Question Category: Building a Better Relationship
Question: Dear Julie,
I have a really good friend to whom I give horse advice, since she just purchased her first horse. This horse is a nice gelding, young– only going on three, and I see potential dangers in how he reacts to her training approaches with him. Keep in mind we have a novice horse and a first time horse owner in her forties. I feel the horse needs discipline, but her approach is always to be nice in order to be his friend. This gelding has started kicking at her while grooming and almost kicked a little girl passing by him while cross tied. He will no longer stand for mounting and will turn and face her while longeing, and she thinks it is a good idea for him to rest his head on her shoulders and nibble at her clothing or anything in sight; he is always in her space. I feel he is hand-treated too much and spoiled to the point where she is not respected as his leader. I try to tell her what a 1,000 lb animal is capable of, but my advice is brushed off. I really need help so I don’t lose a friend in trying to tell her how to train her horse, but I also don’t want anyone to get hurt.
Sounds like your friend has made a lot of mistakes already, not the least of which was buying such a young horse. Any horse can become untrained when handled incorrectly, but it happens much faster with such a young horse who is not set in his training and who does not already have a lifetime of experience with good handlers. That is why I recommend that novice riders get a horse that is at least 10 years old, preferably older, and one who is well-trained and has had expert handling most of his life. The sad thing is that this is doing a disservice to the horse too, as he is learning bad things and so may turn out to be a “problem” horse for the rest of his life.
It is definitely a touchy thing to tell your friend you think she is doing things incorrectly, even when you are right! Eventually, as his bad behavior escalates, she will have some really bad experiences with this horse and probably will come to recognize the errors of her ways. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take her getting hurt to make this discovery.
I suggest you go to my Training Library and print off some pertinent articles about horse behavior, dominance and subordinance, natural horsemanship and dealing with horse problems. Just offer them to her as some interesting reading and let her take it from there. This way, it is not you pushing ideas down her throat, but advice coming from an objective professional. Many people have told me that they’ve had success creating awareness with their friends and clients by doing this.
Since most of my articles explain the natural horse behavior and instincts behind the problems and/or training techniques, most people get it. The problem now is that she is thinking like a human and not like a horse. Generally once people understand the nature of horses and learn to think form the horse’s point of view, they see the error of their ways.
Rather than saying, “in my opinion you are doing something wrong,” try to educate her (through a third party) about the horse’s natural behavior and let her come to her own conclusions. Then, as the good friend that you are, be there to help her when she does “see the light”. Hopefully this will all happen before someone gets hurt and before the horse is ruined.
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