Tell me your stories about your rude horse learning manners. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 10:08 AM Thread Starter
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Tell me your stories about your rude horse learning manners.

I bought my gelding (10yo ISHxHolsteiner) just over three months ago. We are still having some challenges establishing roles, boundaries, and manners, and I am finding it a bit of a challenge. Over time, I think his rude behavior is getting worse. Would appreciate any advice, but would also really love any reassurance that this gets better, and to know how you did it if you had a similarly rude horse!

To start, he had a five-stage PPE (all fine), master saddle fitter come to fit my saddle for him, teeth done, back done, feet in good condition and regularly cared-for. I haven't seen any signs of ulcers, lameness, or pain. He was a touch unfit when he arrived but nothing too bad. He's kept at a very nice full livery yard, has daily turnout, regular exercise which I do my best to keep varied, etc. (in other words, he has a pretty good life).

He is smart, a quick learner, and a bit opinionated. I was told he tends toward the lazy, which was certainly the case at first although over the months I have gotten him a bit more forward in general. However, I know work is not his favorite thing.

Since the first week I've had him, he has refused to walk toward our riding arenas and/or refused to walk up to the mounting block. Plants all four feet, head in the air type business. Sometimes a "walk on" or a few gentle taps of a schooling whip are enough; other times this turns into a big refusal, where he'll keep backing up to avoid going forward. I had thought that just calmly getting on with it would eventually break him of this habit, but the protests have been consistent if not worsening of late. Once you are on him, he is sometimes a little lazy but otherwise a good ride in the school (hacking another story). However, this is I think a symptom rather than a problem on its own ...

I have tried to do some groundwork with him to establish rules and manners, but this is ultimately where I think the rub happens: He thinks he's in charge, and I can't seem to disabuse him of this notion. The more I try to get him to move his feet, yield to pressure, and encourage manners, the more he seems to fight it. He has gotten increasingly bratty about these things: for example, my recent efforts to get him to be more attuned to my personal space and move him around in his stall while I'm grooming him have been met with greater irritated tail-swishing, pulling faces or threatening to nip at me, turning his hindquarters to me, or just refusing to move. On a recent afternoon, I decided to take a detour while leading him from his field into the barn -- I'm certain he was of the opinion it was feeding time (it was not, in fact) and when he pulled the "I refuse to walk where you are leading me" routine and got the spinning end of a lead rope toward his bum in return, he turned tail, kicked out several times (kicking me in the process), and ran off -- this happened twice that day. He will occasionally do the same if being lunged.

So, this is all annoying but seems like it would be fixed with simple groundwork exercises. However, I can't seem to get those to be useful (at least not so far). He gets immediately frustrated about this kind of training, and either resorts to backing up to try to evade the exercise, threatening to nip at my hand that's on the lead rope, or both. If I attempt to escalate by using a stick or giving the lead rope a yank, it ticks him off more, and things continue to deteriorate.

In addition, while he's gotten more fussy about these things from me over time, he's also started becoming more aggressive to his field-mates. He has always been Mr. Large & In-Charge in his little herd, but I think he's become more aggressive over the past several weeks. Yesterday, after having been separated into a smaller field with one other dominant gelding in his herd for a few days, he chased said gelding all over the place until the poor guy was in a complete lather, forced him through a few parts of the fence, and then jumped the fence into the next field over. He has been gnashing teeth constantly at the new horse in the stall nextdoor to him. He also reached through his stall door yesterday at one of our barn staff and attempted to bite her. He's been much grumpier with me handling him over the last week as well.

I had a word with a prior owner, and while I didn't go into too much detail about his behavior, she said that he "likes to be asked nicely" and that he does not respond well to being told what to do. Well, that's nice if he does what you ask when you ask nicely, but half the time he doesn't want to say "yes" to what he's asked, so then what? And who's in charge of whom in that situation? So I gather this is partially a horse who is used to getting his way, and who is fighting giving up the leadership role. But, I can't tell if this is acting out because I'm putting slightly more pressure on him to behave himself, or if this could be a pain/health issue I've not caught onto, if this is winter boredom from too little grass/too much mud/too little daylight, or what.

I have a natural horsemanship trainer coming out in a week and I hope that will help, but was curious what others would do if they were in my shoes. Does this just sound like a horse who needs to learn manners? Do you think there's something else going on?

I would also REALLY love to hear from any of you who had difficult/bossy/fussy/grumpy horses and who were able to transform that demeanor over time ... how did you do it??

Thanks for reading and for any replies.
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post #2 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 10:59 AM
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*Waiting for more epxperienced people to answer.

How much and what kind of experience do you have on with working with horses?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
I bought my gelding (10yo ISHxHolsteiner) just over three months ago. We are still having some challenges establishing roles, boundaries, and manners, and I am finding it a bit of a challenge.
This will always happen and continue to happen, whether you have owned the horse for three days, three months, three years, or even three decades. All horses test if you are their leader. Hopefully, once things become a little more established, the tests become smaller and less often, but it is not a "set it and forget it" thing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
Over time, I think his rude behavior is getting worse.
If it is getting worse, then something is making it worse. When something changes, the horse changes because horses are masters at adaptation. That change can be for better or for worse.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
To start, he had a five-stage PPE (all fine), master saddle fitter come to fit my saddle for him, teeth done, back done, feet in good condition and regularly cared-for. I haven't seen any signs of ulcers, lameness, or pain. He was a touch unfit when he arrived but nothing too bad. He's kept at a very nice full livery yard, has daily turnout, regular exercise which I do my best to keep varied, etc. (in other words, he has a pretty good life).
That is good that you are trying to rule out physical problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
I was told he tends toward the lazy, which was certainly the case at first although over the months I have gotten him a bit more forward in general. However, I know work is not his favorite thing.
Although many horses tend to be on the energy conservation side of things, I don't believe that horses are truly "lazy." A lazy horse is a dead horse. Horses know this. If the horse is "lazy", they find no motivation to move forward/eagerly.

Horses are also feeders. You have to want the horse to go and raise your own energy levels.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
Since the first week I've had him, he has refused to walk toward our riding arenas and/or refused to walk up to the mounting block. Plants all four feet, head in the air type business. Sometimes a "walk on" or a few gentle taps of a schooling whip are enough; other times this turns into a big refusal, where he'll keep backing up to avoid going forward. I had thought that just calmly getting on with it would eventually break him of this habit, but the protests have been consistent if not worsening of late. Once you are on him, he is sometimes a little lazy but otherwise a good ride in the school (hacking another story). However, this is I think a symptom rather than a problem on its own...
It is hard to say whether this is just plain testing or a physical problem. It could be either or it could be both.

When you say "hacking", do you mean trails? Some horses just aren't cut out to be arena horses and will balk/become very arena sour.

Perhaps he has a bad incident in the arena? My horse slipped and fell, hard, in the arena while I was ridding her, so she is a little anti-arena. Though, she doesn't behave like your gelding...

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
I have tried to do some groundwork with him to establish rules and manners, but this is ultimately where I think the rub happens: He thinks he's in charge, and I can't seem to disabuse him of this notion. The more I try to get him to move his feet, yield to pressure, and encourage manners, the more he seems to fight it.
Do you know this horse's history?
What do you plan to do with him?

Once the horse gets the basics, I tend to do groundwork "on the fly." Instead of having specific, time-set sessions, I just direct and/or correct as needed (This is groundwork "for respect" rather than teaching a specific movement, such as side-passing).

My horse is kind of like this, in terms of not liking groundwork. The more I try to "establish myself as the leader", the more she protests. That's is understandable. If you watch horses in a herd, once some stuff has been established, they don't have specific "I am the leader" sessions. They sometimes push as a reminder, but otherwise do most of it on the fly.

Horses do not like to be nagged.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
He has gotten increasingly bratty about these things: for example, my recent efforts to get him to be more attuned to my personal space and move him around in his stall while I'm grooming him have been met with greater irritated tail-swishing, pulling faces or threatening to nip at me, turning his hindquarters to me, or just refusing to move.
Funny (or ironic) that you should mention that.

Usually, horses are a reflection of you (or treatment).

For a stalled horse, their personal space is their stall. I am not excusing his behavior even in the slightest, but you guys had the exact same thought about whose personal space.

I think that a horse should let you do what you need to do in their space, but if I can help it, I do like to show some respect. How is he when you take him to a "neutral" space, such as the barn isle or under a tree?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
On a recent afternoon, I decided to take a detour while leading him from his field into the barn -- I'm certain he was of the opinion it was feeding time (it was not, in fact) and when he pulled the "I refuse to walk where you are leading me" routine and got the spinning end of a lead rope toward his bum in return, he turned tail, kicked out several times (kicking me in the process), and ran off -- this happened twice that day. He will occasionally do the same if being lunged.
Ouch! I hope you are okay.

He learned that by balking and kicking out, he gets release and to go where he wants. That's not good.

I have done what you did and my horse did what yours did (except the actual kicking me and running away part). She refused to move. I was like, "Okay, if you don't want to move forward, you'll move in one way or another" I disengaged her hindquarters with the end of lead rope and she kicked out at me. This was a long (many years) ago, but before that she had never kicked out at me or even thought about it. I have come to the conclusion that she did what she did because I was being rude. She was unsure about whether to go or not and was nervous, then I just hit her with the rope. Sure, it would be ideal that the horse would always follows you willingly, but they are not machines. For her, the best thing is to just keep pressure on the lead and halter (not pulling), wait, and release once she comes forward. She very rarely balks now, but when she does, I only have to wait less than three seconds before she decides to come. This won't work on every (or most) horses, especially if they don't know how to give to pressure. Some horses will think of it as a poll massage and stand there forever. The thing is, for some situations and for some horses, simply out-waiting them works.

This is the barn that he has been in many times, yes?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
So, this is all annoying but seems like it would be fixed with simple groundwork exercises. However, I can't seem to get those to be useful (at least not so far). He gets immediately frustrated about this kind of training, and either resorts to backing up to try to evade the exercise, threatening to nip at my hand that's on the lead rope, or both. If I attempt to escalate by using a stick or giving the lead rope a yank, it ticks him off more, and things continue to deteriorate.
Again, some horses just dislike groundwork. As counterintuitive as it sounds, he may not need all of this "aggressive" groundwork. If not, he may be saying, "Why are we doing this?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
I had a word with a prior owner, and while I didn't go into too much detail about his behavior, she said that he "likes to be asked nicely" and that he does not respond well to being told what to do. Well, that's nice if he does what you ask when you ask nicely, but half the time he doesn't want to say "yes" to what he's asked, so then what? And who's in charge of whom in that situation? So I gather this is partially a horse who is used to getting his way, and who is fighting giving up the leadership role.
While babying a horse is not good, for some horses, you really do need to ask nicely because telling them does not work.

When you were a kid, have you ever thought it'd be nice to do a chore (the dishes, for example) without being asked? Then, two seconds before you do it, you're told to do it? Oddly specific example, but if you had, you know how it feels. It is a feeling that is hard to describe, but it takes away that "want", that drive. I think that the same goes for some horses. I don't know. I may just be anthropomorphizing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
But, I can't tell if this is acting out because I'm putting slightly more pressure on him to behave himself, or if this could be a pain/health issue I've not caught onto, if this is winter boredom from too little grass/too much mud/too little daylight, or what.
It could be....
Has anything else changed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by alishaarrr View Post
I have a natural horsemanship trainer coming out in a week and I hope that will help, but was curious what others would do if they were in my shoes. Does this just sound like a horse who needs to learn manners? Do you think there's something else going on?
It is good that you have someone comming out.

It is actually really hard to say what he is doing and why, especially without seeing him and you working together.

It is not you versus the horse; it is you and the horse versus the problem.
It is not about getting the perfect horse; it is about giving a perfect acceptance of an imperfect horse.

Last edited by Proverse; 01-05-2020 at 11:08 AM.
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post #3 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 11:09 AM
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There are some really well-written journals on this forum chronicling the adventures of some expert trainers with challenging horses. Their stories are long because challenging horses don't get "fixed" quickly. But wonderful to read. I recommend @gottatrot and @DanteDressageNerd for excellent reading about horses that regular riders could never manage. ddd has several journals and rather than just read her latest one "An American Thoroughbred In Europe", you need to start with her earlier journal as well. I believe she can send you the necessary links for all of them because you would understand it better if you read about all of her unusual challenges.

Also @gottatrot has written two extremely readable, well-written books, which you can buy for a nominal fee from Amazon (?) is that right, gotta? Horses like yours and their reclamation cannot be described in a couple of paragraphs. You won't be able to put gotta's books down, they are so good.

And last of all, my own mare had her own challenging story. Only someone with extreme patience would have kept her out of a dogfood can. https://www.horseforum.com/member-jo...-queen-637890/

There are more, as well. Explore the "Member Journals" section under "Horse Forum Community"
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post #4 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 01:10 PM
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My Pony was like this when I got him, although not as dominant, it sounds, as your horse. He's been tough because on the one hand he doesn't respond well to demands (he is very stubborn and will fight you all day) but on the other hand, sometimes you ask nicely and he won't do it because he doesn't HAVE to.

I can't say what will work with your horse -- honestly it sounds like you have more experience than I do and a more difficult horse, but for me and Pony, it just took a lot of time. He needed to have the relationship before he would be agreeable to what I wanted to do. It was at least six months, maybe almost a year, before we stopped fighting all the time and learned to compromise. We both had to sort of learn, by feel, what the other was thinking. I had to learn what he thought was reasonable to ask, while being willing to push a little bit more to get that extra bit out of him. I had to get out of the mindset that I had to win every fight. We got to where we don't fight any more.

I guess one other thing (and I'm sorry, this is sort of rambling), it took me a while to understand that he really liked being praised. Even though he's stubborn and willful and loves to argue, he actually really likes to know when he's doing a good job. He is mouthy, and for the longest time I wouldn't give him any treats, but he would still learn things, and then be willing to do them, just from being praised. When you have a stubborn horse it's easy to get into the mindset of fighting them all the time -- believe me, I know! But maybe backing off, looking for small wins, praising for small things and building on that, I might try that. Instead of getting into fights and then telling him "No!", look for things he can or will do and then tell him "Yes!"
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post #5 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 03:00 PM
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Sounds to me like he has you absolutely where he wants you to be and he is in charge.

I always say that it all starts in the stable and if you have them obedient there then less is likely to happen outside.

So, when in the stable I would first have him tied up. I would go behind him to the other side and ask him to move over, using the word "over" and be quick to use a strong finger on his rear side to enforce what I wanted. If he did not obey thei then he would get a HARD slap on his belly followed with a strong shove on his hip to get him to move.

They soon learn to anticipate moving over and will move as soon as you go to the other side.

I would teach him to 'stand up' - stand, whilst loose, along the back of the stable. If he goes to move forward I correct with a finger in their chest to make them reverse to where they should be. If they ignore the finger I will use the pointy end of a hoofpick on their chest. They do not ignore that.

I expect them to stand there even when I open the stable door, they only move when I lead them to the door.

None of this takes a lot of effort, they are restricted by the stable walls.

When teaching them to stand up, watch their knees. You will see that before they move they will weight bear on one leg the moment they do this use a verbal correction - that puzzles them that you can read their mind.

If they persist in being argy bargy then I will get very cross with them. I become big, wave my arms at them, growl with my voice and make them go backwards around the stable.
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post #6 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 04:07 PM
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I had my horses for ages, one from when he was born so manners are taught from the get go. However when one of my horses was 3 years old, and he wasn't mine at the time he was owned by a breeding ranch and he was a stallion and I was just training him, there was a time I really taught him a lesson.
I was cinching him up and he turned around and he bit my hip very very hard! I went crazy on him, I bit him back, I kicked him, I punched him, I yelled at him, I went nuts. He thought he was going to die. Then I carried on cinching him up as if nothing happened and he was good. When the owner of him at the time came out to see me work him I showed her the horrific bite on my hip. She said next time tie his head up tighter so he can't bite you. I said to her are you kidding me? I will tie his head as loose as can be and give him every opportunity to bite again. She looked kind of confused, and I said wait till I finish working him and I will show you. When I was done I got off of him, took off the saddle, brushed him and then I put the saddle back on, cinched up, he was tied really loose too. He just stood there. I explained to her we don't prevent him from biting, we don't allow any kind of attack on human flesh under any circumstances or he will think he is going to die. All it took was that one severe correction, and I don't think I have ever had to lay a hand on him for anything since then.
I bought him years later when his breeding career was over and he was gelded, he has never bit anybody or even attempted anything to harm human flesh. My little granddaughters crawl all over him and underneath him and he is a perfect gentleman.
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post #7 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 05:24 PM
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Before I retired I had a woman wanting a diy livery. I went to collect the horse which was out in the field. She caught him and once out the gate I could see he was going to just tank off.

I offered to lead him and she gratefully accepted. First thing I did was wrap the rope over his nose, gave him two hard yanks and then walked him in.

The reason I gave him the yanks was two fold, first to get his attention on me and secondly to let him know that I was not afraid to give him discomfort.

I was told he could be bad to load, he thought about it, a shake of the rope and he walked up the ramp.

This woman loved her horse but that thug of an animal knew exactly how to use his superior strength and take advantage. I taught her the stand up at the back of the stable, he would do it for me but not for her. I made her use the hoofpick and he was so shocked when she did.

Going in and out to the field he wouldmset his neck and go. I taught her how to use a chain. After a while he was fine and so she stopped needing it. One day she was bringing him in and Emily was catching some other in the field opposite. He reverted back and tanked off.

What surprised me was that instead of running to catch him (he was stood at the other gate) she came and fetched the chain, then put that on. She didn't bring him straight in but took him back to the field he had been in and made him wait. When he thought about charging off, she rattled the chain and that was enough for him to walk in politely.

In a short time she was way more confident and strict over handling him and they both had way more fun together.
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post #8 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 05:48 PM
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What's your reaction when he does stuff like swishing his tail when asked to move, pulling faces, ect? Those are the instances you need to be on top of, not waiting until he gets to the point he's throwing a fit and charging off. When he's looking around (like at feeding time) are you keeping his attention on you or just keeping him physically with you?



Regardless if this horse has something physical bothering him, none of that behaviour is acceptable.
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post #9 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 05:50 PM
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Based on how he's behaving in the field, it sounds like he has WAY too much energy. Is he on any grain or hard feed? Try taking him off of it and just feeding hay for a while, see if he stops being so ramped up?
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post #10 of 16 Old 01-05-2020, 08:50 PM
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From what you've said, he sounds a lot like a mare I once owned. Best advice I can give, is get a trainer to help you (which it sounds like you're doing so that's great).

The mare I had soon figured out ways to cause trouble. She'd refuse to walk the way I wanted her to go. She would turn her butt to me in the stall. It even got to the point that when I went to grab the cinch for the saddle, she nearly kicked me in the head once.

So I went a clinic and in that clinic, that mare and I got things figured out so that we no longer had any dangerous situations occuring. But it took until I got a professional involved before I learnt how to handle the situations that this mare got us in, and I've come to realize, that the reason she even got that way in the first place, because of my actions due to my lack of knowledge. Horses quickly learn what you do and do not know and take full advantage of that.

I wish you the best of luck with your new guy and I hope that things get better for you soon! Sorry I couldn't offer more advice, but I just wanted to add a word of encouragement that progress is possible and you've taken some good steps forward. Keep seeking help from more knowledgeable people and you'll have a great partner by your side in no time.
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