Question about allowing horse in your space - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 01:25 AM Thread Starter
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Question about allowing horse in your space

Hi,

We had just finished the shift work at the rescue ranch today and were down in the arena watching the geldings and chatting.

The boys came up to us to get attention and scratches, which is fine. We were done and I enjoy petting the horses.

So I'm scratching Johnny, who's very mouthy, he's enjoying it and in typical Johnny fashion takes a nip at me. He immediately gets a smack on the nose and a NO! I let him mull on that a few moments and go back to scratching him.

He got the message about the biting but he then went into this game where he tried to bull me over with his head. We were still playing but he wanted to make me move my feet. That he didn't get. I stood my ground, caught him in an off balance moment and with a small shove made him move his forelegs (disengaged his shoulder might be the term).

After I made him move he lost interest in the game and wandered off.

I'm wondering if I handled this correctly. I initiated the scratching so it was ok that he was in my space and I won the dominance game so I don't think I trained him to think he can just bull me over. I don't want to initiate playtime and then correct him for playing along.

Opinions?
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post #2 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 01:34 AM
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scratching him where?

If I scratch a horse, and he wants to push back against me, I tend not to hold that against him, but I don't allow him to swing his shoulder or hiney smack into me. and if he keeps doing it, I just go scratch another horse who will enjoy without pushing on me.

I guess I would not initiate scratching in a horse that typically nips, or if I did, I would have my hand ready to turn his head away if he starts turning toward me (if I am at his shoulder) . if they aren't really going for you but just reaching around, then a finger tap on the side of the face is enough to remind them to keep facing forward.
If he really nipped me, I'd probably give a big smack, like as hard as I could and very fast, but would be less inclined to want to scratch such a horse again.
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post #3 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 01:35 AM
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You did the correct thing.

I enjoy scratching the horses when they are in the field but it is always on my terms.
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post #4 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 01:45 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
scratching him where?
On his neck. Out of 40 or so horses I haven't run into one yet that minded being scratched/rubbed on their neck.
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post #5 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 10:55 AM
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Even in playtime there has to be rules, I think you did just fine.

“You spend your whole life with horses and just about the time you think you have them figured out, a horse comes along that tells you otherwise.” –quote from my very wizened trainer


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post #6 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 11:55 AM
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It sounds as though your actions worked well with this horse in this situation.

Probably the best explanation of understanding personal space I've read was in "Gallop to Freedom" by Magali Delgado and Frederic Pignon. Frederic is best known for his freedom work with several stallions at the same time.

Regarding personal space, he states:

"A common mistake is to do too much 'snuggling up' to a horse from the beginning. You should keep the distance appropriate to the stage of your relationship. I don't immediately let a horse invade my space. Quite apart from the danger of being bitten, it puts you on the wrong footing."

Lest people misunderstand what he is saying, he adds: "Once there is total confidence and respect in both directions it becomes another matter."

He goes on to clarify things more. I won't discuss them all. However, I do want to add this about reaction to situations similar to what you describe. Frederic says: "...how do you impose these rules without breaking all the precepts I have been laying down? [Precepts about keeping a horse comfortable, relaxed, and trusting.] You do it with firmness but without getting angry."

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post #7 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 01:56 PM
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https://www.dropbox.com/sc/db4zwvo0ulnr40s/AACcccknqn-w86GoZrC_b1LKa

Have you ever watched 2 horses doing reciprocal grooming? One horse will approach another and start chewing on the area of the other horse to point out where horse # 1 has an itch. They then start grooming each other with their teeth, and it sometimes progresses to nipping. Am attaching a picture of my girls doing just that.
My first thought at your description of what happened was that was how your horse was responding. You were right to correct the nipping behavior, but keep in mind that the horse was thinking in a horse mentality, not a human frame of mind. Just my thoughts.
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post #8 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 06:35 PM
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Nice job! You staying calm but put him in his place ;)

Hold On To What You Love. When It Tries To Buck You Off Hold On Even Tighter!
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post #9 of 22 Old 11-27-2014, 08:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkInEncinitas View Post
Hi,

We had just finished the shift work at the rescue ranch today and were down in the arena watching the geldings and chatting.

The boys came up to us to get attention and scratches, which is fine. We were done and I enjoy petting the horses.

So I'm scratching Johnny, who's very mouthy, he's enjoying it and in typical Johnny fashion takes a nip at me. He immediately gets a smack on the nose and a NO! I let him mull on that a few moments and go back to scratching him.

He got the message about the biting but he then went into this game where he tried to bull me over with his head. We were still playing but he wanted to make me move my feet. That he didn't get. I stood my ground, caught him in an off balance moment and with a small shove made him move his forelegs (disengaged his shoulder might be the term).

After I made him move he lost interest in the game and wandered off.

I'm wondering if I handled this correctly. I initiated the scratching so it was ok that he was in my space and I won the dominance game so I don't think I trained him to think he can just bull me over. I don't want to initiate playtime and then correct him for playing along.

Opinions?
It shouldn't be a game and there shouldn't be any "winning". Don't let this start at all. If their behavior is not impeccable while in your space they must be sent out immediately, and sometimes forcefully. Nothing wrong with scratches but no games, by allowing him to even consider he did win even if at the end you sent him out.

Don't allow him to be mouthy. If it's a continuous issues it's obviously not being handled appropriately.
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post #10 of 22 Old 12-03-2014, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
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I was a bit skeptical of Yogi's post but today proved them correct. Johnny has a serious lack of respect for my space now which has to be fixed. Going through a narrow gate this morning he plowed right into me from the side. I'm sure he knew exactly what he was doing.

The trouble is that I only get so many chances to work on his behavior. It's not like I can tell the owner that I'm taking him down to the round pen to work with him.

Nevertheless his days of intruding into my space without correction are over.
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