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City Slicker and equine relationships

Okay Franklin,

I'm a city slicker and my girl friend is a county girl. A little background on us is that when I was 13 my mother put me in riding lessons, while my girl friend had 3 horses most of her life. Today: We have 2 horses and let me explain why. After we moved to the county, "I want a horse." I said Okay and her best friend at work gave her a horse. This horse is huge by my standards and was scared of her at first. I see her coming and I want my feet to be higher then her's. But now days I'll walk her from her stall to the water can and back (a few times). We bord her at an amish farm where the barn owner (I believe is great with horses). A month later, another border was going to take his horse to auction (to be put down) because he didn't have the time nor the money. So we purchase her. So now on to my horse. We I go out to the pasture to bring her up to the round pin to brush her, or just to pet her she doesn't want to come. It seems like I have to go out the pasture and when I do I look at her ears. If they are down I move away from her, and when she walks up to me and I have nothing for her she leaves. I'm sure this is very common. I did ask the barn owner about her as he knows alot about her and told me that at frist she was a very mean horse in the pasture. Now days she has clam down alot. I can't ride her yet because of a back problem that I have, but some day (in the next year or so I might be able to. So now all I want her to know is that I'm the boss, and when you see me, come to me and stay with me until I leave. I do know she knows my voice and this is why. About two days ago, she and another horse corner a pony and decided to kick it down to the ground (or would of) until I raised my voice at her (yelling her name) and telling her to stop it and move down to the pasture smartly! She stop immediately and start to walk away from the pony and looking back a couple of times to see if I was still there. Now that you know the little story about her, my question is this:

#1: When brushing her and soon afterwards she starts to paw at the ground what does this mean? Does it mean okay dad, I want to move and get away from you brushing me, or what?

#2: When I enter her stall she will put her ears down a little as if to say "dad, I don't like you being in my stall because I can't get away if you hurt me." How can I pronoun to her that, I'm only in the stall to just pet her a little.

#3: When I enter the pasture and call her name, how can I get her to understand that I want her to come up to me (without me chasing her in the pasture) and either let me brush her or just pet her and talk with her? (Note: her step sister does the same thing to my girl friend. Yesterday was kind of shocking because once my girl friend got her horse and started to lead her up, my horse decided to follow as well.

Thank you, Dan

Thank you for your questions. Overall, I suggest you actually develop a relationshiip with your horse where you actually do communite successfully with each other. I will intrepret her behavior, but the bottom line will be for you (its the human's responsiblity to get on the same page as the horse, so to speak) to learn how to really connect and engage the animal's mind. Horses follow the leader. If you become the good leader for your horse, it will want to come and stay by your side and follow you confidently anywhere.

This is accomplished not by petting or giving food or treats. That would be giving a bribe for love (coersion). A human actually needs to earn the horse's trust and respect by becoming the good leader of all action and motion when with that animal. The leadership is quiet, precise and confident. You are fullfilling the role that the good herd leader (mare) does in the wild. I strongly suggest you get a few good training dvds. These will give you technique and methods it would take me hours to describe. Besides, like learning to Tango, you have to see it to get it. You have to apply the techniques shown in the dvds actively and skillfully. First off practice simply leading the horse forward, stopping, turning, etc. and doing it very consciously, on-step-at-a-time. Reward the horse very often to attempts at compliance (trying to do as requested). A human needs to know how to ask for movement and through that process, get connected as the animal's good leader. Succesfully do that, even with small actions, sets up a human as the leader of the dance. Its that simple.

Question #1
Pawing can have a number of reasons. But in this case, I think the horse is the leader here, not you. She is trying to show she can intimidate you a bit. This is natural. I hate the term 'boss'. I like good leader. A 'good leader' may be the boss. However 'good leader' does implies a higher standard of operation. Like Gandhi or M. L. King. Once you have some good interaction with her where you lead an active dance...You'll be able to say 'quit!' and the horse will stop. For now..if she paws, untie her and ask for about 10 steps back. Then bring her back to the rail and the instant she paws again, back her 10 steps. Say QUIT at the same time you provide the consequence. This is not a punishment. This is a skillfully applied consequence. They have a different feel. Just this action will begin to bond the horse to you. When she stops pawing on a verbal QUIT, wait 10-15 seconds and then give a little verbal praise. No fawing over the horse trying to comply, simply a Good Girl. She will get it and appreciate the litle break and the little praise. You are leading action here.

Question #2
The ears down position is a little threat towards you. She really is consciously intimidating you so she can feel like the leader, so she will feel she will survive. This is what horses do when no leader is around. They need a sense of leadership to feelings of safety. They are prey animals. If a human can provide a sense of safety (feeling sof safety) for a horse, through guiding the movements of the horse , it will bond deeply and not want to leave the presence of that human. If you become proficient at leading movement so the horse complies and does so happily (willingly), you be well bonded with her. Her behavior is normal and probably has gone on for a long time (habitual). So, be careful. She may show some 'resistance' to your leadership at first. This can be why some folks hire professional trainers. Lead the dance skilfully to move through this.

Question #3
Here is a good one for you. Take out a little grain in a bucket to the horse. Set the bucket on the gound in front of your horse and stand behind it with a 'wand' (3 to 5 feet whip) in your hand. By waving the wand at the horse (wave at feet and not at head) and keeping the horse five to 8 feet away from the bucket and then allowing it to come and get a bite or two and then having to back up away from the bucket and wait, all at your direction. End it after 10 minutes with the horse being allowed to have a bit more. Then go away. Repeat this for a day or two, several times a day and see the relationship you have after that.

Right now it is only about you becoming the leader. Again, the mare can aggressively be resistant to your leadership. In this case get very good at something, longeing, asking for some simple movement forward and do it. Remember to get a couple of dvds. I have a couple that would prove very helpful to you. The one done in Greece is the most comprehensive and the best deal I think.

Good Luck....Sincerely, Franklin

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