Rebbecca said - I have a 9 year old paint gelding, Junior. He was broke enough when I got him and we've been spending a year working on show finishing for western pleasure and hunter under saddle. Considering I'm an amateur (I do have a trainer, but I want your take on this) I think he's coming along well. BUT he is the mouthiest most ADHD horse I've ever known. He looks all around and gets distracted in the arena whenever a horse comes in or goes out. He will put anything and everything in his mouth and when he's bored/irritated/playful he kind of snaps at me.
Rebbecca has two problems with her horse. His mouthiness and his distractibility.
This gelding is a pleasure, hunter under saddle and maybe, a halter horse.
Each of these events requires standing still, or slow steady movement. None of these events are designed to take much thought on the part of the horse. Nor is there a lot of mental stimulation involved.
Most mouthy, easily distracted horses are also alert, intelligent and athletic horses. This is the kind of horse I like to put on a cow. Once I focus all that bubbling energy I usually lose the problem behavior.
I truly don't know what you pleasure guys do to occupy the minds of your more sharp minded horses, so input would be good here.
I also need to point out I have honest-to-God, diagnosed, severe, ADD. If I was a pleasure horse I would slit my own throat. So if Rebbecca’s trainer is happy with her horse’s progress I doubt he has ADHD.
What I do know is that a mouthy horse should not be given stuff to play with when he's being handled. Be it the end of a lead rope or the back of my shirt.
I have a 2 to 3 foot area of personal space that I want every horse I handle to respect at all times. No horse is allowed to cross into my space ever.
I come out of it to approach my horse whenever I want mind you, be it to love on them or discipline them. They don't get to come to me though.
This simple rule saves both me and my horses a lot of grief.
Have you ever watched two horses (usually geldings or studs) initiate play?
Horse #1 sneaks a quick nip at Horse #2.
Then Horse #2 nips back.
#1 whips back with a slightly harder nip.
#2 squeals and lunges.
The next thing you know they're rearing and play striking and acting like a couple of mustangs.
Next scenario: An owner is standing and holding her haltered horse by his lead rope right under his chin. The horse turns to look at another horse being led by him and the owner yanks on the lead rope.
Then the horse turns the other way to watch a tractor. The owner is pulled again and yanks on the lead rope again.
The horse sighs and stands still for a moment.
The owner strokes the horses nose.
He nips at her hand.
She gives him a small slap.
He nips again, a little harder.
Owner slaps a little harder.
Pretty soon they look like a couple of cheerleaders bitch-slapping each other.
Owner is pissed. Horse is thinking this is great fun.
Does any of this sound or look familiar?
So I keep things clean and direct. I don't handle mouthy horses faces below the eyes unless I'm bridling. Period.
There are lots of other places to pet my horse.
I DON'T HAND FEED THEM! (here we go again)
Between my personal space and my no petting below the eyes rule my mouthy horse never has a reason to touch me with his mouth.
Therefore, if he does touch me with his mouth I can discipline him. Not with a little slap or a bump of my hand on his jaw. I'm going to wack his shoulder or hip with my lead rope and bend him or back him around some.
If a horse in the field doesn't want the neighborhood punk horse bothering him he will lunge, kick and chase, making it extremely clear what's expected.
Every time he touches me with his mouth, I'm going to make a big, dramatic, unpleasant movement kind of thing. Then I'll ignore him.
On the other hand, I'm also going to ignore anything he does which doesn't affect me.
He can wiggle his ears, wag his tongue, shake his head, I don't care as long as his feet stay still and he doesn't touch me.
I give my horses at least four foot of lead rope when I lead them or hold them.
They get to do pretty much whatever they want on that rope as long as they don't touch me or bring their nose past my shoulder. They can't tug on the rope either. They have to keep their feet still when mine are. No grazing.
So they spook and spoof and rear and buck all they want as long as they don't break the rules.
I have noticed the only horses who choose to act this way are either stalled or in a small pen and haven't been out in a while.
I would want these rules clear before I started teaching them halter. Which I don't know how to do.
When the Don't Touch me, Keep your Feet Still Rules are clear I start to expect my horses to focus on me when I ask then to.
So if I quit ignoring my horse and look at him he needs to prepare himself to work. Which may be standing for the shoer or vet. Or loading in a trailer. Or being shown at halter.
If I ignore him he can look around, play with his own mouth, whatever, as long as he follows the rules.
I’m the same way about my horses being distracted. If I’m not working and they aren’t affecting me they can look at whatever they want.
If we’re working they need to work.
I expect as much focus from my horse as I am putting on them, on the ground or in the saddle.
So again, if my horse should be working and he’s googling around, I’ll get after him for not getting the work done, not so much for looking. Does that make sense?
As far as specifics, you’ll have to listen to your trainer, because I don’t know nuttin' about halter or pleasure horse training.