Georgia brought up a really important point. I don't want you guys to think I gently and kindly found creative ways to tame Sonita. To be blunt, I kicked her butt fairly often over our first few years together. As time went on we got to where we understood each other and I could give her a look or a touch and she would mind. But only because Sonita understood within an inch of her life what the consequences were if she didn't do what she was told. I learned to pick my battles with her. I learned what was important to be fierce about and what wasn't. So I'm going to put Georgia's questions in green, then I'll answer as best I can.
Georgia said - Is there a Ray Hunt type approach for this?
Once I was watching Ray work a single horse and rider in the round pen. His good gray mare kept irking him. I couldn't see what it was she did exactly. He suddenly said, "Hang on a minute," to the rider. Which was ironic, since this guy was sitting on a colt in a halter and lead rope. Like he could do anything but hang on. Anyway, Ray would work people with a stick with a rag tied on the end of it (you couldn't buy them, he just told people to make their own, imagine that!). He proceeded to knock his mare around pretty hard with his flag. She jumped and crowhopped and snorted, banged into the bug-eyed horse and rider a few times and then Ray quit. The mare licked her lips, he went back to work and never did explain himself. As far as I was concerned he didn't need to. I got it.
If you had thought Sonita was just being dominant instead of fearful about new things would you have taken a different approach?
Sonita was incredibly aggressive. She was also fearful. These are two different issues. A dominant horse will still become afraid. A submissive horse can be incredibly brave. I had to learn very quickly to differentiate between the two.
She is well trained. She is aloof, fights all other horses ( never backs off and has multiple scars from this) doesn't have or want a human or horse friend, will snap/bite when being groomed, will try to strike or bite when being blanketed. We always tie her for anything like this cause you can't trust her otherwise.
I'm sorry Georgia, but if you have to tie your horse to stop her from biting you she is not well trained. She is a bitch. You are not safe either. She knows being tied prevents her from getting at you. She will wait and nail you when she gets the chance.
Being aloof and aggressive is who she is, it doesn't give her an excuse to misbehave. Your job is to make sure she understands you don't care if she likes you, you only want her to understand she has to do as she's told. Period.
Sonita had an extremely rigid set of rules (still does). When we stepped in her stall with her feed she had to not only step away, but go to the end of her run and wait. With her ears forward, thank you very much.
I instilled this habit with a dressage whip. I walked in the stall door and proceeded to smack the tar out of her legs, chest and neck until she ran to the end of her run. Then I put the hay in her feeder and stood barring her way. I didn't let her move out of the corner until she dropped her head and pricked her ears.
Believe me, she argued this point pretty strenuously.
When she did submit I simply turned and left.
No "good girl!" (she wasn't), no coaxing tones (I took her food because I could, she had to understand this), I just left.
This was just the way it was, forever, because she really wanted to bully. As time went by she would simply go to the back of her run and wait, sweet as could be, when she wanted dinner.
She wasn't allowed to step into me, ever.
If I approached her hip she had to move over a step.
I allowed her to pin her ears, but never at me. Ever.
Had her vet checked numerous times for physical issues -- nothing.
Good for you! Now you can safely assume you need to explain the way the world works to her.
She has an aloof personality for people and horses.I have never seen her in a grooming session with another horse. She will "test" you on a ride (pin her ears and swish her tail and ignore or try to delay a response to a cue) to see how much work she has to do.You have known cranky mean women in your life haven't you? Sometimes it's just who they are. I found that accepting who a horse is has nothing to do with accepting their behavior. I won't let a timid, fearful horse bite or kick me either. I will discipline them the exact same way I do an aggressive horse. I have to fix the behavior before I can help a horse. I'm not effective if I'm waiting to get kicked all the time.
I have tried the tough-line method of slamming her one (to put it awkwardly) if she snaps or bites and she will stop and reluctantly behave. But you can tell she is stewing and a bit pissed that she had to stop, and maybe just waiting for her next chance.
You haven't taken it far enough. When I take on a horse who is trying to bite or kick me I will take a dressage whip or just the end of my lead rope and start swinging. Whatever I use I will make sure it stings. I will whale on the horse until she is really hustling away from me. I usually go after the inside shoulder area (although I don't worry that much about aim) and keep the horses head tipped slightly towards me. This gives them the opportunity to step away from me (which is what I want). This is why I seldom tie an aggressive horse. I hold her on a loose lead rope so I can pull her toward me as I step to the side and into her shoulder and get to whacking. If the horse is tied she may panic and then things will get out of control and somebody can get hurt. If she can step away and submit she won't panic.
The key here is to not stop until the horse submits. I want her to clear her shoulder and be away from me. I want her to lick her lips and look a little, or a lot worried. This usually doesn't take more than 10 seconds, usually two or three.
The next extremely important step is to immediately make it clear all is forgotten and go back to business as usual. Once again, no "Good girl" (she's not) or "that's OK" (it isn't) just be calm and safe and solid. Horses understand those things.
With an aggressive horse you might have to do these things a bunch. With a submissive one you won't. With a frightened horse I usually only have to swing a rope, but the body language is the same for all types.
I am loud, there's a lot of arm waving, rope swinging and if needed, swatting. I follow the horse along until she is doing what I ask, then I immediately stop.
I feel sorry for her that she has/wants no friends, and would like to get a mutually respectful relationship going.
I would like her to like me. I suspect she just doesn't respect me.
The way to get your horse to like you is to make sure she respects you.
In her mind she thinks you just don't get it. She bites and kicks and won't let you handle her. Yet you still persist in talking nice, hanging close, maybe slip in a cookie or two. So she feels she is your boss, but you haven't quite grasped the concept that she wants you to run screaming when she threatens. In her mind, the only alternative is to keep explaining she's the boss.
Instead you have to make it extremely clear she doesn't get to bite you, threaten to bite you, kick or strike, nothing. Ever. Because you are the boss.
I would be working a mare like this on the ground. I would move her hips away from me, her shoulders, her head. I know there are posts some where back there about this. I would work her, establish my authority, then ride. I would make her listen while I rode. Every time she pinned her ears she would get to work harder. Then I would ask her again nice and see what happens. Every time she blew me off she would get to do the maneuver twice as hard, twice as fast. Then I would ask again nice and see what happenes.
She might become your friend when she clearly gets who the boss is. Right now she's not sure, so she's fighting for the boss mare position. As soon as she gets it she'll be much sweeter.
She may never actually become your friend, sometimes they don't. Sometimes you simply have to accept who she is. Which sounds like a pretty cool horse.