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ESI Q and A Forums > ESI Q and A Forum > Questions and discussions for the ESI Q and A Forum > Horse who takes charge by biting lead or lunge line

Horse who takes charge by biting lead or lunge line
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dxh100
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 Posted: Tue May 10th, 2016 09:03 pm
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Dear Dr. Deb,

I've started your Mannering steps with my horse and am not sure how to respond when my horse bites the lead rope. I'm only at stage 1 right now - trying to get him to maintain focus for 8 seconds. He can almost focus 8 seconds consistently - but sometimes when I draw his attention back to me, say by moving the lead, he'll take it between his teeth. Occasionally he'll bite it and try to leave/walk off. It feels more like a "I'm taking charge" maneuver than anything.

He also does this from time to time on the lunge when he's fresh. He'll quickly twist his head around, grab the lunge between his teeth, and then he's off to the races, or leaping and playing at the end of the line.

I don't like my current responses to this. I tried flicking him under the chin with the tip of a dressage whip (he will throw his head up, drop the line, but then grab it again and pull). I don't want to flick him around the head though. I've also tried immediately sending him out to trot on a circle. As soon as he's stopped, though, he will again grab the lead.

I'd appreciate any advice on how to respond appropriately. He's a great horse and the joy of my life and the source of much fun.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu May 12th, 2016 07:58 pm
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....all of which illustrates why you have been wise to realize that your horse has no manners.

"Manners" means respect for you. In other words: your horse doesn't respect you. You don't really count in his world. And then you tell me at the end of your message -- and rest assured, you're by no means the first neophyte owner to do this -- that this unmannered PIG is the love and light of your life!

People will settle for very little, won't they!

So, my dear, let's get straight about this: you're going to have to raise your profile. You're going to have to "get big". You're going to have to get firm, and you're going to have to step in there with a loud NO along with physical consequences when the horse pulls this stuff, the instant he starts to do it.

To have the kind of respect that is necessary to bring daily interactions with a horse to a point where they are not only pleasant, but actually SAFE -- your horse has to be in awe of you. He has to respect you so much that it is almost to the level of fearing you -- but not quite fear. Right now, however, you don't rate over sniffing manure.

Now, there are many neophyte horse owners who confuse loving-kindness with a positive attitude or "positives" or "rewards" in training. But I am telling you, how you FEEL -- all those touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy emotions -- is getting in your way.

Neither should you confuse unkindness or disrespect or outright meanness coming from you with firmness. Meanness is the emotion opposite to touchy-feely-warm-and-fuzzy, and we don't need that either.

What we DO need is absolute emotional neutrality. You have NO "feelings" about doing what you need to do at all -- you just do what is needed at the moment it is needed. And you do all that it is going to take, whatever that may be; you are willing, so far as your skill allows, to go to the mat with the horse. That's the attitude.

So firmness means doing all that it is going to take, and what I'd probably do in the situation you describe is suddenly stride boldly toward the horse, holding my flag out in front of me and also firmly banging him on the nose with the longe or lead-line -- bangbangbangbangbang -- enough to get his eyes wide open in surprise, and enough to get him to throw his head up and step right backwards rather rapidly.

Then I would let him soak on that for five or ten seconds, and then offer to begin the session again, as if nothing whatsoever had happened.

You're probably going to need to go through this several times. Be alert for the horse to invent a new way to aggress and dismiss you, such as whirling and kicking. Don't let him get his head too far off to either side, so that he can get the drop on you.

Or, he may try charging over top of you. If he does that, stand your ground with your flag out in front of you, whipping the flag up and down. Stand your ground until the last instant, and then dive aside, firmly yanking the lead rope as he goes by; if you time this right, it will flip his hindquarters around his forehand or even pull him off his feet, which would be just dandy. Once he's facing you again, come right at him again, running him backwards several steps as above described and then let him soak, and then -- begin again as if nothing had happened.

The message that we are conveying here is: "none of that shit will avail you."

You get the idea from my reply here that you need to do something about your horse's attitude immediately, meaning, as of this minute -- because he's not only dangerous to you, but to anyone else nearby, as is any horse who thinks he's king of the universe.

The big payoff is this: there is no horse happier than the horse who knows where he stands in the pecking order. It's the only way they can find inner peace. And where it comes to horse-human interactions, the only safe way, as well as the only productive way, is for the human to be the one who sets the limits and boundaries and who teaches the rules of the game.

Once you get this working for you, then I'll be willing to believe that your horse is delightful: like the little girl in the rhyme, who when she wasn't good, was very very naughty. It's one or the other. People who have never known how to be big enough and have enough "spine" to be the boundary-setter and rule-maker always ascribe their horse's propensities to the horse's innate nature -- "he's just that way" -- or else they tell you some sob story about how Mr. Mean and Tough roughed the horse up and left him with a trauma, etc. These are just excuses. No horse has any "history" of this sort when it comes into my hands. I am only interested in what his response to my direction is, and if it's the wrong response or with the wrong attitude, then I consider it to be my job to address that and work on it until the horse understands that he can make the proper response.

If you don't find it within yourself to get this fixed -- in other words, you have to fix yourself before you can fix your horse -- then you'll be needing professional assistance, and in that case I'd advise you to go find the best horseman in your neighborhood. -- Dr. Deb

 

dxh100
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 Posted: Mon May 16th, 2016 08:05 pm
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Dr Deb,

Thank you for the detailed response. I've had a couple of sessions with him to work on this since you posted your suggestions.

During the first session, when he bit the lead, I marched forward and gave a sharp rap on the lead with the whip. He didn't react to that, so per your suggestions, I rapped him on the nose, and he dropped the lead (with some eye-rolling dramatics). The second time he tried to "command the lead", I only had to rap the lead and he dropped it. Thankfully he has not tried to kick or come after me, although when I rapped his nose he arched his back up and sort of leaped up and back and made a high pitched whining noise and looked very, very surprised. I will, however, keep an eye out and be careful as we enter this new phase of our relationship. He's better, but it feels like I'm going to have to continue to work to bring his attention back to me.

The second session was unplanned. I trailered him to a large group trail ride where we met up with about 30 other horses. After unloading him, he was very distracted, looking around, etc. When I thought he was settled I got on him, and he began jigging and spinning and ignoring me.

After I got him to stand for a minute, I dismounted and worked on getting him to focus on me until he could stand still and not "sight see". This worked very well! It took some time but I was able to get back on and have a nice ride with the group. This was our first ride with a big group and he really strode out at a good swinging walk.

I think working on his focus like this will be a good alternative to lunging in a new place before riding.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed May 18th, 2016 12:39 am
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DXH: Well, this just goes to illustrate how careful I have to be to make myself absolutely clear when communicating with people I've never actually seen interact with their horse.

Never, at any time, did I suggest to you that you strike the line with the whip.

Neither, at any time, did I even remotely suggest that you hit your horse in the head with the whip or any other object.

What 'rap him on the head' means is that you are to yank sharply on the lead line, so that the halter does the 'rapping'. The action of the lead line hand is sharp and quick; that's what 'bangbangbangbang' means.

It is absolutely foolish -- you're living in a complete fantasy world -- if you think you can safely go out on trail rides before completing your attention and mannering work in the arena. While your horse was able to get his act together for the first trail-ride, you may be very surprised to find what he does on the second trail-ride at the same place.

What I'm telling you, DXH, is that these are not 'hints' or 'little tricks' that I'm offering you. You cannot succeed by attempting to put a patch on each little thing that you perceive to be a problem. Either the whole relationship is right -- or it is full of holes, like rotten cloth.

Every successful horseman begins at Square One, and then commits to returning to Square One every day from then on out. This year the handout material I gave for my students in Australia and New Zealand to read and contemplate came from George Leonard's little book, "Mastery." I would highly recommend that you begin by reading this book.

And let's not hear about any more trail rides until you can report to me that your horse is totally 'with you', OK with himself and relaxed, for the required minimum of eight running seconds; and that you have also understood and incorporated into your DAILY AND HOURLY practice everything else that is on the 'Mannering Your Horse' audio program. -- Dr. Deb

 

dxh100
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 Posted: Wed May 18th, 2016 03:54 am
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Dr Deb,

Indeed it seems I misunderstood what was meant by rapping - thank you for clarifying that. I will check into the book you recommended, and take a step back.

Thanks for responding so quickly.


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