How do I be a leader, not a bully, to my horse?
My Arabian is a very dominant horse. Whenever there is a new horse in the herd he won't stop until he is boss over it. Once a huge 18+ hh TB came for a while, and Paragon and him were bickering non-stop for days (Paragon is 14.2 hh, by the way, so a huge difference in height). Paragon got a full on kick in the chest that created a red hoof print that lasted for days, but he still wouldn't give up. He finally won and always made sure that he was still the boss.
My question is this, how do I make sure that I am the leader? At feeding time I don't let him shove me out of the way to get his food, and if he tries I push away and don't let him back until he behaves himself. Another problem is that he is very herd bound. Does that mean he doesn't feel secure enough around me and doesn't see me as the leader he can trust? He is better when I am on the ground than when I am in the saddle. When I am riding, he stops a certain distance away from his buddies and won't go, and when I use a crop he starts bucking. But if I dismount I can lead him basically anywhere (except through water:-P). Any suggestions?
A dominant horse is a bully. You care about your horse which indicates to me that you wouldn't purposefully abuse him, but you need to do everything you can-- stomp your feet, holler "ahh ahh!," whap him one --to let him know that NO, you are the boss here, and he can NOT get away with disrespecting you.
That being said, everyone here will give you great advice about building respect and leadership on the ground loooong before you ask for it in the saddle, which is the right way to go about it.
You don't need to be mean to him, to get him to listen. It's simple, demand his attention, and keep him interested in what you're doing.
He's the leader, and buddy sour? Heh.. It's usually the other way around.. But, it takes a while to fix being buddy sour.. people say take himaway from his herd little by little, but I found that way didn't work for me, and it won't work, unless your horse Respects you as a leader, and relies on you to guide them in the right direction safely.
For starters, you'll need to work on his 'ground manners' by doing 'ground work' with him. You can go to YouTube, and look up all kinds of really neat things to help you. :)
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Oh, and in my first post I forgot to mention that his history has a lot to do with how he is acting. He was broke as a two year old like normal(this was way before I owned him), but then his owner became very busy and didn't have time for him. He became very spoiled and fat and was never ridden or worked. When he was 16 years old he came to live with me. A novice person who had ridden a horse twice before and a spoiled Arabian who hadn't been ridden in 14 years, not a good mix! Long story short, I let him get away with many many things that I shouldn't have and he was the boss, so now that I am much more knowledgeable and experienced I have to overcome so much to get through to him that I am different and am not going to let him get away with anything I used to. Once again, thanks for the advice and I will definitely do some ground work and lunging to get him to respect me.
Have you ever read any of Clinton Anderson's books? I bought "Downunder Horsemanship" when I first bought my boy and it helped me understand the purpose of groundwork and how to really work with my horse. :)
What I do with my horse, who is the exact same, a major herd bully, is say no constantly!! I have to tell him over and over that crowding me isn't Ok, and don't be afraid to get firm. Horses like that don't listen to whisper quiet corrections. I'm not saying scream at your horse, but do everything you do like you mean it. I advise you to get off riding for a week and do groundwork. Focus on getting him to do what you ask, WHEN you ask and he should understand that you're the leader. Then I would move on to riding, but only in an arena for awhile and work on him doing exactly what you ask. If you have to, develop a training plan of things you want to accomplish before you move on from ground work (such as lunging nicely with a dip in the line, showmanship patterns etc.) Make a checklist. This way, there's no time ( because horse's are unpredictable and can't follow a strict "you WILL finish this today and then we finish this stuff in a day" plan) it really works. I'm doing that with my horses and though we're taking baby steps right now, the steps get bigger and bigger.
For the buddy sourness- Keep. Him. Busy. Move his feet, direct every step. Serpentines, transitions, back up, left, right, leg yields, whatever he knows. If he starts the bucking, same thing, pull his head around and move him forward. Make him work, hard. I have found that sometimes with a horse like this, popping them with a whip only makes things worse, but if you show that bucking gets them nothing but more work, you're more apt to change their mind.
For the dominance, ground work, round penning, and another dose of ground work. Lay down some basic rules (this is my space, you're not welcome in it unless I invite you, and I move your feet forward backward left and right, etc) and then build in that. Have a plan and decide in black and white what the rules are, and what happens when he breaks the rules. No, you don't need to be mean, but you do need to make him uncomfortable for 'infractions of the law' and if he isn't jumping at your requests with a 'yes'm' attitude, you're not making him uncomfortable enough. You also need to get good at your release, totally shutting off your pressure to reward him and say 'yes'. It's like immediate forgiveness, and you can't keep acting or feeling mad for the infraction he committed 4 seconds ago. Speaking of seconds, you have 3 to reward or punish for any action on his part, make them count. I'd also advise you to learn about the subtle body language a horse gives leading up to the blatant disrespect. Good luck!
Herd dynamics don't necessarily translate in to disrespect for you. Hanging out with him is good especially if you sit and read so your mind is not on him. No need to touch him, just be there. Let him check you out. It is so relaxing for both of you.
^^ This ... right here. Perfect, IMHO.
Only thing I will add is a comment on his breed. He's an Arab and one of the things I've found with Arabs is they do not tolerate nit picking or nagging very well. This holds true for most breeds but I've found the Arabs are a bit more sensitive to it than most. Don't let anger and frustration get the better of you when working with him. All corrections need to be quick and fair then leave it alone. Some may not agree with this but it holds true in my experience.
Good advise thus far, for herd bound fixes I like to work them by their buddies, and then just walk off until they stop or start acting up, then I walk them calmy back(I will stop them and back them for awhile if they try to pick up the pace); once I get close to the "barn" area I will start loping small circles both directions, do some spins, yeilds, and whatever else I can think of for about 10 minutes(basically keep working him at the trot or higher). Then i calmly walk him back to the spot where he balked...I repeat until he will walk wherever you want to because he knows the "barn area" means work and the walk to wherever is mucho better.
the only thing I would add to instilling into him that you are the leader is to watch how he establishes control over the other horses(basically how much "pressure" he puts on them, whether it's kicking, pushing, biting, etc..) then you know how much you will have to escalate your behavior to show him that you are the leader and that he must accept it....of course you won't bite or kick, but you can use the end of your lead or whip or stick or whatever you use for "correction".
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