Sortof new to horses, behavior question, what does this mean. - The Horse Forum
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  • 1 Post By LifeInTheIrons
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-15-2015, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
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Sortof new to horses, behavior question, what does this mean.

Ok, I spent some time as a teenager on a boys ranch. We were given rank/wild horses by local ranchers because it was a better tax write off then selling them for dogfood. We broke some of them, and killed some of them trying. I didn't like the process we used, but they had to be broken quickly, like alot of the kids who went there.
Anyway, I've learned a little since that time about the proper way to gentle a horse and have recently obtained a three year old Tennessee Walker mare. She is lead broken and that is about it. I do not currently live at the farm where I keep her but try to spend some time with her when I am. She is at the point that she will let me pick up her feet to inspect them. Twice in the last month when I have finished doing what I can with her, she has walked up behind me and slammed her muzzle into the back of my head. Is she saying that she wants more attention, or something else, (as a friend of mine said she may be getting ready to bite me on the back of the neck). I have a wife and small child to think about being around her also. Thanks all.
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post #2 of 7 Old 05-15-2015, 06:32 PM
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That is a gesture of dominance. Horses were designed to live in herds so that they could rely on one another to keep each other safe from predators, and much like dogs or wolves, there is a pecking order in a herd of horses. There is an alpha horse, the one who makes all the decisions for the herd and is the most trusted. You'll often see the alpha horse pinning it's ears at other horses sometimes kicking them or getting them to move out of the way. This isn't the horse "bullying" the other horses as most people think; the alpha horse is simply reasserting it's dominance. Horses are always more comfortable when they know where they stand in the herd hierarchy. They don't need to be babied, they need for you to be the leader and make the decisions, and then they will feel comfortable around you.

A horse sees you, the human, as part of the herd. You and the horse, when you are together, are a herd of two. When your horse hits you with the back of its head, it's a dominant gesture. The horse is saying, "I'm the leader, I make the decisions, now get out of my way!" She's doing this because you've never taught her that YOU are the leader. There can never be two equal positions in a herd. Since you've never stepped up and said, "Excuse me horse, I am the leader, and you are not," the horse is going to assume the position of alpha over you.

Now you might wonder, what's so bad about the horse being the leader over you? Well, without the discipline and respect that comes from you being the leader, the horse's behavior quickly becomes dangerous. A leader horse would NEVER let a horse that is lower on the totem pole invade their space without permission. Since you let your horse invade your space without permission by letting her hit you, you're saying to her, "Okay, okay, fine. You win." The horse will quickly learn that it is okay to boss you around, and can lead to behaviors such as biting, kicking, rearing, pushing you, etc., which is all very dangerous.

Now, just because she invaded your space or disrespected you DOESN'T mean you should start hitting her over and over again, get angry, or beat her, or take away her feed, etc. Its not her fault that she is playing her role as leader. The next time she goes to hit you, immediately turn around to face her, look her sternly in the eye, say, "NO!" and back her up. Get her out of your space. You can do this by marching towards her, or raising your arms, and if all else fails, you can push her out of your space. Consistency is the key; you have to consistently correct all her disrespectful behaviors. Sometimes it can take a long time before she finally figures out that you're the leader; don't give up! Horses don't need democracy, they need leadership and trust, and this means spending lots of time with her as well, even if you don't do anything with her.

I really highly encourage you to look up the book "The Soul of a Horse" by Joe Camp. The guy who wrote it was in a similar situation as you are, and it's a really helpful and insightful book. Also look up Monty Roberts, Clinton Anderson, and whatever other natural horsemen you can find.
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-15-2015, 07:21 PM
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how is it that she is walking up behind you? If a horse is loose, close to me, I keep an eye on him/her as I don't want any surprises.
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-18-2015, 02:36 PM Thread Starter
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LifeInTheIrons, Thanks for the reply. I had presumed that the situation was as you explained it, just wanted to be sure, as I have been out of the loop for a while. I will read the books by the authors you said, as I have a whole lot to learn, and I know it will never end, and tinyliny, she was loose, and just walking. She has not hit me hard, just enough to get my attention, but I was paying attention to her out of the corner of my eye, and by hearing, but I will let her know that I am watching next time.
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post #5 of 7 Old 05-24-2015, 06:18 AM
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Couldn't of said it better!
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post #6 of 7 Old 05-31-2015, 08:23 AM
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I'm going to get a copy of "The Soul of a Horse" by Joe Camp. Thanks for sharing.
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post #7 of 7 Old 06-01-2015, 04:56 PM
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In a simple way and non violent way you make her move her feet away from you and not the other way around. Whenever I'm around my horses I make sure that they move out of my space, I don't move out of theirs.
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