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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Today I planned a handwalk on a route that was previously done in hand, as well as ridden (with friend) with no issues.
Just lately I have noticed that when my horse seems nervous he is stuck like glue on my shoulder. He will go from calm and in his own space to suddenly glue-y to me; he'll be pushing into me. I have been walking with a rope halter and a flag, and he will back up and 'mind' me only to a point...but if he gets to a certain point of anxiety, he starts jigging or trotting and tries to pull ahead of me. Circling doesn't seem to help because he will accelerate out of the circle to get in front. The flag used hard seems to act as an irritant and is ignored (when he is in this heightened state).
Allowing some grass to help him calm worked only for as long as he was eating. As soon as we walked forward again the barging continued.
A couple questions. I wonder about use of a chain over the nose? as a control mechanism, tug and release as needed?
If this barging is from anxiety, can a horse still learn when they are fearful versus when just being rude?
I need to get a handle on this, like yesterday.
 

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Interesting..I'm assuming there hasn't been any change to feed, change of pasture, buddy sourness. If any horse I was working with was pushing me I would back them up and not be nice about it. I mean I wouldn't hit them but just back them up until either they lick and chew or their bum hits a tree or something. Curious what other people will say...
 

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Carry a crop and a smart smack to the chest. I also use an elbow they run into. Back to the basics I would say before escalating but does he do this all the time at this point or only when out and about?
 

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Use a bridle on him for a while, it will give you more control and help focus him
Use a connector to clip the lead rein too and attach side reins to a surcingle to encourage ‘straightness’.

I wouldn’t allow him to graze during a work session like this until he’s learnt how to behave, it’s likely to encourage him to try to drag you off to some grass
 

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do you allow him some time to graze freely before asking him to take awalk with you? that will be the thing that is most important to him. He isn't interested in walking for walking's sake. He wants to eat, especially if he is stall or paddock kept, and grazing is rare, or the grass in his pasture is not nearly as good as where you go walking.
You probably are not being consistent enough with making him respect his space and yours when you lead him . . . at all times. It's not something you just do at 'lessons', but at all times, especially with a bargy horse.
 

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This sounds like my Rusty. I did put a lead rope with a chain on him just to get his attention, and because he gets really excited anytime we leave the riding ring. However, I did not put it over his nose, I am using it under the chin, and I never jerk it, but it has the desired effect. We do spend a lot of time working on manners. I do NOT let him eat for the first part of the walk, but will allow it towards the end, and only when he is behaving himself. I make sure it is my decision to let him eat. If he tries, I hold the lead rope tight and he jerks his own head when he tries to go down. I have also let his nose meet my boot when he tried to push through the chain.

He also barges into me. He's a sweet horse, but was never taught manners, and has no concept of personal space. It's cute, until it's not. I tried using treats on hand walks to reward him, but then he just got mouthy, so that's out. Now, I just make sure he's focused on me. I know exactly what you mean about the circles because Rusty does the same. So then we just circle again. I wouldn't rule out an entire lunging session on a trail if it had to be that way - but it was never necessary with Rusty. That said, there is a lot of give and take. I understand that when we first start out, he is excited. I'm ok with him getting slightly ahead of me (so I'm at his shoulder), but any more than that and we stop and regroup. Stopping for too long isn't always productive, but a quick halt and asking him to check in with me can work. I will walk a little faster initially because I know he wants to go, but I won't jog. He has learned that he can trot at the same pace at my walk, lol, and I let him. It helps him get the jiggyness out. But if he's pulling me, I stop and if I need to, I make him circle around me. Again, the chain helps me a lot here, and I make sure I keep tension on when he's starting to wander. Rusty has the attention span of a 2 year old child so that happens a lot. But when he's calm and focused on me, I let the lead hang a little looser. It also helps to keep things interesting, so we walk over fallen trees, we smell things that are unusual, we investigate new places. I use this time for desensitization so if my husband is cutting down trees on our property, we go check out the ATV, I let Rusty smell his hardhat and the freshly-cut logs.

So it wouldn't be a bad idea to start working on ground manners in the ring, and take him out once he understands what you expect from him. That doesn't mean he'll listen (Rusty is a different horse outside the ring), but at least when you hold him back or do circles because he's trying to rush ahead, he'll understand what you want. Teach him where you are supposed to be in relation to his shoulder. Add some obstacles to your ring and teach him to walk up to them and explore them in a safe space before going outside. This is something that can be really fun for you and your horse, and is a great opportunity to fill in some training holes!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
He sounds like a Rusty twin...however it is only when something, typically off property, grabs his attention for whatever reason. My sense is that he is still not entirely comfortable in his surrounding especially off property with me. Early on, he demonstrated unusual calmness walking out with me solo and even hacking out solo in the first 7-10 days I had him. This made me think, wrongly, that he was ok with it all, yeah right. So I thought in my usual walks and hacks that I was building on those successes.

On the property he minds me and while he is forward in the walk, he stays a little ahead of my shoulder. He used to be nippy when I corrected him at first so I wanted his head and mouth where I could see him. The nipping has extinguished. As Acadian said, I allow him to graze when we walk but only when I say so and then we move on when its time to resume walking, no exceptions. I don't nag with the flag but bring the energy up if needed.

The first instance where he lost it was on the back 40 of the property - that even though we had been on that path before, he was insistent on barging but I could read his high level of anxiety. The second time yesterday was on a road off property we'd been on before several times. I spent most of that walk dealing with his high anxiety, and think now if I had insisted on bringing my energy up, backing him, flagging him, he would have just exploded. That brings me back to my original question: a rude horse not in high anxiety can listen. A horse whose already freaking out probably won't or can't. I just wanted to get the horse home. I have always heard horses who are in fear mode cannot process the correction.

I've decided to back off going off property and making sure he's much more consistent inhand. As I've said earlier, its when he is not sure of himself or me. Six weeks I've had him, I think I had too high of an expectation. Today was good: a 20 minute ride, 6 times around the barn property and parking lot. He was relaxed and blowing, so I think that says a lot.
After, we had grass, and I use the flag as my arm extension. It is interesting he was biting the flag as I was walking back to the barn with him. Its like a toy to him..some horses freak out seeing it (its big! I have to be careful not to spook other horses!) and for him, its ho hum. As always, appreciate the feedback. Great replies.
 

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In the moment of trying to not get run over, using your elbow defensively helps.

Anxious or not he should still be respectful. I like to work towards the horse following me step or step on a loose lead. When I stop and the horse wants to take 1 more step than I do, they're firmly corrected and backed a few steps immediately. I also want to be able to turn into them without having to push, poke and prod at them. I also want them to back up when I walk backwards, loose lead shank. Tapping with a crop or the tail of a lead works dandy.

I find having rules like that give you something solid to go back to when things are high anxiety/high energy rather than just damage control and trying to keep your toes.
 

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Yep, sounds very similar to Rusty! We also had a period when things went really well, but then it started to go downhill. Usually because I stopped riding on trails (in the winter, they eventually become impassable so we stick to the paddock for riding), and they become exciting again. There is no easy fix - I just took him out almost daily for walks. It was exhausting (great exercise for us). They can be quick sessions though, just getting outside and coming back in. But you need to set yourself up for success so for now, if you don't feel comfortable, work with him within a safe space. Still, I wouldn't wait too long. This is something you both need to get over, even if it's just in baby steps. Don't put yourself or him at risk - if you need a chain, use it. We just went on walks until it became boring. But even now, if I haven't gone on the trail (we generally do the same loop with some variations) in while, he still gets excited at first. Once, I did the loop four times with him until he was like jeez, can we just stop already? Oddly, when I take Rusty to a new place, he tends to slow down, like he wants to really see everything. He's not anxious, though he can easily be set off. I have also noticed that this behavior coincides with an increase in the coyote population in our area. My husband has game cameras on the trail, and often sees them in broad daylight, which is something we never used to see. So I do think Rusty smells them, and that adds to the excitment/danger. Nonetheless, I am not prepared to keep my horses shut in a riding ring all the time, so we will continue to walk the trail. Rusty needs to believe that I can protect him, as silly as that sounds. I mean, he hides behind me when Harley goes after him and I happen to be in the double stall or paddock with them, so he can trust me to protect him from a coyote.

You might even want to just walk out of the gate and walk back in as soon as he takes his attention off you. In and out, in and out, until he realizes you're not going to go far. Then walk him around in a circle and take him back in as soon as he takes his attention off you. Give him lots of commands, take the poles out of the ring if you have some, and put them on the grass. Make him walk over the poles, stop, back up, etc. If he walks politely, go further, but if he doesn't, take him back in the paddock. Will he see that as a reward or a punishment though? Rusty sees that as a punishment - he will stand at the gate and refuse to move forward. I just keep the lead tight and wait as long as it takes, never letting him take a bite of grass. It doesn't take long for him to decide to come through the gate, then I praise and give him a flake of hay to end the training.
 

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Oh, and Rusty is mouthy with everything. No point in desensitizing him to tarps - he thinks they're toys. I created a big obstacle course for him, and he just walked over everything, played with it, moved things around, crushed the cones... He can sometimes have a little spook about new objects, but if I let him go over and sniff them, he gets over it very quickly.

I still use treats, but never hand feed them. I bought a plastic feed pan that looks and feels different than the ones we use to feed the horses, and will sometimes take it out and place it in the middle of the ring. When I do clicker training, or ground work, and want to reward him, I plop a treat in the pan. He caught on very quickly, and will run from one end of the paddock to another, waiting for the treat to drop. Did I mention he thinks he's a 1000 lb dog? Which again, is cute, until it's not. I kind of wish his former owner had set more boundaries with him when he was younger, but he is learning.
 

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@livelovelaughride, good advice from @Acadianartist.
You are correct in thinking the horse is not processing if the state of anxiety is too high.
Imagine thinking someone has broken into your home, while someone is explaining to you the best way to hold a tennis racket. Even if they force your hands into the correct position, you probably won't be able to do it yourself later.

The best way for the horse to improve is by having less anxiety so they can focus. If they are planning an escape route, they will not be able to learn your parameters for walking politely.

Baby steps, as you said. If the anxiety gets too high, they are not ready.
 

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I'd walk him on a long line and carry a crop. Send him around like your lunging him. Maybe just the once for that time will help, or maybe you'll have to keep at it. Switching directions, backing, trot, mixing it up to get focus back on you. Then just continue the walk as if nothing happened.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
i am thinking of just using the rope halter and 12 foot lead. And a crop without the flag. There have been times I use the flag even against his body and it doesn't produce the result that I want. He is a grass NINJA and yesterday pulled me over to the grass right under my nose so quickly and grabbed some mouthfuls in the blink of an eye. I did a major correction for that and my girlfriend who was with her horse observed his face and ears, he was mad. Acadian, you gave great advice, I will soon return to the gate and re-do that exercise. The opportunity to school circles doesn't exist safely where we are walking. Our trail system is multi use, filled with cyclists and pedestrians, and we are usually walking on the shoulder of a normally quiet road. Our hayfield is great to walk on in summer but right now is too soft and mushy. For the time being I have to school this on the pathways on property and around the barn.
 
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