Sunday, February 13, 2011

What to do about all this snow.....

With the crazy amounts of snow we have had - it has left me with virtually no place to ride safely. My horses are stir crazy - and frankly so am I! Normally, I'd stick to the roads, but even they're too slick and narrow to travel on safely.

Ground Training:
I have been working with Lakota High Socks, my 9 month old - gelding colt's barn manners. He has been somewhat of a challenge lately. I think with the limited area to actually run around and play in - (snow is so deep with a layer of ice) he's been feeling his "oats" as they say.

"In Your Face"

I have been working on the "in your face" & the "respecting my space" thing lately. Like all little children, he likes to test his boundaries. Recently, he has been really testing the waters becoming quite bold - and less respectful.

Where I've experienced success:

When I use a lead line - and have the adequate space to work - he is pretty willing, and cooperative with the various training exercises I do. He is willing to give to pressure, turns on both his front and hind quarters. He will turn and follow his nose when directed, and will generally back-up responsively. I usually get a good response with a voice command and a "flick" of the lead rope - and/or a "tap" from a training stick. He is willing to be lead in and out of strange - or tight place - such as a trailer. When I have pony-ed him with his mom, in the past, he treks over streams, and follows with little to no problem.
He absolutely loves attention and is very friendly. With the exception of his mouthiness, and often nippy behavior - I am happy with his progress in this way.

Where I am less successful:
When working in the stall or paddock area, Lakota likes to test his boundaries to the max. He is very curious and excited to have someone else to interact with (other than Mama). He wants to be right on top of me when I come into the paddock or stall area. I have tried carrying the "training stick" and using the "tap, tap, tap" method (used by Clinton Anderson and the like) to discourage him from being too close, and in your face. Unfortunately, Lakota thinks that this is some sort of game. When I apply a stronger tap, tap, tap, he pushes against the stick - standing his ground, somewhat defiantly. When I resort to a "crack" or "tap tap , wap!" he responds with a lifted bound (not quite a rear) - and immediately turns his hind quarters to me. (Which gets him into bigger trouble.) He is obviously not seeing me as the "leader" in this situation, and is either not respecting me - or understanding what it is I'm asking of him (although I kind of doubt it).

One of my problems at this point - is that there is just too much snow! I used to be able to close them out of the paddock & stall area when I cleaned - but the snow is just too deep to move gates... and shift fencing.
The Mouthy Pre-Adolescent

When it comes to his mouthiness - I'm not quite sure just what to do with that. I have read all kinds of things - one contradicting the other. I've tried the "rubbing his nose until he pulls back" thing - scolding - poking my finger into his nose - bumping him (hard) with my elbow, twisting his lip, etc. nothing seems to have a lasting effect. (I do not do "hand fed" treats).

Once the snow clears - I will have a round pen - and a better area to work on some of this - but in the mean time - I need ideas and/or suggestions about how to best handle this.

Although Deams has been a good mom - she has likely not given him some of the education he should have had from her. I think she is way too tolerant of his behavior and pushiness - even with her. (Which.... if you knew my girl...would really surprise you.)

I still love my little boy with all my heart - but I often question if his self-confident, bold & fearless nature is his greatest asset - or my biggest hurdle.

One thing for sure - He will certainly make an amazing trail horse some day!

Happy Trails!



  1. Certain parts of your post read like how Linus used to behave to a lot of things. I'm sure you will get lots of suggestions. What worked for me with nipping was either kicking his shin when he nips (unpleasant and doesn't make him head shy) and twirling the end of the lead rope around and when he nips or gets too close into your space make contact with the rope on him. It soon clicks that the twirling rope means to tone things down. I've been in exactly the same position with Linus as you with Lakota forcing back with the training stick. Persistence, patience and an example that you do have more force than he thinks took care of that. We had a pretty tough session one day and at the end Linus was looking at me kind of bewildered but has never shown me his hind quarters again!

  2. Hi Deb -- I have a few ideas that might help.

    For the defiant "in your face" behavior, when he gets in your space and gets a good crack with the stick, use a verbal growl at the same time, and make yourself really big. By this, I mean get yoru energy up and let him know you really mean it. Don't shrink back and give him the crack, but get BIGGER and really scare the crap out of him (before you get hurt!). Another thing to be mindful of, is sometimes when horses behave this way, its because in other areas we are not enforcing the rules. Does he crowd you at feed time? Does he come up to you and ask you to scritch him (and you say "awwwwww, you little cutey patootey-scritch, scritch, scritch)? Do youever step back when he gets into your space? Does he bump into you or brush against you? All those are alpha behaviors, and he is moving you. You need to move his feet, not just when he is being a pest, but all the time. If he is in your way, don't go around him, ask him to move away. Another thing you can do is carry the whip with you and just swing it around your space like a windshield wiper. Keep it moving, and keep it moving in a bubble around your space. He will learn that getting into your space is not a good idea.

    An idea on the mouthiness -- how about tricking him? Teach him something he CAN do with his mouth, then put it on cue. By giving him something to do with his mouth, he should be less inclined to be mouthy when you dont' want it. Teach him to touch a target, carry a ball, get the deck rings I did back in January and teach him to "pick up his toys". Give him an outlet for that (very normal colt) mouthiness, someplace constructive to use it.

    Good luck!

  3. Thank you Michelle & Donna - Some really fantastic advice.

    Totally get the moving feet thing and looking big.

    He needs some more mental stimulation than what I am currently doing!...
    Love the touch target idea - I've seen Parelli do some of that... I'll have to check that out.

    I'll try the shin thing - see how I make out with that.

    Thanks again!

  4. Well for a sometimes rude little boy -- he surely is handsome !!

  5. Your 'in your face' photo is adorable. Let us know how you make out with your challenging boy.


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