Thursday, March 19, 2009

I'm Not That Nice

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.


HorseOfCourse said...

"Sonita had an extremely rigid set of rules (still does)."
I'm pointing my ears here, Mugs. Still does?? Hmm.
Good post.

Miss A said...

Awesome post, thank you. I just bought a mare who doesn't have an agressive personality, but had pissy problems in the past caused by a string of owners who didn't know how to be the boss of her. The guy I bought her from turned her into a -very- nice and obedient horse and advised me to make sure I establish myself as boss (and keep it that way) to avoid back pedaling. She's nice and I want to keep her that way, so posts like this are encouraging to read.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Hmmm...sounds like my step-horse. When he first came, I felt sorry for him and sweet-talked him, gave him treats when he put his ears up even 'tho a minute before he was trying to bite or threatening to kick me. He finally crossed the line when he tried to pin me while he was on the cross-ties and nail me with his hind feet.

Well, I got his message, and he got mine ~ and Mugwumps!!!:). He has been very good saddling now (only a few reminders once in a while from me).

I also had to draw the line with his stall behavior...I blanket in the stall, no halter. He would pin his ears but let me blanket him...until one day he almost got me with a full bite. Guess who got the tar whaled out of him until he stood in the corner trembling. He has never tried to bite me again, and his ears are up all the time, and I can mess with his food and he just waits until I say he can eat (he still pins when I am outside the stall, but I can back him off with just a look now).

He is the kind that needs those rigid rules and them to be reinforced.

Oh, and he scared the crap out of me when he tried to bite me in the stall...that made me realize he either had to change or go.

I caught the "still does" too :)


Fyyahchild said...

Great post. Thanks for calling out the part about being tied to not bite as an example of a training opportunity.

My BGM (bitchy gray mare) is the most crabby horse I've ever known and makes horrid faces at just about everything.

I immediately thump the heck out of her with whatever is handy if she crosses the line at all and makes any agressive move toward me but not when she looks away to make her ugly faces. Picking my battles.

Now that I can stay the heck on her I'm also whacking the crap out of her when she spooks and trys to take off. Seems to be working.

Guess I'm not real nice either.

oregonsunshine said...

(Cheering section over here!)

I've found that the more people follow the Parelli-ite Gurus, the worse a horse's manners are allowed to be. As I've mentioned before, I moved the Very Tall Arab at one point because I had folks old enough to be my parents get on my case for whacking him when he misbehaved.

Also, I think it would be nice if more boarders paid attention to their horse's feeding time behaviors and gave permission to BO's and staff to correct aggressive behaviors. Too often a horse gets away with being aggressive because the owner thinks that "Little Pooky is always just so perfect and would never, ever need to be beat up for being bad! How dare you even think of laying a hand on my cutsy pony-wony!"

Ok, I took it to the extreme, but ya'll get my point.

The VTA only bit me once. Needless to say, he got chased around his stall with a crop (it was the first thing to come to hand- I needed it for feeding time for other nasty horses). I never managed to land a single blow, but he was convinced I was going to kill him. And he never bit me again!

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Meant to include...when he tried to bite me, I went after him with my open hands, knees, being very loud, making him move away from me. Must have been a sight!


kestrel said...

A well trained horse is usually liked, and most horses LIKE to be liked. Kinda like kids, it becomes a circle of...bratty behavior, disapproval, more bratty behavior. Love your attitude Mugs! I think a lot of the injuries that occur lately are the direct result of 'never discipline your horse' training methods. I'm always amazed at what some people will allow their horses to get away with!
After all, if I have to be polite while working, so should my horse.

mugwump said...

Kestral - Think how much better behaved people would be if they got swatted with a rope until they moved their feet a little every ime they were rude!
Kinda like doing the "dance" when a gunfighter shoots at your feet.

mlks said...

First off: rock on, mugwump. Awesome post.

Second off: I have noticed that I subconsciously make use of the boss horse body language in my day job, which is...teaching high school English.

So while I can't swat them with a rope or whatever else is handy, I can still intimidate the hell out of them by using the same body language I do with the horses. It's interesting.

kestrel said...

Actually I owned a bar in a pretty rough town for a few years, and the horse training body language came in real handy! After about 6 months most of my customers were pretty well housebroke.....

oregonsunshine said...

LOL @ Kestrel! That's awesome!

mommyrides said...

Very interesting posts mlks and kestrel.....wondering how it'd work with the kiddos????

Georgia said...

Thank you for such a helpful and detailed answer to my question, and your great advice! It sure helps to have someone like you to ask. That helped me so much.

And in particular thanks for your last sentence saying that she sounds like a pretty cool horse. There is something about her determined and bold spirit that I like. Brought tears to my eyes unexpectently.


Sydney said...

Ah just the right post at the right time. I got this gorgeous Hanoverian mare that has some of these issues. Shes extremely well bred but very misunderstood. Normally I work quarter horses, morgans and arabs so shes like a friggn sky scraper to me. She is very large and takes over her handlers (but me) on a regular basis. I am starting to like her more and more every time I work with her. She is a very talented horse and coming quickly to understand that I can smack her around if she gets into my space or makes threats at me. Just the encouragement I needed at this time.

GoTuckerGo! said...

Dear Mugwump,

I have a training question for you. I ride english and have a very cute Quarter pony/ Paso Fino cross. Smooth, smooth , smooth. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

My question is this, what do you do when your horse will step into the trot when asked (albeit a very slow, minimum effort trot) but not maintain it without a lot of effort on your part? I read in the August 23 or 24 post that you catch them before they break into a walk and cue them. Do you cue them to step up into a canter or just to move into a more forward trot? He usually will break into a walk within a step or two of you taking off your leg when trotting. Depending on how quickly I react, he will either continue on trotting or step back into a trot with a squeeze (or more likely a good kick from me). I do have to ride in spurs and he gets whacks from my crop regularly too. Keeping him moving is not very subtle at all, so the concept of riding him with a whisper amazes me! He will continue this trying to break into a walk-trot cycle indefinitely. It is very tiring to keep so much leg on and keep asking again and again to continue moving. How do I communicate to him that I expect him to keep trotting until I tell him otherwise? Also how does one ask for (and get and maintain :> ) a quicker walk, trot, canter without having to continually cluck and carry on like I have been?

We have done bloodwork and everything came back in range, we also tried a supplement- I think it was something like propell, all to no avail. He's just lazy. I understand he will never be a forward horse, and I love him for his gentle nature and manners, but I am desperate to "light the fire" a bit. Learning how to handle this could very well make the difference between selling and keeping him this year. I would appreciate any advice you would be willing to give. I have discussed taking him to a trainers with my riding instructor. But the consensus at our barn is since he is one of those clever ponies that reads his riders, unless I learn to deal with it myself he would revert back to his old tricks.



Joy said...

Excellent post! I see so many people at the stables where I board literlly letting their horses walk all over them. It makes me nervous. I figure I've got a 1,000 pounds of muscle at the end of my lead rope and he's faster than I could ever dream of being. he'd better respect my "bubble".

Once time my horse bit me. I'd had him for a few months and he reached around while I was cinching him up and bit me in the ass. I beat the tar out of him all the way across the space between the tack rooms and then led him back to my tack room and resumed tacking him up like nothing ever happened. He has never bitten anyone again.

he can be pushy so I always correct him right off the bat. Coming out of his stall, he waits for me to let him follow me out the door. Very often I stop and he'd better back up a step or there will be problems.

When I feed him, he turns his head away from me and looks off into the distance until I walk away. If he so much as turns an eyeball my way, he gets sent away to the back of his stall.

My trainer has drilled this into my brain: The horse will try you at every opportunity. A test to see who is boss. It's easier to correct them when the test is just one tiny step into your space instead of waiting until they're lunging at you with teeth bared. I definitely agree!

Georgia said...

Joy said:

"The horse will try you at every opportunity. A test to see who is boss. It's easier to correct them when the test is just one tiny step into your space instead of waiting until they're lunging at you with teeth bared. "

Good point! I need to remember that. Sometimes I will catch myself feeling I am being too picky or too harsh to react to stuff that's "not so bad". But it is way easier to draw the line at a level where it is easy to stop!

joycemocha said...

My mare is submissive to me, and to the untrained eye, she can look pretty betaish.

It's a ploy. She's a quiet, sneaky alpha who is always watching for weaknesses. I set the rules pretty firmly in our first six months, and now she's sweet as pie. I feed treats, but she's well aware of who's in charge. I don't take any BS off of her, and if she doesn't respond to a cluck when I ask her to move over, she gets a fingernail in the ribs.

Enough times making her back up across the arena when she tried to crowd me for treats and she carefully stands at a distance from me, then extends her head and nose to pick up the treat at liberty. She faces the front of the stall when I come in, and will turn to face the front to let me take off her halter when she goes back in, even when there's alfalfa in the feeder.

All that took time, firmness, and not a little bit of growling, waving the lead rope, and otherwise asserting that I was in charge.

FYI, Mugs, my trainer swears by the lead rope and does much the same as you do with it when it's time to punish a horse for making a bad choice.

mugwump said...

GoTuckerGo- I have a challenge for you.I double dog dare you to quit working so hard.
For a week I want you to relax, take your legs off and just sit there.
For this week you'll get on your horse. Ask him to walk on with just a whisper from your leg. He only gets one chance.Count to ten.
If he doesn't move at all you will give him one kick.Only one. You'll count to ten.
If he still hasn't moved you will whack him with a crop repeatedly until he moves out at least in a brisk trot.
If he moves, even an inch at any point in time you'll sit totally quiet.No legs. You won't urge, cluck, squeeze, nothing until he completely stops moving. Then you'll start again.
One squeeze, one kick, then swat until he really moves.
You do the same for the trot.Once he is trotting you sit completely still.Let him completely stop before you react.
Start the cue sequence. One squeeze, one kick, whack 'til he moves out.
In between you do absolutely nothing.
Quick review.
Sit quiet on your horse.
One squeeze, one kick, swat 'til he hustles.
If he walks on anywhere in your sequence then you relax and sit still until he completely quits.
Then start again.
Same sequence for the trot.
Do this for a week.
Don't worry about keeping him going.
Tell me in a week what he's doing.

AbbyAugustArabian said...

My horses have lovely ground manners. This is only because we get on their case EVERYTIME they step out of line. I don't care if it is feeding time or its raining. You will walk beside me out of my personal space. No pulling, tugging or hissys.

I love the barn I'm at now. Its very small and everybody takes turns feeding, turnout, bring in etc. All the boarders and BO know that if I handle their horse and their horse steps out of line, I WILL correct them. I'm sorry, but if I am handling your horse on a regular basis, I will NOT be run over, drug, kicked at or god knows what else.

LOVE the post Mugwump. Totally agree, now if I can only get other people to understand.....

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

Yes - rigid rules and you have to catch them when they are THINKING about breaking the rule! Not after it has already progressed to action. The Crabby Old Bat is not allowed to make an ugly face at me, much less the biting and chasing I have seen her visit upon humans well-trained enough to run from her. If you want them to like you, get them to respect you - they like who they respect (not so different from humans).

My friend's crabby Arabian mare is also not allowed to have her grain until her ears come forward. It's amazing how quickly they can learn that ugly faces are not tolerated.

Mlks, that was hilarious!

onetoomany said...

Ah too true. I have a reputation at my barn for getting after my horse pretty good. Granted a lot of the people at my barn have pretty complacent horses whereas mine feels a need to constantly toe the line and test me. I really like what Joy's trainer said. I know if I didn't discipline my horse everytime she moved too much into my space or pulled on me while I was leading her; she'd soon be happily running me over on her way to her buddies.

Speaking of a buddy sour horse... Mugs I've been debating asking this for a while. I find that as I ride I find myself thinking "WWMD?" (what would mugwump do?). Well I came to a problem that I'm not really sure what mugwump would do. The way our arena is set up the door to the paddocks and such and the alleyway is at one end. My horse is very familiar with the out door and knows that the door leads back to her buddies. Well when we're doing lope circles she tries to drop her outside shoulder and switches leads on her hind end. I've gotten her out of dropping that shoulder but unless I hold my outside leg on her like a cement post she still switches leads on her hind. I feel like I'm over riding her and I really don't want her to become dependent on me to keep her on the correct lead. What would you suggest doing? Let her switch leads and then really hustle after her to get it correct again? Keep in mind she's a fairly solid horse and is usually very light on leg pressure... except in this instance. You've probably covered a very similar situation already but any help would be very much appreciated.

quietann said...

At the same time.... sometimes it's not worth getting in a fight with a horse. I have a friend who got into a fight she had to win with my horse over getting onto a trailer. It escalated and escalated, my mare's brains fell out of her head, and guess what? I now have a horse who was perfectly trailer-trained when I got her, who is afraid of the trailer. And I can't really blame her. I'm getting help retraining her, doing a fair bit of just leading her around trailers, backing off and approaching over and over. She's getting much better about it, but that fear is still there.

Deered said...

I have gone as far as walking away with a horses feed when i had her back end turned at me. She was a 5/5 on the body score, so she was in a dirt covered yard as much water as she liked and good quality, low nutritional quality hay (yeah - we had a friend cut a few bales for this horse pony). She was so grumpy that her manners went out the window - she tried to charge me when I went to refil the water - so she got made to stnad in the back of the yard - however the back end was on display and I couldn't get her out of the corner safely... so 4 hours later I went back (it was late summer) and yeah - the attitude had changed as she wanted the water.

She really did have wonderful manners - she just had to re-learn that the humans may be puny, but they control everything.

Oh - and I too have often found that a tired horse redicovers co-operation quite quickly!

Deered said...

quietann - have you tired working your horse hard, cooling it out and putting the water at the bottom of the ramp and just waiting until the fear is out weighed by the desire for water?

We had a horse that had a bad fright and we were able to set up the trailer in a yard where we could put her food and water first ont he ramp, then inside it and leaver her there - 6 months later she would self load, however it did take a lot of time.

mlks said...

Kestrel - I can totally see it! And I love the use of "housebroken" covers so much territory.

Seriously, though. I'm about 5'5" and 112lb on a good day, but until my kids stand up and look down at the top of my head they are convinced I'm at least 6'. By this point in the year I can halt any weird behavior with a well-timed raising of one eyebrow.

LatigoLiz said...


Joy said...

Quietann, I would never get into a fight with my horse over something he was scared of. I just won't tolerate him trying to be alpha with me. But if he was afraid of the trailer, or anything else, we'd take our time, one step at a time.

Today we walked past a metal step up that is normally upright, but today was lying on its side. He put his eye towards it, shifted his shoulder out and basically said "that's wrong, don't like it. scared" So I touched it, tapped it, flopped it around and he nosed it and got over it. I wouldn't punish him for being observant and/or spooked at something. It's two very different things in my mind, spooked vs pushy.

Smurfette said...

Thank you! I read so much "my horsie doesn't like me, what can I do to make my horsie like me?" questions over on Yahoo.answers that I begin to feel like the wicked witch of the west. Just Monday evening we had one of those rides, my usual docile, even if not enthuiastic gelding, was just PISSY. Walk/jog ok, but just did NOT want to lope. So, guess what we did? After about 10 minutes of lope-walk-lope-jog transitions, I finally had one of those "lower the head and lick the lips" moments, and he even seemed happy for a few minutes.
I insist of a positive attitude at feeding time, too. Damnit, I paid hard earned money for that feed, the least you can do is pretend to be happy about it. And stay out of my space.

SkyBar Farm said...

OregonSunshine ~ I echo you your sentiments exactly on the Parelli-ite types. Drive me nuts! They want their horse to love them, while it is dragging them through the mud. Then when you have the "Come to Jesus" moment with their horse, so they do not get themselves killed, they whine and cry about how your hurt their horses' feelings. Ugh!

As far as Barn owners having the right to correct a clients horse... I am a BO and I will do whatever it takes to keep myself safe with a boarders horse. I do not hide a correction from the owner. If they do not like it, I show them where the door is. This is my livelihood, and I will not allow an obnoxious, no manners horse to potentially put me in harms way for whatever reason. I do try to show my clients through my own horses good manners why it is a no no to accept anything less than good behavior. I also screen my potential boarders as best I can to avoid problems down the road and in my contract, can ask them to leave for whatever reason I come up with, if I feel I need to, or judged them wrong and I feel they are becoming a problem.

Great post Mugs!

mugwump said...

QuietAnn- You're friend did you no favors. I have never had to beat a horse into a trailer. I've made them move their feet, but there was no beating. This isn't what we're talking about.
I have a post in here somewhere about trailer loading, it may help.

SkyBarFarm - I love your contract.I worked for a place that made boarders sign an agreement to turn over their horses if they got more than 2 months behind on their board. They never got stiffed and never had to take a horse. I thought it was brilliant. They always worked with anyone who talked to them, BTW.

SkyBar Farm said...

I did one better than taking the horse...(to me it seems a good way to dump a horse and have some one else pay for it, there are a few barns in our area now that are having that very problem.) I make my boarders hand over a security deposit equal to one months board, plus the first month board, if they get behind, then I give them a notice to leave before the end of the month and I don't get stiffed. I have had great payers and boarders since I started employing the deposit, plus it is a great way to screen potential bad paying boarders. I have gotten a lot of flack for it from people who have called about boarding, but once I started checking them out, I came to find out they were not paying vets, farriers, BO's etc... I didn't want those types anyway. I am understanding to my boarders though when I need to be. We all have bumps in the road occasionally. I just don't let it become a habit.

t_orchosky said...

Mugs - I have a question that goes in great with this post that came up recently. I have a VERY dominant paint gelding. I rode him as a stud, trained him myslef, we both learned along the way. I couldn't get his feet trimmed. If you got near his back feet he would cow kick. Finally got an older ferrier to come out and work with him. He had a come to Jesus meeting with me and my horse. He said what he thought and I could take it or leave it. I took it!!! When I got the horse out of the pasture he was all over me. Ferrier fixed him, and fixed me just the way your talking about. Any ferrier including myself can do anything with his feet or any part of his body now. He respects me. But just last weekend I couldn't catch him. he wouldn't let me come within 10 foot of him. Now he's been like this all week. My 7 year old son, caught him that day, with me protesting telling him to be careful, son walked right up put his hand on his nose and said ok Mom come get your horse. Now he respects my space but acts like I'm going to beat him. I did not beat this horse, I haven't even had to get after him in quite a while. I always just used the lead rope. What can I do to get the trust back now? He was always the type of horse to come running to the fence.

heater said...

My horse is not a hard one to deal with, but if he gets pushy or rude I let him know that's not acceptable. I have no problem disciplining my own. I also have no problem disciplining the drafts I work with, even though they aren't mine. They weigh 2000+ lbs, and there are many people that handle them that have no prior horse experience. If they are getting rude, draftie and I have a "come to Jesus" meeting. I usually don't use a whip. I know too many horses (drafts included) that are deathly afraid of whips because of prior bad experiences*. That considered, I will back a horse up with my voice and the lead rope, sometimes to the point of "sitting them down". Getting in their space in a loud angry way will intimidate even the rankest of drafts.

I do have a question though, what do you do as a barn worker? My horse is laid up right now, so I've been riding other boarder's horses (with their permission). I also feed at my barn, so I handle all of them on a regular basis. A couple of them can be quite nasty when it comes to blanketing or saddling. I've had a hind hoof struck at me while tacking up a couple of times by a horse I've been riding. I would love to tell him what I think of that, but... he's not my horse. I'm not the barn owner, I'm just a worker and a fellow boarder. I have permission to get after the BO's horses, but lines get fuzzy when it comes to other boarded horses. It's almost like disciplining someone else's kid at the park. My trainer has a nice expression: "You are always training a horse, even if it's just leading in to be fed, you are always training." I hate to be letting the horses get away with things, but I don't want my trainer to get in trouble for me reprimanding a horse.

*I really don't like to use whips for this reason:
We had a carriage horse that was becoming sour. He needed some time off, but the owner couldn't give it to him (grrr). He started turning his butt to anyone who came in the stall. So the owner came in with a driving whip and beat his legs until he turned and faced her. I thought he was going to tear the stall down he was so scared. He is a fragile guy, and was made even more so by this. He wasn't bad or mean, he was just burnt out. He's still a wonderfully sweet horse. I don't think he ever would have kicked anyone, but he still trembles at the sight of a whip.

GrouchyBayTB said...

I have a clarifying question. I've made huge progress with my grumpy butt (see my screen name), but I've come to the realization that he's one that will always need constant reminders - and sometimes come-to-Jesus meetings.

Anyway, my question is -- what if you're tacking up in cross-ties, and he needs a reminder (or a come-to-Jesus) then? (Mine has a tendency to snap, pin ears, threaten to kick when grooming and certainly when girthing.) Mugs - This really goes to your comment that you don't do come-to-Jesus meetings when they're tied, bc they can panic. So what do you do in that situation? I've made some progress by immediately taking him to the arena and working him on the ground. However, I don't like the delay involved in that approach. Thoughts?

GrouchyBayTB said...

PS - Just bc I'm grouchy today, I just want to join the chorus in grumbling about these Parelli people. I also think there's this weird tendency - for some reason especially for adult, first-time owners - to think that horses are just 1200-lb puppies. I dunno - other than having my own horse from ages 6-8, this is the first time I've owned my own (I'm in my 30's), so maybe I'm just not that nice. (I'm not.)

Here's a sampling of the behavior I'm talking about (I board in a barn with 30+ other horses):

- Adult owner getting ON THEIR KNEES just inside the open paddock gate, with treats in hand, to "call" their horse over to them. Horse was in a herd of about 6-8. You can't make tihs shit up.

- Horse repeatedly moving away from the mounting block. Adult owner deals with this by telling the horse "oh baby it's ok" and "don't be scared" and scratching its ears. This is a 14-yr-old seasoned trail horse - he knows damn well what's he's doing!!!

- Horse being nasty and pissy undersaddle. Adult owner comes up with the theory that the D-rings on the saddle are somehow making noise and scaring the horse.

There's so many more ...

SkyBar Farm said...

GrouchyBayTB ~ What I have done in those instances is not use the cross ties. I just keep the halter on with my lead rope draped over my arm while grooming, tacking, etc... My big mare has 4 huge stockings that need shaved for showing. She hates having her legs clipped and would constantly pick her leg up as soon as I got near it. She was smart and knew I would be delayed in correction if she were in the cross ties. I began just tucking her lead in my back pocket and the moment she took the leg away I starting backing her mach 10. We did this 3 times. That was 4 years ago, now this mare will stand ground tied in my aisle way half a sleep while I clip all 4 legs.

kel said...

Great post. I do believe that each horse has its own discipline tolerance. My trainer calls it a discipline "wave". For some of them a look or stern voice will do (maybe after an ass kicking) but some just like having those "coming to jesus" moments for every new task.

What I struggled with was being able to do the ass kicking, get what I wanted, then go back to the softness that I had started with. You really have to consciously come back down immediately and not let your emotions rule. Turn it on, turn it off.

badges blues N jazz said...

What a great post. I too spent 2 years wondering if my horse would ever "like" me. Well, now that she has learned to RESPECT me on the ground (I thought I had it before, but I was completely wrong.), we actually have a relationship.
Her personality has come out. I always thought she just was an aloof kinda gal, but now that I have her respect, she has completely changed. She nickers when she sees me (full feeder too, and I dont feed treats), she WANTS to be with me. They NEED leadership.
I always thought I had her pretty good on the ground, but I was completely wrong. She uses her shoulders to dominate. For e.g. I would be leading her and if she was scared of something, she would shoulder INTO me.
we have a completely different relationship now, and I can say we even have a sort of bond - all from just gaining her respect!

Redsmom said...

Agree, agree agree!!! Mugs. Its amazing how often they test their herd position, any time they sense a weakeness or just because its a day ending in "y." I don't have much trouble with Matty because he backs down easily when disciplined. The mare does, too. She came to us with good manners and I vow to keep her that way. Question, other than at food time, how do you discipline them for laying their ears back at you?

Cassandra said...

I have experienced an unusual case (for me). I have been around horses for years and clean stalls at the barn where I board, so I am pretty used to reading horses and pinning my ears and baring my teeth when I need to get a point across. About 7 months ago while cleaning stalls a boarder's horse rolled in his run, got his fly sheet tangled up in the electric fence, and I am guessing he got quite a shock. I didn't see it happen but I noticed part of his blanket on the fence and his fly sheet was shredded. At this point he was in his stall (his stall and run are connected) and he appeared calm, but his fly sheet was torn and askew and I was worried that he would get tangled up in it, so I went to remove the offending garment, at which point I was thanked by a very hard and severe set of teeth to my bicep and then my forearm. He spun with me still in his mouth (I was between him and the stall door and I ended up between him and the run entrance, so I was not barring any escape attempt), dumped me on the ground, and clipped me with his hooves (he didn't kick out or at anything, I was simply in his way) in his haste to leave the stall. It was severe enough to warrant a trip to the ER, and I still have pain in my arm along with indentations where the muscle was damaged in my arm. This horse has a history of being snarly, but I have never experienced this severe of an outburst from him, and when I entered his stall he gave no indication of being aggressive. It was deduced later that he likely is an ex-halter horse who may have received the electric cattle prod "training," but we don't really know for sure. He has injured his owner who deals with his unpredictability by shoving food in his mouth when she works with him. Hooray for confidence shattering events.

kestrel said...

I love that old saying, make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. A grumpy horse has to move it's feet until it gives me the reaction that I want, then instant backoff on my part. Horse runs, chase until quits and turns and looks, I step back. I always try to break each training step down into little bitty steps. Sometimes we get so focused on a polished result that we can miss foundation steps getting there. Ears back is a dominance ploy. I start with frowning, threaten with a step forward, growl 'get that look off your face' then as soon as I see them think about putting an ear forward I take the pressure off. My horses know that I'm head bitch, but I'm fair and give them fair warning. A scared horse has every right to be scared, but I've seen some that will work themselves into a hissy fit to get out of work. I don't reward scared, but back down to another activity that they know by heart and let them get it out of their system (lunge in a circle, etc.), then pet when they've got themselves under control.

moosefied said...

This is a great post and discussion.

Some people do make a lot of excuse for their horses' behavior. And some people constantly talk at their horses, cajoling and admonishing, and I'm learning that to a horse, it must sound like, "I can't make you do what I want," over and over. The little bit of horse language that I've learned is mainly silent.

It's kind to make the rules clear; it's unkind not to.

Thanks, Mugs and others.

mugwump said...

t_orcho- This isn't about trust. You can't feel guilty about straightening your horse out. Of course he came before. He knew he got to push you around however he wanted. Now he can't, so he's leaving. That's all.He's still arguing.
You need to teach him to be caught again. He will figure out you're not going to get after him every minute ad relax. I don't know your pasture situation, so I can't give you direction. But when I have a horse who doesn't want to be caught I work on it until I get them, give them a scratch and let them go. I don't ride for a few days, just catch them, scratch and let them go.

onetoomany - The issue is the gate, not the lead change.I have a few things I do for a gate sour horse. I start to speed up and spank them past the gate, then rest on the opposite end of the arena.
Or I sit quiet and let them go to the gate. When they get there I pick up my reins, wiggle like a fiend, hollar and kick and jiggle the reins, but keep them loose, until the horse chooses to move away. Then we rest at the opposite end of the arena. This one is highly entertaining for friends and family by the way.
I would address the gate seperately, so you don't end up with your horse deciding her lead swapping is the issue. She will you know, there's no way in her mind it can be the gate.

>>heater says : I really don't like to use whips for this reason:
We had a carriage horse that was becoming sour. He needed some time off, but the owner couldn't give it to him (grrr). He started turning his butt to anyone who came in the stall. So the owner came in with a driving whip and beat his legs until he turned and faced her. <<

The issue is not the whip. It's the owner. If you blame the equipment you lose a good training tool. A scattery horse should get popped once, than hit the wall or your leg, then if nothing, pop again.
It takes reading the horse and the situation and appropriately responding.
Also if I whip a horse I make sure I also pet them regularly with the same whip. I stay in there until I can give them a good wither scratch with the whip. Same with a rope, my hand, a chain saw, whatever. I want the horse to understand the bite comes from me, not the tool.
Horse will use the leaping panic thing too. Especially if it works.
If I have one doing that because I scared them, I ignore it. Simply get them caught, or whatever and go about my business. Since I'm not threatening them they sort it out. Since I'm not soothing them are sweet talking them they don't get confused.

GrouchBayTB - What SkyBar says, exactly.Again, it's not about the tools, it's the horses relationship with us.

kel - Yes. When I started getting things done was when I quit putting my feelings into what I was doing. I can let anger go with a dog, a kid or a horse like you wouldn't believe.
As a matter of fact, I'm rarely angry when I get after them.

Badges - Now your seeing why I'm such a shoulder freak. If you have the shoulder, you have the horse.

Redsmom - Just run them off. Keep in mind, once the horse looks at me sweetly I just leave, I don't stand there waiting to see if they crab at me again.
Kind of like not listening to what your kids mutter as they walk away after a butt chewing.

mugwump said...

Cassandra - That is truly horrible. Sometimes horses are phsychotic you know.
moosefield - A lot of people make excuses but it's only because they don't know better. Look how much information, both good and bad, is out there.
All anybody can do in emmulate people you respect, but think through everything you're doing at the same time. And ask, ask, ask. Then don't accept it as fact, but think it through again.
Luckily our horses will forgive some really bone-head mistakes. I know mine have.

Char said...

Great post, Mugs. You have my hearty agreement.

slippinsweetlena said...

I have just recently had this same problem with a mare that I have out in the pasture. But I am not riding her, she is a broodmare and I need to catch her and her baby occasionally...She wouldn't let me get within 20 feet of her. So what I did was go out there and offer her food with me holding the bucket. she would come about half way up to me and then run the other direction, so I took the food with me and went back about my business. That nite at feeding time, I took the grain and food back out there she came running. She got within 10 feet and then ran away, so I took the food and grain away again went on about my business. The next morning She was talking to me and standing next to the pen that I was trying to feed her in. I went out there with the bucket again and offered it to her...she took a few bites, then ran, so I closed the pen off and left the food in the pen, then went on and fed everyone else. That really got her attention, so when I got back over there I opened the pen back up and she walked right in, let me close the panal, then I went and petted her. Ever since then, she has been IN the pen at feeding times and if she offers ANY kind of refusal to me, she gets locked out until I get done feeding everyone else(which is about 15 minutes).
This mare USED to let me catch her before she had the baby, so I knew that she trusted me at one time, she just needed a litle reminder. It is very frustrating when you can't catch a horse...there is NOTHING that ticks me off more than a horse you can't catch! Especially when they run within a few feet of you as if to say"Nananana, you can't catch me!"
I don't know if this will work for you, or if Mugwump agrees with it, but that is just what has worked for me.

Redsmom said...

Kestrel and Mugs - thanks about the ear pinning.

Mugs, LOL, about the kid mumbling.

I'm caught up on my work and wiling away the afternoon waiting for my performance evaulation. I'd rather think about reining at the local show tomorrow (its here again, already!). I wonder if we will do pattern no. 2, next or mix it up? I'm practicing them on foot. I pretend my legs are the hind legs. Works pretty well.

Mugs, so funny that I would think that everyone else was doing the stop and rollback wrong and I was doing it right. I have just enough ego to keep me in trouble. LOL.

Lon said...

GrouchyBayTB said: "I also think there's this weird tendency - for some reason especially for adult, first-time owners - to think that horses are just 1200-lb puppies"

In which case their dogs are probably walking all over them, too. I've had a couple "Come to Jesus" meetings with The Brazen Husky, when she got thinking that she was the Alpha Bitch in the house, not me. And then she gives me the "Oh OK, you really meant it, then" look. :)

t_orchosky said...

Great advice Mugs, thanks! however it does lead to another question. How do I re-teach him to be caught? This is something that I have never understood. I HATE a horse I can't catch. This horse like I said is very dominant. He's has been in his own pasture for a long time, next to my other horses but not in the same pasture. I'll put a mare in with him every once in a while. Recently I have put him back in the herd and he is doing very well. My herd is only 3 horses including him. The incident I posted before was when he was in his own pasture. Now he has more space and 2 other horses to run around. I haven't tried to catch him again because I haven't needed to. I do plan on riding him this weekend. So what do I need to do to teach him to be caught again? I usually just follow him around and keep the pressure on until he stops and then I stop, then I try to approach him. He walks away again I put the pressure back on and follow him at a steady pace until he stops again. I keep doing this until I am able to approach and put the halter on (or my 7 year old comes out and shows mom how to do things!)

Shanster said...

Great discussion here I think! Relevant to me and my young gelding who has hit the 6 yr old "do I really have to do this?"

I am too soft. I KNOW I am. I'm learning tho and I suppose in some ways it's better to start out too soft cuz you can get harder.

Anyhoo - Rosso (6yr old OTTB) is learning his new job - he's been really pretty quiet. Lately tho - I get on him and he is jigging and offering bucks and grabbing the bit threatening to bolt. (my first experience with that feeling - NOT fun at all!)

It was sorta happening here and there and not all at once... and I've been riding in an indoor up at my trainer's barn so there was no distraction - he sorta just settled in and worked. Wasn't so committed to the naughtiness.

But now with the nicer weather and longer days I can ride him at home... outside... full o' distractions and I was met with ALL the naughtiness at once! I got him thru it - enough that I was still on him and he was going forward and transitioning.

and then I got the heck off... trainer rode him the next day (lesson day) to evaluate... he's not naughty at her place - indoor arena... but he did do some of the minor infractions.

She corrected, told me how to correct and offered to come to my place and evaluate there -

I'm lucky I work with a trainer who has no patience with this behavior, can teach me to recognize it and help me through it! But she said to me, "Don't treat him like a criminal if he isn't being a criminal." so yeah - correct and once he's good, just go right along like always.

I rode my mare and longed the 6yr old last night - it got too dark for me to ride him - but yeah - I got AFTER him for any infraction with all his equipment on - it's workin' time then!

I suppose it's like that line in Cool Hand Luke. ... "what we got here, is a failure to communicate"

And you don't learn unless you get the problems so... I'm learnin!! It's all good.

It is scary but I'm learning and I have help. We are nippin' it in the bud. Next time I bring home a horse I want a nice, mature 9, 10, 11 yr old! heh, heh.

t_orchosky said...

slippinsweetlena - sorry I didn't see your post until after I posted the 2nd question. He is very food motivated, I'm sure I could catch him with feed. but should I be content to catch him with feed? or should I work on being able to catch him in the pasture without food. I've never liked having to shake feed to catch a horse.

mugwump said...

slippin- I think you handled it fine. I'm for whatever works with the minimum effort from me. I think I told you about car cutting. That's not in the books anywhere.
I had a couple of horses once who lived on 1800 acres in the mountains.We would call them by driving down the road, honking and eventually they would appear. We would grain tem andf go on with our day. This worked for several years.
Eventually I ended up back in town and gave one of the horse to my step-daughter.
She called me, telling me the horse was out in pasture and she couldn't catch her.
There were irrigation ditches all through this thing, so the horse could just hop across and the people would have to walk all the way around.
I told her to just sit at the gate and honk her horn.
She gave me this spiel about how she should be taught and the right way to do things etc. I said, OK, go ahead.
A week later she called to let me know after three days of chasing this mare around (the drive them away til they face you method) they sat in their truck, honked the horn and she galloped right over. Hee hee.
Like I said, whatever works.
Redsmom - I step on my ego every day. Sigh. Horse will keep you humble though.
t_ocho - see should make it work.
shanster - You'll be so proud when you get that thing broke, you won't ever do it another way.

Heather said...

I thought I would keep up this great dialogue with a training issue of my own. My Arab gelding is coming along very well. We can ride out alone in a 70 acre cow pasture and trot around to our hearts content. He is very curious and loves to explore all of the 'spooky' things he can find. We have worked on lots of dressage type flat work training and he is really responsive to my cues. He turns well off of my seat and legs and goes well with very light contact. Until we canter. Then he blows out the outside shoulder and won't turn. He picks up his leads and stops as soon as I say woah. He isn't bolting or out of control. I can turn his nose to my boot and he will keep on plowing sideways completely ignoring my leg. I haven't decided yet if he doesn't feel balanced enough to turn or if it is a behavioral issue. I am starting to lean towards behavioral. He will sometimes make the turn (ugly as is may be) and keep his head turned in, with his body facing forward, but will continue to canter sideways in the direction he wants to go. Should I wear small spurs to increase the impact of my outside leg or should I carry a dressage whip to help bring his shoulder straight? Any ideas?

mugwump said...

Heather - Can you just go? Can you sit back in that pasture and not steer? I am a big advocate of letting my horse find his balance before I interfere with his face or legs.
When he gets going, lightly pick a direction to turn, look that way,guide with your direct rein only, place your inside leg on him and push lightly. Don't worry about breaks in gait, speeding up,leads or balancing him with your outside rein, just guide with the direct rein and push with your inside leg.
When he changes direction and lines up his body behind his head release him and keep going.
Then lope a ways and go another direction.
I'm willing to bet this is a balance and comfort issue, in the process of becoming a behavior.

badges blues N jazz said...

RE: Hard to catch horses. My mare will not let my hubby catch her. USUALLY i do not have a problem, but sometimes, she would be difficult. NOT ANYMORE.
I do not believe in NH training, but I DO think Clinton Anderson has some really good ground training principles - which I have used. The MOVE the hip and look at me when I tell you to is AMAZING. IF Jazz decides she doesnt want to be caught, she will run to a corner and face her butt at me, NOW, all I need to do it point at her hip and WHAM, she swings it around and faces me, so I can walk up and halter her safely.
She knows the difference of WHEN I want that hip over, because I can also scratch her, rub the whip on her hip etc and she stays put .

moosefied said...

I have a question which is off topic; maybe you could answer it in another post. I know you don't work with "babies," but could you tell me what you think of "sacking out"? I have taught my colt to accept the turnout blanket, and it only took two lessons. But I didn't tie him when I got him used to the blanket; I let him leave and come back. Now someone is telling me they tie up and sack out youngsters, rub them with different things to show them they won't be hurt by the things. My instinct is not to do that, but rather to give him an escape, because he is so curious and will always come back. Another trainer told me you can ruin a horse's mind by tying up and sacking because they panic and feel helpless, which I wouldn't want. If you have time later...? Your opinion? (It's a Yearling gelding.)

t_orchosky said...

so the easiest thing is to just let my 7 year old catch him!!! lol!!! if it works - right?? It was shocking cuz this child has been having major confidence issues with riding. I put him in lessons for one month and now he rides his mare around bareback everyday after school until dark - your post about good ole mares hit home with me too - he just needed a confidence boost and to learn to make that mare do what he wanted. But he has been leery of this paint horse and I was getting pretty ticked - he just walked out there and put his hand on his nose - like what's your problem woman come catch your horse.

mugwump said...

moosefield - It doesn't take a post. I think you're fine. I don't ever sack out or desensitize a tied horse. I do that with the lead rope in my hand....

mugwump said...

t_oro-If that what it takes. I would walk out and scratch him, leave. Walk out and scratrch him, leave, walk out and catch him, let him go, leave, that kind of thing.

Heather said...

I have tried that, and it works for the most part, unless we are headed towards something. I can get him to make a huge sweeping turn in the middle of the pasture, but if we are headed for a fence or a stand of trees, he locks on and won't turn away. He had a similar problem when we were first starting his training on the longe. He was fine cantering on the longe in the round pen where he could balance along the wall, but if we longed in the arena where he only had walls on three sides, he would blast straight for the fence and slam on the breaks. I really had to pull him around way before the turn. Today, I got him to make a big turn to the left, then needed another turn to the left to keep from running into a fence/trees. I got him turned left and parallel to the trees, but he cantered sideways towards the trees and was pulling hard to turn towards them.
I am all about letting him figure his self out, but what about when we need to turn and he ignores my cues? If I let him keep going towards a fence, he breaks to a trot to make the turn. Should I let him drop to a trot, then ask for the canter again after the turn?

I blogged about my ride today and talked about his turning here:

Candy'sGirl said...

I'm one of the wanting my horse to like me camp. That said, I do expect manners and have utterly no qualms with knocking the ever living snot out of him with a lead rope, crop or whatever else I have handy if the situation calls for it. We've had several pretty spectacular come to Jesus meetings over the past year.

I was constantly told I was 'mean' or 'too hard on him' at my old barn. I beg to differ. He's only been gelded since this past December. He's nearly 4 years old. He weighs 850lbs. He is *perfectly* capable of comprehending the fact that horses are NEVER aggressive to humans in any way shape or form. They do not touch humans when being led. They do not pull on humans when being led. This means that I have a recently gelded, nearly 4yo that is respectful of humans and I have no fear of anyone being around. Anyone can lead him. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyone can handle him. Anytime. Anywhere.

That's not to say that we don't still have moments where his brains fall out of his idiot colt head, BUT he'll freak out *away* from the humans around him. He will not pull (he'll feel a slight tug on the lead and will turn and fly in circles around you). He will not run over you (again, circles around you).

P.S. My colt is one of the few on the farm who runs to see his owner. If I call him, he'll prick his ears, whinny and come FLYING to the gate. Yup. He's *terrified* of me...

Heather said...

I guess my internal struggle is whether it is more important to keep him in the canter or to get the turn when I ask at the risk of dropping to a trot. I'm inclined to think that controlling the turn is more important...?

mugwump said...

Heather, I still think this is a balance issue, whether it's mental or physical. I would deliberately break him down to the trot, collect, make my turn, set him up and lope off. It will take away the fight and let him into a comfort zone he seems to need. You'll be making the decision to bring him down, so it won't get him thinking he needs to break gait himself.
He will start asking to stay in the lope, then you can let him.

oregonsunshine said...

SkyBar Farm- I'll remember the deposit tip if I ever have boarders after the Husband and I buy a place. It's a good idea and not one I object to.

Heater- I've been there. That's what I was talking about. I also hate it when it's feeding time and a horse turns their hind end towards you. Now, I realize some people have trained this, but in that case you need to tell the barn feeders. Ideally, I want a horse to stay respectful of my space, be calm and make eye contact.

At every stable with boarders I've ever worked at, it was never ok to whack a horse for misbehaving. Come-to-Jesus's with boarders horses were none existent.

GrouchyBayTB- I've found it to be not just first-timers, but also old-timers. No disrespect intended, but I'm 33 and often get taken for being much younger. The people I specifically had a hard time with were in their 50s and 60s and had owned horses since the dawn of time. They actually were on a big Clinton Anderson kick (still NH'ers). I heard some weird crap like using a lunge whip while teaching my Arab to free-longe was just going to teach him to fear me (WTF?). Yeah, Giant Sillyums feared me so much that when we were done he tried to use me as his scratching tree. Really scared, huh?

I don't allow a horse to put their mouth on me, period. I've been bit enough that it raises a red flag for me if a horse does put their mouth on me, no matter how sweet they are.

Candy'sGirl- Yup. That's how my Arab colt was too. No matter how many times the Parelli-ites told me I was horribly mean to him and he wouldn't trust me. Funny, I was always his favorite person.

Redsmom said...

Wow! Look at the Mugwump Visitors Map! There are people checking in here from all over the world!

Hi y'all!

slippinsweetlena said...

I would think that it would take a while of using the food motivation to keep him coming, but I think that once he figures out that you "the good guy" then you could probably phase it out. But I agree with what Mugwump said, one time that he comes to you, scratch him and then leave. The next time, maybe catch him, then turn him loose. Then next time just scratch him...etc...eventually you will be able to just walk out there and catch him.
I don't really like to have to shake a bucket to get a horse to allow me to catch him, but what ever it takes without wiping me out and/or getting frustrated and the horse ends up winning the "game".
I think the car cutting thing was pretty funny, and I have done that with the mule(4 wheeler vehichle)on another mare...I got her pretty wiped out and I was able to walk up to her...But then a few weeks later she got a pretty good cut on her leg, so I had to bring her in twice a day to doctor it. She was a pain to catch at first, but then she finally started letting me walk up to her and pet her....Putting the halter on was a different story. She would stick that head up and away from me at an angle that I could not reach. She was a big 15.1hh(you know how cutters are today...barely 14hands tall) and I am only 5'4" tall. it would take me about 5 minutes to get the halter ON. So everytime I had her out, I would rub my hands all over her head. When that mare left for the breeders, she would allow me to walk out there and put a halter on her without a fuss. I found out about a week later that that mare had had a really bad ear infection when she was little and she never was broke to ride, so no one ever spent time with her. so she never learned to trust anyone.

mugwump said...

OK guys...gotta admit I love the map at the bottom of my page. I saw it on gttyup's blog, Life on the Rough String...I thought it was the neatest thing I've ever seen. I am eternally amazed by how cool cyber-space is.

kestrel said...

My old Morgan and I have been together for a quarter of a century, and he will still try to walk off if he thinks he can get away with it!
Smart old bugger...we have a routine that goes:whoa-he ignores me-I pick up a pine cone and threaten to throw it at his butt-he turns around, looks resigned and walks up. Started years ago when observant horse learned the difference in 'gonna go riding around and have fun, or gonna go to the show and work hard.' Had to chase him down in a huge pasture by pinging his butt with a pine cone every time he turned it to me. First few go rounds took forever, but now we know the game! He gets this eeevil glint in his eye....

Kathryn said...

Hmm. This discussion has me wondering if I have my mare trained or if she has me trained. How can I tell? I have to say, caring about ground manners is a recent development for me. I have been at a lot of barns where ground manners just weren't particularly focused on. Horses behave under saddle, good. They more or less lead and more or less cross-tie, bath, etc.

So. I start working with this new trainer when I take on the 4 y/o unhandled craigslist baby. She cares about ground manners. I'd say she has a pretty mugwump-ian approach to training. She is one of the best I've seen in terms of ability to get after a horse (or dog, or ...) without being emotional. She teaches the mare--who is naturally very sweet, but untrained--good ground manners, teaches me the basics. This barn is far from my house so after 120 days after saddle, when I can w-t-c her myself, I move her closer to home.

Now, the horse still generally has good ground manners. When we lead, she stops when I stop, she doesn't get in front of me, backs when I back, etc. She drops her head to poll pressure. She stands in the cross-ties. I am not afraid to whack her, although to be perfectly honest I am probably too forgiving about letting her touch me and check me out with her nose, and I do give treats after she's done working.

But what is confusing to me is that she basically behaves because she is a natural people pleaser, but when she doesn't want to do something, she doesn't (example: something startles her outside, she will bulge into me, pass me, or try to drag me if it is REALLY scary) (example 2: she stands great except if I'm trying to worm her or something like that) (example 3: when we are alone in the giant indoor, she has to run around like an idiot calling for awhile before she calms down and focuses on me).

It is almost like she "sort of" respects me. Which to me is like "sort of" being pregnant. But how do I correct this, when most of the time she is well behaved?

Also, what do you do when a horse turns its butt to you (like in a stall)? I am terrified of whaling on a horse's ass in an enclosed space like that.

Interestingly, the BO/reining trainer (it's a multi-disciplinary, my mare is a monstrous to me WB) at this barn is a Clinton Anderson fan but he does not tolerate lack of respect from his horses. At all. Maybe I should take some lessons from him ...

Kathryn said...

Shoot, did not realize how long that got!

Esquared said...

MUGs: few questions

I'm strict with my boys, I'm pretty sure I have both of their respect, they both ride well at all speeds with just a halter, there is no kicking etc. But the most friendly attention seeking one (who will run to meet you) has a tendancy to aproach with ears forward then a few feet away puts them back and then doesn't pop them forward again until he's right in front of me. How exactly does one teach this ears forward stuff? I know he isn't about to bite me etc, but I would like a better reception. Next; I can't find any of your posts on shoulder stuff, is there one? I've done a bit under saddle but I can seem to click with it on the ground. I've tried doing it like a clinton anderson book tells me but I always end up behind their shoulder and chasing them in a circle... :( I would really like to get some input on how to effectively do this shoulder stuff on the ground and not look like an complete idiot...

Vaquerogirl said...

Fantastic post! Why can't everyone read this and understand?
Good for you Mugs! A great post!

Andalusians of Grandeur said...

Fantastic topic! On the subject of mouthiness, my rescue filly gets very concerned if she doesn't understand a new thing. When I first aske her to move a part of her body or go over a strange obstacle, she licks and flops her lips frantically. If I am near her when she is worried, she licks me. That's the only time she does it, though. Also, she's a squealer, but it's only when she is strongly corrected by me. She submits but also squeals as if to say: "geez! What the hell was that for? Chill out, I'm moving!". I know that normally squealing is a sign of major tude, but she is submissive and I can move her and deal with her just fine.

Andalusians of Grandeur said...

A great article on this subject:

Right here

Amy said...

Okay, so I have a question too. (Great post and great discussion, BTW). What do you do with the horse that is an angel on the ground and a pain in the ass under saddle?

We have established respect on the ground. First tiem I lunged her she tried to charge me... and she had one of those "come to jesus" meetings. Same as when she rears on the ground. Not gonna happen. She looks away and backs up from me when I come with her food. She yields hind quarters away with just a look. She backs on a verbal cue and a wave of the finger.

Under saddle, if I ask for anything she doesn't want... holy crap... tail swishing, bucking, turning round to bite at my leg, balking... how do you reinforce good behavior under saddle? I have mild spurs, she has been getting a kick and a pop in the mouth for biting... but when in a halter, she knows I don't have a bit to pop her with. When the spurs come off, she knows my heel doesn't have as much bite. I have also kicked her in the nose when she turns around to bite (not hard enough to injure, more of a "your nose is going to meet my foot" thing).

And for bucking... is it better to push through, or halt and try again? She's lazy, so I have been pushing through... and my aussie saddle makes me stick like velcro..

I am a firm believer that I should be able to ride bareback and in a halter... it's a little difficult on a biting, bucking bitchy mare. So what to do?

Heila said...

Great post. I also love the map, would love it even more if it put a blue dot on my head, right at the Southwestern tip of Africa!

I moved yards 3 weeks ago and at the new place I also had to pay a month's deposit. I have no problem with that, in the current economic climate yard owners must protect themselves. If you can't afford the deposit, what are you going to do if your horse needs surgery or something?

What scares me at the new place is that the owner treats me as if I'm some sort of horse expert. I've been riding for 7 years (started at the age of 30), owned my own horse for half that time and really have very little experience of working with young or difficult horses. But because mine has manners and I have a lot of theoretical knowledge from reading lots I'm held up to be very experienced. Not good.

Shanster said...

Hey - interesting thing Moosefield brings up with the tying a horse and sacking them out....

Ummm - in college, I was an Equine Science major til I figured out I was going to school to graduate and get a job cleaning stalls... and then switched to Animal Science to give myself a broader background and hopefully land a decent job once I graduated...

Anyhoo - the head of the Equine program at that time gave us a lecture in our Equine Behavior class about "learned helplessness" and how it was a GOOD thing. Like everyone should tie the horse and beat them senseless until they had this learned helplessness...

I've never done this. I can't imagine doing this... I went to school in the 90's so just interesting I think... thought I'd add it to the discussion.

GreatGotlands said...

Onetoomany - I have the same saying to myself - WWMD? Hahaha!

Mugs, great timing on this - and kind of a wake up for me.
I am a bit too soft sometimes, I know this and work on it. With the mare I ride, no problem. She accepts discipline very well, and we get along famously - in fact he best relationship I've ever had. Even though she is a SNOT to others who are NOT tough with her. She is really helping me learn!

However, I also have a 9mo filly that is starting to push things now. Her mom is lead mare in herd, and she def inherited that trait! She is very smart, and learns well. She can be pretty grumpy (potential lead mare), and is never dangerous - yet! She is getting pushy to me now though. I always try to push back, but I am not sure I am effective. Time to step it up, and I will keep this in mind when I visit her today! Thanks so much!

I'll just walk in and keep muttering "WWMD? WWMD? ..."

verylargecolt said...

Shanster - I assume "learned helplessness" is the theory behind the folks who believe in putting a horse on the ground to teach it, um, something.

I will argue 'til the cows come home that putting a horse on the ground is NEVER necessary. (I'm not talking about when you have to treat an injury. I'm talking about basically hog-tying them or sitting on their head as a training technique)

I think it's total bullshit.

But I'd love to hear what Mugwump thinks about it!

>>As far as Barn owners having the right to correct a clients horse... I am a BO and I will do whatever it takes to keep myself safe with a boarders horse. I do not hide a correction from the owner. If they do not like it, I show them where the door is. This is my livelihood, and I will not allow an obnoxious, no manners horse to potentially put me in harms way for whatever reason.<<

Very well said and you have probably saved SO many people from having a bad experience/accident with their horse by your actions. Beginner owners need to see that fair discipline is NOT abuse and there's nothing wrong with it.

Heather said...

Thanks for the advice. I am going to try that out and see if it works. Nothing so far has been easy or quick with him, so every little improvement is appreciated!

Esquared- Here is how I got 'ears forward'. My gelding was an under handled 5 year old when I got him. He was food aggressive and didn't want me in his space or to touch him. He pinned his ears, wrinkled his nose, and bobbed his head at me frequently. So, I started carrying a lunge whip into his paddock every time I went in. If he pinned his ears, I chased him around. When I stopped chasing, he could stop and look at me. I approached him until he pinned his ears, then I chased him around. After a while, I could walk right up to him. The we worked on touching him. Same process. The first day of doing this, I could walk up and rub his forehead and he even lowered his head to the ground for me. The next day we started over and I was able to rub his neck. The next day I could rub his near side all over, and the next day I could rub his off side. We kept this up for about 6 weeks and now I don't need to carry the longe whip except at feeding time. He no longer pins his ears when I approach him or groom him because of this 'discussion' we had about me being in control of our relationship. He now graciously accepts unhaltered grooming sessions in the paddock. We did the same process for feeding and he now waits about 20 feet away with his head low until I step aside, then he walks up to me, lets me pet his forehead once, and then walks to his food. Best of all, this works when other people feed him as well.

kestrel said...

Actually, I have seen 2 horses in my training career that had to be laid down. Only 2, but both of them were in a situation of...every possible option had been tried and they were still were dead set on trying to kill people. Solve it, or they are meat. Too dangerous to handle, actual man killers.
One was a nasty spoiled stud that would bite, strike, you name it, and he was out for blood. The trainer (not me, thank god!) was an incredible man who is one of the kindest people I've ever met. The horse went after him like nothing you've ever seen. He finally laid the horse down, and the horse got up with a changed attitude. This horse had been given every opportunity to cooperate and totally refused, viciously. After being dropped, he learned that nasty actions have nasty consequences, and turned out to be a decent horse. His spirit was not broken, but his attitude was adjusted! Every horse is different, and extreme horses sometimes take extreme measures. You really can't judge unless you've taken on a horse that incredibly rank. Most people would have put the horse down, so it was one last try to save it's life and it worked well.
The other horse was a sneaky striker. You have to either make them stop that or kill them. Same thing, the horse is still alive, useful, loved, and has never struck since.
I personally don't want to take on a horse that nasty, but I'm not going to deny that they exist. Like any extreme technique it is NOT supposed to be used on every horse, but on the very few who need it....

Shanster said...

I don't know that it was you "dropped" the horse. The idea was that you beat a horse until it knew it had no option, could not get away, and all it could do was stand there - learned helplessness...

I just remember the guy saying all horses should learn that...

My gelding at the time was probably 15 and I'd had him since I was 16. He was great, willing, wonderful and I wouldn't dream of just wailing on him for no reason other than to teach him this concept.

I can't imagine doing it now. I know I'm softer than I should be and I work/am learning what to look for and how to deal with it in the young horses I have but I don't know what something that drastic would accomplish.

The corrections for doing something you don't want them to do I understand and it has a purpose. But this learned helplessness thing...? Dunno - didn't make sense to me at all.

kestrel said...

Oh, I didn't realize the guy was just....OMG. That style of training turns out the most dangerous horses of all in my opinion. They are so locked down and afraid to do anything wrong that they just explode and go nuts when they can't take any more. Hmm, battered wife shoots hubby syndrome!?
We used to call that broken spirited, or gut-broke, aaagh.

Heather said...


Just wanted to update you on our progress. We worked out in the 70 acre field this morning and I asked him to canter and let him go straight for a while, then I started a nice big turn out in the open and I really used my inside leg to push him around, he started to turn, then started turning sharper, making a nice circle. Then, on his own, he swapped leads and did a tiny circle in the other direction. It was as if he had his own light bulb moment and just had to try it out on both sides. After that, it was like he got it. Our turns are still ugly, but he is turning at the canter!

Anonymous said...

found this video today and immediatly thought of this blog. though y'all might like it.

Lock n' Load said...

found this video today and immediatly thought of this blog. though y'all might like it. (sorry for the double post, didn't realize I wasnt logged in)

pines4equines said...

Mgwump said: "I allowed her to pin her ears, but never at me. Ever."

I agree with this and while I'm no trainer at all, I've seen people continue with whatever they're doing and their horse is really menacing them, especially the feeding approach. My guy has to have ears forward and I ask him to step back a step before putting food in bucket. It is an everyday kind of thing this training schtick.

pines4equines said...

mlks said: "Second off: I have noticed that I subconsciously make use of the boss horse body language in my day job, which is...teaching high school English."

Coolness...I'd be curious for examples.

Redsmom said...

Off Topic, but,

Does a score of "DQ" in reining mean I am supposed to go to Dairy Queen and eat whatever I want?

Just kidding. Would you believe I only did 2 circles instead of 3 on the very first set to the right? I guess you would believe it. It really is true that only perfect practice makes perfect. I always take the circles for granted when I am thinking through the pattern in my head. Then, when you're out there, they seem to take an eternity.

Cowpony said...

I am a first time poster, but have recently been reading your blog and love your teaching methods. I have a question for you. I recently bought a nice family horse (BS APHA) and love her, except for her incessant pawing. She has free choice in the stall or outside, but stays in her stally pawing all day. She also paws when i'm riding her and trying to sit still. She will literally paw until she draws back a bloody nub. This is the first time she's been the only horse or animal...could that have something to do with it? It seems as if she's only happy when we are riding. Any help would be appreciated. :)

mugwump said...

Cowpony, It's very much because she's the only horse.Mares especially need to have non-human friends. She needs company.She needs a goat, a pony, something, if you can't provide her with another horse for company. Horses truly need companionship.I'm not saying it can't be done, but it's very hard on the horse.The kind of pawing your talking about can become an ingrained, uncurable vice and it's coming from her anxiety.I'm glad your thinking about her.

Cowpony said...

Thanks for the quick reply! Well, the thing is, I tried her 3 times before bringing her home and there was none of this behavior before. She stood quietly to be mounted, stood at the trailer quietly, and i flopped all over her without even holding the reins just to see what she'd do. I was thinking it might be that she was lonely...*sigh* guess i'm going to the local livestock auction...Thanks, Mugs. :)

autumnblaze said...

I love this post. Being a hitching post for veterinarians for years let me tell you, seeing owners being walked all over by their horses is nothing new. I wish everyone would read and listen to these words. It's funny too, generally when horses respect you they really seem to LIKE you. They need boundaries (of course, they'r herd animals!) and in fact like them. Most (surely not all though) like having a strong leader they can trust!

Personally, I just have a hard time sometimes applying the same mentality in the saddle. I'm getting there though! Great post Mugs.

GoTuckerGo! said...

Thank you for your advice on pluggy horses. I just have a quick thing or two I wanted to double check with you.
You wrote " You do the same for the trot. Once he is trotting you sit completely still." (That means no posting right? That seems to urge him on.) "Let him stop completely before you react." Does that mean stop trotting completely (and is walking) before I react or stopped moving completely before I react? I discovered on Sat. he will creep/walk all the way around the ring with no leg, that is till he gets to the fence....
Thanks, Lisa

GoTuckerGo! said...

That is till he gets to the gate...

HorseOfCourse said...

Georgia, I appreciated your comment that you had your horse checked by the vet.

Sometimes being grumpy, or acting up, is the horse’s way to try to tell us that there is something wrong in the body.

A friend of mine once had a very talented mare of good breeding. She was very sweet when handled, but acted up severely when ridden on.
My friend had her checked numerous times by vets and in clinics. Nothing.
She had chiro and acupuncture which helped for a few days, and then back to trouble again.

Finally she drove a very long way over to a highly specialised horse clinic, where they could take an advanced kind of x-ray.
This showed damage in two neck vertebrae. This was so bad that the owner was recommended to put her mare down then and there, the horse would not be comfortable even on pasture.

I think of that horse often.

I believe it pays to have a vet check if your horse is acting up. Not the least for your own conscience.

slippinsweetlena said...

I used to work for a vet many years ago. We did SOOOO many lameness exams I got in really good shape! I didn't have to go to the gym, I just went to work! There was one vet that we(the technicians)were all afraid of because he had a temper. Most of the year he was gone because he was the breeding guru of the bunch, but for a few months he was at the clinic with us. Well one day I was busy cleaning up after surgery when the vet with a temper came and asked me to help him with the lamness exam. All the other techs had "Conviently" disapeared. So I went out there to help him and it was a 3 year old stud colt that had been in a stall for a week. Every time I went to trot the horse off after a flex test, the stud would try to bite me. The second time he tried, he got more aggressive about it, so I gave him a quick shot on the nose to let him know that his behavior wasn't acceptable to me. Well, the vet flew off the handle and started chewing me out saying, "Thats not your horse to reprimand! YOU DO NOT HIT THAT HORSE!!" (the owners had dropped the horse off earlier in the day and besides that I knew who they were presonnaly and knew that they wouldn't mind me getting after their horse) I kind of looked at him and said, "Well he tried to bite me" He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't care, you don't HIT HIM!"
The vet picked up the studs foot again and this time when I went to trot him off the stud grabbed ahold of my sweatshirt(Thank god I had one on!)and jerked me back...That time I looked at the vet and shook my head. Next time I trotted him off, he grabbed me again, this time he got some skin! I hauled off and smacked the horse and made him back off a little. I didn't go to beating him, I just gave him a reprimand...Again the vet yelled at me, so I walked the horse over to the vet,handed him the lead rope and said, "I'm SOrry, but I REALLY don't want to be EATEN for lunch, so you deal with him." and walked off to finish what I was doing in surgery. About 10 minutes later, the vet comes back to me and says, "look, Im sorry but I really need your help...Here use this to keep him in line" He handed me a short bat that he had made from baling wire that was wrapped with duct tape. We finished the exam and the horse didn't bother me anymore because he knew that I had a weapon. To this day, I am still kind of afraid of stallions. I don't really like dealing with them at all!

Horseartist said...

Thanks for this...
"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 board and I have done this with a few horses. People are often shocked, as I'm usually pretty quiet and soft with my horses. A few times, they could hear me from across the property. Sometimes their reactions made me feel guilty, like I have to explain myself... but I would rather not.

I just got a new mare to fiddle with for a few months. She is a dominant mare, who is also timid and wants to be on top of her handler when afraid. She's already improving with a couple of sessions of learning to yield her shoulder, but there is plenty of work to do. I look forward to it, but might chose quiet times at the barn to do it.

mocharocks said...

I couldn't help it, I had to get the number of posts up to 100. Mugs, did you ever think your blog would be this popular? With all the questions we all have for you, you should start another blog called "Ask Mugs" :)

mugwump said...

Mocharocks - Have to admit, I got a little excited when we broke 100.
You realize this started to happen when we opened up the discussions and everybody started helping everybody else. I can't imagine doing another blog, I can barely keep up with this one!

HorseOfCourse said...

And finally there was a small blue dot in the very upper part of the map too! (I was beginning to think I was so far away so the map couldn't register....)
Congratulations on the 100, Mugs! Way to go!

austriancurls said...


Thanks. I always thought I was a failure. Because I sometimes resorted to a loud voice, or the crop in particular situations to correct a horse. Now I know it is actually in particular instances necessary. Thanks.

I know that you have a problem with me, but I'm the anon that discussed the rollkur with you, and I enjoyed that discussion very much.

Just thought if I take my name away, you'd also prefer the discussion a lot more.

:) Whatever.

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