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SammysMom 10-13-2013 05:26 PM

My horse is SO ANNOYING!
Sam is absolutely the love of my life, and he makes me the happiest girl in the world, but good lord, he can be a real pest. I think the general problem is that he doesn't see me as his leader/boss/alpha mare/whatever. We're working on that on the ground and under saddle, but I'm hoping I can work on the behaviors specifically.

When I'm on him and we're standing around talking to other riders, he'll do the "quarter horse plant" forever, and if I stand him in the aisle while I tack him, he fusses a little bit but is better. But in the cross ties, arena, outside, etc., he is soooo obnoxious, constantly stepping forward and back, chewing on the cross ties, nudging and nosing me, making goofy faces and biting everything (inanimate) he can get his face near. Under saddle and on the lunge line, he's usually very responsive and doesn't act like a brat except for the occasional fit, but it's not constant at all like it is when tied.

In the cross ties, I've been making him move back to where I put him every time he moves his feet and giving a tug on his halter when he gets extra antsy, but nothing seems to work. He'll quiet down for a minute and then if I give him a scratch or he decides he's bored he'll start again. He doesn't seem at all nervous or anxious. He really just acts like an ADD human 5-year-old. He just fusses with things like a bored kid.

I've tried the exercise I've read about where where I tie him in the arena and sit nearby but not give him any attention, but he just paws and scratches and pulls and chews on the rope. He doesn't freak out, he just doesn't stand still. I haven't been able to figure out a way to tie him that he can't undo (he pulls at the knot until it starts to come loose, at which point I re-tie, but that's not ideal.) I bop him on the nose when he nudges me hard or nibbles at me, but he thinks it's a game and just keeps doing it or will stop for a minute and then start again. If I back him up out of my space, he steps forward again almost immediately. For example, when I back him with the lead-rope-wiggle technique, I usually have to escalate to doing it hard before he moves back, and even then it's a few steps, like he's rolling his eyes at me.

I know the problem is that he doesn't take me seriously (because my trainer gets better behavior), but how do I get that? I feel like I'm being firm and still not getting through to him, and I don't want to always have to get tough to get him to listen.

My trainer says he should "be a Breyer" when tied or asked to stand. I only see her once a week, though, and she's pretty expensive for me, so I prefer to spend our lesson time on moving ground work and riding. Does anyone have suggestions for how to teach him that he's expected to stand when on lead so I can work on it myself?

Are there tricks? Or do I just need to put him in a rope halter and be harder on him? It seems like there should be a way to tell him to do something and have him do it without me demanding it, but even my demanding just barely works at best.

Help, wise horsemen and horsewomen! :)

tinyliny 10-13-2013 05:38 PM

not wise one, here.

you pretty much already know the answer; that you DO have to be firm, and how firm? firm enough to make a change. you are likely stopping consistently short of making any real change in his attitude, thus you and he have to rehash this over and over again.

Ian McDonald 10-13-2013 05:42 PM

You've got to be able to place his feet where you want them to be whether he's moving or standing still. When you can do that, he'll stand until you ask him to move. You'll also have his attention. The attention part is really central to the whole thing. In order to gain his attention you've got to become more attentive yourself so that you can begin to see what happens -before- he does something. When you can do that you'll be able to predict his behavior, and when you can do that you can begin to influence it by re-directing that attention onto something else before he has a chance to do things that you don't want him to. But it has to start with the handler/rider.

Wallaby 10-13-2013 05:51 PM

Lacey still has "days" where she really doesn't want to stand still in the cross-ties, but at this point she'll get antsy, step out of line, then correct herself with a simple "eh-eh" reminder.

Basically what I did [I'm sure there are better ways! haha] was, whenever she'd start dancing around/doing something 'bad', I'd march over to her like I was going to kill her [direct eye contact, straight back, just a really confident "mom" march haha], firmly place her back where I wanted her to be [no talking, no cuddling, just firm "you are going here, NOW"], then give her 2 seconds or so to settle, and reward her verbally and physically with petting. I'd pet her and talk to her like she was the best horse in the whole world = making the bad thing feel 'terrible' for her and the right thing feel wonderful.
It took her a little while but she figured it out. She's still not perfect but there's regular improvement. :)

Consistency is definitely the key, however you choose to correct him.

gssw5 10-13-2013 06:15 PM

Sounds like a real character and he has your number. He needs to learn patience. Find a tree that you can tie your lead rope up higher then his eyes. Then tie your lead rope and secure the end where he cannot reach it, now walk away. Leave him there for as long as it takes for him to stand and relax. This is best done after a long hot, sweaty workout so he is a little tired. A tired horse is a good horse. Let him paw, dance, wiggle until he realizes he is getting nothing for it. If he still manages to chew the rope tie it higher, there should be enough slack so he can keep his head in a natural position but not so much that he can get at it easily. If you can figure out a way to make it so he can walk in circles as without getting knotted up that is even better. Don't stand there and micromanage him, let him figure out the right answer for himself. It may take a couple times, it may take 5 hours but he will learn to stand patiently. I had one horse I had to leave him for three hours before he finally just decided the best thing to do was stand patiently. And I had to repeat the process for five days in a row. Now as soon as his lead rope hits a tree he goes to sleep. Just don't give in and say oh baby you have been here two hours that is enough lets get a drink. You get the drink and let him figure it out. Stick to your guns and do not give in, because next time he will throw a bigger fit hoping to get noticed and the habit will go on. Good luck.

xXSweetBreezeXx 10-13-2013 06:54 PM

I second tying high to a sturdy tree! :-)

SorrelHorse 10-13-2013 06:56 PM

Oh lord, Selena does this too. She doesn't chomp nd chew but she will just casually move her feet when I'm booting her, step sideways when I throw my saddle up, or just in general shift around. I have, however, dealt with annoyingly mouthy horses as well.

I put bitter apple on the cross ties to start. Just drives me crazy when they chew. It's cute and all, but dang.

Second, I'll half hitch (Just loop the lead around and not tie it) and step back. If the horse moves, I tend to be very irritated and immediately pull them off and lunge in a circle disengaging their hindquarters. I make it so they WANT to stand still. Moving isn't fun if you ask for it constantly.

Other than that, I don't know. I might also leave him tied for a couple hours and walk away.

churumbeque 10-13-2013 07:00 PM

I always say a horse is a mirror of you.

Dustbunny 10-13-2013 08:01 PM

Well, this may not be a popular suggestion but this is what I would do when he pushes into your space (and it sounds like he has learned he can)...keep a riding crop in your hand and if he ignores your first request, give him a tap and move towards him. Make HIM move, not you. Make that tap harder if he does it again until he gets the point. You don't have to beat him up but you do need to make him see the benefit of doing things your way. Once you have his attention I would not immediately go to him and make nice. Let him stand there and think about it. Take him for a walk and stop often and insist he stand there until you decide to move off.
I have watched Clinton Anderson do the rope wiggle and whacking the lead rope thing to get them to back, but it was not real successful for me. Probably lack of coordination or something.
Anyway, that's just my 2-cents worth.

bsms 10-13-2013 08:30 PM

Not a fan of wiggling the rope. For the rest...make your no MEAN no.

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