bend, the ear, and the eye
This sounds like
a children’s poem. Ideally, when working the horse in a round pen or paddock
– you want the horse to be focused on you. The round pen helps with this
because of its shape, when the horse is moving it’s going to be bent like a
banana towards you. Watch
for the posture of the horse. Does he carry his head high, nose out to
the rail, or turn the rear to you? These are all different signs that
the horse doesn’t believe in you as the leader. The posture tells you
that the focus is elsewhere. Look at the horse. It’s sometimes hard
to tell if they are paying attention, but you can tell by where the ears are.
If the horse has an ear on you, more than likely the eye is there too.
This is a good cue that the horse is paying attention to you.
Before the horse
will draw into you, he will square up on your posture. This is the “I’m
ready” signal. When you get the horse to square up on you, it’s usually
only a matter of time before you can draw them into you. You can test
for this by stepping in front of the horse’s space while the horse is walking
around you. Stand about 20-25 feet in front of the horse and step over
into the direction that the horse is moving and then take a step backwards.
The horse that’s ready to square up will stop when you move into their space.
Eventually, you can use your posture to stop the horse – but you probably have
to start with a more obvious cue to the horse. Sometimes, I need to take
a couple of steps over in order to get the horse to stop. I sometimes
even throw a lariat in front of the horse to get the horse to stop and pay attention.
Approach this in steps.
Get the horse
to listen to you. Look for the ear/eye Step
into the horse’s space, get him to stop. Lower
your shoulders, take a step back Wait,
you’ll be surprised what patience will do! A
horse that runs through you is telling you a story, “you aren’t going to make
me stop – I’m higher up the food chain than you”. If this happens, just
be patient. Work the horse by asking for direction changes and continually
test to see if the horse is ready to square up.
The draw means
that your horse finds you as a comfort spot and is drawn to you. Ideally,
your horse will walk directly towards you when you ask him in with posture.
If I am having
difficulty drawing a horse in, sometimes I'll stand in a less threatening posture
with my side to the horse. I also used to think that my horse needed a
lot of pressure to be uncomfortable so that he would find me as the comfort
spot. I've since found that less pressure seems to work better.
If you find the
right time to take the forward movement out of the horse's feet, you get the
draw. The horse finds that drawing gets him comfort and release. If you
just take the pressure off and wait for the horse to come through it happens
-- give the horse plenty of opportunity!
What good is it
to have a horse that follows you around? Basically, the horse has established
that you are the leader in your “herd”. This is important because the
leader commands respect - lead out of respect not fear.
What do you accomplish
by this? The end result from the hooking on is that your horse should have enough
respect that it will respond to you at liberty. How are you going to get to
Visualize your horse
hooking on with you at the end of a lead rope.Then
visualize your horse hooking on with you in a round pen.Then
visualize your horse hooking on with you in an arena.Then
visualize your horse hooking on with you in a 100’ by 300’ paddock.Then
visualize your horse hooking on with you in a 1-acre turn out.Then
visualize your horse hooking on with you in a 5-acre pasture.Then
visualize your horse hooking on with you in a 5-acre pasture with 10 other horses.Then
visualize your horse hooking on with you in open rangeland.
And your still
yielding your horse in each of these situations, just like the lead mare in
a herd would do.
Working with different
types of horses to “hook on”
types of horses obviously require different handling, training and treatment
when working on “hooking on”. We have categorized six personality types
of horses and some methods for working with them in the round/square pen.
Aggressive Horses – The “cranky mare”, stallions, and wild horsesHorses
that exhibit dominant aggressive behavior usually have been at the top of the
herd pecking order or regard people as inferior animals. They may actually
not trust and be quite fearful of people. These types of horses need to
be given a lot of room to move and plenty of time to work out their issues with
people. Try to be “quiet” with your posture but be extra cautious around
these types of horses. Drive them off if they turn and charge you -- otherwise,
give them room and allow them to gather the courage to stop, square up, or approach
you when THEY are ready. A round pen is usually more effective when working
with these types of horses. You may even want to work this horse off of
another horse in the round pen. It’s much safer for you, and it’s a good
way to get a horse used to the idea of working another horse.
There’s a difference
between aggressive and assertive. An aggressive horse will yield you out
of the way with no regard for your safety. An assertive horse is usually
testing the “personal space” boundaries to see what it can get away with.
Obviously, you would treat these two types of horses differently. This
may be the “spoiled” horse -- the type that will use you as a scratching post.
It’s most important to work on personal space issues with this type of horse.
Establish your “personal space bubble” and reinforce this with the horse.A
lot of times you’ll see this type of horse run straight up to you and stop as
if you were a wall. These horses usually want to be with you, they are
not afraid of human contact. They just don’t understand or respect you
and your space. It’s important to yield their shoulder, head and
hindquarters away from you. You may have to use more pressure; the end
of the lead, a training stick, etc. to keep the horse off of you and out of
Horse – The Horse with Separation Anxiety
seen a horse that’s so agitated that he sweats out of nervousness and dances
in place when his buddy/pasture pal is out of his sight. Believe it or
not the horse may have developed a bond with another horse, goat, llama, cow,
etc. Some people refer to this as “herd bound” -- the horse that is difficult
to separate from a buddy. This
is a horse that lacks confidence and relies on you or another horse for safety
and comfort. Hooking on is usually not a problem, but sending them off can be.You
may want to work both horses at the same time in the round pen. Work towards
trying to get them to travel in opposite directions or to have one of them stand
still while the other works around it and changes directions, stops, etc.You
already know that you have a horse that lacks confidence – so allow the horse
to take one then two steps away from you and reward. Work up to extended periods
of walking, trotting, and canter. Remember to include changes of direction
with this exercise. Constantly reassure the horse that he can come to
you for comfort.
This is a good
problem to have! Curiosity usually carries over into bravery. These
types of horses are usually bold and ready to listen and learn. A lot
of times you’ll get the assertive tendencies with these horses too. It’s
important to establish your personal space “bubble” with these horses.
You can be less concerned with quick movements and more concerned with getting
the right movement out of the horse. When
you ask the horse to move off in a direction in the round/square pen cut off
their path – step in front of their space and ask the horse to stop. Take
a step back and see if the horse will square up on you. Invite the horse
into your space. A lot of times, you can work the horse in about a 30-foot
area by sending the horse off in a direction, asking for a change then switching
directions numerous times. This can be very successful with a horse that
learns quickly. Give the horse a lot of opportunity to succeed.
Horse - Afraid of People, Abused
This is the horse
with an elevated flight instinct or a horse that is not sure of people.
Most likely this type of horse has not had a lot of interaction with humans
or what contact they have had has been a bad experience. You’ve got your
work cut out for you here because you not only have to gain the trust of this
horse but you need to be sure that you don’t let the horse run to get away from
you. Let him move his feet, but keep him focused on you. Avoid quick
movement with your hands and body.I
would not let this horse make more than two circles around me before I changed
direction. It’s easy to think that you should just drive this type of
horse around in circles until it’s tired, but that’s counter productive.
Look for subtle changes in the horse to know that he’s paying attention.
You must be VERY aware of the horse’s posture, eye, and ear --the instant this
horse indicates any interest in you, let it stop and look. Take what the
horse gives to you and be prepared to spend more time with this type of horse
– you may have to work in “baby steps” as opposed to “giant steps” in terms
of training phases.
The Horse Who
Can’t Move its Feet
This isn’t usually
a problem with horses that have grown up out on the range, but stalled horses
often don’t know how to move their feet. They can be like big clumsy kids
who step all over themselves or may express their anxiety by moving their feet
around with no purpose.When
working in the round pen; a horse that is “stuck” may need to have some pressure
directed at them in order to get the energy level up and the feet moving.
Conversely, a horse that moves its feet out of anxiety needs to have the feet
directed at a job – such as yielding. You get to the mind through the
don’t want to be chasing these horses aimlessly around the pen, but you do want
to bring up the energy enough so that they are moving their feet. We will
put ground poles out spaced every 3-4 feet to get the horse thinking about foot
placement while working.
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