Florida 5 year old Paso Fino trained by "Traditional" paso trainer now ridden in  Normal bridle, loose ring snaffle and Australian saddle with , no horn in round pen, outdoor arena, trails by intermediate rider.

Question: This horse has been untouched for nearly two years. I have spent six weeks doing basic ground work - round penning, etc.  She's made tremendous progress and
settled into work nicely. One problem, however, has caused some concern.

In my experience, most horses react AWAY from their handlers when either spooking or misbehaving. This horse moves TOWARD the handler, as if to over-run the person. Whether she does this out of dominance or lack of respect for the handler's
space (or both), I do not know. 

I am curious to know WHY a horse would react in this manner. Is it a dominance/intimidation issue? How do I approach and circumvent it? In short...how to do you teach an adult horse to respect the handler's space?

I do know that handling this horse's behavior requires careful thought, with a goal to DIFFUSE situations rather than move up to sterner measures, as doing so definitely
triggers this type of behavior. Obviously, she cannot be allowed to continue "moving in" on her handler. Nor do I want myself or anyone else to get hurt. 

From Panelist Laura

This is a really tough problem and does need some thoughtful handling.  As you are already aware, a horse that jumps toward you when upset can really hurt you.  You will probably need to teach the horse that your space is yours and she is not allowed in it.  I have reworked several abused/mishandled horses and find that the timid ones tend to jump away from you while the more aggresive horses tend to jump into you.  I think that both types of horses are actually trying to get away from you and are trying to avoid abuse in 
their own way.   Your main goal is to teach her that abuse & discipline are two very different things.  Discipline is not abuse.

Even though the horse may have had some bad experiences in the past, you can't continue to allow the horse to jump into your space.  Looking at this in horse terms - a herd mate would give this type of rude horse a pretty healthy kick or bite to emphasize that this is not acceptable behaviour.  If it continues, the herd mate will get progressively meaner with the rude horse until she learns to move away & stay in her own space.  You will probably 
need to "get after" the horse to let her know that you do not accept her bad behaviour either. 

You could try snapping your lead on the side of the halter closest to you and giving her a firm shake with the lead when she comes into your space.  If she moves away from you, praise and pet her.  Always follow a correction with a pat and a kind word.  Even if you didn't get much response.  You want to emphasize that this is discipline - not some weird new type of human abuse.  If she is really aggressive, you may have to carry a short whip (something with a wide, noisy popper) and smack her on the neck or shoulder when she 
starts to jump on you.  Hopefully, she will start jumping away from you now.  Again, stop and pet her after the correction.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you are issuing quick, decisive discipline for a very bad behaviour.  Do not smack her more than once each time you discipline her.  You have to be very consistant in dealing with her.  Be sure to have someone around when you first start disciplining her - she may get more aggresive at first to see if you will back down.  Don't back down.  Be sure she always has a pathway to move away from you.  Don't work with her in a confined space until she thoroughly understands that she is to stay out of your space.  Good Luck & be Careful.  This will probably take a lot of time.


From Panelist Terry

Typically this is a lack of respect but you are handling her so you will have to decide is there a lack of respect or is she coming in for security. If this is  a respect issue that I would get strong right from the start move your snap on your lead rope to the off side of  the halter and  when she come into you let the snap catch her on the jaw I don't mean try to hurt her just get her attention a few time with this will usually straighten up most horses. 

Make sure that you then bring her into you slowly and rub her so she understands
that you not out to get her. 

Terry Whaples


Back to main page
Ask a Trainer