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This is a continuation of a series of Articles. 

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve

Horse Training - Communication 101
Part  Five
By Beverly Whittington


There are many ways to loose the horse's respect! There are two ways to win the respect of a horse. 
The respect achieved by establishing a leadership position with the horse or a respect born of fear. 
Handlers who establish leadership through firm and kind rules, establish a bond with their horse based on trust and comfort. 

So how to handle misbehavior in the horse? 
Often a horse that is "misbehaving" (from the handlers point of view), is behaving in the way it has been conditioned to react because of training or instincts. It is important to understand which reaction you are getting prior to trying to correct the behavior. I do believe there are times to punish a horse physically. But these times DO NOT occur often. As an example, I have a 15 year old stallion that I have owned since he was 14 months old. I have had to correct him with a whip 6 TIMES in his entire life. And each time I did not use overkill, just enough to get the point across.

If the horse is misbehaving through fear or pain, what good does it do to punish him or her? If it is a conditioned reaction through previous poor training or instinctual response, then punishment will not solve the problem. It is one of those situations, you have to CORRECT, not discipline. 

How many times have you seen a horse dancing around at the end of a lead line while the handler is shouting for him to be still? The more that handler shouts and yanks, the more agitated and non cooperative the horse becomes! If this is a fear response from the horse you can be setting yourself up for a real blow up! The horse is restrained, he is unable to follow his instinct for flight, and so his next base survival instinct is about to kick in -- fight. The handler who recognizes this will allow the horse to move it's feet as it's instincts dictate and softly reassure the horse, calming the horse down enough so it can listen and respond to the trainer.

To successfully correct a horse the handler must first be in control of himself or herself. You must have a calm, focused attitude to control any horse. A good trainer has the discipline to control their emotions and ego. The difference between correction, discipline and punishment is attitude. You must not react to your horse's actions with anger. React because you want to show him the right way to respond. A horse who ignores the handler has not learned to respect the handler enough to look to him for leadership. Sometimes this is because the horse has not emotionally bonded with the handler.

All research considering emotionality draws the same conclusion - horses are very emotional animals and it can negatively affect their performance.”
Dr J. Hagerbaumer, PhD. Exploring the Equine Mind with Learning and Memory Studies.

Horses are herd animals and they need company to be psychologically healthy. Generally horses that are allowed time to socialize in a herd are more likely to be well behaved and to learn well during training. But the horses that are kept alone develop a dependency on the handler that can be very useful, if used with judiciousness.  Deprived of the company of other horses, they will form strong bonds with the person handling them. This is something that you can use to overcome a behavior problem in a horse. First off you need to understand that I AM NOT suggesting complete isolation for extended periods of time. That is a form of cruelty, as the horse needs the social interaction of the herd. 

Day One

Stalling a horse during this period will keep him without the social interaction he craves. If possible take the horse directly from the stall to a round pen, or small enclosure where he cannot see other horses. You want to use the ground zones to drive the horse around the area, speed is not what you are looking for here, movement is. A walk or slow gait speed is fine. A gallop is unnecessary!

Remember the Ground zones of a horse include distance and angle of approach. If the dominant horse approaches from the rear, the yielding horse will most often move off forward. Approach from the front would have caused the horse to turn away, or back up. 

Take a position slightly behind the horse, at about a 30 degree angle in back of his shoulder. Drive your horse around the enclosed area by waving your driving hand, use a lead rope if necessary; do not use a whip. Watch his ears, when his ears start to focus on you then you have his attention!  Continue to apply mild but constant pressure until the horse turns to face you. You then reward your horse IMMEDIATELY, with a lack of pressure. If the horse remains standing quietly, approach him and reward further by scratching a favorite spot. And then walk away. If he does not remain standing, you drive the horse forward until he turns to you and repeat. Do this several times before you actually "catch" your horse and work with him. You want to establish leadership in a calm, quiet, assertive but gentle manner. Once the horse will stand quietly to be caught, you can work on leading briefly, and then begin to groom the horse. Keep the session brief, and then return him to his stall. 

Give the horse at least an hour of time back in his stall while you find something else to do within his sight if possible. Clean your tack, sweep the barn aisle, sit on a bale of hay in front of his stall and read a book. Just remain close and ignore him. After the hour has passed, repeat the same procedure described above.

It will not take long in most instances where the horse will look forward to your visits and seek to please you in his responses. Remember to reward him for all good behavior; this is a motivation for him to repeat the behavior that brought on the reward to begin with. You can use food treats, but do not do so all the time, a good scratch should suffice in most instances.

Day 2

Get a good book, one of those plastic chairs, some snacks for yourself and your horse and a soft drink. Release your horse in the enclosure you had him in yesterday, let him play for a few minutes then set up your chair, sit down and read. IGNORE the horse (Or at least appear to). Open your soft drink and begin to read out loud. Occasionally insert your horse's name between sentences. 

You should have the horse’s attention, he is keeping his distance, but keeping an eye on you. You want to keep his attention on you, without letting on that you are observing him. Before long the horse will work his way up to you. His curiosity will get the better of him, he will have to know what you are doing. Casually offer him a treat. If he refuses, just go on reading.  When he extends his nose again to investigate offer the treat again. He will soon take it. When he does, just go back to reading out loud. When he asks for another treat, give him a scratch on the neck or forehead and continue reading. Continue alternating between scratching and treating until you run out of treats. If the horse becomes too demanding, stand up and shoo him off, he won’t go far, you still have the treats!

When you are out of treats, just get up and leave, in many instances the horse will follow you. Just ignore him and leave the enclosure. Give him the hour alone again, once again working within his range of vision if possible. When you do return to the enclosure, give him lots of attention, scratching and rubbing him all over, and then return him to his stall.

Day 3
If the horse is under saddle, begin working him. Keep your sessions brief, and spend loads of time just petting and fussing on him. Grooming, bathing and working on leading to keep him with you for a chunk of time. By now the horse should have begun to accept and look forward to some extent to your company. Correct any behavior problems firmly, always using ASK, TELL and DEMAND. Try not to create a confrontation. Pause in your workouts to just stroke the horses neck, massaging the muscles and giving him a good scratch. You want to maintain the growing bond with the horse, while continuing to establish your role as the leader.

You want to continue to re-do days 1 and 2 as often as permissible in your schedule, until the horse has begun to accept you as the leader. You should begin to have a horse that greets you eagerly and is interested in what you are doing. 

Once you have the horse emotionally bonded to you, begin directing your full attention to any behavior problems that you have been experiencing. Progress should be improved, for now you have a horse that is interested in participating, and is willing to accept your position as “boss mare”. 

Once the leadership role and emotional bond is in place, you can begin turning the horse out with other horses again. You want to occasionally repeat the day one and two steps, to keep the experiences and the emotional bond fresh. 
 

TO BE CONTINUED….
 

 


 
 

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