in the herd is the lead horse. It makes the decisions and it keeps the herd safe.
He is testing you to see if you are capable of leading him. And if you aren't, he will only get worse. HE will become the scariest b***h because he feels he needs to, and you will have a bad problem on your hands.
I do believe your honey moon phase is over :wink: From what I can tell I do believe that he is testing you. When you first got him you spent a lot of time bonding (which is good!) but not a lot of time being the leader. You were his buddy, and now that he is feeling good he is realizing that he is bigger and stronger than you and that maybe he should be the leader. This is where you need to step up to the plate and show him that you are the one in charge. I don't think you necissarily need to be any harsher with him because you shouldn't let your emotions get involved too much when training/working with your horse, it can be confusing for him.
Have you tried lunging for respect? Or maybe try just doing a lot of ground work: backing up, disengaging hind quarters, stretching, yielding... all that fun stuff. These are all good ways to gain some respect. Good luck!
Wow, what you are all saying makes a lot of sense. It does seem like he flipped a switch and decided he was in charge, and I know I was starting to lose confidence and just feeling overwhelmed by hearing so many different opinions from people on the right feed, saddle, supplements, etc., and he probably sensed it too. I knew it had to be me somehow.
My trainer is showing me some different ground exercises but the weather hasn't been cooperating (Snow!!) so hopefully better weather and we can be more consistent.
But if I could ask, when he pins his ear when I try to put his halter on, what would you do at that moment to show I'm boss. I know its like 3 seconds to react or they don't put the act together with the punishment. What would be the appropriate reaction?
the reason that he has changed is that the training that he came with has withered away. Training has to be maintained, like a garden. If you never prun or weed, the garden won't stay as pretty as it was from the first day.
So, all along the way, he was doing minor things that you didn't notice , probably blinded by your loving eyes for him, and these things might have been corrected before. But since they weren't, he started expanding on those things. such as, moving into your space, or feeling entitled to walk away from you. Then you get unsure of yourself and you try to get him "love" you more, which only means that you overlook more of the small things that are a decay of his training.
Keeping him sharp takes work, and high expectations on your part, and the willingness to address the little things as they crop up, so that you never have to address the bigger things.
Your horse will not miss the former "leeway" you were giving him because as log as he knows what the program is, he is happy to live within it. Decide your program, and implement it in every way, every day.
If a horse walks away from me when I am trying to catch or halter him, I will put some pressure on him. I mean, if he turns his butt toward me as he's peeling off to walk away, I'll pop his but with the lead rope.
If I can catch him sooner, while he's just barely starting to move his head away (his thought is leaving me) I can sometimes just scuffle the ground with my foot. I am saying "Hey, I am here!" he looks back, I stop the "noise" and let him stand for a sec. then approach again.
If he turns away, i make that action a very uncomfortable one, by making a commotion, or by popping his hiney. If he runs off, I will walk toward him slowly, kind of following and work on getting him to look arund back at me. when he does (I have his mental attention), I will stop walking, and maybe back off a bit to see if I cant' draw him to me. If he turns away, I may scuffle the ground, or whap the ground with the line. whatevre makes him feel uncomfortable about turning his back on me.
For starters, look at your posture in a mirror. How is it?
Straighten your shoulders, puff your chest out, lift your chin. This is how you should approach him. Walk with conviction, like you are there to perform a job and nothing else. Lead him like this. Handle him like this. You are there to do a job and the job must be done RIGHT and it must be done NO. Now arguing, no goofing around. If he wants to challenge you, challenge accepted.
Where is he being held?
The lead horse doesn't take sass and attitude. She makes the lesser horse move. When you go to get him and he gives you a nasty glare, don't go up to his head. Push him around. Make him move. Follow behind him (not close enough to get kicked) and don't let him stop moving. Then when he gives you some submissive signs (licking a chewing is a good one), drop the pressure and tell him its ok to stop. Approach his head to halter him. Repeat if he glares at you again.
Take that advice carefully and feel him out, though. Its BEST to do this in an arena after he's caught if he is in a larger field. Depending on your situation, you may have to deal with the dirty look, halter him, and bring him into the arena and do this instead. If you push him around long enough (might take a couple sessions) and turn to walk away, he'll follow you. You became the leader.
Yeah, he's playing you. TBs are wicked smart and some will play every trick in the book. The cool thing is, they are very quick to learn and easy to train. Just a few days of respect related exercises should reverse his current attitude.
He's winning because he's calling the shots on his terms out in the paddock. What you need to do is work him on your terms. On a long line, do some exercises with him and show him that you are his leader so to speak. Try simple things such as backing him up, walk/trot on a long line with frequent changes of direction, sending him back and forth between you and a wall or some other object, yielding his hindquarters (have someone show you that one first so you don't get kicked). Any exercise that shows him, you can move his feet any time you want will do the trick.
Whenever you're around him, be aware of your posture. Make sure you are walking like you mean it, and not slumping around with slouched shoulders. Horse's read volumes into body language. Be as persistent as you need to be but as gentle as you can. Above all, be consistent. If you correct him one time, but then let him get away with the same thing next time, he will quickly become frustrated and have no interest in listening to you.
Most TBs are not trying to be naughty but just looking for leadership. He will most likely abandon his high horse post once you've set down the new ground rules with him. Good luck.
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