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Unwelcomed change in behavior of my new horse

Hi there, a week ago, I was given a reg paint mare, approx 6 yrs old, beautiful horse. So far, she has been easy to handle on the ground. Also, I've ridden her a couple times with little to no problems. My first question, which prompted me to get on the internet and search the problem is about her behaviour I encountered tonight on my late night visit to her before dusk. We had our normal encounter, petting, scratching and the sort but all of a sudden she turns her hind quarters to me kicks at me and runs off, circles back around, runs back up to me and stops. She does this four times before she changes her "dance" on her way back to me...she started pawing as she was coming closer to me, I backed up against my barn and then turned to run on the side as I felt she wasn't going to stop and was trying to actually paw me.

Was this to hurt me or play? Being 24 with not much horse experience, I thought this might have been intentional and it really upset me. I thought up to this point we've bonded, as I've worked with her everyday for quite some time just taking walks etc. Next question is the last time I rode her, as I opened her up into a canter,she sort of bucked a couple times. Also, she came awful close to some fruit trees, I think she was trying to brush me off. I noticed a cut on her inner thigh (from breaking through barbed wire fence at previous owners home, which is why they gave her up) so I was thinking this might be what was causing her to do that as it may hurt with the sweat??

I've decided not to play with her long or ride her even until this is totally healed. I need some help with my first question because to be completely honest, I'm afraid to go back into the pasture with her. Please shed some light. If she was trying to hurt me, how do I stop it? I have not given her any reason to do that to me, I've not even raised my voice at her...very upsetting.

Thank you,

Hi McKenzie,

You have not given this horse any real reason to respect or trust you. It takes more than “petting, scratching and the sort” to develop a bond of trust and respect with any horse. It is required that the human become the good leader. It takes more than affection to develop a bond of trust and respect between humans as well. Trust and respect are developed/earned over time through mutually successful active experiences that are impactful. An example is the ability of the human to lead, guide and direct the movements of the horse. Intentionally, consciously and precisely asking for each and every step a horse takes and then immediately rewarding the horse for its effort at compliance, is an example of what I am speaking of. There must be some, even simple, action, specifically requested by the leader (you) that the horse can do and then get rewarded for by the removal of all pressure (stop asking for anything). Additionally, setting and keeping a consistent boundary of personal space is another way of developing respect and trust with a horse. You should not let a horse to come into your personal space unless you invite it and really want it. Its better for you to go to the horse. Keeping a consistent boundary and being the consistent leader of each and every step that horse takes (one-step-at-a-time training) will establish you as the great and trusted leader.

You will probably need to use a tool of some sort to fend the horse off and set and keep the boundary. A tool such as a dressage whip (not to hit the horse with) or a flag (small piece of plastic affixed to the end of a dressage whip), are very good tools for this. However, a tool is only as good as the skill of the person using it. Probably you do not have these skills as yet or you would be using them now. This is very difficult to try to teach you with the written word. It would be like trying to teach you to Tango in a letter. One has to really see it to get it. So, I strongly urge you to view some training DVDs to get the education you do not currently possess. There are many good ones found on the internet and I have a few that would be very helpful to you, easily gotten through the Shopping Corral of my website. No matter whose DVDs you get, get some and watch them to learn the techniques I am speaking of. It is easy to scare a horse using a tool inappropriately. So, learn how to do this. Once you understand how to make requests and then reward the horse for its effort, you will easily gain the trust and respect you desire from your horse. Unfortunately, many humans don’t have a clue as to how to do what I am speaking of. They cling to misconceptions, erroneous opinions and improper projections onto this most innocent of animals. For instance, calling a horse stubborn, willful, bad, etc. is a projection of human traits unto a non-human individual. It is just a horse trying to feel it has some control over its own survival (fending for itself as your horse is doing) in the absence of a decent leader. In the wild, the horse herd gets its sense of safety (that they will survive) from the decisions made by their leader. They respect and trust their leader. When she goes, they follow without question, coercion, or force of any kind. Their survival depends on her. She directs their movement. You need to do this too. Even simple, elementary movement (walk, stop, turn) presented as precise and clear requests, and then rewarded with a removal of the pressure of the request (a few moments of peace), will establish trust and respect with a horse. This, coupled with appropriate and consistent boundaries, will bring about the relationship that you desire.

Keep me posted and ask me questions that come up. I am here to help.

Sincerely, Franklin

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