Improving the relationship
I have a 4yr old RMH gelding who I bought naively from a breeder who convinced me that "yes, it would be a great idea for a novice rider to get a 2 yr old green horse". It took me about 1 week to realize that I had gotten more than I bargained for. He bit me, moved into me, charged at me with his ears back and was generally a real nightmare. And on top of all that he didn't gait! Long story short - 2 years later and lots of Parelli ground work and formal training $$ sunk, he is 500 times better. He is learning dressage and jumping and has some real talents. He also has a much better attitude in general.
But he is still very mouthy, nippy and not the kind of horse who will stand for much "affection". He has one of the strongest personalities of any horse in the barn. I think the "training" he was put through in Kentucky was pretty much all compulsion based with no positive reinforcement and now he feels like he has to be on the defensive all the time. I am wondering if you all have some ideas on how I can improve our relationship on the ground - stop the nipping (you can't touch him on the face or neck without him wanting to nip), get his ears forwards (they are ALWAYS back), and generally get him to be a nicer horse to be around. I still do Parelli games with him, a lot of round pen work and am very quick to correct biting. I feel like I have tried every technique in the book to no avail. I am wondering if I should be trying something completely different with him?
Any ideas appreciated!
You may not want to hear this idea, but I'll throw it out there anyway. :D
A lot of people are quick to judge the horse owners who had their horse before them. "He was abused!" "Bad training!" "They ruined him!" It's not to say this can't be true, but as I've found... a lot of horse problems are created by the CURRENT horse owner. Not saying that is the case here! Just something for you to think about.
With that being said, it could just be your horses attitude. My gelding is sweet and kind and tries hard in the saddle, but on the ground he has huge issues with personal space, and can be nippy around certain people. Since you use parelli, you should know that biting means one of two things--a sign of dominance, or fear. So you'll have to look at the situations in which he tries to bite you. Does he try to bite you when you're grooming him? (then it's probably dominance.) Or does he try to bite you when you saddle him up? (Then it's fear, or pain). You can't solve the biting until you figure out what makes him do it.
Ruling out pain, I have a tendency to lean towards dominance. You had the horse when he was young and admitted he was too much for you (been there and done that too... way to go for handling it and not dying! LOL), and I'm sure some of the behavior stayed. Some small part of him thinks he can continue to get one up on you, so he's still nipping! With dominant horses, I know it's much much better to drive away the front of the horse rather then the haunches. Also, you have to start to drive him away /when/ he's starting to bite you. You have to prove to him that you're always going to be one step ahead of him! If he thinks he can bite you... then he can and he will, with or without 'punishment'.
Also, squeezing a horse's lip (like a twitch, but with your fingers-no nails!) after or as he's going to bite you and holding it for 5-10 seconds works on some horses. Just remember to pet the area after grabbing his lip, so he doesn't get head-shy!
My horse bites because he is expecting tidbits and treats. If you feed him treats, don't feed them from your hand anymore, put them in his feed through or in a bucket and offer him the bucket. My horse took a chomp at my hand when I wasn't looking because he thought I was a treat. I figured out then that it was time to stop feeding him treats from my hand. Every time he expected a treat he'd get a prick in the nose instead, and every time he did get a treat, it wasn't from my hand. He doesn't nip or bite me anymore.
All good comments above - but I would also look at the "games" you are playing with him. I am not a Parelli follower, per say, but I have seen some people use some of his ideas, but unfotunately, they usualy have just enough knowledge and skill to make them (and ultimately thier horses) very dangerous! I think that if you do not use these types of methods exactly in the right way, you could end up with dominence issues. So - maybe stop playing games with him, and just use your common sense in dealing with him in straight forward ways. There's nothing wrong with having an "affectionate" relationship with your horse - I'm probably more guilty of needing horse hugs than anyone else I know! :wink: However, if my horse crosses the line with respect - he gets corrected immediately. It's very black and white. I just don't believe in playing "games" with an 1100 pound animal! (That's what I have a dog for!!) I watch horses play together - their idea of playing includes, biting, kicking, striking, etc!! Right? Think about it!
I also study Parelli so here are a few thoughts for you to consider.
If you keep playing JUST the 7 Games, over and over, of course your horse will not improve! Level 1 should only take you 2-3 weeks, of course that depends on how much time you get to spend with your horse every week. So if you have no moved on to Level 2 DO SO.
Also, biting is a Level 1 issue usually. Sometimes it won't be fully cured until Level 2 depending on the horse's Horsenality. If he bites you back him up until the look on his face changes. Have him wait out there AWAY FROM YOU for awhile to process what happened.
If you are really stumped e-mail a Parelli Professional. If you do, I would suggest Carol Coppinger. She is AMAZING.
Thanks everyone - I appreciate the feedback! I will keep trying these techniques and hopefully one day a combination of consistent work on my part and maturity on his part will result in a better relationship. I think the treat feeding is probably my biggest downfall :roll:
...I'd say he's trying to tell you he's over the Parelli games. Onto something more exciting. :)
I too have RMH's. My Vida is not a hugger. She is kind and gentle in every other way but not big on letting me put my arms around her neck for very long. I can hold her head, pet her forever but just no hugs. I also suggest you cut the treats out completely. Some horses are just cookie hogs. I had one that would tear my clothes to get at them (not a RMH) I just couldnt give her treats at any time and she got over it.
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