Building A Better Relationship: My horse Is Distracted By Other Horses

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Question Category: Building a Better Relationship

Question: Hi! I was at your clinics last year at the Equine Affair Massachusetts. I tell you, you were the only great trainer there! Anyway, I was wondering if you were going to be scheduling any clinics here in the east? I know many fans of yours here that just don’t have the means to go west. If you do come, preferably come to New England, since my family just relocated to Vermont from Virginia 🙂

I do have another question. My horse, Rufus (an 8 year old large pony trained by my 14 year old self with my old trainer after being abused for six years) was not trained until he was 6 years old. He isn’t what you’d expect from a rushed horse, he’s doing great and we compete a lot in eventing. Since he was thrown in a field with other horses until he was 6, he is very social. We don’t have another horse, but when we go to shows or I trail ride with my friends, he goes nuts. He won’t pay attention to me at all, and is constantly neighing to others, especially mares (he did try to breed mares in his old field, and he’s a gelding, we can’t ride him if there’s a mare in heat in the area, he goes CRAZY) how can I make Rufus behave on trails and at shows? It’s not really in the nature of the breed to be this hyper and, for lack of better term, nuts! (He’s a small quarter horse) When I go to shows, I constantly school him, trying to get him to pay attention, but at times it’s dangerous (like the time he broke the hitching posts to get to another horse). What else can I do? My parents are talking about getting another horse, but since Rufus is still in training, I really don’t think he needs that distraction, since he’s already a bit barn sour and I believe that we should wait until Rufus can listen to ME around other equines…am I correct in this thinking? Well, please get back to me!

Gennie and Rufus

Answer: Gennie,

Your horse’s problem is from a lack of discipline and a factor of not starting his training until later in life. When a horse has not been taught certain rules of behavior by the time he is six or older, he has come to believe that his life ought to be a certain way- and that way is the way it has been for his whole life out in the herd where he could interact with horses as he pleased and be impulsive in his behavior.

The solution is GROUNDWORK so that your horse learns that you are in fact in charge of every movement and action he makes. Through groundwork a horse learns that you are in charge, you make the decisions and you dictate the actions he makes. Horses must learn that when they are around humans, there are certain rules that must be followed, just like there are expected rules of behavior out in the herd.

There are many articles on my website about doing ground work with horses to teach ground manners, obedience, fundamental rules of behavior and to develop the leader-follower relationship with your horse. The most important thing you need to work on with your horse is getting control of his nose. If you can control his nose, both from the ground and from the saddle, you can prevent the problems you are having. Read up on nose-control from my website and get some help doing ground work with your horse.

Horses must learn at some age (the sooner the better) that they cannot act out their impulsive herd behaviors when they are in a working situation or around humans. Even a stallion that is bred a lot can easily learn when that behavior is acceptable and when it is not. Never let your horse fraternize or interact with other horses when you are handling him or riding him. This just should not be allowed; it is not safe and it is not good for herd health, when the horses are from different herds.

I think that if you invest some time in groundwork so that you learn to control your horse’s nose, feet, shoulder and hip, and you gain control over his impulsive actions; you will no longer have the problems you describe. However, I am not disagreeing with your parents, as far as you getting another horse, because if you were my daughter, I would prefer that you have a well-trained, obedient and therefore safer horse that was ready for you to go out and enjoy and accomplish your personal competitive goals.

Good luck and let me know how it goes. I will have a few clinics in the northeast.

JG

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