Many people make the training mistake of affection is the
only way to handle your horse. You praise him for good, you
give him treats when catching him, you give in when he refuses
- and the horse is on a downward spiral of being in charge,
not being prepared to be in charge and instead of you relating
to him as a horse and getting that back - you're treating
him as human and getting horse back. This unbalances the relationship.
Horses are by nature prey. They have two main defenses -
fight or flight. For the slower members or more fearful members
that can mean becoming food for predators, in the natural
order. The horse also has the ability to remember what they've
learned - and this is a sword that can cut both ways.
You go out to catch your horse and chase him for a half hour,
finally catch him and praise him - and in his mind he's thinking
"ok so running for a half hour is what she wants." Instead
catch him and simply walk off, allowing him to follow. You've
accomplished the goal of catching him and at that moment offering
praise can be understood much differently.
Bring him in, calmly and without a fuss, tie him and groom
him. AFTER he stands still and behaves for his grooming time
*then* praise him, give him a treat if you wish. Then it's
"ok so I should come in, stand and be brushed on".
Timing means everything in correction as well as praise.
If you watch horses loose in a pen you get a glimpse of IMMEDIATE.
If another horse challenges the boss mare she doesn't think
"oh now stop"...she usually IMMEDIATELY greets the intrusion
with a bite, a kick, or chasing and biting the offender. She's
not nice about it - and when the horse gets in your space
inappropriately you shouldn't be either. This doesn't mean
abuse! It means you get his feet moving back away from you.
It means you make him back down. It means he gets the IMMEDIATE
thought in his brain that stepping on your toe, crowding your
space, pinning his ears (or worse, biting!) is not acceptable.
Gauge your correction to the severity of the infraction. A
bite in your direction is much more severe than stepping on
your foot - but both should be corrected. The latter might
be a slap on the shoulder and pushing him over. The former
should be much more severe - literally backing him down.
In watching horses notice the dominant horse will either
raise the head higher or snake the head threatingly. Use this!
If the horse is nippy carry a whip - something you can raise
higher than his head! Do this and back him up...if it means
a tap to get him moving backwards so be it. But remember -
if you back up you have "told" him he's won. Another note
- while a solid tap can get through to a horse make sure you
don't start a more dangerous game (to the horse) - that of
sparring. If you watch two colts they'll fake and jab, bite
and dodge. This is a HIGHLY dangerous game to get into with
a horse of any age...do not make it a game. Make it crystal
clear in his head you are not playing. Back him down then
*stop*. When he backs up a step or two *don't* invite or pull
him back forward...leave him there. Let him process what happened
"hmm that wasn't such a good idea." If he tries it again you
repeat it with the same or slightly more asserting your space.
You can bet that boss mare won't hesitate or feel sorry for
him or worry about damaging his psyche. She's "this is the
boundary, you WILL NOT cross it!" Once this is "installed"
in the horse's brain you will have a much happier horse, because
he knows where he stands, where you stand and that if he doesn't
cross said boundary he is safe being with you. This can make
a tremendous difference.
Timing of the correction is important. It needs to be IMMEDIATE
- not when you grab the whip and walk down the hall - by then
it's too late. There are many opinions and views in the horse
world, but a well behaved horse is an asset.
This palomino colt at six months was highly disrespectful
- he'd nip, body slam handlers into the wall of the stall,
walk on people as they tried to groom him. With boundaries
and just a few weeks time it was possible to walk into a paddock
and photograph him. It's a pain in a weanling - it's dangerous
in an older horse.
About the Author
Ron Petracek was raised in southern Idaho with horses and
the great outdoors. With this continued passion He now shares
through a a vast equine network. Learn more by clicking the
links below. Amazing
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