Sunday, January 5, 2014

Herd Dynamics and Your Personal Space

    All too often I get an animal in to train that is pushy, disrespectful and almost dangerous. The most common thing I hear is, "I don't know WHY he does that!" Well, I'm here to tell you it's because people "train" their horses to do these things. I know you think it's nice when Spot (or Fluffy, or George, or w/e you call your mighty steed) comes up and rubs his head on you. You may think this means he loves you, but what he's really telling you is "I dont respect you or your personal space." Let's just say for instance Spot was out in the pasture with a herd of assorted mares/geldings. There will be one old mare who be the undisputed BOSS of the herd. What's gonna happen if Spot goes over and starts wallering ol' Missy? Well, one this is for certain, if Missy doesn't feel like being pestered, and doesn't "invite" him into her personal space, she's gonna get miffed. First she'll threaten him. If this gets no response she'll use stronger language. If at last, he doesn't move off and leave her be, she'll kick or bite him to tell him in no uncertain terms to leave her be. In this manner, she teaches him to respect her and her space. You should remember this when Spot comes to rub all over you. Do not let him rub on YOU. YOU need to be the one doing the rubbing. Keep him out of your space unless you invite him in. I knew some folks once who had the cutest colt; he was such a little charmer. He loved to play and they loved to play with him. They used to let him rear up and put his feet on their shoulders. This was fine and dandy until one day, he was all grown up. They darling baby was now a gigantic, dangerous, 1300 lb spoiled brat! It wasn’t the colts fault, he wasn’t trying to be mean, and he just wanted to play. The trouble here was twofold. First and foremost, he did not respect the boundaries. This is because there were none established. Second, he did not respect his owner as the boss. Although this was an extreme case, I’m sure you can see now how establishing personal boundaries and respect are of the utmost importance. You should start establishing your boundaries from day one. Every time you lead your horse, remind him that he is to stay out of your “bubble”. You can achieve this by the following method. When you are leading good ol’ fluffy, he will try and crowd you, or even try to pass you as you lead him. The thing to do is to stop suddenly, raise your arms up and move backwards towards him, shooing and making noise so as to alarm him. Now, keep in mind, you’re only trying to move him back a little, not give him a heart attack or scare him into the next county, so use judgment as to how much to use. He will back up from you, and then you cluck to him and move out again. Every time he tries to crowd you or pass you, repeat the procedure. It won’t take too awful long until he gets the idea that he’s supposed to follow, that YOU are in the lead, not him.

Brooks Gaited Horse Training

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