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Horses Are NOT Dogs
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Horses Are NOT Dogs

I belong to a couple of horse related groups on Facebook, and I can't begin to count on both hands and feet how many times people will ask what to do when their horse: Pins their ears, bites, kicks, crowds, bumps people with their head, etc. The list just goes on and on. 

The bottom line: Your horse doesn't respect you and by the time the horse exhibits these behaviors, generally speaking the problem has been let go for a long time. A volatile situation is right around the corner and someone is going to get seriously hurt.

Now some people realize their limits and take the horse to a trainer, which is great! However, the owner also needs to go to the trainer to learn how to prevent these issues from returning.

Horses are NOT dogs. They are not pets no matter how bomb proof, dead broke they are and some folks who haven't had a decent amount of experience with horses just don't seem to understand that crucial point.

Another part of the problem: Timid beginner horse owners who get very young horses with a dreamy hope of turning the horse into the best horse in the world. My two cents here... timid and young horses are never a good match, (unless) they both are working with a professional trainer on a daily basis. 

If you don't know how to correct behavior problems or you're scared to "hurt" the horse, then please get professional help before you end up seriously hurt or worse, dead. Oh I'm sorry that was quite blunt wasn't it. It's the truth and sometimes folks need to hear it straight from the hip. 

Here's an example: (true story) Timid horse owner who doesn't want to hurt their horse has a biter. It started out with giving the horse treats. The horse got more and more lippy and nippy. Pushing the owner around, mugging them for treats. This goes on for a while. The owner, not wanting to hurt the horse, just pushes the horse's head away and tries to walk towards the gate. The horse moves in front of the owner pinning ears, wrinkled nostrils, reaches out and bites the owner's arm. The owner struggles to get to and through the gate, goes to the hospital for 20+ stitches.  Now the owner is no longer timid but down right scared for their life. Sighting the horse is dangerous and no longer usable, sends it to the auction house where most likely it went off to slaughter. 

Now I'm not telling anyone to not give your horse treats. What I am saying is don't make it a daily habit and feed them from a bucket or feed pan. This horse became the Alpha. That's one of the main goals of horse behavior is to be the alpha. It's the owner's job to make sure that never happens with humans. The horse has to know, on a daily basis that the human is the alpha. Some horses accept this role more readily than others and don't challenge on a daily basis. Others challenge the human alpha role on a daily basis. 

Cookie and I have been having a "Come to Jesus" meeting on a daily basis. She's not in any physical pain, in great health and getting too big for her britches. I have given "natural" horsemanship a good go and was not getting through to her. Two things are going against her, one she's now an adult and going into spring her hormones are gearing up for breeding season. I will not tolerate bad behavior for any reason. So after much time with the less is more approach I finally decided to really get after her. No more ear pinning and no more rodeo shows during our workout times. I was prepared for whatever she thought she could throw at me today, and we had that meeting. By the end of our session, she was relaxed, alert and listening. 

I'm sure it will take a few sessions for her to grasp the concept that her bad behavior isn't going to fly, and I have no doubt she'll test me every single time I go out there. That's fine. I'm prepared for it, and we'll back all over the paddock until she figures it out if need be. She's starting to think instead of react.  Today, it didn't take too long for her to settle down into our routine. When she would try to get the right answer, I released pressure and she figured it out. I don't want to do all of the thinking for her, and she's learning to not anticipate what I'm going to ask. 

The behavior is partly my problem and partly hers. I haven't had the opportunity to work with her like she needs because of the weather, however I'm going to change my routine and expect good behavior every time I go out there. Consistency is key. 

So, if you have a horse with behavior problems and you don't know how to fix it, get professional help and please make sure you go to the trainer WITH your horse to learn how to prevent the behaviors from becoming dangerous problems. 


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  1. shumes
    Good post Rene! I agree wholeheartedly with what you said. It worries me to see people treating horses like puppies and spoil them. By spoil, I don't mean treating them special but spoiling in the sense that they aren't disciplined for bad behavior. Spoiling dogs can be dangerous enough, why do that with a 1,500lb animal?! Voted up! Feel free to check out my new posts to vote or leave a comment if you enjoy them :)
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      Thank you. I know what you mean. Some folks just don't grasp the seriousness of the issue at hand and heaven help me if it's a child asking the question.
  2. Renee Dryden
    Renee Dryden
    We call it Disneyland syndrome. And when we would here or see new clients treating their horses like Chihuahuas we would not let them board at our facility. Be cause they wouldn't be the ones dealing with their horses on a daily basis. We would. And horses treated like they were purse dogs are very unstable and dangerous. Voted!
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      Thanks! Agreed! The owners create this monster and expect everyone else to deal with it, usually sighting they don't see anything wrong with the horses behavior. It really drives me crazy when kids especially, are getting stomped on because their ponies are allowed to bully the child and the parents have no involvement other than to either sell that pony to someone who is just dying to accept a headache or really be mean to the pony.
  3. lady slew
    Big Amen on your blog ,Horses are not dogs, sometimes I want to just throw my hands up at people who don't get it when I say, I'm the herd leader , they think I'm mean I say watch horses in a herd then come back and tell me what you observed!!! Your two ottbs are getting better every day , mine tried to be a biter my daughter's tried to be the alpha , poor things lol they now give ground and respect our space and are polite about meal time :-) lordy how did that happen people ask I simply say cause I'm the Boss!!!! Lol. Thanks again for in your face Honesty .
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      Sometimes you do have to really get after them. An alpha stallion or mare isn't going to give love taps when they want another horse to move away.. they're going to give them teeth and hoof, usually both hinds at the same time. You're not being mean, you're saying I am your boss and I want you to back off of me.
  4. Chey Lynn
    Chey Lynn
    Very very very much agree here. My two horses, and any other horse I have ever owned, within the first few weeks knows exactly who I am and to not invade my space unless I have requested it. I do not condone abusive measures what so ever, but I am not afraid to get after a horse for disrepectful or dangerous reactions. The only thing I have found difficult is when boarding someone else's horse. They want to do all the training and don't want the animal messed with outside of me doing chores. When the horse showed up he was pushy, in your space, typical dog-treated horse. He wouldn't stand to be haltered, and he's tall, I'm short. I did after about a month finally have him respecting me and putting head in halter calmly. Now that the weather has become nice, the owner started working with him and he's gone way downhill. Nippy, pushy, turning butt towards me, down right mean. I want to take him out and work with him like I would the others but it contradicts what she does. Conflicting moment here.
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      I both sympathize and empathize with you here. If you own this barn, I would certainly step up and say something. It's harder when you are a boarder also... so I would suggest if you are not the barn owner, then tell the barn owner that this person is creating a situation that will become dangerous for everyone involved. Now some folks, you just can't talk to. They have their heads in the clouds, their way is always right and there isn't another way of doing things. <shakes my head> I have seen those people too many times. This person needs to take their horse and themselves to the trainer to learn how to prevent these behaviors from happening. It's the owner's responsibility if that horse bites or kicks someone else and apparently they aren't aware of how much medical bills cost these days. lol If it is at all possible, set up a barn or arena cam. This will show the persons actions and the horse's behavior. If you can't get this person to see things differently then perhaps and I hate to say it but they need to find another barn to board at. You can't afford to get hurt, just because someone else creates a monster.
  5. julian johansen
    julian johansen
    hey, just wanna say that i agree to a surten point what your sayin here, but in fagt, and this i have experiance on myself, a horse and a human can be equel to one anoder, that a horse and human are more like friends then that one of them is the leader. a horse and a human can respect one anoder without having to lead one anoder, its all abute undestanding. lets fx say i whant it to jump over something, but jumping and contests is not of the horse intrest, and it runs of away from me, buggin, kicking in the air, then a turn around and walk away as to say okay, its fine my friend, then i wont ask it of you, and the horse comes riget back to my side as if we never had desagreed. thats real friendship. you wont push one of your friends to go waths foodball fx if he did not whants too and its not in his intrest wuld you? im not sayin horses is humans, but horses or not either less or more then us... i mean, yes we are more inteligent, yes we have tecnolygi, yes we got power, but think on all the bad things that follows as well, we made wars, co2 outslip, oil slip, and muths more, withs is BAD behaviors. so as i said, we or not better or worse then the horses, dogs, cats or whatever. in fagt, we can learn a lot from them.... taik fx the messages here from the animals to us, spoken from a women who undestod to set words on thr fealings and picthurs they shared her We are a collective consciousness, connected yet individual by nature while on this earth plane, just as you are. Our state of well being is attached to source energy and we wish to teach you the same. You come to us and are drawn to us because you can feel our connection to source is strong and you long to share in the same. We do not struggle with the same issues as humans regarding the sense of lack of. We do not see any lack of anything. We only see wholeness, evolution, creativity and wellness. As we strive to experience, we have chosen to experience with man kind hoping to bring a sense of balance and strength. We would like you to understand nature to its fullness, to see how balance and going with the flow is what propels you forward without the unneeded pushing against you have done for so long. We ask that you become more patient with yourselves and in the doing of this you will find the connection to all living things. We test your honesty by challenging your knowingness. If it comes from the place of source we can hear you. If it does not, we rebel. We are not the only creatures supplying this venue for you. Others, many others, in fact everything you call animal is at this stage of the evolutionary process with you. We have all manifested this event together and a collective agreement from different perspectives none the less. There are no victims of circumstance only circumstance that create awareness and change. Struggle no more with each others way to find what is right and what is wrong, the best way is through the heart, always. There is no place for judgement in our world, we do not look at each other and condemn the horse who walks differently, who neighs differently or who eats differently. Our concern is for growth of spirit and strength in union that ignites our evolution of life. Discipline is a matter of perspective, always. Upon this earth we are more like children than adults. We look upon things inquisitively and through choice of what pleases us. We can say “No” but may not understand the consequences of that choice like an adult would, therefore clarity is what is needed in dangerous situations or when our perspective clashes with what is required at the given moment. We are much stronger than humans physically and can endure much more, however we share many common emotions and can feel your energy when unfocused or when your intent is not of the purest form. We will die for you if that will bring a learning and as such you have done the same. Do not confuse abuse with discipline, these are separate issues. We teach respect, you teach respect. We teach love, you teach love. We have come by choice and so have you. We both agreed to co-create where growth, freedom and understanding is the goal of both species. From the Horse’s Heart
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      I'm not talking about those who would rather share "space" with a horse. I'm talking about people who think their horses are like their dogs and attempt to treat them as such. You can teach and unteach a horse a million things and you can un-teach it that same million things. The difference is this: If I give a horse a treat and he takes my hand off, there's no respect there. That horse has been taught to become nasty. Biting is prohibited in my barn. I don't care who's horse it is. That horse has to be taught NOT to bite. Period. Another example: A child running around among a bunch of horses and one who has not been taught properly, strikes that child with a hind hoof. Kicking is prohibited in my barn. If you watch horses in a natural herd environment, you'll see there is 1 leader, be it stallion or mare. They aren't all "friends". If one horse goes and bites the other, that horse will either bite or kick back. It's how it works in nature. WE however are NOT horses and they are not human. They don't have reasoning abilities like we do and therefore have to be taught what is proper and accepted and what is not. My horse doesn't sleep in my house, she doesn't eat the same food and we don't watch movies together. While I respect those who would rather be in a collective agreement in a manner such as you are suggesting, 98% of the rest of us see the horse as a working animal. If you can achieve training methods without pain involved.. that's awesome! I strive for that too.. however if my mare strikes her front leg out at me when I'm working with her, that's unacceptable and that behavior will be corrected. I would rather have respect from my horse than to have disrespect and be trampled by her. I don't take her for walks on a leash, I don't teach her to "shake" or whom to bark at & whom not to bark at. She isn't my guard dog, nor my house dog. There's a huge difference between dogs and horses and too often times I see children saying: My horse just bit me, my horse bucked me off, my horse did this or that. Why? Because that horse is spoiled. It has been allowed to have bad behavior and allowed to get away with small things that have become dangerous huge things. I'm not saying there isn't another way to teach.. as there are literally millions of ways to teach. What I am saying is this: Teach it, don't spoil it.
      1. julian johansen
        julian johansen
        ya i get what you ment. im just sayin that ive seen methos where one fx can just taik a walk side bye side with there horse in the forest or whatever, not in the city. the exempel i gave was a exempel on the humans perspective, my foult if you misundestood, what im sayin is thats its riget its to learn to behave. but we shuld allso be its friend, that include that we find out what makes the horse behave as it does, what tricker it. and deal with it from there, but never be hard or strick to the horse. in my 4 years with this methos, none of those ive helped have got hurt ever after i helped them.... know what? tell me one of your horse problems you have with one of YOUR horses if you have any. i well then tell ya how to deal with it without bien hard on it, but talking nice to it the way true...
  6. julian johansen
    julian johansen
    and if your onsure on what im telling ya, taik a look on this page, that women trulig undestand the way of the horses. read as muths as you feal for here. you can learn a lot of her. and i know one never is done learning more abute horses, just as it is abute anything ells. one never is finish in life educasion as we humans like to call our learning times in a surtend thing... that why im still looking to learn even more. but i just dont accepth the smalles kind of hard behavior from our side.... http://www.training-horses-naturally.com/horse-psychology.html

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