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Horse Only Allows Face To Face

She writes...

I also have a question for you that I was hoping would be answered in your 'dealing with the disrespectful horse' (or similar title, I'd have to look) tape.

A friend of mine has adopted a horse that has a questionable history. He is 6 and has never been ridden. She has the best intentions with him and really wants to help him. She cries on a regular basis because he is not trusting her yet. It's pathetic to watch her try and work with him. They can't get his feet trimmed, can't move past his head to brush him. He will only allow full frontal contact (approach him to his face, give him a treat standing in front of him, that's about it.) she can't move around him without him backing two steps away and then leaving when he is sure of the distance between the person and himself.

It's kindo' a weird case, I've had horses of all backgrounds and descriptions all my life and have always tried to help others with their horses but he won't give an inch. She has him in a large open corral (not a box stall) with another rescue (an older horse who would've gone for meat at the auctions) and they get along well but when the one horse is approached, the other horse will take two steps back and retreat to the other end of the corral.

I know this is why your videos are available and if you offer one that might deal with this particular topic, then I will purchase it but I thought maybe, as you offer your help so willingly, you could think of an approach that we haven't tried yet. The main problem is not being able to approach this horse from any other angle than head-on. I thought maybe he has tunnel vision... or some other medical/vision problem??? He's a large (over 16 hands), otherwise healthy gelding.

Thank you so much in advance for any advice you may be able to offer.

First of all a six year old horse that has never been ridden is an ideal subject for starting. By this time its skeletal structure growth plates have pretty much fused all over the horse. Traditionally people pay attention only to the knees closing if anything but there are other plates (areas of bone that need to harden good for strength) that are equally important. The longer you wait, the better, within reason that is - starting a 25 year old horse does not make for a whole lot of usable years.

Usually older horses have a "been there, done that attitude" and the process goes smoother.


This is also something that I see in a lot of horses that have been extensively worked by someone who has the technical knowledge yet lacks the intuition of the Parelli games and round penning in general. Facing becomes one of the predominant goals for those who grasp the mechanics but not the purpose.

I can think of no physical reason that may cause this so I would be inclined to act as though it is strictly behavioral.

Horses who have a sense of place (knowing where they stand and what is expected of them) have confidence (know what is expected of them and know beyond a shadow of a doubt they can do what it expected of them) are secure in their skins. This horse lacks a sense of place when it comes to humans.

If a horse lacks a sense of place when it comes to humans it is almost always the result of the HUMAN being a little fuzzy about THEIR place.

Horses understand one social placing and that is the herd's. Horses operate on another level which when you sort it out is based on selfishness - if I can take this for myself, great! If I can't, well, that's great too because I understand how it works. They are genetically pre-programmed to respond in a set manner to set actions.

We call these set actions, herd dynamics. Demonstrate to the horse that you are a more able leader than they are and they will follow.

Every so often you run into a horse that does not stay connected for long and you have to repeatedly bring the horse into compliance.

There are basically two ways of dealing with a horse like this.

One is to just keep bringing it into compliance then attempting what you want to do and if it becomes uncompliant you make it compliant by re-presenting the herd dynamic actions. To bring a horse into compliance I use the herd dynamics procedure that has come to be known as Marv Walker's Bonder. You can find links to readily available info and videos for the herd dynamics / "border" procedure I use with every horse I work with on the Index Page.

And the other is to figure out a way to take his defense away from him. I'm not there to see what he is actually like, I only have the email account, so I can't say for certainty how I would deal with him. I probably would contain him in an enclosure that would likely hold him then I would hook two 30 foot longe lines to his halter and let him get used to dragging them around.

When he settled down I would get someone to help and I'd begin to teach him to yield to pressure.

Teaching yielding to pressure is usually a one person job but since this horse insists on always facing it will require considerable experience to get past that. Since the way you teach yielding to pressure is to apply pressure from the side until the horse responds and then you release the pressure you're kind of at a loss with just one person with a horse who always faces. You can't get to the side to work.

But with two people at different angles to the horse it has to always be at an angle to at least one of them. Which ever person is at the angle is the one to apply the pressure.

When the horse automatically responds to the pressure in all directions, side to side and up and down this response can be used to keep the horse where you want it.

It also helps you to keep the horse in the direction you want just in case you want to let the horse back away as you casually advance past its head to its side. If it backs, carefully move with it until it stops and since it is responding to pressure you should be able to steer it backwards. Usually when a horse does not get immediate results from an evasive or resistance action it tends to quit the action.

Just keep trying different things until you make headway.

This is the type of horse that I like to work with. They teach you so much.

You will find readily and freely available videos and information about many of the subjects discussed here at the Index Page.

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