It’s pretty common for horse owners to describe their horses as pushy. Horses all have different personalities and some are more inclined to test the boundaries than others, but pushy is not a personality trait, it’s a problem. Somewhere along the line we have accepted that some horses are just pushy and you just have to live with it. That’s simply not the case.
Many people bring their horses to my husband and I for training with requests that we work on their ground manners because they are pushy or bossy. From the moment my husband takes the lead line, he lays the rules out for the horse. The horse is required to behave in a mannerly fashion from the get go. If the horse tries to walk over the top of him, he is immediately corrected. The horse learns quickly where he stands with my husband, and we don’t have near the amount of issues with the horse as the owner does, and that is due to the fact that the horse is expected to behave properly from the very first time he is handled by either one of us.
The problem begins when horse owners do not recognize bad behavior in the very beginning stages. What some horse owners do not realize is that whenever you are around your horse, he is learning what type of behavior you accept and what you do not. As humans, we like to think our work with our horses begins once we are all tacked up and in the middle of the riding arena, but the truth is that the horse has been taking notes since the moment we approached him in the stall or pasture.
If the horse gives you a bit of a hard time when you try to halter him by pulling his head away or walking off, that is your first sign that his level of respect for you is not very high. The horse doesn’t think in the same terms as we do. If he ignores you or has a bad attitude when you catch him up, chances are his attitude will not magically improve when it’s time to get down to business, for instance if you want him to stand for the farrier. The horse does not know he needs to be good for the farrier and better straighten up. Either your horse is well behaved and mannerly or he is not. There is no on and off switch for when bad behavior is acceptable and when it’s time to be serious and knock it off. You must be consistent and that means all the time, from the start of your time with your horse to the very end when you put him up for the day.
There are many horses who don’t lead very well, and that is another sign that your horse does not have a very high opinion of you as the leader. A horse who does not honor the owners commands on the lead line will only show bigger problems when it comes to other things. Walking right on top of you, dragging you, or ignoring you when asked to stop and stand still, are all indications that your horse has no regard for you as the one calling the shots.
A horse’s attitude can be greatly improved if he is taught to be polite on the lead line. There’s no special exercises you need to do to make your horse behave better. It’s actually quite simple; set a standard for the horse and require him to meet it on a consistent basis. If you ask him to stop, you need to make him mind. Don’t let him get away with being ill-mannered. Easy as that. If he drags you around, make him get behind you and stay there. Period, the end.
Somehow, we have began making excuses for poor behavior and have become too lazy or afraid to make necessary corrections. Nip it in the bud. You’re problems will only get worse if you do not take the little things seriously. Pretty soon they will evolve into much bigger issues, and it’s unfair to the horse who will have to be retrained and experience some discomfort due to the owner’s inability to keep the horse from getting to that place to begin with.
A courteous horse is much more enjoyable to around. On top of that, horses actually do prefer to have boundaries and know where they stand with you. It is aggravating and confusing to the horse to be allowed to rub his head on your chest one minute and then be corrected for it the next. Horses are quite happy to be submissive and let someone else call the shots. Of course, it looks a little ugly at first getting to that point, but once the horse trusts that you are worthy of the role, it’s a load off his shoulders to allow someone he believes is more qualified than himself to run the show.
If you pay attention to the little things, your horse will never develop a huge issue with being pushy. Recognize disrespectful or belligerent behavior and correct it regularly. You don’t have to settle with your pushy horse.
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