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kayhmk 02-14-2013 04:02 AM

Looking Away: Getting Attention Or...?
Sorry about the title, the following novella should hopefully clear it. ^^ Posting in NH as would also like to get views on this behaviour (stress, habit, respect, other).

I have a horse who is very sensitive. She needs her time to "get" things. But she is also one of those horses who need to be shown their place every once in a while (dominant as some say, a true teenager!). She tends to get nervous and tense up. Overall she is very sweet and has fairly good manners.

The problem? She always looks away. When leading, grooming, lungeing, roundpenning, you name it. This applies to all humans. The only exception is when going to see her in the pasture: she always comes to greet.

At first I thought she was being wary and in her shell. Then an attention problem.That she wasn't listening, wasn't respecting. However, even if she looks away, she almost always reacts very well. Stops when I stop, yields, etc. The trouble is knowing those few times she won't...

I previously approached the issue with insisting she looks at me. I can ask nicely or harshly, she looks and a second later she's looking away again.

I can't help but think she's feeling pressurised and looking away is her way to escape. Like she'd rather be somewhere else. It's sad to feel she's not happy or enjoying things. Or that she can't "open up". So much so that I've considered selling her. However, I don't think she'd do much better with anyone else either.

Last week I tried going to her pasture and trying to get her to be interested in me and what I'm doing. She came and greeted me. When I went in and just kept crouching and waiting, she occasionally came to see me but didn't stay curious or interested in me/what I was doing. Though I feel she was well aware of where I was and what I was fiddling with.

Any of you run into this kind of thing before? Any hints?

CharliGirl 02-14-2013 04:54 PM

She sounds like a Right-Brained Introvert horse, meaning she is very sensitive, emotional, and aware of her surroundings. She is more likely to act based on instincts (retreat from pressure, react first-think later, etc), and there is a lot of thinking going on in her head at any given moment. They are highly intelligent, it just takes them awhile to connect their brain to their feet.

Looking away from you is likely her retreating from the pressure that you put on. Try using more approach and retreat, and pay more attention to her body language - what does she do if you face her head on? How about when you walk backwards or move away from her? What does she do if you stand there and do nothing, without looking at her?
Photo from: Natural Horsemanship with Mickey...

A Right Brained Introvert horse can be one of the best you'll ever have once you gain their complete trust. Use softer, more subtle cues and let her have time to think. Linda Parelli says they are the horses that will try the hardest to please you once they are comfortable, so long as you take the time it takes to draw them out of their shells!

Saddlebag 02-14-2013 05:22 PM

She is snubbing you, telling you she doesn't want to be with you. Move so you are in front of her a good arm's length away, even more and have lots of slack in the lead. Keep your feet planted. When she turns away, immediately turn your head in the opposite direction. Hold it there. This will draw her back. After a few seconds sneak a peak to see where her head is. If it's straight you may straighten yours. Each time she turns away, you must follow suit.The more you do this, the less she will turn away. When she does turn back, after you've done this half a dozen times, when she turns back to facing straight, drop the lead, back away a few steps then turn an about face and walk away three or four steps and remain there for half a minute. This removes the pressure on her. Sometimes I will ask the hip to move in the same direction the horse is looking to bring his attention back. Don't use force, always start light as a feather. Don't think in terms of getting after her as she's not intentionally bad. She may be confused by your body language so remember, you are her teacher, that's what discipline means.

Horsigirl 02-14-2013 06:48 PM

I think you should always get two eyes when working with her and if she isnt willing then eork her feet! Move her forward backwards left and right but she needs to respect you as high horse and by moving her feet and making her yeild to you makes you higher.. Horses move when higher horses put pressure on them .. Same here.. I would move her feet in the roundpin until.. If when you step in front of drive line and ask her to yeild she yeilds shows you to eyes .. Reward her ket her air up rub her .. Its not pressure the release of pressure horses learn from.. If you ask her to yeild and she doesnt give u 2 eyes then immediately make her move her feet again.. Horse will think well that wasnt the right answer Im back to losing weight and repeat and if you can do this daily and then build upon it with other groundwork and she will be working as a thinking horse not a reacting one
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lilruffian 02-14-2013 07:22 PM

Looking away doesnt always mean that they are snubbing you. depending on the horse's personality, she may just not feel comfortable looking at you. the fact that you can still get a response out of her shows that she is indeed paying attention, she is just feeling too much pressure and therefore feels that she may need to escape so she keeps her forehand turned away, but if she is on a rope or in a pen, she cannot necessarily turn and run so she just points her head in a different direction.
My filly does this when/if i ask too much of her too soon and she is unconfident with what i have asked but you just have to pay attention to exactly what you are doing when she displays this behavior.

If she is a truly sensitive horse, approach and retreat is best. Some horses just need to get a handle on what you are asking until they are comfortable doing it.
A horse that looks away is a horse that is not asking any questions, whether because he does not care for your opinion lol or because he is uncertain, feels too much pressure and is looking for a way out.
If you can identify the reason, you can correct it properly and rememnber that horses can change their attitude & personalities in the blink of an eye so be ready to address the horse that shows up.

If you feel that it is a confidence issue, then back off, maybe try something different or give her a second and ask again. Take things slow.
And remember that as soon as she responods, release the pressure and apply it again only when she stops responding correctly.

If you feel that she is just ignoring you, you can either get after her with a little more pressure, or go behind her (i mean walk in a wide circle until you are out of her direct line of sight) This is a very good way of getting a horse's attention back on you ;) and keeps her curious about you.
Then bring her in, reward and send her back out again.
The lucky thing is that you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right ;)

tinyliny 02-14-2013 07:42 PM

I do not think that horses actually snub people. It's not that they are resisting giving you their attention, but rather that something else is more magnetic to their attention.

I have never heard anyone say to turn away from a horse that turns away from you and thus they'll turn back to you. I 'd have to see that to believe it. May be true, but have never seen that in action.

The advice from the Parelli person might work. I think it takes a lot of sensitivity and careful timing from the handler. Not sure , but I guess if you wanted to try that you'd maybe want to watch how this is done.

For me, I'd look at it as interrupting the outward thought. So, when the horse looks away , I'd do something that interrupts that thought. IF the way the horse looks away if very soft, and it's a short look (like just scanning the surroundings), then usually, all you have to do is move off to the side, or scuffle the ground a tiny bit, or rustle the rope in your hand, a small action or noise, to get the hrose back onto you. Chances are they wont' stay long, so you'd have to maybe do it a fair amount.
And, keep them busy doing things.

You can interrupt a hrose's outward thinking from quite a distance. The hrose can be all the way on the other side of the arena, and if you pick up and shake a tarp, even if you are not facing them but rather are just "busy doing things in the arena", you can be noisy enough to interrupt that outward focus, and create a curiousity that draws them in to you.

lilruffian 02-14-2013 08:08 PM

[QUOTE=tinyliny;1894805]I do not think that horses actually snub people. It's not that they are resisting giving you their attention, but rather that something else is more magnetic to their attention.

I have never heard anyone say to turn away from a horse that turns away from you and thus they'll turn back to you. I 'd have to see that to believe it. May be true, but have never seen that in action.

It does work, but only if the horse is turning away because it is unconfident and/or you are putting too much pressure on them at a given moment. If you release the pressure, and for alot of horses backing away or moving to another area that will grab their attention/curiosity is the best form of taking pressure off so that they feel that they can look at you. These are really sensitive horses, though, that have big personal space bubbles.
Again, if the horse is just ignoring you it might not work, but there are other "tricks" that involve walking away & behind the horses that are very effective at getting their attention:wink: May take awhile to explain, though, and it does not sound as thought the OP's horse is deliberately ignoring her because the handler is nolonger interesting.

Saddlebag 02-17-2013 01:37 PM

I am aware that horses don't snub. Perhaps I should have said she's looking for the door, a way out. Yes, you want both eyes and by the handler looking in the opposite direction it draws the horse back to looking with both eyes. The handler doesn't have to look at the horse's eyes, just it's nose will do. Or it's knees. If the horse is looking for a way out, isn't that much like snubbing the handler?

kayhmk 02-18-2013 07:51 PM

I've been reading these messages throughout the week and I'd like to thank you all for your input!

I thought I'd address a couple of points.

First, the "look in opposite direction" thing. I've tried that and with this horse it doesn't work. With my horse's timid sister it did work, but when I do it with my mare, we just end up facing away from each other for minutes on end.

Second, asking for both eyes by making her run... Yeah, this is something I don't want to do. This horse will run if made to. After a while she will go over the edge and totally shut down and stop listening. Once she wouldn't let people catch her for 2 hours (even after all the other horses had gone in) and another time she broke the round pen. I don't have a safe place where she can get out of control and run it out.

If I stand in front of her, she usually keeps her head straight, at least most of the time. If I circle her (go behind her), she looks the other way in a kind of a over the shoulder fashion with her ear turned to me. When I go past her tail, she will turn her head in the other direction.

Also, when I got her, she had real trouble with walking behind me as well as being sent away past certain distance (about 3 meters at first). She got visibly nervous. Confidence or fearing the concentrated pressure/energy?

I've been doing more of "backing off" (ie. releasing pressure by turning away) lately but don't see a real improvement. Maybe it takes time, maybe my timing sucks.

It's also weird(?) that when using a cordeo with a lead line attached to it, she keeps her head straighter and even looks at me some times. Cordeo is a new thing for her and tried it because she has (had) bridle/halter issues. A sign of confidence issues?


Originally Posted by lilruffian (Post 1894779)
The lucky thing is that you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right ;)

This and the idea of horses forgiving are the only two things making me want to keep on trying... And the hope that when I hit success I can replicate it.

loosie 02-27-2013 12:48 AM

288 Attachment(s)
Only scanned replies so sorry if I repeat. I agree with you OP that it sounds like she's feeling too much pressure. Also you can 'correct' her from doing the 'wrong' thing, but what do you do when she does 'right'? I'd make a point of postively reinforcing all the Good Stuff she does & not ask too much of her.

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