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Respect Issues ~
The Number One Horse Problem

This site contains everything you need to know to deal with pretty much any horse related problem. Any one page on this site, in and of itself, may be one part of the solution and you may need to read more pages on this site for a more rounded approach.

She writes...


I have been enjoying your website this evening and notice a lot of questions and answers about aggression and respect. I'd love to come to a clinic but I'm in Texas and that's not across the country by any means, but still a far piece to travel. Any clinics here anytime soon?

I have a 3 year old Appy (really a Thoroughbred with spots with his breeding) gelding who has been handled regularly since birth, show in halter, has been "backed" but is not ridden because of his age. I purchased him 3 months ago knowing his is a horse with a "busy", intelligent mind and a possibly (definitely lately) pushy personality at times. Knowing this I have (or thought I did) made an effort to be fair but by no means a pushover where he's concerned. I am a dog trainer/vet. technician by trade and as I own and train Rottweilers (a notoriously pushy breed) I do have an understanding of the need for "alpha" or the herd leader.

Well, we've gotten to the point where feet are not a problem and at feeding time (where pushiness surfaced again) it only took a couple of mild corrections and he will back up at the point of a finger and let me by with the feed or he will go into his stall and wait for me quietly. In general, I try not to let him get away with things I KNOW he knows but this has been getting increasingly difficult.

Two nights ago we were working on "my space/your space" in halter (he should already know this from halter class for sure) and I was definitely picking up on some lack of respect issues. About 10 minutes into our walking around the pasture and keeping our space he started shaking his head at me and striking out at me and ending with "popping up" (though not rearing, same difference from the ground to me) even when I wasn't correcting him (with halter and finally a pop or two with the lead rope). He also has a bad habit (breeder didn't discourage) about mouthing lead ropes, reins, latigo, whatever and was getting very resentful that I wasn't letting him have the lead rope and was pulling it from his mouth. The next night it was raining and cold so we just did a little grooming and feet and he was fine. This morning and this evening are worse, with him shaking his head and popping up and generally aggressive even when I'm just standing near the barn or in the pasture and I'm not antagonizing him or asking anything of him. Tonight I had taken a crop out with me, just for this occasion and was rather fed up so I yelled and stomped and generally made aggressive moves with the crop and my arms to get him to back off. He backed off to get out of reach of the business end of the crop but tried it again a short time later. Since I'm in an open pasture (I don't have a round pen) and it was muddy and slippery this evening I really didn't have a leg to stand on so to speak. He turned his rump to me at the end and though he didn't kick I got the hint. I was standing partially behind a half-wall of the barn so was able to give some correction with a little safety though I'm sure the correction didn't sink in. I don't feel I've been a complete namby-pamby with this horse, knowing he needed a strong hand, and I've been quite bossy about the feet and struggling in halter, but I'm definitly low man on the totem pole.

Outside of shouting, waving and being generally noisy and obnoxious is there anything I can do to get the point across to him safely? I've had green horses before (though with this horse's experience he shouldn't be that green with ground manners, just immature) but never with the spitefullness thrown in and directed all at me. Any suggestions would be appreciated and notification of any of your clinics nearby.

Thank you,

First of all, you can get a few of your friends together and put on a clinic. That way I can come to you for less than you could come to me and we'd be able to work your horses rather than you watching someone else work their horses.

Probably the number one horse problem is the respect issue. We end up holding a horse that weighs about a half ton on the end of a flimsy line trying to get it to do things it sees no purpose to or would rather not do. The horse resents it and expresses that resentment. Outweighed and outgunned we often find ourselves saying, "THIS IS NOT GOOD!!"

Screaming, hollering, making aggressive moves in this situation without a clear cut purpose is counter-productive and may actually encourage the actions you're trying to correct.

Now then, what do you suppose would happen of the horse was in a herd situation and told the herd leader, "Not interested!"? The leader would immediately say by its actions, "Either take the leadership away from me or leave."

If the rebel is determined enough it can take the leadership. It only needs to be slightly more determined to be leader than the leader is to remain leader. If a horse is *slightly* more determined to be leader than its handler the balance flips. When people understand and are able to use herd dynamics AND are determined to be leader, the balance can be maintained - mostly because the human has better reasoning capabilities than the horse.

In nature disagreements are settled in one of two ways...either submit to the will of the leader OR choose whether to fight or leave. To the leader it really makes no difference what the choice is because the leader is convinced it can win the fight and really won't lose any sleep if the rebel leaves.

But it does matter to the rebel. If the rebel has ANY doubt whatsoever it can best the leader it will not try to best the leader. It then has to chose between two other options...submit or leave.

Survival is in being part of the herd. In the herd it has many more ears and eyes and it only needs to run faster than the slowest member when a predator approaches.

If it leaves, it must find another herd as soon as possible. Unable to do that it then seeks to rejoin the herd it was banished from. It then follows a genetically pre-programmed re-establishment procedure that leaders are naturally bound to honor. Soon the rebel is not a rebel anymore.

The bonder, whose location is available free through my email autoresponder Bonder@MarvWalker , recreates that scenario with the human ACTING like a lead horse. Since the horse is pre-programmed to react to the actions of the leader the fact the actions are being performed by a human has no bearing. If you could train a dog to perform the bonder, the horse would STILL comply.

The only real variable is whether or not the horse chooses to fight and many of them do. Yours is choosing to fight. He's not snaking his neck, baring his teeth and charging in on you (some do that too), but he is still choosing to fight. In nature, you would close in together and start kicking and biting each other as fiercely as you could until one of you flees or dies.

But we cannot close in and exchange blows and bites with him. We can however defeat his attack by doing the unexpected. We convince him by whatever means necessary that if we end up in the same spot at the same time HE will die. We circle and drive him from the side, we reach him with a lunge whip or a pole when we aren't even close to him and we form a mental image of him bleeding and dying.

By following the bonding procedure we are placing him in several situations that guide him to respond to the situation in a set way.

If one does not have a round pen one *can* adapt, but the more adaptable you are, the more safety becomes a priority. I have performed the bonder with some pretty big horses in some pretty small stalls and I know it CAN be done but it can feel pretty intimidating.

The essence of the bonder is the control of the horse. You control every action, every move. You are then acting the role of a leader and the horse responds accordingly.

If you don't have an enclosure, you may try it with a leadline and a lunge whip. Use the whip to keep the horse off you, the leadline to keep it within your control sphere. Direct it one way, then the other according to the scenario. Being careful to not get tangled up or kicked or run over. Do as much as you feel comfortable with without getting an "in over your head feeling".

Click here to check out my very reasonably priced DVD inventory covering many of the subjects featured on my site's pages in greater depth.

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