Thursday, November 29, 2007

Baby Boomer Dreams, Submission and Arabian Horses

Since I have been posting a series about submission I thought I'd post some about my early days with the subject and where I've come. Even though it's been a while since I posted on the Baby Boomer Series, I left off with the birth of Scandalous Dare who was really a tough cookie when it came to submission. Despite the fact that she was so crippled up from being windswept, that darn filly thought she was born to rule the world.

Unfortunately for her, I had not met Harvey Jacobs yet. I had, however, had some time with John Lyons. I remember clearly John Lyons telling us that the rule of thumb for acts of aggression was no holds barred for five seconds. Then it was over. It didn't matter how old or how young the horse was. In the horse's mind, it's a horse, not a baby.

It sounded good at the time, but over the years, it just didn't have the effect I wanted in my horses. Granted they learned not to be aggressive but they also learned not to trust me much either. As much as I love my Arabian horses, having them fear me is just not part of the dream.

I can clearly remember that darn Dare teetering precariously on her crooked legs, snaking her neck and diving at me with teeth bared and she was only two hours old. Knocking her *ss over tea kettle did nothing to slow her down. I eventually landed on top of her, holding her down until she gave up fighting. Fortunately for both of us that tactic worked. Not because of what I knew, more it was pure accident. She and I have been fast friends ever since.

But that doesn't mean that she gave up all ideas about being in charge. She just gave them up where I was concerned. When it came to Dave and Lindsay, Dare was still a hellion. She's just been one of those horses, you don't dare give her an inch because if you do, you're going to pay.

So what is an inch to a horse like that? Well, it's just that, an inch. If the horse steps towards you and you back up a single inch to accommodate the movement, you have given up ground to the horse. Horses only move away from a horse who is higher in the pecking order. That is a major signal to the horse.

While we might think it's cute to have a horse come up and nudge us for attention or food, the message to the horse is another matter. Again we have let the horse move into our space. Allowing such behavior encourages the horse to test their position with us. That's not a desirable thing. It's actually contrary to submission.

Some people let horses push into the water buckets when they're being filled. Some people don't "bother" their horses when they are eating because they think the horse might be aggressive. I think if you have a horse that is aggressive when it's eating or drinking, you have a horse that shouldn't be trusted. That, too, would be a clear message about lack of submission in the horse.

I guess that would cover the three major points I've learned from Harvey Jacobs. Control the horse's feet, food and water and you control the horse. If the horse controls those things, you are at the horse's mercy. If you control those things, the horse is your willing servant.

I never back up from a horse. If a horse steps into my space, I make the horse move away from me at least double the amount of space the horse tried to claim from me. If the response is not made softly and willingly, I keep repeating it until it is.

When horses are feed here, they must go to the back of their stall and stand until they are invited to come forward. They can eat in our presence only if they are invited. Lots of times, I groom,pick feet, blanket etc while they are eating, making them accommodate my requests for moving away from their food in the process. If this isn't done willingly, I move them away from their food until their attitude is corrected.

The same is true with water. Even if the horse has been out of water and it's hot outside, it can not drink while we're filling water buckets unless they are invited. Any sign of flattened ears or stern faces and they are pushed to the back of the stall or away in the field. Again until the attitude is corrected. That means ears up, eyes soft, head relaxed and low.

Next I'm going to pick back up on the Baby Boomer series. There are stories of a lot more foals to tell.

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  1. Hooray for horses. Nice post. Enjoyed all of it.


  2. Great post...Diago was stalled last winter and being I did chores at the time I also did the feeding. I wouldn't let "D" have his dinner until he was calm and even at that I would push him away occasionally and play in his food while he stood back. When he was eating I would groom him, pick out anything I missed from the morning cleaning, etc. People thought I was crazy but I figure I do that for our dogs and cats...why wouldn't it work for horses? Glad to read that I'm not the only one who does that! :D

  3. I do the same thing. I was always told that if I could control the horses feet ie. make the feet move where I wanted them too, forward, backward, sideways etc. then I could control the horse. I was always taught never to let a horse grab food or water, they had to wait until they were told they could get it.

    We feed and water in the pasture. They all know not to approach the hay until it's on the ground and I'm walking away from it. Then they can fight over it. Same with the grain dishes.

    When we water over or through the fence they can drink while it's filling, but if we're in the pasture they have to wait until we leave to get drink. They all know the rules.

    We've had some trials with this sort of thing with some of the rescues we've gotten in. Starved horses get very food agressive towards people and other animals. Sometimes they learn quick, other times it takes months to get it through to them. But it's all worth it in the end.

    We also always groom and pick feet etc. while they're eating and when they're not. It's one of our little rules, I don't care what the horse is doing, if I want to do something to them, they let me or they learn real quick to let me.

    It all takes time to teach them, but it's worth it and it's safer for all involved once you do.

  4. Great post MiKael, with so many horses this has been a problem for me and I have learned as I go. The guy who was feeding these horses before I came used to throw their food into their stalls and had a baseball bat that he would bash them with to make them back away from him!!!!! He actually admitted that to me and seemed proud of it!!!! As a result I had a few horses who were very agressive who I eventually won over and could go into their stalls without them climbing the wall in the far corner to get away from me if I lifted a hand to do something or made a movement too quickly. I wont tolerate them pushing me out of the way to get to their food and if any one of them shows me agression at any time I normally move agressively towards them and make them back away until they have changed their attitude. I always, always, always talk to my horses when I am going to be behind them, even if I am just crossing behind them a few feet away, especially when there are other horses around, even the ones that I trust implicitly because it only takes one time for them to get a fright and kick out and that could be a broken leg or arm or worse. I have looked at some photos I have of my horses bucking and kicking out in the field and it is amazing to see just how far those legs can reach when they are kicking out and how high. If I am close I run my hand over their rump and round as I go round behind them talking to them all the time.

    I digress. Have a good weekend.


  5. I let Maddy nudge me because in her, I see it as playful and curious. She is a timid girl and this is the way she chooses to interact. I read her nudge,as "hi there!" not "I want to be boss." I keep an eye on it, because I don't want it to become a bad habit. When she does it, I back her up a few steps just to remind her I am in charge, but I never get mad at her for doing it.

  6. Hi abraham, nice to see you here!

    equiespirit, yes, you are definitely not the only one. The horses have so much better manners by just doing these few simple things.

    lady of chaos, well, it always amazes me how many people let there horses push them around and they think that you just have to put up with that behavior if you live with horses. It is so sad, not to mention dangerous.

    lori, yes, I know baseball bat stories too. It really is sad.

    photogchic, well, I get the impression that you invite this behavior. If you do the horse understands it is an invite which is totally different than an intrusion. The problem would be with an allowed intrusion.

    I used to invite Scandalous to play with me in a similar manner. I don't know that you could even find a sweeter mare.

  7. Great post. I agree with all the disciplines you were talking about here. You have to be in control of the horse, and the horse has to know it, and respond to your requests. Glad to hear that other people have to same rules of discipline!