Wow have I got a problem - Help Please!!!
First let me say that I have had horses for many years, but I am by no means an expert. This problem certainly proves that. If this seems a little long, it is because I want to be sure you understand the situation completely.
It concerns our youngest horse, a 3year old paint named “Sacred Princess” (she is the daughter of Sacred Indian). She has had no ‘formal’ training. She came to us when she was just under 1 year old, and our vet advised us to wait until she was at least 3 to begin formal riding training.
So, in the meantime, I have worked with her doing ground work. I taught her to lead, whoa, back and yield from the ground. I taught her to enter and exit a trailer. I taught her to accept being bathed on a wash rack, and I taught her to lift her feet for cleaning. I thought she was really coming along. Over time I conditioned her to allow me to put a pad and saddle on her as we as a bridle (she has allowed this for more than 1 ½ years now) and I was just about to start putting weight on the saddle, preparing her for riding training. I have also successfully cured her of biting, which she did when we first got her. I have also trained her to wear a blanket in winter and a full face mask in summer (we are in Florida and she is white, so her face is easily sunburned.) All of our horses are pastured for most of the day and brought into the barn twice a day for feeding and if the weather is very bad.
The problem started 2 weeks ago. I was washing her on the wash rack as I have done hundreds of times before (she gets bathed 1 – 3 times per week). This time, however, for some reason she crowded me against one of the poles as I was scrubbing her. My reaction was to poke her in the ribs to 1) protect myself, and 2) show her that this was unacceptable behavior. This the first time I have ever had to do this to her. She did not react as I would have expected, but rather she pulled back and snapped the cross ties. I responded by calming her down and walking her a bit, through the wash rack. I could not re-tie her as she broke the cross ties. Anyway, after a while I put her in her stall and fed everyone as usual. A few days later, it was time once again for her bath. I took her out to the wash rack as normal and tied her up. She immediately pulled back and broke the cross ties. Obviously she had learned that she could do this. Again I calmed her down but this time I did not feed her immediately afterwards, thinking that was establishing a reward for bad behavior. (As you can see I am conflicted between continuing a normal routine after a bad event, and changing the routine…not sure which is best). Anyway, the next day when I brought her into the barn and tied her outside her stall, she immediately pulled back. She was unable to break the nylon lead rope but she sure tried. I calmed her down and continued with the our normal routine.
Well this morning I went out to feed them and she refused to allow me to halter her. Period. As I approached her with her halter, she pinned her ears back and even turned to kick me. I tried for over an hour to calm her but was not successful in putting her halter on. Consequently, she went unfed this morning while the other horses ate.
When then were finished, I figured she would be ready to come in and eat, but nothing doing, she became more and more aggressive and after another hour of attempting, she still would not let me put a halter on her.
My response was to isolate her in a pasture by herself now, until I can figure out what to do next.
Obviously I am, somehow, making matters worse by trying to catch her. By the way, as frustrated as I get, I am not a ‘hitter’. I try the calm talking approach as it has always worked for me in the past. But this time I am beyond frustrated. I fear the next step in the downslide is for her to actually become violent and dangerous. This is my thinking behind isolating her.
Can anyone advise me what the next step would be. I fear the 2+ years of ground work and “training” I have done can be lost in 2 weeks, and I don’t fully understand what when wrong here.
Please tell me, what do I do now?
Hmm, interesting story. I wonder if her hormones are kicking in and messing with her mind? At 3 yrs old, I think the timing would be right. Of course, this still means that the issue needs to be dealt with. Assuming there aren't any health issues that have cropped up, I agree with keeping her isolated and feed her only if / when she is prepared to be haltered. Once you get over that step, I would re-do her training bits at a time. Sounds like a lot, but it's definitely not gonna take the same amount of time that you have already spent with her. Sounds to me like she has figured out she won in the bath and is now feeling out her new "power".
On an aside, why do you wash them so often? Is this common? I don't show, breed or anything like that so this is totally out of my league -- I have washed my one girl exactly once to get track-druff off of her and that's my total experience with washing horses!
In answer to her bathing frequency: we are in Florida and this is our rainy season, consequently, there is mud in the pasture. All of our horses seem to enjoy rolling in the mud, which I know is normal. The problem is that during the day it gets pretty hot and the dried mud here is vey high in calcium so they begin to itch. My Arab had scratched her mane and some of her skin off from the intense itching. So, when they get a little too dirty or itchy, it is bath time. I also bath them if the temp and humidity gets too high, as I think it gives them some relief from the heat.
Again, thanks for your reply.
You need to get over not being a "hitter". She is testing you and you need to show her who's boss. Go out into the pasture with a lunge whip or driving whip (I prefer a driving whip for this) and your halter. When she turns her butt toward you, SMACK IT and chase her off big time. Turning her rear toward you is a signal that she sees you as the lower herd member. So, you need to be the herd leader and "kick" her for her insubordination. If the pasture is small enough, follow her and keep her moving, do not try to re-halter her quite yet. Keep her moving until she shows signs of tiring and/or submission (head lowered, licking, chewing, etc.). Then approach her again with your halter (whip pointed behind you in a "neutral" position). If turns from you again, SMACK THAT REAR! And get her moving again. Once she does stand for haltering, give her a treat and praise her. Bring her in for her food, then let her back out.
Once she is better for haltering, it's time to work in the round pen on respect and manners. Pick your favorite round pen guru for this one. Mine is Dan Sumerel. He's pretty no-nonsense with no special equipment required. He uses the same kind of techniques as the rest of them, but gives it to you in a more straight forward and easy to follow manner. No 10 video series or 12-step programs required ;-). Whatever you choose, you need to make sure that she understands that YOU are the boss now, no matter what :D.
As for the pulling back, you can take one of two routes. You can put her in a sturdy halter and lead rope (the rope halters with tied in leads are the least likely to break) and tie her to something sturdy, and let her work it out. Stay in the area with a pocket knife to cut the rope just in case. Or, you can get one of those tie blocker rings and follow the training instructions that comes with it. I think Clinton Anderson does those. No matter which direction you go, definitely try something.
I could not agree more. When "hitting" a horse, there is a difference between abuse and correction. The behavior she is exhibiting needs to be corrected. Do you think she is going to hesitate to "hit" you? I would not bet on it. You could see if she gets better after a few days when she cycles out (if she is in). But if she has started to test you for a leadership role, even when she is not hormonal, she will still try you until you show her that you are head hauncho.
Clinton Anderson says, "If you are not going to drive the bus, they will. And once they do, they decide they like it, and it is that much harder for you to take control back.":evil:
And that is true, I speak from experience. When at all possible, learn from the mistakes of others
As for the haltering and pulling back, my guess is that initially she thought it was a fun thing to do, but when she got the lead that wouldn't break she may have pulled a muscle or just generally went sore from her efforts, and now halter = bad thing! She'll come round, when you go to bring her in try a bit of bribery eg carrot, sweet feed etc but do not give it to her until she accepts the halter.
Luvs2Ride covered a point I totally missed. She and Frog are right about dealing with the butt being turned to you. I have done this with my bossy 5yrold and I keep at her until, like posted, she submits. I have never had to hit her, but I would if needed. I find that smacking the whip on the ground, or cracking it or hissing at her and talking mean works just as well. I get bossier than she does and keep her going until she submits. So far, the longest I've had to go is about 20 minutes. It used to improve her attitude for a day or two, now I've only done it once in the last month.
I'm surprised, but I'm going to have to agree with everyone, give her a good whack on the hind-quarters. She is threatening you and you can get seriously hurt. Go in the pasture and if she turns to kick you give her a whack, if she is persistant and will NOT move make her work.
Also, she must learn that haltering is a good experience. Take her hay or grain (or both if you feed both) and put them right next to you. Make it so the ONLY way she can eat is if she allows you to put the halter on. If she refuses, move her away...if she lets you, put her halter on, and let her eat.
I 100% agree with what was written. I believe that 3 would be time to watch for heat cycles. Try to figure out what you're dealing with... PMS..lol or Alpha mare issues. She doesn't get to be alpha. :razz:
I have never had to actually whip either of my horses. Just having the whip and keeping them moving with aggressive body language and walking towards them. I'll say "Move on" with growly voice and maybe clap my hands. That has been enough. The only time I've needed a whip I didn't have one. I just used the lead rope and held the rope end and tossed the clip end right into the horse's bum...(I'm a good shot and didn't throw it hard...It just spooked the horse to get touched) I was haltering Him at the time. He was plum scared after I did that. He came looking to me for "help" after the spooky thing was out to get him. :roll: I haltered him and went about my business.
I agree with NM. Once I've had to get my horses to "move on"... I don't have to do it again for another month or 2. It's pretty powerful stuff!
Good Luck. I like the blocker ties to deal with a horse that has begun pulling issues. She just needs to figure out that she's OK in the ties again.
One of the important things you can teach in ground work is that coming to you is a good thing. For example, you can use a long lead rope and place it around the leg (like around the pastern). Give pressure and teach her to come to you. That way if she ever gets caught up in a rope she doesn't get scared and she knows you're the one to go to for help. You can also use that long lead rope and walk behind her, holding it kind of slack. As you walk behind her it puts pressure on her front end and she should turn around to face you. That teaches her not to let her rear end face you.
One thing our trainer told us (and my softie ten year old daughter) is that you have to be firm. OK, it might not look nice if you poke, elbow, hit, etc. your horse but you must remember that a horse is 1000 lbs and it can kill you. You have to be safe and you have to be the alpha horse.
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