Monday, October 06, 2008

Reader Question: Question on R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I had a reader question recently that I thought was quite timely as I have been thinking a lot lately about R-E-S-P-E-C-T and horses. 
Hi Deanna

I am a faithful reader of your blog. I wrote to you for the first time about l
ongeing my rescue horse and how to stop her from cheating on the circle and changing directions and found your advice perfect and immediately affective. So I had to write you again...

I have a second question, the Woman who helps me work with that rescue horse has a quarter horse arab up for sale, I have been riding him and happened to fall in love with him and have experienced that once in a life time fit. She gifted me the horse, I know I’m in shock too.

She had let 10 buyers go by and said when she saw how we clicked and bonded that it was more important that he be loved the way he deserved to be loved rather than selling him to the highest bidder. He is by far the most eager and loving horse I’ve ever owned.

He is obedient, will go where ever when ever and through what ever I want. He is the first horse I have honestly ever trusted with not one vice till now.
He always has to touch me by either licking my hand, smelling me, or just touching me with his muzzle, he is 15 and was born at the ranch and very affectionate and fond of people as are all of Jill’s horses.

He is like a guard horse and wont let any other horses near me if he can help it (only while I’m in the pasture with him).

I have spoiled him rotten with something always being in my hand for I’m sure you have all ready figured out what my problem

I have stopped giving him treats, it kills me but I have too because now when ever I enter the pasture he comes to me right away and is all over me looking for the goodies and does not believe me when I tell him I have none.

Today I almost lost my fingers, my ear, and my boobies hahaha.

So I’ve created this monster now how do I turn him back to the gentleman he used to be?

Just a note, Jill in the 15yrs that she owned him rarely if ever treated him, once in a while they would get carrots in their buckets and occasionally a piece of a carrot after a good ride.

I’m afraid I have spoiled him into alpha horse when I am on the ground with him. I have a good sense of timing when it comes to pressure and release or take and give but I don’t know what to do on the ground to stop this mouthing.

He’s like a puppy that wants to lick everybody all the time. I have stopped washing my hair with my apple shampoo (please don’t ask).


Hi Carolyne,

I’m so glad I could help you with your longe line problem!

How great is it that she gifted you the horse? That does not happen everyday so the two of you must really have something special.   

I think this is a great example of how treats can bring out the dark side on even the most well behaved horse! 
I can say don’t do this or don’t do that to a client and it won’t always hit home until they see the “why”. Once we make a mistake with a horse that has a negative effect we learn much faster and with more understanding.   Horses really are the best teachers!

One of my students has a horse that loves to nibble on her, and she was telling me about a trainer who uses treats to train the horse to stop being mouthy. Right away a red flag was raised, and I said, “Treats often lead to aggression in horses”. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but even the most wonderful horse can turn on you when given treats by hand.

Horses are completely different than most other domesticated animals. 
Horse’s need to be periodically put in their place just the way the herd leader establishes his dominance by knocking the offenders around.

So with that established, we can get to the “fix” for the problem.

A few things that I use to rehab a biter:

1. Never allowing the horse near my hand or any other body part without my initiation
2. I “bite” the horse back with my hand
3. A good knee/thigh to the belly
4. Consistency

A horse that bites and is not a pig will give you some signals before he bites you
It all begins with a turn of the head.  I like my horses to keep their head facing straight ahead in a ready position when I am working around them. A bite begins with a look, then maybe a lick, and then maybe a lip nibble, and then the actual bite. Sometimes it's just a look with no other signs.  So if you keep the head away from your body and looking straight ahead you should be safe.

If I want a horse to turn his head in my or any direction I ask him to do so, I don’t allow him to do it on his own. 
This way I am in control and safe. I continually correct a horse when he turns his head to the side without being asked. How I do this is, keeping the lead rope in my hand when his head turns, I simply straighten out his head again. Using my hand, I touch the side of the horse’s mouth with my lead rope and push his head straight.  My hand does not touch the horse, the lead rope does.  This is something that I do with every horse. I like my horses to stand at attention when I am around, waiting for their next instruction. It’s much safer and enjoyable for all parties involved.

If a horse bites or threatens to bite at me I will make my hand into a claw, and intercept at the side of the horse’s mouth allowing him to "punish himself".  
Instead of biting me, the horse gets himself poked, and realizes that it’s not much fun to try and bite me. This is more for a passive horse.   It may not work the very first time, but keep it up and he will soon learn to stop nipping at you.  

*Note: After I do this, I usually wave my hand several times in front of the horse's face to make sure he is not afraid of my hand.  I want him respectful of my space, not fearful.

With a more aggressive horse you will probably need to use method number 3
I find this one especially effective on a cinchy horse. It the horse turns to bite you, lift your knee hard and give the horse a knee under the belly. When done correctly, you should only have to do this once.   Don't worry, you won't hurt him it's more of a wake up call than any pain.  Your knee does not have the same amount of power that another horse has and you certainly don't have a hoof at the end of your knee to deliver a powerful blow.

And finally, be consistent it will help the horse to stop the behavior much quicker. Remember to keep his head away from you, and correct him every single time he tries to turn his head, with no negotiation. Have the attitude, "I said it, I mean it, and you’re going to do it!" toward the horse.  I would hate for you lose a finger, an ear or especially a breast (OUCH)!

How to check your work:
If your horse is visibly frightened of you, then you are being much too aggressive.  Back off and take it down a notch.  
If your horse is not responding, or you have to keep doing it over and over again and he’s not improving then you are being too passive.  Take it up a notch.
If you horse stops biting respects you and is calmer, congratulations you just rehabbed the biter!

If at first you don't succeed try try again.  Think of how long it took him to become this way, it will take some time to retrain him to be that gentleman he used to be.  Keep up the great work Carolyn you are a great asset to your horses.

PS.  I know exactly what you are talking about with the apple shampoo ;) !



carolyne said...

thank you deanna, im so anxious to try your advice. thank you.i will also be keeping mental tabs on how long it takes for bubba to "get it" ive really had my eyes opened to how bad it really is to spoil a horse toooo much. i see it actually had the reverse affect i thought it would, they can be bullys. it will be cool to see how long it takes to correct this boo boo. have fun at congress i will be there too. jill surprised me and bought tickets thru the mail some time back. we will be at the reining in hopes to see stacey westfall this year. i wont get to see you as we will be arriving later in the day on sat and it takes us about 4hrs from pa to get too ohio.
thank you for your advice it is always appreciated so much and ill let you know how its going.
ps. i wont be buying YOU apple shampoo for christmas (smile)

Deanna said...

You're welcome Carolyne! I'm happy to help. Just think, by you having this problem, you can actually help teach others that spoiling a horse can take the fun out of them. Everything always serves a purpose right?

That is so awesome that you have tickets to the freestyle reining. We will be there until the 16th, but 8:00 is Cristino's bed time. We are going to be dragging him around to enough stuff that we didn't want to keep him up late at night too! So maybe you will see us. You can't miss Fredi and his Indian hair, Cristino will be in his sling or in the stroller and we take the Pug around where we can in the back of the stroller. You can't miss us.

I had a student with hair the color of hay and one of the horses always tried to eat it, even without the apple shampoo. With that apple shampoo it always had me pulling hair out of the horse's mouth!

Definitely keep me posted :)