Play Vs Challenge - The Horse Forum
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  • 2 Post By Foxhunter
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post #1 of 7 Old 11-02-2019, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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Join Date: Jan 2017
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Question Play Vs Challenge

So I got to talking about this to a family member earlier and thought I'd ask you guys to see what you all think.


If you lunge your horse (either on lunge line or free lunging) and they buck and kick a few times as they run around, do you see this as them challenging you or them feeling good and playing around a bit?

If you're out in a field with the horses or the arena and you call out to them and run around with them (at liberty), getting them all excited and they run around and buck and kick around and with you, do you see this challenging or playing?

Last of all, if you call to your horse and they come running to you, buck and kick out as they run and even do so as they run past you before circling back to you, do you see this as a challenge or them playing?




I myself, personally, see all 3 scenarios as playing. If ears were pinned as they came at you and truly ran AT you and not around you, then I'd see that definitely being a challenge and something to work on, or if they showed any other truly aggressive actions. But for a horse to just kick up their heels cause they're feeling good and having fun, I don't see that as a challenge.

But what're your guys opinions on this? Have you ever had situations where the horse was either challenging or playing with you?
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post #2 of 7 Old 11-02-2019, 06:43 AM
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I find this interesting and it has made me think.

Tom, a big hunter I had in my charge, was a heck of a character. I had seen the damage he had done to a brand new cattle truck when he kicked the side making quite a hole in the wooden side.

There were times when he didn't want to come back inside. He would wait until you were near him, spin around, take off and double barrel at me. At no point was he ever in reaching range, it was a game to him and one I would play with him three times. After that, he had the halter wrapped across his butt and he would turn and walk to me.

With the youngsters they would, when in the loose barns, be excited at feed times and be messing around. When I entered they knew better than to keep charging around bucking and kicking. The would stop and wait politely. If one didn't then it got chased by me. Funny thing was that the others would stand in a huddle and not let the transgresser to join them until I stopped the correction.

Horses being caught would sometimes mess around and show off coming to me but, yards away they would stop and walk politely to be caught.

I rarely lunged the ridden horses, if I did they were allowed to have a buck and a kick at the start then they had to work.

Horses that have respect for the handler know where they stand, they should, by my thinking, be allowed to express enjoyment. I never got annoyed if they bucked for joy when ridden, it wasn't done to drop the rider, just to make sure they were awake! If they bucked to drop a rider, they were firmly corrected.
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post #3 of 7 Old 11-02-2019, 08:24 AM
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[QUOTE=SummerBliss;1970786649]
If you lunge your horse (either on lunge line or free lunging) and they buck and kick a few times as they run around, do you see this as them challenging you or them feeling good and playing around a bit?

On a lunge line or free-lunging in a round pen it is time to work, not play.
The horse gets a growl and sharp "quit" as we begin our work session, then it is work and any display of hoof in my direction is redirected to them finding out I mean business...

If you're out in a field with the horses or the arena and you call out to them and run around with them (at liberty), getting them all excited and they run around and buck and kick around and with you, do you see this challenging or playing?

Yea, no...
I do not invite my horses to kick-out at me ever...
I also don't "play" chase games with my horses in their field...
If I call to my horses they come to me, period.
I don't know if a horse can differentiate between come when called and she is playing...
My horses know better than doing a errant kick that could kill me....
Do they sometimes let out a buck, fart and kick...sure, but not close to me or my body.

Last of all, if you call to your horse and they come running to you, buck and kick out as they run and even do so as they run past you before circling back to you, do you see this as a challenge or them playing?

If my horses are called and come to me, they come to me, not past me.
Run past me bucking and kicking they weren't coming to me...just being "???"
Not often do my horses run so fast they need to circle and come back...they just control their speed and body to come to a halt in front of me.
/QUOTE]

There is a very fine line between respect and disrespect...
I do not encourage any horse to tread that close to that line...
There is a time for work and a time for play...
My horses are 1200+ pounds of muscle, mass and great force that their way of play would greatly injure me if we connected during it.
I respect my horses enough to allow them to play 20+ hours a day...
The horses respect me enough they contain their exuberance to feet on the ground, mouth closed and manners displayed when we are in close-proximity to each other for the few short hours I handle them daily.

Bottom line is if my horses "challenge me" in a manner that could hurt, harm or kill me...
Well, before it ever reaches that point my horses and I have had a meeting of minds and they now know better.

...
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post #4 of 7 Old 11-02-2019, 08:30 AM
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The problem I see with this is that whether in play or as a challenge it is dangerous to the person involved. While there is nothing inherently wrong with play when you get either a horse or human or worse yet horse and human "playing" together and there is not the foundation of respect and understanding about how fragile you the person are or you the person is not adept at reading the signs and miss when play becomes a challenge then tragedy can occur.
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post #5 of 7 Old 11-02-2019, 10:58 AM
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I play a LOT with my horse out in the field :P Thing is it's a small field and we're alone. I'd never do it with other horses in the field. For me personally it is about boundaries but creating those boundaries takes time. Out in the field we play tag, chase and hide-around-the-tree. She goes mental and loves it. Chasing the ball, asking to be chased, doing a cute pawing, farting, bucking and rearing around (not at me but just herself as she struggles to contain her excitement). It is the only time in my company she is permitted to fully let loose. Some days, however, she doesn't even want to play so we just go with the flow ;)

I carry a stick or a leadrope and my number one rule when playing: it must be at distance. She is never allowed close when playing like this and these days she doesn't even try. It's adrenaline fuelled fun.


My second rule: we must always go through the calm-down steps as I call them. After she gets tired she's asking to come in for a cuddle, scratch or treat. She likes grazing close to me. But I don't allow that until she obeys some instructions at a calm walk: free walking a circle around me in both directions, halting with the verbal cue and some other commands. Once her breathing slows and she's thinking more, only then is she allowed back into my space. Note: I never trust her mid-play. I probably could but for my own safety I will never take that risk. She must prove that she's in control first.


As for kicking out etc. If I'm playing "I'm-gonna-eat-your-bottom" and she's bucking and squealing away from me which is hilarious then I'm not about to punish her for that. If she gets excited and rearing at the ball not gonna punish. Is she running past me and a kick is most definitely aimed at me, even if "playfully", even if at a safe distance? Yeah, I will get on her and she will be reprimanded. There's a difference and I think we only know that with time.


Playful/wild behaviour isn't safe and it is not permitted:

- the rest of the time and am very strict. Play is only permitted in the field!!!! I go on a morning run down the trail with and irish draught by my side. Don't ask, we like going for jogs together on the ground sometimes :P Last weigh in she was at 1430lbs O.O Am very lucky she's got a great temperament and is easy to work with.

You know those videos of people doing liberty and asking their horses to rear up in striking distance? Or the ones where they try to run by their horse free and the horse runs past and kicks them in the head? Yeah that is why we gotta be strict but so many people fall complacent, even me at times!


edit: and its really important to know when it's actual playing and not just frustration/pain. It shouldn't always default to playing -the first question should be "why?" imo
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post #6 of 7 Old 11-02-2019, 12:38 PM
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I'm with @horselovinguy , they have plenty of play time when I'm not with them and can run, fart and buck all they want to. When I enter the picture free time is over and I expect them to act like they have some sense.
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post #7 of 7 Old 11-02-2019, 03:36 PM
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Challenge or play, it doesn't matter. For my own safety, they need to focus on their job and respect my space and instructions.

I was kicked on the centre of my chest, over my heart, by a horse challenging my instructions, and a relative was caught on her jaw by a playful one. Both of us could've been killed. I recovered over time, while she had a long stay in hospital with her jaw wired, then months of rehab.
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