Shaping Attitude

Yesterday, when Hubby was working on ZZ’s feet I noticed how she would pin her ears every time he approached her right shoulder. Today, while I was leading her, and J walked past, she pinned her ears, lowered her head and began what could have progressed to an “attack.”

Although she is in heat, I don’t use this as excuse for her behavior. This is how she is – dominant, bossy and a Mean Girl Princess.

I thought I had enough on my hands with a son who is 15 1/2 and a daughter who is 11 1/2 but apparently having a horse that soon turns three, with the mindset of the four year old child who goes over on the playground and grabs another kids’ favorite truck, is just the reality of my life as a parent.

What I’ve noticed is that like very young children, her emotions are intense and worn on her sleeve. How she feels is how she acts. There is no polite mask of manners or suppression. Because she is a Strong Willed Horse, these emotions are even stronger and more intense then perhaps you would find with a less aggressive horse.

As humans enter school, it’s the socialization process of teachers, parents and other children who teach the child that no, it’s not acceptable to take my truck, call me names, or punch me when you get upset. It’s also where we are taught to suppress those more vulnerable emotions of fear, worry and sadness.

In training ZZ, I have seen a shift from the Baby to the Teen mind; from “I don’t understand” to “I want it my way.”  JMO but I am thinking it’s extremely important to continue shaping the attitude I want in order to gain the end-horse I want – a brave, self-confident companion ready to take on adventure with a curious and open mind. Not a closed off, mulish, stubborn witch of a horse who people feel inclined to call a bully or worse.

As ZZ acted nasty to hubby, I had him step back and asked for her to correct her behavior. When she reached forward to sniff his tools with ears forward and curiousity, she got a Click-Treat. That took longer then rasping the damn hooves but I felt that was more important then the rasping.

When ZZ pinned and started to “chase” J, I corrected on the halter and looked for ears forward before she could go forward.

Today on the lunge work, during trot she wanted to pin going into trot (after all I was asking the Princess to do something) so she had to put ears forward before I would let her walk and rewarded her with a scratch or a treat.

I do not want her to turn into a horse who pins her ears when a request is given; I just do not want it. Period.

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