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Hi Cherry,

just wondered if you have any ideas how to stop out yearling miniature horse filly to stop bucking and kicking out at us. We own 6 other miniatures and have never had this problem . We have her for 6 months now, and still she does it. We cant stand behind her to brush her tail, nor adjust her rug leg straps etc. She is out on grass with the others and as soon as we go to bring her in, she spins and lashes out with her rear legs. She also hates to be tied and gets very thick and starts pawing the ground etc.
Sara

Hi Sara,

Young fillies of that age are beginning to experience their estrous cycle for the first time. Because of that, some are more explosive, irritable and protective, especially of their hindquarters and activities related to their rear end, such as you say brushing her tail and adjusting her leg straps.

There are many articles related to your questions on my Horse Information Roundup. I will mention a few, but you should go there and search your questions.

Reference article: How to Tell if a Mare is in Heat

A horse like that needs a super thorough handling and sacking out program to show her that touching and activities behind her are nothing to fear. This is a good time to nip this tendency in the bud – otherwise the horse could carry the bad habits for life.

Reference Articles:

Sacking Out

Teaching the Young Horse to Tie

Tying Problems

I recommend you read my latest book, What Every Horse Should Know:

Respect Patience Partnership

No Fear of People or Things

No Fear of Restriction or Restraint.

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Hi Cherry,
My 3 year old paint horse tries to  take my 7 year old back to the other horses will I’m leading him and i do not want him to. what should i do.
Emma


Hi Emma,

The behavior you describe can be thought of as Herd Bound, Buddy Bound or Barn Sour or a combination of all 3.

Horses are herd animals and when left on their own, they gang together in twos, threes, bands and herds. That is natural horse behavior.

But when a horse, in this case, the 7 year old you are leading, is being tempted to misbehave by another horse, your 3 year old. Generally it is because one or both horses are insecure and don’t want to be separated from each other. It could also be that they just want to play. But in any case, they need to learn a new set of acceptable behavior when you are leading.

All horses need to develop confidence and good manners so that you can lead them in a variety of tempting and stressful situations. It is the horse you are leading that you should focus on, not the one that is trying to start up the mischief.


If you go to the horse article page on my website www.horsekeeping.com and look under the topic Behavior – you will see a number of articles on Barn Sour behavior which also cover Buddy Bound and Herd Bound.

Reading those will give you some good ideas as to why this behavior occurs and how to prevent and fix it.

Best of luck !

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Hi Cherry,

i just got a 4 year old gelding and he’s very skittish – fast movements scare him. He’s out in a good sized area with a female who is 15. besides the fact that he is skittish, every time he starts to be ok with me and fast movements she bites him. it’s like she is trying to make him bad so she gets all of the attention but i do my best to love on them both. He is my first horse and i don’t know alot about them but i love them and it’s to the point that i want to slug her for biting him but she isn’t mine. also is there a way to get him to be ok with the halter? I really think he’ll be a great horse i just need help training him so he can be. What books of yours would be the best for me to buy?

Shannon

Hi Shannon,

I have hundreds of articles on horse care and training on my website. Be sure to search there for your topic of interest.

Also I just posted a reply to another reader yesterday about her spooky horse so that will be helpful for you to read. (It is the article just before this one.)

As far as the mare biting your gelding, that is part of the pecking order with horses. You can read about pecking order in this article – Pecking Order at Feeding Time.

You ask if there is a way for your horse to be OK with the halter…..I’m not sure what you mean – do you mean haltering and unhaltering or leading or just general respect? Again, visit my main article archive and search some of your key words – there are a lot of articles there including a series on ground training a young horse, called the Sherlock series.

Finally, as far as book recommendations, you should probably read How to Think Like a Horse and What Every Horse Should Know and then branch out into the How-To books that are listed on my website.

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The word submissive can sometimes have an undeserved bad connotation.  If we are talking about a bully who is forcing another person into submission and fear, yes, that is a bad thing, a very bad thing.

But when it comes to horses and their interaction with people, submission is not only necessary from a safety standpoint, it is desirable from the horse’s perspective.

Horses feel the most secure, content and untroubled when they have a fair and capable leader. When there are no questions, when roles are clear, when the (human-horse) pecking order is established, a horse is submissive, calm and content.

Once the partnership is established, often, all it takes is the touch of a hand to elicit that calmness.

Zipper and Cherry

Enjoy that good horse,

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Hello Cherry

My miniature horse foal keeps biting, bucking, rearing and jumping up.  He is a 4 month old foal.  I plan to geld him, but our vet said to wait until he is 1 year, so it won’t harm his growth.

Hershey wants to bite and chew on EVERYTHING.  He has toys in the yard that he can play with, but I seldom see him using them.  We have a pet goat who lives with him and his mother, and he is often seen chewing on her legs and tail (she has bite marks to prove it)  I try to enforce the no-bite rule when I am around him by pushing his head away and tapping him on the muzzle, but when I leave for the day, there isn’t anyone to stop him.

Also, when I turn my back to him, he will often run up behind me and rear/kick me.  He also does this to his mother by jumping up and placing his hooves right below her withers.

He is a very smart foal, catches on very easily and  loves to please me.  He let me take his halter on and off him at 5 days old and would move back and to the side with pressure too, but now he is so focused on biting or chewing on me that when I ask him to do something, he ignores my signals.

On a different hoof, when his mother goes to roll in the dirt, she finds it very difficult because he jumps over her.  I have often had to hold him still so she can roll, because I am worried that he will tangle his legs with hers.

Is this a stage, or is it a habit???  And how would I be able to fix it and make him behave?  Would gelding him early help?  I am supposed to show him in showmanship this year.

Thanks, Julia

Hi Julia,

First I want to be sure that you know how to search here on this blog and on my website for information related to Biting and other horse behavior and training topics.

For example, here on this blog, you can type Biting in the Search box at the top of the page or in the right hand column. It will bring up a list of articles here that talk about horses that bite. For example

Horse Behavior – Biting Children

You can also go to the article page on my main website www.horsekeeping.com where there are many more articles. On that page, you can see all of the articles by title, so the fastest way to find what you want is to go to the Behavior category and scroll down to the articles on Biting.

For example, besides the one on the miniatures that bite children, there are the following articles:

Q&As on Horse Biting

Biting Prevention

Horse in Stall Bites at People

Now, to your questions specifically. It is generally a stage that colts (male foals) go through. If a biting horse is dabbed at or played with, or if you lightly tap his nose to tell him no, in many cases it tends to encourage play biting which is a socially acceptable behavior between horses.

You need to make sure your foal knows in no uncertain terms that you are top on the pecking order and biting is not an acceptable behavior.

You also need to set up regular handling sessions so that he learns to respect your personal space. This means 2-3 sessions per day every day – the sessions don’t have to be long – they could be 5-20 minutes each but should be structured. The articles I suggest above and other articles on my website will help with that.

As far as limiting his biting when you are not handling him or near him, that would be difficult. You can deter his biting of certain things like wood rails by coating them with a No Chew product, but that’s a big world out there, so while he is at this stage, perhaps teething, you should focus on his good manners when he is being handled and when you are near him when he is loose.

In terms of gelding him, here is a thorough discussion of why a horse is gelded, when, and aftercare. You should follow your own veterinarian’s advice as to when to geld but do know that many horses are gelding “early” which means before they are a year old – even at weaning – with good results and no negative effects. I don’t want to advise you on that as I can’t see your horse. Your veterinarian has the best picture of your horses, management and so on.

Gelding and Aftercare

Best of luck and remember, there is no substitute for thorough regular effective handling.

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Hi Cherry,

I rescued two horses- a large Fell pony and a mini. Both had been abused and were starving. I’ve got their weight up, their hooves cared for, shots, worming etc.
But it has been almost 3 months and they are still very hard to halter, to clean their feet ( both have thrush) and to separate them to work with them ( just the simplest ground work in a nearby round pen)! When I have someone else, we can work it out fairly well but usually I am alone. I have few expectations, maybe short rides or a little pulling a cart ( both had some draft experience) – I’m now 65, and even though i had been a horse professional teaching in riding stables, training and judging in dressage,  I’m having an awful time with them. I need encouragement to keep them. It has been very expensive and wonder if others have rescue horse experience. Eileen

HI Eileen,

Just in my email box this morning was an article from The Horse which states that

Each year there are about 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States, too many for the registered equine rescue and sanctuary groups to handle, according to a recent survey by experts at the University of California, Davis. They found that the 236 registered rescue and sanctuary organizations could only help about 13,400 horses a year.

I have no personal experience with rescue horses but wanted to post your note so that if others want to reply, they can do so here.

I do know that retraining any horse can seem like it takes twice as long as it does to train a horse from scratch. Some of my colleagues say ten times as long !

When I taught in college and university equine programs, one of the ways we would get horses for the training and riding classes was through donations. Well, we received some wonderful horses and also some with interesting previous experiences and challenging behaviors. Some took several semesters to sort out and even then, might not be trustworthy with novice riders.

I do encourage you and applaud you for your efforts. It will take time, repetition and very frequent regular handling to alter their suspicious behavior. But it can be done.

Please refer to the many useful articles here on this blog related to ground training, desensitization and more. Here are some examples:

Head Handling

Horse Training – Handling, Gentling, Desensitization, Sacking Out, Flooding

Horse Behavior – Licking and Chewing

Also visit my Horse Information Roundup where I have posted hundreds of free articles related to behavior and training.

Best of luck and let me know if you have specific questions.

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We’ve tried and tried to use clippers on our horses ears but to no avail. She freaks out every time! What can you suggest that we can use to clean the hairs in her ears for shows. We’ve tried every form of desensitizing that can be thought of and nothing works. She simply can’t stand the buzzing noise. I want her to look groomed for shows but am at a loss as what to do now. Any suggestions. Mary

Hi Mary,

I understand, having been a horse show judge for over 25 years, that during show season you want to clip the hair from around and inside a horse’s ears.

Personally, I would never do that to a horse, but then we live on a ranch and our horses live in pastures, so clipping the hair out of their ears would mean they’d have to fight off bugs in the summer and have cold ears in the winter.

But getting a horse used to clippers around his ears is the same as any other desensitization.

You haven’t told me what you tried and how it worked or didn’t work, so I have very little to go on here.

Be sure to read the articles about:

Desensitization

Head Handling

because they contain the principles you need. You don’t say what your horse does when you try to clip her ears, just that “she simply can’t stand the buzzing noise”  – does this mean she doesn’t stand still, raises her head, shakes her head, lowers her head between her front legs, walks over the top of you, bites you, strikes at the clippers, lays down, pulls free and runs off? What?

If you care to write more details, perhaps I can be of more help, but in the meantime, like any other desensitization, it takes time and patience and time and repetition and time and progressive goals and time. Did I say it takes time?

Whether you want to clip your horse’s ears or not, you should be able to run clippers in the ear and bridle path area. Take the time it takes to get the job done. Start with being able to just hold the clippers turned off anywhere on her body, then running anywhere on her body. You won’t be clipping, you are just holding the running clippers on her hot spots. Find an area where her behavior starts to say NO and work there, even if it is under her chin or on her flank…..use that place to establish your system.

You repeat the stimulation there until she accepts it, then you remove the stimulation and reward her with a rub.

You never remove the stimulation until she relaxes and accepts it. If you remove the running clippers from a hot spot when she is “freaking” as you say, you have taught her to freak. Freaking gets her what she wants – the removal of the clippers.

Plan to take days, not hours or minutes to work on this. Once you have your system established, use it to desensitize her ears (without clipping). Your goal is not to clip, but to have the running clippers closer and closer to her ears.

Once you can run the clippers near her ears, it will be no big deal to clip.

Best of luck,

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Hi Cherry !

I have a 2 + year QH that I am having trouble getting him to use a bit.

As I try to put in his mouth he will back up and refuses for to put the bit in his mouth. What can I do to get him to let me put on a bit, or is it his age?

Ruben

Hi Ruben,

The best way to solve this problem is to forget about the bit and bridle for a few lessons.

First you need to teach your horse to allow you to handle his head, his ears, his lips, his mouth, examine his teeth and so on.

I use one of my old toothbrushes to get the horse used to having something in his mouth. This will also be safer for you than using your fingers if you aren’t really sure where the teeth are located (see drawing below). Hold the bristle end in your hand and rub the end of the smooth plastic handle along the horse’s lips. When your horse will allow you to do this without moving his head or backing away, then insert the smooth toothbrush handle into the interdental space – the area between the incisors and molars where the bit goes. If you don’t have a toothbrush handy, you can use an old, washed out dewormer tube for this lesson.

Next be sure your horse doesn’t have any fear of you opening his lips to look at his teeth. Your veterinarian needs to do this anyway, so take the time to make sure your horse is comfortable with you handling all parts of his mouth and head.

Then be sure you can handle and rub his ears and are able to bend his ears forward like you will need to do when you slip the crownpiece of the bridle over his ears.

When you feel your horse is comfortable with all of this, be sure you are bridling properly.

Horse Training - Proper Bridling Position

Horse Training - Proper Bridling Position

Refer to the photo above to show you how to put your right hand over your horse’s head and between his ears while you present the bit to the horse with your left hand. Be careful not to bump the horse’s front teeth with the bit. If he doesn’t readily open his mouth, you can insert the thumb of your left hand into the corner of his mouth – this usually gets the horse to open his mouth. See the illustration below to help you determine the safe zone for you to place your fingers – the interdental space which is the space where there are no teeth – between the canines and the wolf teeth.

Teeth of a Mature Horse Showing the Safe Finger Zone, the interdental space

Teeth of a Mature Horse Showing the Safe Finger Zone, the interdental space

After you have thoroughly prepared your horse for the sensations of bridling, he should accept the process willingly. Take your time because these habits last a lifetime, whether good or bad.

For more information, refer to

Making Not Breaking by Cherry HillHow to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillMaking Not Breaking

How to Think Like a Horse

Best of luck, and let me know how you make out.

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I have a 4 year old mare that I’ve had for about a year since she was green broke.  When I first got her my trainer who does Parelli natural horsemanship, noticed that she was crabby and mean most of the time.  Over the next couple of months she got worse, bullying the kids and bullying the other horses.

I was ready to get rid of her but then I decided to just focus on her training for about a year and see if I could get her to improve.  She started doing much better within just a few weeks, and she is doing excellent under the saddle.  Last week we left for vacation for a week and my friend and her 9 year old daughter were taking care of the horses for me.  They are familiar with all of our horses and come and ride regularly.  My friend said that my mare was getting really mean, putting her ears back and actually bit her daughter one day.  I was not totally surprised, because she does get crabby when she is not handled regularly.  Since I’ve been back though she seems to be really bad.  Every time I approach her at liberty from the side or rear, she pins her ears back and clearly tries to get away from me.  If I approach her from in front, she is fine and puts her head down.  I’m always careful not to get kicked, but I’m not sure how to handle or correct this latest ear pinning thing.  In the past whenever she has presented her butt to me in a rude manner, I would smack it.  But now its not that she is presenting her butt, its more that she is trying to get away.  I don’t want to smack her butt because then she’ll get away and be rewarded, I’m afraid if I pet her when she is pinning her ears, then I’m telling her that its ok to pin her ears at me.  What do I do?

The first thing that came to mind as I read about your mare was PMS – Pouty Mare Syndrome – not an official phrase but one I use to describe certain mares that are extra grouchy.

I might be off base here but here’s how it sounds. When you first got the mare, about a year ago, it was summer time, she was green broke and grouchy  – it was a season when she was cycling, that is coming in and going out of heat and her training was not complete – she was still testing the limits of her behavior.

Then you had her a while, saw she was hard to deal with and trust, almost gave up on her, but then decided to focus on her training – and did that over the fall and winter…and she improved…a time when she would be in anestrus or not cycling. Mares in the winter are often like geldings.

Then at the early part of this breeding season, she was pretty good for you since you had established some rules, but when you were on vacation, it didn’t take long for her to slip back into her old bossy ways and now you feel you have to start from square one again.

Which is what you probably should do. First, I’d have your vet rule out a granulosa tumor which might cause her to be extra crabby. (See list of reference articles below).

When it comes time to work on altering her behavior and improving her manners, like all training, you need to be consistent, thorough, and always be training with this mare. I’d spend a lot of time desensitizing her to touch and approaching from the rear by making this her main lesson for a number of days. You can do it yourself with the mare on a long line or have an assistant hold her. You need to desensitize her hindquarters, her tail area, lift her tail, all those hot spots that mares have. Some mares just do not like being approached from the rear or being touched there ever, no matter if they are in heat or not. The more thorough you are with all of this, the safer she will be when she is at liberty in her pen and you go to catch her.

As far as smacking her on the butt if she is rude when you approach, if she is in a suitable pen to free longe her, well that might be the perfect thing to do and send her out and around and have her face you.

If she is not in a suitable training pen when she turns her butt to you and pins her ears, you will have to make it a point to take her to a pen so you can work on reviewing the “face me” lesson so you can safely approach her. This must be a formal lesson, it is one of the basics. Your trainer most likely taught the mare “face me” in a specific Parelli manner, so it would be best if you ask him what methods he used and recommends.

Here are a couple of related articles that you might find interesting and helpful.

How to Tell if Your Mare is In Heat

Grouchy Horse

Desensitization

What Spaying a Mare Involves and About Granulosa Tumors

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

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I rescued a 7 year old gelding Tennessee Walker . He belonged (trained and
shown) to an 89 year old man that bought him when his wife passed then 6
years later he passed away. He was run through a livestock auction due to
estate after left in a field for 8 months, severely under weight, sickly,
etc. and  was afraid of everything.  In six months I have him eating out of
my hand, stands at liberty for grooming, but unable to touch his face &
forehead to get a halter on him.  He only responds to me and not my husband.
Any ideas how to get away from the resistance so he doesn’t pull away from
touch? I need to get a bit firmer with him now that he’s in excellent
health, noting he still needs emotional mending.  THANK YOU – I love your
articles!  Marty

Hello Marty,

Are you familiar with the principles of desensitization or sacking out?
You can click on those words and go to articles on my website that will help you with the concepts behind the procedures.

Based on what you told me, I’d tie an old sock or cloth on the end of a
medium length whip (approximately 4 feet long) so you have a somewhat puffy
dauber at the end of the whip. Then using the whip as an extension of your
arm, rub the sock all over the places on your horse’s body that you can now
groom him. You can do this with the horse loose, held by an assistant, tied,
or even held by you – that will depend on his level of handling and
training.

Once the horse is accustomed to the sock on a stick, gradually start moving
the sock up his neck. At the first sign of resistance (tensing, raising of
head, moving away etc.) keep the sock at that spot and rub and rub and
rub……..until you see a sign of relaxation (an exhale, a lowering of the
head, licking and chewing, or an overall calming). When the horse relaxes,
take the sock away and tell him “Good boy” and rub him somewhere he likes
rubbing such as on his withers or neck.

Then start again. Repeat the procedure, each time getting the horse used to
being touched in a new area of his “hot zone”. Eventually you will be able
to use the sock on his forehead, across his ears and so on.

But, it does take time, perseverance and patience.  Be sure you are very
consistent in your techniques.
Rub until you find a touchy spot, work there until there is relaxation,
remove the stimulus, reward. Repeat.

It could take days, weeks or even a month to over-ride the avoidance reflex.

Eventually you should tie a long sock or cloth on the whip so you can do
this with a floppy item, then a plastic grocery sack. Then your hands.

The reason it is easier to use a long stick (or whip) is that your arms
would get very tired reaching up to the horse’s head and ears and keeping
them there for the time it takes for the horse to learn that he is not going
to be harmed.

It is important you take the time for this very important lesson because
without it, you wont’ be able to handle, care for or bridle your horse.

Best of luck, have fun and let me know how your horse progresses.


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