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Reinforcing boundaries

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  • Reinforcing boundaries

    Hi! Not sure if this is the right subforum for my questions. I have a mare I have been saddle training for trail riding since June. My main concern right now is teaching her to give people a really solid “bubble,” as she currently doesn’t care to give much personal space. (If she’s tired of performing or thinks you might have treats, she gets WAY into your space.) She likes to try to avoid “boundary reinforcement” with her head by lifting it over my head. Today she tried to kick out at another horse because she was irritated that he was trotting up behind us and she ended up landing a kick on my stomach (no injury to myself at all, I got very lucky) so I’ve decided this is high priority. Just want to teach her that people are to be respected and avoid dangerous behavior. Any suggestions??

  • #2
    Basic ground work skills and carry a whip. Use a rope halter and thick cotton lead rope and don't be afraid to shank get back if she gets pushy.

    Teach her to stand and wait. Teach her to lead.

    Be very aware and proactive. How did you get kicked if you were by her headhead? Keep control of her head and dont ditz around in turnout with multiple horses.

    You would be well served by going to a good local ground work clinic probably run by Western riders. There are lots of excellent videos but really a few in person lessons are way better even if the teacher isn't world famous.

    Stop feeding treats altogether, send her away when she mugs your pocket. And make her stand well back for a feeding time.

    Good clicker training can teach a horse to stand back and wait for treats but you need basic ground skills and safety installed first.

    Comment


    • #3
      Where were you that a horse was trotting up behind your horse and you got kicked in the stomach because of that?

      definitely reevaluate your own safety protocols as well.
      Let me apologize in advance.

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        So, I should have clarified that I do work with her on boundaries daily but she seems to be a particularly difficult case. She's 5, for reference. We have a rope halter as well as a lead rope with a chain shank. She has only mild respect for them and I'm just not sure what to do aside from beat her to make her care what I want her to do, so that's kind of what my original post was regarding. I do pop her on the shoulder with my hand/a dressage whip when she really gets testy (with mixed results). I have been to a few clinics and have a trainer out to work with her every two weeks but I wondered what suggestions others might have if they have a disrespectful horse of their own that they have corrected or learned what best practices to use to keep it under control.

        For more situational information: she works well in the round pen, does what I ask her to do (turn, speed up, stop), she leads well in and out of the round pen about 85% of the time, she is very respectful when I feed her morning and night (I have taught her to walk away from me when I walk up with hay to avoid her biting). All in all, does well in the round pen and seems to think she doesn't need to care outside of it. (She has a habit of "threat biting" in which she bites at the air around you when she is frustrated and she has improved quite a bit in that area but like I said, she's a difficult case. She is very smart and I've taught her several tricks that she can do perfectly but when it comes to her attitude we just have a harder time.)

        The situation with the kicking: we were walking on the trail I intend to practice riding her on to begin with, and her pasture mate and hopeful trail riding buddy horse was being walked behind her. The girl who was walking the other horse fell behind and started jogging to catch up. For whatever reason this set off the mare and she took off more quickly than I could keep up with, which is how she ended up being able to kick me. This horse pairing may or may not end up working out as they tend to "bicker" like siblings with mild bites and kicks at each other on the occasion. I assume her bad trail behavior would be solved if she were paying more attention to me but that continues to be an issue!
        Last edited by katybells; Sep. 24, 2018, 10:17 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Can you find a qualified trainer near you to sign up for lessons with? That is the first step I suggest you take. Your description of another handler jogging up behind your mare to "catch up" tells me that you need to work with an experienced trainer instead.

          Good luck!
          "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." -- George Bernard Shaw

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by katybells View Post
            So, I should have clarified that I do work with her on boundaries daily but she seems to be a particularly difficult case. She's 5, for reference. We have a rope halter as well as a lead rope with a chain shank. She has only mild respect for them and I'm just not sure what to do aside from beat her to make her care what I want her to do, so that's kind of what my original post was regarding. I do pop her on the shoulder with my hand/a dressage whip when she really gets testy (with mixed results). I have been to a few clinics and have a trainer out to work with her every two weeks but I wondered what suggestions others might have if they have a disrespectful horse of their own that they have corrected or learned what best practices to use to keep it under control.
            If you haven't really gotten anywhere with current trainer, then it's time to find someone else.

            This is timely. My daughter and I just watched this video last night (okay, she's only 2 but she wanted to watch "horsies" on TV so I pulled this up on YouTube). It is a good reminder that you need to correct wrong behavior 100% of the time. And quickly. There should be a very clear line in the sand for the horse to follow.

            The fact that you have now gotten kicked should be a big red flag that it could have been much worse and you need to get your butt in gear and change what you are currently doing.

            Originally posted by katybells View Post
            (She has a habit of "threat biting" in which she bites at the air around you when she is frustrated and she has improved quite a bit in that area but like I said, she's a difficult case.
            Like this, for example. Maybe I'm a hard @$$, but this is not something that should be "improved". This is something that should be GONE yesterday.

            If I've got to smack a horse in the face to make it stop, I'm not going to hesitate to do what needs to be done to make the behavior stop and keep myself safe. Sure, some might take this as "beating" the horse, but when my flesh is at stake, I really don't care. That horse needs to very, very clearly understand what is okay and what is not.

            Is there another trainer you can take lessons with, or get help with?

            Timing and consistency are crucial, here.

            Originally posted by katybells View Post
            She likes to try to avoid “boundary reinforcement” with her head by lifting it over my head.
            It doesn't really matter where her head is, because she should be scooting her entire booty away from you IMMEDIATELY when you tell her to get out of your bubble. Her whole body needs to get out of your bubble. Move her feet.
            It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by beau159 View Post

              If you haven't really gotten anywhere with current trainer, then it's time to find someone else.
              I'm in the process of doing this right now!

              Originally posted by beau159 View Post
              It is a good reminder that you need to correct wrong behavior 100% of the time. And quickly. There should be a very clear line in the sand for the horse to follow.

              The fact that you have now gotten kicked should be a big red flag that it could have been much worse and you need to get your butt in gear and change what you are currently doing.
              So, I do try to correct her behavior immediately and intensely but it feels as if I've made very little progress. I like to describe her as a rubber band: she stops when I correct her but goes right back and it feels like I could correct her for hours with no progress.

              Originally posted by beau159 View Post
              Maybe I'm a hard @$$, but this is not something that should be "improved". This is something that should be GONE yesterday.

              If I've got to smack a horse in the face to make it stop, I'm not going to hesitate to do what needs to be done to make the behavior stop and keep myself safe. Sure, some might take this as "beating" the horse, but when my flesh is at stake, I really don't care. That horse needs to very, very clearly understand what is okay and what is not.
              I 100% agree with this. She weighs 800lbs more than me and I do smack her quite a lot. I hate when other people have to see me do it because a lot of people think it qualifies as abuse (I think my current trainer leans toward very very gentle correction and I see nothing wrong with that if the horse responds but mine doesn't), but she seriously does not seem to mind (part of the problem) and I'm 130 lbs, I can't really hurt her unless that's my intention. I correct her every time she does it by smacking her face or shanking her with the chain or rope halter but the behavior seems to be taking a long time to stop. Like I said, a lot of improvement, she does it much much less than she did a month ago, but she still does it. I'm glad to get some affirmation in this area because like I said, I feel bad about hitting her but it almost seems to be a necessity. I only hope I'm not making her more hard-headed.

              Question for you, though: in regard to this, if I am not the only person interacting with her, is it going to cause serious backslides in her correction process if the other people do not correct her when she does stuff like this? Is she only going to respect me and no one else? Or do I need to essentially quarantine her from interactions with other people who won't be correcting her behavior like I do?

              Originally posted by beau159 View Post
              Is there another trainer you can take lessons with, or get help with?

              Timing and consistency are crucial, here.
              Working on this!


              Originally posted by beau159 View Post
              It doesn't really matter where her head is, because she should be scooting her entire booty away from you IMMEDIATELY when you tell her to get out of your bubble. Her whole body needs to get out of your bubble. Move her feet.
              Appreciate this input!

              Comment


              • #8
                Please get someone else to help you with this horse. Her reaction to the horse coming up to her is 100% normal for a young horse just seeing the trails...her instinct was to get away because what was coming up behind her could possibly eat her...run away from what the other horse was "running away" from.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by katybells View Post
                  Question for you, though: in regard to this, if I am not the only person interacting with her, is it going to cause serious backslides in her correction process if the other people do not correct her when she does stuff like this? Is she only going to respect me and no one else? Or do I need to essentially quarantine her from interactions with other people who won't be correcting her behavior like I do?
                  Horses are smart. They know who is who, and which people they can "get away" with certain behaviors. Personally, I would try to limit her interactions with other people right now, if possible. She needs consistency.


                  Originally posted by katybells View Post

                  So, I do try to correct her behavior immediately and intensely but it feels as if I've made very little progress. I like to describe her as a rubber band: she stops when I correct her but goes right back and it feels like I could correct her for hours with no progress.


                  I 100% agree with this. She weighs 800lbs more than me and I do smack her quite a lot.
                  Obviously you are already trying to find another trainer to work with, but I would guess that in some way, your timing is off if you say your corrections don't stick, and if you are having to correct her a lot. CA says something in that video I linked earlier that I really agree with: I'd rather hit them once hard and get my point across, than to hit them tons of times with no effect.

                  It definately is a fine line on timing and feel of the correction so you don't release too soon, or correct too late, or any number of possibilities. There is where having someone with you in-person can be invaluable.

                  Now I'm not a total CA follower. Some things he does I don't like but I do feel like he explains things quite well, as has many positive things that people can learn from. Maybe if you can find someone who is experienced with ground work? And aggressive horses?

                  Of course without seeing you in action in person with the horse, it's hard to guess where the problem might be.

                  It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    No, it's not. My educated guess is that the OP simply isn't observant enough to recognize the behaviour that comes before the OP's defined "unacceptable" behaviour. Missing the warning signs does result in needing to correct more strongly, over and over and over with no so good results.

                    Good news, OP! This lack on your part can be easily changed! It will take practice and some adjustment on your part, but you can do it.

                    One thing that might help immediately is to always, always know what you want your horse to DO at any given moment. Do. Do, not not do. Put it into words for your own focus. Use positive words only and state what you want your horse to do.

                    "I want her to stand still on the cross ties." is positive action.

                    "I want her to stop wiggling and fussing on cross ties." uses negatives. Horses suck at "stop that" and "don't do that." Especially at five years old.

                    Tell her what she should be doing will allow you to recognize earlier when she starts to do other things. You can quietly and calmly put her back to doing what you want. The thing you want her to do is the most important thing. If you want her to stand on cross ties then you stop brushing, tacking, looking for something in your kit, putting your helmet on, or whatever and you put her back where you wanted her to stand before continuing with the other stuff. That's just an example.

                    She told you she was going to run when the other horse came trotting up. She told you before she did it. You missed it. It happens to everyone. This time you got lucky and had a close call instead of getting hurt. Pay attention. Watch her. Learn to see what happens before. Only then can you learn to correct it sooner, with less force, and more effectively.

                    You can do it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Def look for a diff trainer used to working with youngsters. I had a very similar problem with my guy who is just so friendly he wants to be in your space all the time. Doesn't really back off from a whip, smacking, rope etc it just doesn't bother him. In 30 min with a trainer she was able to point out where I wasn't picking up on him encroaching into my space before it was obvious to me. Summary of what I'm doing now per the trainer's instruction

                      My body language needs to be like a "boss mare" paying attention, standing straight. If he comes into my space a closed fist knuckles towards him on his neck/head to push him away (not hitting-gently pushing). We do not move one step ever unless I ask him to move and he does not push his head/neck/body into my space. If he walks into my space we stop, gentle pushing him away until he's standing on his own away from me before anything else happens. I also can't make direct eye contact with him all the time, never noticed that I was staring him down trying to see what he was doing which was putting him more on alert. I can't so much as lean away from him because that's his invitation to come towards me too close. Anyways after 1/2 hour with the trainer practicing this, and working on it on my own he's much much more respectful. It worked better then any whip, making him move his feet quickly/to tire him out etc.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Like others said, your timing is off, and if it hasn’t improved much, it’s because you are not correcting your horse properly and are putting it to fail.

                        From now on, your horse should not be allowed to kick or bite.

                        Never get into its face. Never stay behind.
                        Never get in any way close to being bitten or kicked.

                        You need to think ahead and prevent.

                        I never beat a horse on the face/head, but those who tried to bite knows their death might come soon enough because all hell breaks loose at the sight of a teeth.

                        But I (try to) never put myself in a position where I’m close enough to be bitten... One horse, I didn’t cleaned his face for a year. He was always attached to the opposite side where I was brushing. He learned I wasn’t a threat and is now quiet on cross ties. (My guard will never be down, but he is « normal » now.) No one is allowed to pass by him. He goes back quietly in its stall when someone wants to pass by. It takes a second. I’m sure he would be fine, but why risk it?
                        He hasn’t shown any sign of aggression for the past 10 yrs. But he’s still a horse I would never ever trust entirely. It’s there, somewhere hidden.

                        Agression like that, be it bitting or kicking, is something really difficult to « fix ». It might never go away but can really be prevented.

                        It is truly sad when horses learn to fight back. It’s a sign of really poor horsemanship. And I don’t say this to blame the OP, because you cannot blame someone who doesn’t know better.

                        Good training surely help. Find help.
                        ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                        Originally posted by LauraKY
                        I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                        HORSING mobile training app

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by stargzng386 View Post
                          Def look for a diff trainer used to working with youngsters. I had a very similar problem with my guy who is just so friendly he wants to be in your space all the time. Doesn't really back off from a whip, smacking, rope etc it just doesn't bother him. In 30 min with a trainer she was able to point out where I wasn't picking up on him encroaching into my space before it was obvious to me. Summary of what I'm doing now per the trainer's instruction

                          My body language needs to be like a "boss mare" paying attention, standing straight. If he comes into my space a closed fist knuckles towards him on his neck/head to push him away (not hitting-gently pushing). We do not move one step ever unless I ask him to move and he does not push his head/neck/body into my space. If he walks into my space we stop, gentle pushing him away until he's standing on his own away from me before anything else happens. I also can't make direct eye contact with him all the time, never noticed that I was staring him down trying to see what he was doing which was putting him more on alert. I can't so much as lean away from him because that's his invitation to come towards me too close. Anyways after 1/2 hour with the trainer practicing this, and working on it on my own he's much much more respectful. It worked better then any whip, making him move his feet quickly/to tire him out etc.
                          This is helpful! She's very similar -- very friendly but it makes for a serious lack of respect. We started some new groundwork training yesterday and it went great.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post
                            Like others said, your timing is off, and if it hasn’t improved much, it’s because you are not correcting your horse properly and are putting it to fail.
                            This has been my assumption (that I'm off somehow), but I haven't been able to pin down why -- I react very quickly, I don't go back and do anything 10 seconds later. I read that correction needs to be within 3 seconds and I usually am within 1 or 2, I think.

                            Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post
                            Agression like that, be it bitting or kicking, is something really difficult to « fix ». It might never go away but can really be prevented.

                            It is truly sad when horses learn to fight back. It’s a sign of really poor horsemanship. And I don’t say this to blame the OP, because you cannot blame someone who doesn’t know better.
                            You may have misread or I might have mistyped -- she's not what I would call aggressive toward people. Her kick was toward another horse but she wasn't mindful that I was in the way (this is a problem, I think on both our parts, but I wouldn't call her aggressive for it). She pretends she will bite but she never has. So I'd definitely say her behavior/respect needs to be fixed but she's not "fighting back" at anybody, in my opinion. Her pretend biting is a sign of impatience/irritation with whatever is going on. She's overall a good horse, but she needs some basic lessons and she's pretty smart so it's harder for me as a novice. That being said, we started basic groundwork again with a new trainer yesterday and is going well.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Honestly, you should never ever be in a position where you are randomly between your horse's butt and another horse, especially on a trail? Like was the horse loose? If she wasn't loose how did that happen? You aren't reacting quickly enough if a horse you are leading literally ends up with you behind them in such a position as to be kicked.
                              Let me apologize in advance.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                If you were leading correctly there is no way you would be behind her to he kicked.

                                Timing comes down to a hundredth of a second. It has to be immediate not 2 seconds later.

                                Timing is the key. Get the correct timing and you will teach what you want.

                                Get the incorrect timing and you will teach then to never do that again.

                                It is easier to train than it is to retrain. When you teach incorrectly it will be harder for someone else to retrain her.

                                Continue your search for a trainer, you are on the right track there.
                                It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  When I was tacking up my horse today she "made a mouth" at me. She skewed her face and slanted her ears a little. It was because she is a bit girthy and thought I was going to tighten it too fast. I instantly slugged her in the neck, pretty hard, made a face of extreme anger and said HEY! Whereupon she wiped that look off her face and thought my dog was pretty interesting for a few seconds.

                                  This is a horse which I've owned for several years; we've had this little interaction many times and we'll have it again, too. She is a dominant boss mare and she always will be. But I will always be bossier than her.

                                  Notice she did not try to bite me. She just looked like she was thinking about it, so I essentially said, "I know what you're thinking, and knock that off." So she did. I know her real well. If I hadn't called her on it, she'd have pretended to nip me and if I never called her on *that*, she'd be biting people in no time. She has never bitten anyone.

                                  Honestly if my horse did any of the things you describe she would think the world had ended and then some. But I wouldn't be angry, and I would go right back to what I was doing, with calmness, as soon as I got her attention and obedience.

                                  I second the idea of having a very clear image of what you want her to do -- and then don't accept ANY deviation from that image. I have seen Buck Brannaman (whom I admire as a trainer quite a bit) stand there and correct a horse for moving its head a few inches. He just put it back where it was supposed to be, over and over, until the horse realized it had to be still and straight in order to be left alone. It might look nitpicky but you would be amazed what happens when you correct every single thing the instant it comes up. Correct tiny things and the big things will not arise.

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