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The Journey is as important as the Destination.

Enjoy every moment and live life fully.

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January 2012
Translated into Czech:

What Every Horse Should Know

NAUCTE SE POROZUMET
RECI KONSKEHO TELA

Cherry Hillova

Publisher: Vydala Euromedia Group


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Dear Cherry,

I have an 8 year old mare standard bred. She is very nippy and can be aggressive. She bit my forehead a couple weeks ago. I had a bruise.
She spooks easily and I need help. She is western. The worst part is when I saddle her. She is sensitive and is cranky. Please help.

Thanks. Denver

Hi Denver,

It sounds like your mare needs to develop respect and confidence. Respect for you and confidence in herself and her surroundings. Biting and spooking are just symptoms of a horse with a lack of respect and confidence.

Have you visited my Horse Information Roundup? There you will find MANY articles related to your questions. Here are just a few

Biting and there are six more article related to Biting under Behavior

Spooking

Sacking Out

In addition, it sounds like you and your horse would benefit from you reading

What Every Horse Should Know.

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We recently brought home two horses.  The 4-year old mare is a sweetie and not issues but the 7-year old gelding is nervous and spooky. 

Three days ago during feeding he spooked and broke his halter.  (The mare flinched at something and the gelding turned it into a panic, rearing back until the halter gave way.)  I was moving slowly and deliberately around them so I am not sure what caused the mare to flinch but the gelding seems to be a bit of a basket case. 

I have worked for two days being very gentle but insistent with the halter and still have not been able to get it on him. I don’t want to press the issue because he doesn’t know me that well yet and has only had a few days to get used to our pasture. While he was eating, I had the halter nearby and would move it around so he could hear it jingle.  When he quit freaking out at every noise, I held it so that he would have to put his nose in the halter to take a bite from the bucket. 

I didn’t push the issue but slowly would move the halter around and by the time he finished eating I was scratching his jaw on the right side but was not able to get the strap over his head without him moving away from me.  I didn’t want to chase him, thinking this would cause further issues, but I was calm to the best of my ability and spoke soothingly to him.  Am I on the right track?  Do you have some advice that would help me to make this process go more smoothly?  Thanks!  Kathy

Hi Kathy,

Although you need to proceed with caution around horses for both your own safety and that of the horse, often sneaking around and being overly cautious seems to make horses more nervous and suspicious.

To me from what little you say, I’d say this. The gelding never learned to stand quietly when tied. And actually before that he never had been taught to be confident in the world of man, so is suspicious to the point of panic.

At 7 years of age, that is quite behind the program and now being a full grown, strong horse, it makes things especially more challenging and dangerous.

What I would do is start from square one with the horse free in a small, safe sturdy pen. You will have to have the time it takes with a small goal each session. Don’t use feed to distract or bribe the horse.

Perhaps at first just the goal of being in the enclosure with the horse without him trying to get away from you or turn his rump toward you.

Then a goal of him allowing you to come up to him and touch him.

From this point you can continue the lessons in the small enclosure or move to a small round pen (maybe 50 feet in diameter) where you can free longe the horse around you at a walk, trot, halt.

Eventually you will progress to putting the halter on the horse after you have halted him and walked up to him. It can be with you or an assistant holding the horse with loop around his neck or it can be with you solo and the horse free. You will put the halter on matter of factly, not using grain.

Just halter the horse using normal, safe procedures.

If the horse tries to move away, let him and send him around you free longeing. Then stop him, walk up to him and begin again.

Once you have successfully haltered the horse, unhalter him. And rehalter him. Do this until he no longer flinches or wants to move away. Haltering and unhaltering then will be you main lesson until it becomes second nature.

There are many articles on my Horse Information Roundup that will help you – just look in the Ground Training section.

And a good illustrated reference on proper handling techniques including haltering, tying and much more is  Horse Handling and Grooming.

Best of luck. Cherry Hill

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Cherry,

My question is about a riding-school horse: in the scenario below, what if anything should I have done differently?

At this school, students ride a different horse every time. Over weeks or months, a student might ride the same horse again. This was the first and only time so far I was assigned to this horse.

When I first entered her pipe-stall, she acted friendly and let me remove her blanket. But when I re-entered the stall with halter and lead rope, she nipped at the air in my direction. She did this every time I slowly moved the halter toward her nose and she became more aggressive.

My job was to catch her, lead her to cross-ties, and tack her up in time for a riding lesson 30 minutes later.

I reasoned that I should not reward her nipping by backing off or going away (to get help!). Instead I growled (yelling or shouting are expressly forbidden in this barn) and let her know she couldn’t get rid of me, by keeping my fingertips on her shoulder, at arm’s length, and following her as she rotated around her stall, away from me. After some 20 nips, she gave up and let me put the halter on her.  After that everything was fine.

What should I have done differently?  Caroline

Hi Caroline,

If the purpose of the lessons at this schools is to test a students ability to deal with various horses, then I would say in general, you did an acceptable job. But if testing was the aim, then you would have received an evaluation and critique from an instructor who was watching. It sounds as though you did not.

If the purpose of the school is to teach students how to interact with various types of horses, then I would say the school failed. With a horse like this, it should have taken one of the instructors just a few minutes to demonstrate the best way to approach, catch and halter this particular horse in her pipe stall. Then you could have done the same. An instructor would have been able to advise you whether the horse was playing a game with you or was truly aggressive, something I can not ascertain from an email.

I am positively impressed with your savvy to not reward her with backing off from her attempts at nipping.

What should you have done differently? Perhaps after catching the horse and haltering her, you could have turned her loose, left her pen and then asked an instructor to watch as you approached, caught and haltered the horse once again.

A lesson begins the moment you begin approaching a horse. A riding school should instruct from that point on, not just when you are in the saddle.

Thanks for the good question.

 

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“. . . a fascinating read and a timeless reference..”   Northwest Rider, June 2011

Cherry Hill’s groundbreaking bestseller, How to Think Like a Horse, showed readers how horses think, learn, respond to stimuli, and interpret human behavior. In this must-read follow-up, What Every Horse Should Know, Hill explains how horses learn and how we can help them develop the confidence and skills they need to live safely in the world of humans. Mastering these lessons is critical for horses and their handlers so that the partnership can reach its full potential.

What Every Horse Should Know addresses all stages of a horse’s life from foalhood to old age. Cherry Hill gives readers the lessons in each chapter that are vital for domesticated horses, whether used for trail riding, dressage, jumping, rodeo, or ranch work. Chapters cover how to handle a horse without fear, how to teach respect and patience, and how the horse can master the “work” he needs to do. Readers can start at the beginning and work their way through the book, or dip in and out as needed when troubleshooting. There are tests for assessing the level of a horse’s knowledge, suggestions on developing individual training programs, and comprehensive training program checklists that detail what each horse should know according to his age

Cherry Hill’s thoughtful and informed words will intrigue anyone seeking to enrich and strengthen the horse-human relationship. What Every Horse Should Know is a fascinating read and a timeless reference.

 

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What Every Horse Should Know by Cherry Hill

“Essential information for any horse owner.”  

Horsemen’s Yankee Pedlar, April 2011

“This book, a follow-up to the successful How to Think Like a Horse, is packed with information that every domestic horse needs to know in order to live a fulfulling life around humans. Regardless of discipline or age, there are certain lessons that we should all teach our horses in order to create a respectful relationship with them and eleiminate fear of people or their surroundings. Hill divides her book into threee sections: “No Fear”, “Leadership and Partnership”, and in-hand under-saddle exercises called “The Work”.

“Hill’s book reminds us that horses aren’t naturally adapted to live in our world, so if we want them to live happily alongside us, it’s our job to teach them how to act appropriately and enjoy domestic lie. Throughout the book there is essential information to better help us understand how our horse perceives our actions, and how we can make him more comfortable with things that he naturally has an aversion to. All of the advice is extremely practical and helps the reader to get inside the horse’s mind, in order to help him become well-adjusted to both humans and every day equipment. Well organized and full of photos and drawings, there is a lot to be learned from Hill’s newest book.”

“BOTTOM LINE: Essential information for any horse owner.”

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Hey Cherry, I have a filly, not sure about her age but we think she is almost a year old, around 10 mnths. Anyways, she has never been properly handled, so she is scared of humans. However, she will come up and sniff me, but if i move even just a finger she jumps back and takes off to the other side of the corral. I have tried just sitting on a stool in the corral with some treats, and when she would come to me i would offer her the treat but she justs runs away again. But, we had gotten another filly at the same time we got her and this other one, Willow, is much more outgoing at will let you scratch her head, so we put the two together hoping that she (autumn) would follow willow’s example, and she has started to not get scared as easily, but we still cant get close to her. I dont know what to do, i ve never had such a shy foal before! PLease help!  Miki

Hi Miki,

If you wait for a fearful foal to approach you, it might never happen. And in the meantime, it reinforces the foal’s fear through repetition. What you need to do is show the foal there is nothing to fear, that a human’s touch can be soothing and pleasurable. Until the foal knows this, it has no reason to approach.

So I like to get such a foal in a safe small enclosure such as a box stall. Then with the help of a capable friend, gradually corner the foal so that one of you can touch the foal and rub it. You want to touch and rub in a place that the foal inherently likes to be touched such as up on the top of the hindquarters, just in front of the tail head, on the neck or withers…….but NOT anywhere on the head, belly or legs to start with. Most foals LOVE to be scratched over the tail head, so that is a great place to start. Once the foal begins to calm down and enjoy the rubbing, gradually back away and “release” the foal. Then approach again. Once you’ve done this a few times, the foal will see there is nothing to fear from you approaching, that something good comes from it.

Repeat this type of approaching and touching several times of day, daily until the foal starts looking to you, turns toward you or starts coming to you.

Although I prefer to handle each foal alone, you could start this whole procedure with the other foal along with her in the stall if you think the other foal would add calmness and not calamity to the situation.

Restriction and the touch of humans are some of the first things every horse should know.

 

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Hello Cherry,

I had an experience last night that I do not want repeated.  I went into the pasture to feed my 3 horses their evening hay  ration and all was well until all of a sudden my 10 yr old QH/Arab mare whom I have owned for 5 years now flew at my 5 yr old daughter striking with her with her front foot on the forehead. The mare had her hay in front of her with no competition around. It came out of the blue with no warning signs.  My daughter was about 4 feet from me waiting patiently for me to finish my task.  My mare acted as if my daughter was one of the herd and she had to put her in her place.  This mare is very aggressive toward other horses (who were on the other side of the fence at the time) during feeding time but she has never shown this behavior towards humans before.  Any suggestions?  Needless to say I am questioning the wisdom of having an unpredictable horse such as this around given that I have 2 children ages 7 and 5 that I would like to experience the wonderful world of horse ownership.  Any suggestions?  My daughter was fortunate not to be hurt just very frightened.

Lee

Hi Lee,

This seems to be, as you suggest, a pecking order move and could also be caused by hormones in the mare’s cycle. So although we try to understand How to Think Like a Horse, it is essential we teach them boundaries of behavior around humans.

There are certain lessons that that every horse should know. If you are capable of conducting ground lessons such as I outline in the articles here on this blog, on my website and in my books, that would be good. I’m talking about respect and personal space lessons.

First in an enclosed area. Then in an enclosed area with feed. Then in a pasture group. Then with feed. It is a progression outlined many times before since these types of things seem to come up often as questions. I’ve hyperlinked some articles within this answer and you can go to my Horse Information Roundup to find a complete list of online articles and related Q&As.

Definitely keep you children safe and only add them to the situation if you feel confident you have established respect and personal space with this mare beforehand.

Best of luck with it.

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My friend has a 5 year old filly.  When he puts her out in the pasture she will stay by the back door unless another horse or even one of the llamas is out.  When he tries to walk her out in the pasture she goes in circles and tires him out by pushing on him to get him to go back to the barn. Daryl

Hi Daryl,

Horses are herd animals so seek comfort and security in numbers. This filly lacks confidence so just for safety sake, she would benefit from a companion animal (llama or another horse) when out on pasture.

To build her confidence, your friend could hold her training and riding sessions out in the pasture, building a strong bond with her out there. It sounds like she needs a thorough ground training review if she whirls or pushes when he tries to lead her. There are many articles on this blog (use the search tool in the right hand column) and my website horsekeeping.com related to behavior and ground training.

 

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