Hello everyone! Two weeks ago, I adopted a 16.2 H percheron. The dentist estimates his age to be close to 30 years old (a bit older than what we expected). From what we know, he was originally purchased at an auction, most likely came from the Amish, and was used for the last year or so as a trail horse in the Poconos. He couldn't keep up with the 4 one hour trail rides / 7 day a week schedule, so he was put up for adoption, or was going back to the auction. He is safe for anyone to ride and very sweet. He is my first horse in 10 years. I grew up riding and showing hunter/jumpers, working as a groom, instructor, worked on Standardbred racing farms, etc. At 20, I was diagnosed with Rhumethoid Arthritis and left the horse world. At 30, I desperately wanted to be around horses again and always wanted to find an older horse who had paid his dues and deserved a good home to live out the rest of his days. I chose Noah because he is dead quiet for a rider and I really need to work on my confidence after working with so many flighty jumpers and race horses over the years. Since leaving horses, any time I have gotten on, I tend to expect horses to spook and in turn make them more nervous until they do spook. I wanted to find something that was slow, quiet, good natured, and just wanted to go for an occassional trail ride or trot around the ring. The first time I got on Noah, I was more comfortable and confident than I had been in a very long time. Even at his age, Noah is not showing any stiffness, health issues, or dental problems, so we are fortunate enough to be able to focus on keeping him healthy.
Anyway, I am boarding him at a farm that does Parelli. I have never been around any type of formal Natural Horsemanship before but am really interested in learning and I think it will be something that will benefit me and Noah. I haven't had a chance to take any lessons with the trainer yet, but am hoping to once Noah is out of quarantine and settled in. He was just moved to this farm last Tuesday and is still seperated from the herd for another day.
Here is our problem. In the two weeks that I have had him, he has been testing me a little bit more each day. I know I haven't been firm enough with him, but I'm not sure what to do that will gain his respect. I believe he is Left Brain Introverted, according to Parelli's chart, and have never had a horse quite like him. He has been testing me and is obviously winning. A few days after I brought him home, he started swinging his hind end away from me when being groomed on the cross ties. It started only once or twice, but now, he is doing it every time, all the time. He’s actually trying to turn himself all the way around. I thought he might have been uncomfortable on the cross ties and hoped he would feel more secure being single tied. Nope, he’s still getting progressively worse. Since he’s swinging away, I’m not sure how to correct him. I’ve had plenty that swing towards me, but I’m getting the feeling he is outsmarting me and is starting to realize he has the upper hand. When I’m leading him, there are times when he walks nice and quiet behind me and a minute later he’ll be pulling ahead and walking into me. What I would have referred before as needing to remind him of ground manners, has progressed into blatant pushiness and not showing any respect. When I was at the barn yesterday, I only had him tied for about 10 minutes before I gave up (I know, not a good thing to do) and turned him back out. I was getting frustrated and nervous and didn't want to make things any worse. I started to think that I might be better off waiting until he’s had a chance to get out with the herd and feels more settled before trying to get him to focus on working with me. I’m used to cranky mares & flighty thoroughbreds but this seems different. Is it wishful thinking to hope that he’s still getting used to things and irritated that he can’t be out with the rest of the horses? He's also extremely unhappy that he can't get to any grass since his quarantine time is being spent in the round pen.
What kinds of things can I do to encourage respect with a horse this big that now knows he's in charge?
With the swinging away thing I believe he's actually being polite to you. In horse language you never let your butt point towards anyone that has more dominance than you because it's a threat, so he's making sure that you know he's not threatening you. =) He'll probably get better the more he gets to know you. I'd advise you to just ignore it because if you smack him for it or do something else he could feel was punishment, he's gonna think he wasn't polite enough.
My mare had an issue with leading when I first got her, she's an Arabian though so she has distinctly less weight behind her pushiness. Haha With her I'd just walk calmly until she got her head beyond my shoulder then I'd stop, say "ho" and have her back up 4 or 5 steps. It took her awhile to catch on since she's 24 (yay for old rescues!) and she had been allowed to do that her entire life but once she caught on, in about 3 months, she never ever gets ahead of me. Using "ho" also taught her to stop when she hears "ho" so now she stops dead when she hears that word. =) Eventually once she started stopping when I said "ho" I started not having her back up when she stopped with the word cue (since by the time she had figured out the cue she had figured out that I wanted her next to and behind me) but I would still have her back up if she was still moving when I stopped. She figured that out pretty quickly since it's easier to do the right thing and harder to do the wrong one.
I'd also caution you against assuming all his behaviors are dominance related. My girl had been thought to be "extremely dominant" before I got her but it was just because she's a fighter, she keeps her fear inside until she blows up and starts fighting her handler super hard. Once I realized that and stopped assuming she was trying to get the upper hand or be dominant I've gotten significantly farther with her. He may just be scared since his world just changed hardcore and he just wants to sit in his easy chair and drink tea, yknow?
He's a cutie pie!
Yeah, he's got a bit more weight behind him when he doesn't want to stop or slow down! The rope halter is better than a traditional halter but after a few days with that, he's not as responsive as he was when I first put it on him. Prior to that, I did try a shank lead across the nose one day that he was really trying to run me over and he did respond to that, but I don't want to keep upping the pressure every time he learns that he's stronger than me, with whatever equipment I'm using. The swinging thing started as swinging away, now its both directions. When he does swing towards me, I use steady pressure until he stops but I have to move out of the way or get run over. Then, he will swing the opposite direction (away) until he almost turns himself around. I'm concerned that he's getting the message that I will back down and move when he wants me to, but he's stepped on me once and believe me, I do NOT want him to step on me again!
Yeah, that does sound like he knows that he can run you over. >.<
Have you thought about carrying a crop with a popper on the end in your back pocket or something so when he comes towards towards you, you can pop him really fast (if you get a crop with a popper it won't hurt him, it'll just make a big noise)? I'd bet he'd figure it out pretty quickly that he doesn't want to come towards you like that.
If the method you're using (pressure) isn't working you need to step it up to something he will respond to (like a crop) because otherwise you're just desensitizing him to pressure.
He probably has figured out that you'll back down. >.<
I understand about being stepped on! It's no fun!
Have you started the Parelli 7 Games? By doing them I find that all horses learn respect and don't become pushy. Remember also that according to the Parelli Horsenalities, Left Brain Introverts are highly food motivated! Ask him to back up (using the yo-yo game or whatever) and back him up to a barrel with a treat on it.
For the swinging away hindquarters, that definitely can be a respect thing and is alot better than swining the HQ towards you! How is your energy? Are you putting too much energy there? Are you just heading towards the HQ? Try grooming the front and work your way back to the HQ and start playing approach and retreat.
To me is seems like with the rope halter you were using it too hard and so on and now he's immune to it. I always use rope halters with my horses even my trail horse who can be very pushy at times.
Try the Parelli 7 Games...read up on his horsenality, and maybe get the help from a higher level Parelli student at your barn (perferably lvl 3-4 if there is one).
That is really interesting about the butt swinging away out of politness. I never considered that! I haven't spent much time riding him yet because of all the changes and wanted him to be settled in and get to know me on the ground first, but I'm wondering if some time in the ring alone with him might do us some good right now. If he was a trail horse at a public place for the last year, I'm afraid he has no idea what I'm trying to do with him for so long on the ground! In trying to think outside the box with this one, should I try working with him in the saddle first to get him focused and comfortable, then work with him on the ground?
I think that is up to you. I always perfer working with horses on the ground first to see what their mood is for the day, to see if there's any stiffness or anything like that.
Have you tried just grooming him with you holding on to the lead rope? So he's not tied at all?
The hindquarters coming towards you means he's moving into pressure and is a sign of disrespect in the sense that he's putting you in his kicking zone. Where turning away from you he's actually then attempting to give you two eyes (and maybe two ears) which is how you want a horse to look at you.
I haven't started the seven games yet. Since I have no clue about Parelli, other than what I've found online in the last week and watching the Horseanality dvd, I was waiting to schedule a lesson with our trainer so she can show me how to do it right. When I groom him, I always start at the front and work my way back, first curry, then stiff brush, then soft brush... I'm always quiet and slow when grooming and like to give them a chance to enjoy it! When he was at the old barn on the cross ties, he would swing away a few times, then once or twice towards me, about half way through the grooming session. Now that he is single tied, he starts immediately, before I even get the brushes out! Yesterday, when he would not stand still for any time, I tried untying him completely and holding the lead while brushing him and it still didn't change anything.
First off, I want to say that he is absolutely gorgeous and good on you taking in one so old :D.
My suggestion for when he gets ahead of you while leading is to stop your body and encourage him to walk in circles around you until he seems tired of moving, then just continue on. I did this with my foal and it didn't take him very long to figure out that getting ahead or pulling means more work.
As for the moving away while tied, that is one reason why I don't much care for cross ties. I always tie my horses with a single lead to either a fence or a wall. That way, there is only so far they can go to move away. You might try tying him to a fence then start to groom his butt. When he moves away, tell him "Whoa", then when he stops against the fence, give him a good scratch. He should catch on pretty quickly that "whoa" means stop your feet.
When he swings toward you, you might want to just put your hand on his hip and smooch to him. Most of the Amish that I know don't use words or anything, they just smooch to their horses. And I know its scary with a horse that big but when he swings toward you, try not to move completely away. Put your hand on him and use the other thumb to push into his hip while smooching. Try to keep your hands on him even while he is turning toward you, just walk backward to keep from being stepped on but don't turn the pressure off. When he stops swinging toward you or when he swings away, then praise him.
It will take a lot of consistency and patience to get him fixed but you can do it, just relax, take a deep breath, and most important............RELAX. LOL. :D
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