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I can't control my horse on the ground.

 

Question: I have a beautiful 9 year old Paint/Qtr gelding. He hadn't been handled in over a year before we brought him home, but we've been handling him everyday. However, most of the handling has been allowing him to graze on the lead. Last weekend, I attempted to give him some wormer paste, and he went ballistic on the lead, running in circles around me, bucking, hopping, etc. Since then, every time I've started to lunge him, he's given me the same performance, running, bucking and acting like a wild one! He's not getting exercise other than this, except when he runs in his pasture a little. Prior to this, it was all I could do to get him moving on the lunge. He's had a lot of Natural Horsemanship training, which I am now learning. The previous owner was afraid of him and allowed him to be the boss. What do you think is causing him to act this way, and what should I do?

Thank you for taking the time in asking for help with this issue. You are not alone in your frustration with our interaction with horses. All you want to do is be safe and get along, right? You would be surprised how often this type of issue comes up. I am not going to give you the easy fix through a method because we should learn concepts as much as methods. Let me help by identifying two concepts in your question:

First,
I want to address this concept of “Natural Horsemanship”, NH seems to have become a generic term that people have been throwing around without really understanding the full true meaning of the principles. I define NH as “Effective leadership through the language of the horse”.  Now what does that mean? Horses are all about self-preservation; survival dominates their thinking. Their social interaction is what makes them feel safe. Some people think that NH means to act in a way to talk softly and use gentle methods to teach. That concept is admirable, but it always comes down to effective leadership through controlling their feet (hence the method). It has also been said, “Be as soft as possible, but as firm as needed, and reward for the slightest try”. This means do not peck at the horse, “get in, get it done, get out”. be confident and steadfast in your method and principles. 
 
An effective equine leader is defined as someone who not only can move the feet of the horse, but also controls the feet of the horse. It has been said that “He who moves his feet first; loses”.  It is clear in your question that your horse is controlling your feet you have forfeited your leadership roll. (hence you lost his respect for safety). It really does not matter how much or how little your horse has been trained in the ways of NH because each horse sees each human as an individual that needs to work out the herd hierarchy. The bottom line is; learn how to control the horse's feet. The more effective you are the more you will succeed. How do we do this? That is why I, and many other clinicians have training aids like videos, smart phone apps, websites, social media, clinics, lessons, email, and even books to help with your leadership  through training methods, but you really need something else.
 

Second:
“The something else”. I want to address fear. You cannot live or train with fear. The handlers fear of getting hurt is the fastest way for a horse to learn that he is the leader and not you. Horses learn from the release of negative stimulus (releasing pressure). Many times when we apply a correct level of stimulus for that situation, we you will get a negative feedback or (resistance). Now what is the feedback? It can be anything like: kicking, biting, bucking, head tossing, running away, rearing, bolting, or even the desired response of turning, going, and stopping etc.. When the handler applies the correct amount of stimulus and the horse gives an unwanted response, many times a handler will question their "method" or tuck their tail and runs for safety. Well now what is the horse thinking? “”Hey, every time she jabs me in the rib cage or puts something in my mouth, all I have to do is rear up and squeal and I am left alone, “I will make a note of that for next time””. You need to fake confidence until you have confidence. Find a method you like and stick to it.

  Randy Byers

Remember, horses are great people trainers. Ask yourself what has your horse taught you today.

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