Slapping a horse in the face?
I may get kind of a mixed reaction, but I'm looking for some help about what's normal when disciplining a horse. This is kind of long, sorry.
I'm really getting to know my new horse with lots of riding and just coming over to walk him around outside and let him relax, and the other day something happened that startled and frustrated me.
At the barn where I take lessons, there are lots of knowledgeable, helpful teens who work at the barn to earn lessons or just for work.
This was only my second time tacking up on my own and as I was tacking one of the girls who works at the barn came over to see my horse and talk to us. This is normal, as my horse is kind of a favorite around the place, due to being a sweetheart (my trainer calls him a dog in a horse body, he kind of loves everyone, he'll even lean in and snuggle his neck against you and just rest there). Anyway, she reached for his face and he thought she had a treat and reached forward with his teeth. Not like a snapping motion, he just sort of lifts his lip and reaches forward, mouth slightly open.
The horses there are just like this, a downside to the fact that they get handfed a lot of treats. That's what I was told.
Well anyway, this girl jumps forward and just slaps him hard across the face yelling "no! you don't do that!" And I mean not only hard, and on the face, but with this crazy anger that seemed odd considering the situation. My husband and I looked at each other but didn't know what to do since she is a really smart worker. Despite being a teen she knows so much about horses and tack and probably far more than we could ever hope to.
At the same time, we've seen a lot of the helpers there come up to my horse and none has ever slapped him in the face. He has never bit anyone, and if anyone deserved to get bit, it's me, the silly rider always giving him mixed commands or messing up his tack while he's 100% patient with me always.
So anyway, I finished tacking, but went to ask my teacher for help with the bit, since I hadn't put one in on my own and was worried about hurting his teeth if I did it wrong. Unfortunately for me, the girl who'd slapped my horse was the one sent over.
I was like, well, I should trust her. She is the one with horse knowledge. I'm probably just being a big baby. Let's see how this goes.
My horse sees her and his ears go back and he starts backing up. She has the bridle with bit in one hand and grabs him by the halter and tries to jerk him forward, but he's backing up. She slaps him hard, in the face, and yells angrily at him. I mean, so angry it sounds like she's screaming.
This is a really good, sweet, push button horse. Really well trained, former regional champion show horse. I've never seen him be this much of a brat, but he just kept his head further back after the slap. She kept screaming at him and slapping him and finally jerked him down hard and got the bit in.
So I guess it worked? Is it all fine then? But it was kind of traumatic, if I'm honest. Watching him flinch, watching his eyes roll around. He has never acted like that, or been treated like that while I'm around. I felt like I couldn't say anything because A. I'm new and don't know anything and B. was in shock.
So during my lesson, I was riding him and he was super happy as usual. The head teacher came over to tighten a stirrup and I asked him about slapping. He said sometimes if a horse is doing something really bad, a strike can teach them not to do it.
But I've seen him do it while training a new horse he's working with. He hits it, yes, but not crazy hard and not on the face. And not with crazy anger.
I'm not sure what to do or say about it. Lots of people feel she's really knowledgable, and she told me some cool things about different bits and where they should go on the horse. She seemed awesome right up until she slapped my horse.
The last thing I want to do is be an overprotective owner that knows nothing about horses and causes drama at the barn by ratting out a helper to the head trainer.
But I can't forget that whole scene. I wanted to take her by the collar and throw her across the stall, (not that I would, I'm not a violent gal) just anything to get her away from my horse, who has always treated me well.
I should add that it wasn't just my horse. She did it with the other horse in the stall over who needed to move forward so someone could get behind her. But it was a lesson horse or the owner wasn't there to see it. The horse backed away even further from the helper, and the helper started yelling and slapping it.
What should I do? Does she just know something I don't? My horse never tries to bite me. He sometimes nudges around to see if there are treats, but if I just say no and push his face away he stands still and good and doesn't reach again. No shrieking or slapping needed so far.
Thanks for any help, even if it's just telling me to stop being a baby.