Friday, November 8, 2013

~Horse sense part 1

How to tell weather your horse needs more work
Please do NOT laugh at your horse if he is doing any of these and say "Oh that's just how he is!" These are problems, vices, hazards, whatever you want to call them, except they are anything BUT good and safe. If you are allowing these things, you are not only putting yourself at risk, but also others around you. I have written here the worst things I could think of at the moment and then later I'll explain how to deal with them.

1.Bucking (Not all the time, but just some.)
2.Rearing (Never let it start and you won't have to deal with it.)
3.Kicking (Worst thing in my opinion. You never know when its coming.)
4.Biting or nipping (Should not be tolerated to any extent.)
5.Knocking you with his head (Terribly disrespectful.)
6.Suddenly takes off with you on trail rides (Obviously you're not the boss.)
7.Walks into you (Teach him to respect your space.) 
8.Runs you into things while riding (Put him in his place.)
9.Freaks out all the time (Contrary to what most people think, you CAN quite easily teach your horse not to be fearful.)
10.Reacts while riding around other horses (Definitely unsafe.)

Please discipline your horse immediately when he behaves wrongly! If you do not, YOU are allowing him to do it. (That's pretty much the same as giving him permission.) 

You say you don't want to hurt him? Well let me tell ya, in the wild when a young colt gets out of line, an older mare will either kick him, bite him, or push him away from the herd (There he is very vulnerable to predators.) until she can see a repentant spirit in him.
Ways to discipline your horse
OK so maybe you don't know how. Well for me I use split reins and wear spurs. (If you are against them I need to tell you one thing. If you use them correctly spurs are a tool and not a weapon.) 

If my horse would say...buck, most times I will grab one rein and spin him in a tight circle while spurring a bit with my outside leg. This is not harsh. I am simply telling him "This is not tolerated and there are consequences for disobeying." Your horse needs to know what is expected of him. So mentally set your rules and boundaries and stick to them consistently. One thing that really confuses animals (and people) is when you are not consistent. If you discipline one time then not the next, you are creating a very unstable relationship. 

Other times a quick swat with the end of my split rein is enough, or maybe just a bang of my legs. (By that I mean using my calves and not my feet.) You will have to judge which method is appropriate for your situation. If it is something really bad, you will need to be more harsh obviously. 

Do NOT yank on the reins as a form of punishment. (Or really ever.) The horse's mouth is very tender and you will most likely just teach it to be hard mouthed, then throw his head up, and maybe even rear. 
If you are on the ground and using a halter then a quick jerk on the lead rope is appropriate.  

Biting or nipping is probably best solved by smacking the nose. Not as if trying to kill him but also not just a little tap. Once your horse knows it is wrong, he will try to find more sneaky ways of doing it. I would start to watch for when he's about to bite and then make a noise or sound that means "No." I usually say "AT!" (I know its kinda different but my dad always did it so I do it too.) It can't be nice and soft. It has to be firm and commanding. 

If you are having trouble with your horse running off with you, you obviously aren't in the front of his mind. Yes, trail rides are to be relaxing but you are still riding so you need to be still guiding. I'd also suggest you go back to the arena and work on being the leader. If he's running off he has too much time thinking on his own. When you ride you need to be directing him. He is not the boss. He is your partner. You ultimately are the leader. Work on keeping his mind busy by directing his every step. If he's thinking about your signals he isn't going to be staging another full charge ahead. So the key: keep his mind busy

OK there's way too much to write about in one post so I'll be doing another part sometime soon. I welcome your comments and questions about what I just wrote. Hope you don't mind me being straight forward but this is how I've been taught to ride and I have a pretty good safety record. I have only fallen off a few times in my life, and been bucked off even less. (Most times I fell off I was jumping bareback on a rolly-polly pony!) I've been riding most of my life but have never had any professional training. Except maybe the movies I've watched. I learned a good bit from Clinton Anderson, Pat and Linda Parelli, some from John Lyons, and lots of people along the way who took time to help. Out of the professionals, I would say how I ride comes the closest to Clinton Anderson . Although I really like watching the Parelli's and seeing what they do while applying bits and pieces to my own riding style. And NO I'm not anywhere near a professional!


  1. I teach my horse with natural horsemanship. I use bumper spurs, but I don't spur him, I rub them as a little push. He knows I'm wearing them and to listen to me but I don't have to hurt him in the process. NO horse should have to go through pain in order to learn. My horse would take me into stuff, run me into trails and bushes and I never once had to smack him hard. I'd turn him, stop him and not let him move and then when I was good and ready, I'd let him go and when he did good, I made sure to let him know that. When you use so many spurs and crops and whips, they aren't doing what you want because they want to do it for you, they just don't want to get smacked. But, in all honesty, I'm one of those kooks who believes in no pain and as little iron as possible. I don't use a bit, I fit his hackamore so lightly that he barely feels it. BUT I'm also the only one at the barn that can ride around on her horse bridleless in the pasture or completely tackless! Hope I didn't come across as rude or anything!!

    1. I also use natural horsemanship and believe its the best way because it is the horse's natural way. Just like using your legs to guide your horse instead of reins. (You use reins too, but they are primarily for turning the head, not the body.) About the being hurt part, even God disciplines His children when they are disobedient. He set the example and I am going to follow it. (Not in a cruel angry way though.) I am not the least bit against bits though. It will not hurt them unless they are so hardheaded that you have to pull that much, that it hurts them. (If that's the case you better get working on softening up the neck. Flexing.) I enjoy riding and working at liberty too. It really makes you concentrate on being accurate. Thanks for commenting. I enjoy explaining to others why and how I do things!

  2. Thanks for this post Heather! We have a hackney pony who is always nipping at us, (She has never bitten any of us, just shows her teeth and throws her head) I have already been slapping her nose a bit and hopefully she'll get the idea soon. Also, she lifts her back leg as if to kick us (She never has, so far) whenever she is the least bit uncomfortable. Part of it may be just defending herself since she was abused (By other horses) before we got her from a friend's boarding stable. Most of the time she is very sweet, but it sure spoils the moment when she acts like a brat! :( Well, thanks again for this post, and I love your boots in the picture! ~Rebekah


    1. Good for not letting her get away with it! If you are consistent in disciplining I'm sure she will get the idea. Also when she lifts her leg let her know you disapprove of that too. Probably not a slap just a firm NO. Then praise her when she puts it down.

  3. Thanks Heather! This is something everyone should know if they are going to safely work with horses. I have so much to learn! Looking forward to your next post! Your picture is cute! I never thought of taking one that way!