Bad Ground Manners?

This topic contains 24 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Joe-Joe Joe-Joe 2 years, 12 months ago.

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  • peteandsam Original Poster peteandsam
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 3

    I bought my horse pete about 3 months ago, and he has AWFUL ground manners.
    hes off the track, so he is used to doing whatever he wants. I have a chain on him, but that doesn’t trop him from circling me when he gets excited. He also LOVES to headbutt, which is annoying and dangerous. I have been doing groundwork with him- walking, teaching him “ho” and “stand” and he is responding fairly well. when he walks without me asking him to, I back him up again and make him stop and wait until I tell him to go again.
    any exercises for a pushy horse?

    3 Phases, 2 Hearts, 1 Passion. Eventing.

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    How old is he and how long has been off the track? Important details for a more useful response. Wear a helmet when working with him until he settles a bit. Let him head butt your helmet once, he likely won’t do it twice. Just happen to be in the way with your helmet and hope he bounces his little muzzle off of it, mean I know, but far better than finding yourself on the ground XXX minutes later, broken and bloody with no clue or resorting to actively swatting him in the face out of fear, anger, frustration and/or defense with ANYthing : ) He is 1000+/- lbs: YOU are NOT. You will NOT win a physical war with him, don’t go there and don’t teach him that HE can.

    No simple or short answers (prepare yourself for the eternal “one question, two trainers, 10 answers and they are ALL right” dance, it’s a horsemanship thing : ) for you on this so I will offer general info and let the other horsemen here fill in as desired. There are some pretty savvy folks here : ) First, foremost, and a point we will ALL make with equal adamance and care: find yourself a QUALITY trainer whether you are experienced or not, and ASAP. The internet is great for networking but not for the necessary and timing-critical hands-on assistance that you need and your horse deserves. The fear and insecurity has to be dealt with first (can’t talk/teach very effectively to anything not listening), then the manners can develop as you are simple, consistent and clear in your requests.

    He might be used to getting what he wants, not good, but be careful attributing that to all track management in general. Not all OTTBs are poorly treated or managed. Not all trainers are bad or neglectful in the ways and manners of a young, fit, built to run and race horse. Fortunately, the less desirables are not as common, we just hear about them more often. Sadly, the GOOD anywhere kinda slides under the wire more often than not.

    Most working Tbs at a track have a pretty deeply set work ethic and the difficulty coming OFF the track is that the ethic is disrupted: different environment/job, no experience or security with it yet, not familiar with the radically different routine, different feeds/hay/water, sounds and smells are different, the horses are different, activities are different, people are different, a limited to no understanding of the ways of transitioning an OTTB to the private sectour, it’s a whole new planet for Pone. He is rude because no-one bothered yet, didn’t know how or was afraid to tell him otherwise. Now is YOUR chance! YOU are now the PARENT, the TEACHER, the whole PTA, apply yourself as such : D

    Do NOT let him turn around you, stand your ground and keep facing your intended/initial direction (LEAD, do NOT follow), stop and redirect him. Calmly MAKE him go back the way he came and stand still long enough to know that you are praising him for STANDING. Then walk on, one step at a time and repeat if necessary. Micro-manage, it’s ok at this point. When he starts to turn, YOU stop, put him back, stand for a count of at least three but no more than five, and start again. Standing is an issue for most green horses under most and/or new conditions if we are to be honest about it. Stand for a count of two if needed, but move because YOU said so, not him. Slowly increase the stand time as he accepts and honours the request. Timing: stand, but ask for the move before he steps out. Best to establish this first. STAY as calm as possible. Your energy will feed his. DO continue with your ground work skills ( not gadgets) and don’t be afraid to don your helmet and vest, yes, even on the ground. I have a young horse here that some times requires it in her youthful opinionation moments and I have a 27 year old that I don’t hesitate to wear protective gear around when working, specially when the vet comes to visit. Safety allows a less interrupted focus, not false confidence (unless one is an idiot : ), and thus allows for a truer, more flowing, educational school. There really is so much MORE to this whole adventure for you, please stay in touch here and keep us posted!! Welcome to the SmartPak Forum, by the way : )

    Good luck with this journey, Peteandsam, OTTBs can be the best partners and very professional when their job is clear and they are secure in it. This is a transition time for both of you. Patience (3 months isn’t very long in equine relationship terms), not lenience, consistency with compassion, a GOOD trainer, and just loving on him now and then will go a long, LONG way to generating and developing the solid companion you are hoping for : )

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    Hi peteandsam! Sounds like a good start on the groundwork sessions! I agree with what Pheets has said – a professional’s advice and direction on effective groundwork communication would clearly benefit both you and pete. Sometimes it takes an observer to identify ways to improve your relationship and, in this case, safety.

    My mare was fairly hot-headed when I got her and would sometimes walk on top of me (she was used to getting her way, too). Even though I’ve been riding decades, I hired a trainer to help me work with her. Not because I could not do it on my own, but because it would be more effective with someone working with me. I realized this mare had me wrapped around her little fetlock. My trainer identified areas where I needed to be more assertive and less affectionate and nip disrespect in the bud; she pointed out little things I had overlooked such as ear sensitivity. I made some dietary adjustments to calm her, and we did hours and hours of ground work outside of the two hours each week with the trainer. This very much accelerated anything I would have done on my own. In addition I followed my usual working plan:

    When a horse “likes” to move his feet (is overly energetic), I operate better off line in a ring, and I make him move until I say stop. If he will join up, we go forward, if not, I make him move some more. If we go forward he (still not on a lead line) cannot pass me or move around me. If so, he is made to move again. I prefer to work without leads as it is just a tug of war with a willful horse and I am safer at a distance with a lunge whip. Never. Ever. Ever. Hit the HORSE with the whip. I would repeat this until he lunges and joins up and follows calmly. He goes with you, or he goes and goes and goes. Eventually he will tire and want to stop and go with you.

    This is part of our weekly routine. My horses will try to join up quickly, but we are there for exercise and a reminder that I move the feet. I’ve added sending exercises (ie., self-load on the trailer) and liberty training. You can modify this to suit your training needs as this works on building a thinking horse. Ultimately the lesson is that rest and reward comes from being a well-mannered horse. (Note – if he does well, end the session, that’s the best reward.)

    The second phase is with the lead or lungeline. Once the horse follows without passing you not on a line, you work on his respect for the lead line. The rope is not the boss – YOU are. There should never be any tension in a lead line when leading a horse. You can plainly see the level of training a horse has by the amount of tension on that rope. He will not respect it until he respects you.

    This is important – there will be things he won’t want to be lead near or toward. If he is a hellion normally, you won’t be able to hold him if he gets really determined.

    I like Pheets’ helmet plan with the head butt. I usually thump on the nose (it doesn’t take much) then back him up three paces. He needs to respect your space and who is boss. When he makes aggressive moves, he is saying you are lower than him, and that is the most dangerous place a person can be around a horse.

    It can be a complicated process. Best to boil it down to your space and his space and ne’er the two shall meet, until both know where the borders are. In the game of ‘feets-move’ make certain that YOU always win.

    He needs to know verbal commands “back”, “over”, as well as “whoa” and “stand”. And I’d add carrot stretches just for fun and to work on flexibility.

    Pete needs a little more persistence on your part, and a lot more sweat on his. You’ve got a good start and are headed in the right direction. Good luck – and I sincerely hope you’ll get a trainer even for just a few sessions to gain some assessment and training methods. Please keep us posted.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    I should probably clarify something. When I say my trainer pointed out the problem with ear sensitivity – I knew Carmagirl did not like to have her ears messed with – she yanked her head away when they were touched. I just didn’t realize I could do anything about it – as it was probably the result of abuse. My trainer helped me to desensitize her and not allow her to yank away if something bumped her ears. She still doesn’t ‘like’ it but holds still; handling her is much easier after we worked on it. Left on my own, I’d have just taken that flaw as a part of her, but we fixed it instead. Trainers can show us the possible in the impossible.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Mapale being one of the savvy…. : )

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    I will also add a clarification of sorts: If I had read the OP’s Supplement thread first, I would likely have answered THIS one a bit differently. Oh well.. May I offer you a grain of salt for now, Peteandsam?

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    I see that now, too, Pheets, (thanks for the nice words, btw). The trainer she has may or may not be the right person to help her with this problem. Some trainers focus on the rider (rider’s seat, hands, method) within a discipline. And then there are plain ole horse trainers that work on basics in horses – this horse lacks the basics for most areas of performance. She needs a plain ole trainer that works on horses, if that’s not who she’s got then she needs to consider one for just a short while as a rider’s trainer is more into how the rider should work. Of course I could be just as off base as before…. hard to know without seeing the horse and the rider in person. For a young rider with her first horse, this one seems to be off to a good start, just needs a few tweaks that’s all.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    peteandsam Original Poster peteandsam
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 3

    pheets- I probably should have added that I do have a trainer. He has a TON of experience with OTTBs, and he has been helping a TON. 🙂
    pete is 8 and he has been off the track for almost a year, but has only been in training for 3 months 🙂

    3 Phases, 2 Hearts, 1 Passion. Eventing.

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    No harm, Peteandsam, reading comprehension has not been my strong point, ever. I have to read and re-read several times before i post anything, then I have to edit for an hour to make it legible and sensical. Thank you for your good nature : )

    As for your trainer, good on YOU for having a capable person available! I have been in the horse biz professionally for over 50 years and as a trainer, competitour, owner, handler etc., I would not consider any new horse without another trainer’s (or two or three) input and possible assistance. I love to troubleshoot and analyze, re-analyze, rate and evaluate every ride, school or event/class. The more we discuss, the more we learn. The more we learn, the better horsefolks we can be. At my yard, we love to ride for minutes, discuss for hours. We are NOT sitting on our horses at the time (pet peeve of mine: standing around, sitting like a ton of bricks on your horse after an active work/school/class for no good reason.. : ).

    Congrats on your boy, Peteandsam, hang tight with your trainer. A year isn’t all that long in horse relationships, either. I will only reiterate the “patience yet stand your ground” approach, BE the MUM! (and DO consider wearing your helmet even during ground work) and wish you a safe and fulfilling learning experience, with a solid, cherished partner as the result : ) Looking forward to progress reports : D

    Please keep us posted, several of us here, myself especially, are OTTB fans (I have two and they are most beloved)!

    Mapale, credit where credit is due : ) Tho I might not agree with all you, or anybody else says, and vice verse! I see what I might not agree with and welcome it as just another way to look at things when MY way doesn’t work : ) Different, NOT wrong! Just more tools for
    the toolbox, making me a better horseman. Brings about GOOD conversation, too, with substance. Thank you : )

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    No worries, Pheets. Just put in my two cents as asked, I have no notion if my advice is either appreciated or will be helpful. I offer what works for me – always – proven at least once. LOL!

    The best and only strength we have on our side is that thing on our shoulders so it is best to put a helmet on it. 😉

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    I pretty much feel the same way about anything i write, Mapale. I don’t expect or wait for anyone to agree and it’s ok if they don’t. I will also change my opinion as readily as I can form it if given good enough cause/info. I think you are consistently helpful and generous with the time it takes to write out some of your posts. Always informative! Your delivery is better than mine, I think you are easier to read : )

    I love my helmets but mostly I am big into self-reliance.

    All in all, I think PeteandSam will be just fine, I just hope they can have some fun along the way : )

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    Pheets,
    Sure would be a dull world if we all agreed all the time; individual horses and their very unique problems would suffer for it. They need out of the box thinkers. I find that we agree on most things – especially horse welfare.

    My posts are more like a cookbook, yours are prose with good info, suggestions, and great stories. I have learned a great deal from you, and Carmagirl thanks you.

    The beauty of this forum is the free-flowing of ideas. Some shoe, some don’t, some show, some don’t, some drive, some ride, some train, some fall off. What am I saying – we all fall off. :O

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 12 months ago by Mapale Mapale.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Yes, Mapale..Some do, some don’t … and we all still like each other : D

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Horses off the track usually have excellent ground manners, because they are so accustomed to people doing odd things with them. I would suggest treating him as you would a weanling, who knows absolutely nothing, and begin with very basic stuff. Be calm, kind, patient and firm. As soon as he does something correctly (or the way you want him to do it), reward him – with a pat, a good boy, and then quit doing anything at all.

    It is never the horse's fault

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    I have found and experienced the same during my track time as well, Joe-Joe. The norm is a reasonably well behaved horse, albeit green as new printed cash as far as “ring work” or their new job is concerned. Poor things don’t have a clue at first.

    Every now and then, tho, an animal will present with bad manners (and not limited to the track, bad manners are everywhere). I think for OTTBs tho, the manners most notably will degrade, IF they do, when the horse changes venues/jobs and environments (trainers and management, too) and are sometimes not supported or managed with that in mind during the first few months or so OFF the track. There is a definite transition period for OTTBs that fares better with a generally different order of training. Most need to stay in some sort of daily work routine or at the very least human interaction and engagement as that is what they look for and expect, that is where their security is as that is all they know (working) so far. Others need the down time to detox and recover mentally as well as physically, sometimes up to a year or so, different for each horse, of course…. My most efficient and successful transitions have been made with that in mind. It is easier for me to untrain the racetrack expectations and habits first, then introduce my new and inevitably different plan. It can be complicated but ohso rewarding in the long run : )

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

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