This is a post that many won’t like. It’s realistic about our life with horses and unfortunately, the horse world sways to either being a hardass disciplinarian tyrant or a silly old lady with a hat who is feeding lions over a one strand fence.
I have some rules with horses. Plain and simple. They will not be liked by all but they are my rules and my personal horses have to abide by them. I don’t ask that your horses abide by them, and neither do I train or teach lessons anymore.
1.) No matter what it takes, I will insure my safety around my horse.
Yesterday, I was checking LadyZ for ticks, and she deliberately kicked me. Unlike other attacks this connected right into my thigh. She got a smart snap of the leadrope for her effort which resulted in her perking her ears up, paying attention and STANDING STILL.
She knew I was there. She knew who she was kicking. And that won’t be permitted. Sorry, but she is a servant of mine – paid and bought for, housed and vetted by my own expense. She is there to serve a purpose, my purpose, whether she or you likes that fact it is fact.
If any reader is offended, then drop me a $5,000 check and you can have her to train your own special way. Or put her to pasture until you lose your money and she gets swept away by a poor economy to the meat factory (seen it happen). Or send her off to a horse reserve to live like nature intended until the government decides she needs to be euthanized or sold off in a roundup. Many choices there and I still think living with me she has the best.
2.) I allow that horses will be horses, and as long as it does not effect my safety, I do not punish it.
In the roundpen, LadyZ was quite full of herself. Fearsome bucks and some skyhigh rears, snorting and blowing. This was simply her protest that she did not want to work. Life is changing for her and I think she knows that I am upping the ante on what I want.
At one point she came at me, stopped, reared and pawed the sky. As she dropped to the ground we were about three feet between us, facing each other. I stomped my feet, snorted and tossed my head. She snorted and blew out her nostrils, ears forward, and I laughed. She walked forward and got a pat before being sent off again to the edge.
We can play together but Rule No. 1 must be in place. If she had charged me, with ears pinned, that would have gotten an entirely different response. Knowing the horse and having boundaries is so important.
3.) When I ask for a horse to go, that horse must go.
I’ve cut a lot of slack with LadyZ but she is still occasionally balking on being lead, esp. when being lead away from BigT. That is going to end now and she has been reprimanded appropriately for it. She knows what I expect, she knows how to lead, and though I’ve given her chances to agree with me in the past, the waiting on my part has ended.
She has entered middle school and there is no more recess.
When riding BigT, or any horse, when I ask for a horse to walk forward, I expect it upon application of the leg aid. I have strong legs, so there is no excuse there. A whip aid is used as a reinforcer. Actually, I believe a whip, when used correctly, is far kinder then spurs or the constant nagging of the leg.
Generally, with my own horses I have no problem with the go-forward cue. They are not being ridden excessively (so are not worn out nags) or by a lot of different riders (dulled due to necessity). They know what I expect so a whip aid is not needed – nowadays I use it more as tap to reinforce a weight shift from side to side or front to back.
The only time I have a problem is if I am holding my horse back – and that is user error which I need to correct. A horse should not be punished for a rider induced error and a rider should, unless quite accomplished, always check themselves first.
This is where trouble begins – the riders’ ego or ignorance makes him/her think she/he is not to blame and thus the horse is punished for something the horse did not cause. Eventually, these kind of horse-rider relationships end up one of two ways: either the horse rebels and becomes a rogue (bucking, balking, rearing), or the horse ends up with a what-the-fuck attitude and mentally checks out.
4.) When I ask for a horse to whoa, the horse must whoa.
This is more of a gray area with me. I allow some time for the horse to process the downward command because a horse has a large body and it’s a lot of weight to stop when someone else requests it. The younger the horse, the more time that must be given for them to understand your request. The more advanced the horses’ training the more “snappiness” to my request I expect.
I prefer the horse thinking and stoping in balance, rather then stopping hurriedly and out of balance.
Building in a whoa though is important because safety wise, you may need the horse to stop – whether he is running away, bolting through a gate, or just not standing still.
5.) When I ask for the horse to stand still, the horse must stand still.
From the beginning, I’ve been working with LadyZ to train her to stand still. A horse has to stand still for a lot of human machinations: vet exam, dental, farrier, tacking up, grooming, mounting, tied to a trailer, etc…
There is nothing more irritating in the world then a horse that squirms. I know, because BigT does NOT stand still! He is a fidgety horse that can be squirmy to the point of total exasperation.
Over the years he has been with me, I’ve come to the conclusion that some of this is his displacement behavior (he bites his leadrope when being trimmed or sometimes during tacking up due to fretting or worry) and moves about a bit when being mounted.
Some of it health related – I’ve often felt he had a horse equivalent of fibromalygia with some sort of over all body senstivity that no medical tests has revealed but interacting with him has clearly indicated. When he is on certain supplements I see improvement in this.
The mounting issue, I am correcting with clicker training as I see this more of a training issue (more then likely the person mounting let him walk off during the process – since this way too much).
A horses’ response can be based upon many things. Where we as humans err, is that we put too much malicious, pre-planning into the horses’ mind. Horses react simply. LadyZ simply kicked me to tell me to leave her alone. I hold no grudge about it, but in return she will have to learn that kicking me is not acceptable. PERIOD.