There are many ways into a horse's mind and heart, these are some of my ideas ...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Get otta my space ...

There is nothing more annoying than a horse that gets in your face, wants to stand all over your feet, push its way through, even become aggressive and moves into your space. Disrespect is not an option for good human/horse relationships.

If your horse is a little over enthusiastic, usually just a 'shoo' and flicking motion with your hand will get it to get back down and behave itself. And this is the level of behaviour that you want.

A horse that is full of itself and deliberately gets all over you needs repremanding strongly and firmly. No excuses. You need to put yourself as aggressively in front of it as you can safely do. You might even need to slap it. Whatever you do, don't reward the behaviour with food or other petting that it might like. That just reinforces what it has done and will encourage repeat performances.

I will clap my hands and completely shoo a horse away from me and make it wait until I am ready for it to come to me. It isn't a case of "rights" or "feeling sorry for it", it is a case that this sort of behaviour can favour the horse, it will seek reinforcements for the behaviour and will rachet up the level of aggression while doing it. It is not a safe situation to be in and needs to be cut as soon as it happens. Which is why you have to be just as aggressive or even a bit more aggressive in deterring it every single time it happens.

I will even crack a whip if I have to, not to hit the horse, but to gain their attention and get them focussing on the fact bad behaviour is going down that will not be tolerated. Horses are sound sensitive like dogs and will promptly stop and assess the situation. You need to let them know that is as far as it goes. Even a shout will do it if necessary.

Usually at this time it is good to put on the lead and remind your horse of some basic manners. Stop, go, left, right and lift your legs up. Stand tied up for a few minutes. Then start again. It will sink in very quickly having to work as a "reward" for all that aggression.

You might have to reinforce it a few more times, particularly with a new horse, and one that has been able to get away with it for a previous owner. Most horses, when they learn the new rules, are happy to abide by them, as long as they know. As long as they also know that it will never be tolerated (because a really smart horse may test you again after a while).

Food aggression needs to be handled in the same way. Then perhaps some anti spooking lessons as outlined previously in desensitising horses.

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