Do I need to stand up to my horse's bullies to earn his respect? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 06:02 PM Thread Starter
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Do I need to stand up to my horse's bullies to earn his respect?

Harley always seems to be rejected by other horses. To be fair, we've only been at this new barn for 5 weeks or so, but the three other horses in the herd constantly threaten him and chase him away from his hay. Also, his previous owners told us he's always been outside the herd. The BO puts out more piles than there are horses to make sure he gets some. The pasture/paddocks are big enough and he is faster than any of them, being an Arab, so he can always get away.

But getting him out of the pasture is tricky. The other horses don't like me bringing him in and leaving them out. They've lunged at him while I was leading him out before and the only thing I could think to do was take the lead rope off him so he could get away. I noticed he chose to put me between himself and the threatening horse. This afternoon I went in with a lunge whip and when the other horses came near, I made them move away, which they respected. I was pretty happy with myself for showing him that he could trust me to protect him and he seemed happy to stay close to me. After being ridden though, it didn't go so well. The BOs use the indoor arena as a shelter and turn out the horses inside, where they can get a drink, have some hay or choose to go outside. I turned him loose in the arena, then proceeded to open the large door so he could go outside (we shut it while my daughter rides him). The three horses were standing right in front of the door and rushed in. They ran towards him and cornered him, but the agile little guy spun around on his heels and got away from them, then rushed outside. They all followed him out and he ran to the back of the field.

Now, I don't pretend to understand herd dynamics, but found this very upsetting. Is Harley looking to me for protection and do I need to figure out a way to get these horses to back off? They are very large, intimidating horses. I've handled them and am friendly with them, but I have to be honest, when a teeth and heels go flying, I'd rather not be between two horses. The only thing I can think of doing differently is to turn him out at a gate that's about halfway down the pasture if the horses are all in front of the arena door, so he's not facing three horses the minute that door goes up. But I didn't know they were there until I opened it.

And this problem is only going to get worse as winter sets in and all the horses are in closer quarters. We get a lot of snow and the BOs can only keep a small area ploughed as a winter paddock. Thoughts?
Acadianartist is offline  
post #2 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 06:12 PM
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Well it's only been 5 weeks and it may take more time for the herd to adjust. However if the behavior persists I'd ask the BOs about switching up the herd a bit.

Is there a particular horse that seems to target your horse more or first? If so maybe that horse can be moved temporarily to see if it clears the issue up. Maybe he could go into a herd with older and calmer horses that don't have too much 'get up and go' in them.

You did good in taking the lunge whip with you, make sure that the other horses learn they have to stay back when you are near. You just have to keep reinforcing it until they understand and automatically move back/ away.

It definitely sounds like your horse will not stand up for himself so being the bottom of the pecking order will likely always be his lot in herd life, so to that end I say that so long as he is not being seriously hurt or run into the ground by the other horses (and so long as they learn to leave you and him alone when you are in the pasture) that there might not be too much you can do.

"They see me rollin, They hatin, Patrolling they tryin to catch me ridin dirty"
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post #3 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 06:17 PM
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My grey Arab is a loner as well and leaves the herd when the ring around the round bales starts. Mostly he is off grazing by himself.

Coming out of the pasture, and going back out it is up to you to control the area around gates so that you and your horse can get in/out safely.

My safety space is I want all horses ten feet away from me, my horse, and the gate. Use the lunge whip and don't be afraid to really use it if necessary!

As for the herd going after him, I dont know much can be done. If he is smart he will learn to stay out of the way. Just make sure he can get to hay, and just as important, water!
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post #4 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 06:21 PM
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I don't know about the horses there, but Diva is in a pasture full of horses and I always have to make my presence known loud and large when I come into the pasture. I use the end of her halter rope and twirl it in front of me and beside me wherever there is a horse approaching and once I get to Diva I twirl it in front of them to get them all away from her. They always back away without any problem.

I've not had a problem with horses coming up behind us while leading her out but I do sometimes have to twirl it in front of her as I'm leading her to the gate. Usually by then the other horses have figured out they're not getting anywhere near her while I'm there.
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elle1959 is offline  
post #5 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 06:40 PM
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What color are the other horses? They have been known to organize the herd by color, and greys stand out to predators......he may need a grey partner to keep the bears at bay.
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post #6 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 06:40 PM
Green Broke
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Maybe the next time you ride Harley and you are going to open the arena door, have your lunge whip with you and don't open the door enough to let the horses in or Harley out and if you can do it safely send the other horses away. If you are firm enough (that means use the whip if you have to ) they will learn to stay away when you open that door.
These horses have to learn to respect you and keep their distance from you and your horse, it appears that Harley trusts you to look after him in this situation.
Personally I don't like to think of you and your daughter having to deal with this situation without help. Maybe if you ask the BO to help you every time you go out they might think of a better alternative where you all will be safer. Is there a different group, more easy going, that Harley can go out with?
Having three horses rushing at you to get at Harley is not a good idea.
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post #7 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 06:51 PM
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I gather that the barn door slides or lifts upward. If so, open it only enough that you can see to the other side. If you see horse legs nearby, take that lunge whip and use it through that opening to move them back.

Once they move back a bit, open it just enough for you to get out, bending under the door, and again use the lunge whip to move the horses farther back... a LOT farther back.

With the horses far enough back, open the door the rest of the way and lead your horse out. Keep the lunge whip ready to do some serious whacking when the horses decide to move in toward you, your horse, and the door.

It may take several times of doing this but, those horses will soon enough get the idea that it is not profitable to pull their antics around you.
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post #8 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 07:27 PM
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Didn't read the responses but I think you are overthinking it. He's still new to the herd and as long as he's not being beat up/constantly harrassed then I'm not seeing any issue. Now as far as when YOU are in there you had the right idea with the lunge whip. What they do on "horse time" is up to them but when you are around it's "people time" and they ALL must be behaved. Don't think of it about keeping Harley safe, think of it about keeping YOURSELF safe!
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post #9 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 08:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the thoughtful responses. I kind of felt like I had failed him when they cornered him in the arena and worried about what message he understands from that. How can I be his leader if I can't keep those other horses at bay? But how does a 5 ft 125 lb person stop three charging horses (one of which is a Percheron X)?

I think I will make it a habit of going in with the lunge whip, even if it's just to go in and give him a pat. I was in last week to take measurements for a saddle and since he's so calm, figured I'd just do it in the paddock rather than bring him in and again, a horse charged at him. Next time, I will try to establish a circle of safety around me and try to keep the other horses away. But they can be fairly aggressive, even charging behind us. Today, when one of them appeared to want to do so, I draped the lead rope over Harley's neck and walked a few feet away from him and wagged the lunge rope at the mare who was coming behind us. Harley stood as still as a statue and she moved away so I was able to continue to lead him out without issue. But these horses are not respectful of people.

Also, I'm not sure how the BOs will feel about me getting harsher with the whip, however, since they take a very laid back attitude to it all. Maybe I should just have a conversation with them about it so they know why I am hitting their horses with a whip if it becomes necessary. They are my neighbors and have been wonderful BOs, so I don't want to do anything to damage the relationship.

As far as moving Harley out of that herd, that's not an option. There is no other herd, this is a small private barn with only three horses, Harley being # 4. Oddly, the horse that shows the most aggression is a 30 yr old appy gelding! None of us expected that. The good thing is that the old guy doesn't have enough energy to run very fast so Harley just kind of prances away from him. But the other two now seem to be ganging up on Harley.

sarahfromsc - Good to know Harley's not the only loner! Honestly, he sometimes seems to prefer people to horses. I talked to someone about this recently, and she was saying sometimes it's because horses weren't socialized a lot when they were young. It makes him a highly trainable (and lovable) horse, but I can't help but feel for him when they all go at him like that. We will be moving him to our property next summer and getting a companion/mom horse and I swear, I will find the most placid, accepting, docile horse ever for him! He does seem to do better at one-on-one relationships than herds.

Woodhaven - my daughter is nowhere near these horses. I would NEVER allow her to come into the paddock or pasture as these horses are far too disrespectful. The only thing I allow her to do is close a gate behind me as long as there are no horses nearby. And actually, that's often how I handled it in the past since there are several adjoining paddocks so I could usually isolate Harley and get him out safely, but with winter setting in, that's no longer an option. I feel I need to just let these horses know that they need to stay away from me. They're not aggressive towards me though, they just walk up to me and sniff me, but I'd rather they didn't because I can't have them following me right up to Harley.

Alhefner, I like your idea. I may try that. It does make me a bit nervous though, because there is a bit of a bottleneck around the arena door. The paddock basically narrows to a passageway that leads to the arena. But there is also a gate there, so I suppose I could push them away enough to get the gate closed, then open the door, then push them back some more before opening the gate. It's more work than letting him in through a side gate, but maybe more effective at sending a message - to both Harley and the herd - that I'm his protector.
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Acadianartist is offline  
post #10 of 50 Old 12-21-2015, 08:51 PM
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I wouldn't worry nearly so much about what Harley is thinking, and focus on what those other horses are thinking -- about you. They should be thinking, "look out, she's a badass! Give her lots of room!" If they aren't, you need to be more forceful.

Horses generally don't move in on someone waving a longing whip. Nor do you have do hit anybody. Slap it hard on the ground or crack it in the air.
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