Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training/Horse has fear
QUESTION: Hi Rick, I admire your frankness and no nonsense approach to horses and working with horses. I watch your videos regularly. I would love your guidance on a issue I have with a horse that I rescued from an a abusive past. We have made amazing progress. He came with tie downs, Tom Thumb bit and every other device known to a lazy ignorant horse owner. I ride him bitless. He has gotten over a lot of his anxiety and he moves at Liberty with me in the RP and Arena however we have encountered a issue where we recently moved. On the lake where we ride there are rowers, lots of boats, with men yelling and using megaphones.This causes my horse to go into a full blown panic. I leg yield him, circle him, back him, and if it allows go around trees but its mainly thick bush and then the lake. I have borrowed a megaphone and worked with it and he did quite well. Its men that he is leery of especially a man yelling. This horse has been through many owners, auctions, ridden hard in rodeos and most did not have the patience this horse requires. I do and I will never give up on him. I have three other horses that have no issue on the trail. Until we come across the rowers and yelling he is a easy going, head low, horse and within minutes of hearing men yelling he is soaked in sweat and literally vibrating. Is this my fault somehow? Yes, I can own up to it if it is something i am doing or not doing. Does he not have the confidence in me? Or is this an issue of trying to desensitize him to yelling men? I asked myself what would Rick do so I am asking what would you do here? Thank you.
ANSWER: All horses have fear, and if you are with a horse then what the horse does is connected to you and what you do. Forget his past and stop making excuses about his fear of men or he may have struck by lightening, it does not mean he can act crazy when it rains, he may have hit by a car, it does not mean he can act crazy around cars, all horses have past good and bad, the more you try and think you know why the horse acts the way it does the more you cause the horse to act the way it does.
I say it all the time, I don't care about a horse's past, I care about how a horse responds to me, and I don't care that you own or have trained or have save 100 horses, this horse is telling YOU, not the men in his past, that it can do things and you can't stop it, control him or handle it.
So I have heard it all before, and all the excuses in the world, it is not the horse, it is not his past, it is not men, it not yelling... it is you and the horse, when stop worrying, justifying, blaming or making excuses, then you will fix you and the horse will get better.
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QUESTION: So if I am just riding along and my horse is head low everything is good and when a loudspeaker comes on what should I do? I don't quite understand your answer. I don't care about my horses pasts...not any of them. A horse can have fear just as a human can have fear of heights, crowds, public speaking, etc...
I asked an "expert" to help with a horse panicking and how you would respond. I do what I always do..what all natural horseman ship tells you to do to get the horse thinking and moving. It does not matter to him. He will do the circles, leg yielding, back up, etc but as soon as we are done and trying to move forward he's vibrating and jigging. He responds incredibly well with ground work. I only use body language in the Rp for all transitions and woah. I have taken a horse terrified of fast hand movements to a calm trusting horse. This one hurdle is a mystery to me. If it is ME and I can accept that how do I move us past this if he responds and respects me in the RP, arena and trails other than this new loudspeaker, men yelling on boats issue?
Would you do more ground work? Or would you take that horse back to the lake and have rowers go past to get him desensitized? And btw I don't use excuses. I was stating a fact. He was abused by a man doing rodeo. He is with me now so I don't care but it is a fact. No excuse. Thank you.
ANSWER: You have not read my entire site and watched all my video or you would not be asking this.
There is no right answer. There is no magic fix. There is no checklist of what to do. Others may tell you to circle, do more ground work, back him up, show him who is boss, or 1000 other things.
You are looking for someone to fix your issue without seeing you ride, without seeing what you are doing, without seeing how the horse responds to what you are doing and many other factors. The fact that you are asking and expecting an answer tells me you do not get it.
It does not matter what I tell you or someone else tells you, since no one knows what you are doing except maybe the horse. The horse is telling YOU that whatever you are doing is not working, listen to your horse, they are usually right.
Let's say for the sake of argument that I tell you do A B and C, how do I know that you will do this with the same timing, feel, release has I would, then it does not work and you tell me or others that it did not work, stop looking for others to tell you what to do, learn from the horse, listen to the horse and you will learn much more than you will from me or someone else out there telling you they are an expert and they have all the answers.
The horse will tell you when you do better or do it right. For now the horse is telling you that you are not doing it right, I agree with the horse.
But if you are insistent on me telling you what you should do, when something does not work, stop doing it and do something else. If you want change in your horse, YOU must fist change.
Someone that has read my site and watched all my videos would NOT be asking this, why do you thing that is?
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QUESTION: Thank you once again for your response. I have read your site and was actually just on it once again. I can ride my horse at liberty (no tack) not on the trail there I go bitless but in my arena..we have a great bond. That is why this whole thing is stumping me on how to overcome a fear. I can not recreate that fear in my arena to work it out. I am just trying to "think like a horse" if we have such a great bond why is this one thing something he gets into a sheer panic over even by my side. I am his leader in all other ways..we ride solo on this very trail and all is fine unless this commotion of a race/training arises.
Thank you for your responses. I will take a deeper look at the way we interact. You are right, you can't answer a question without actually seeing me or my horse and how we work together when this situation arises. Neither can going to clinics where you have limited time in a controlled setting. So, I thought I'd ask what you would do. Every horse is different. My other horses could care less about rowing commotion but this one does. I am going to revisit the lake again tomorrow and re-evaluate how I respond. Thank you for your time Rick. I appreciate it!
Don't look at this has a problem - this horse is forcing you to grow, it is trying to teach you a different way and telling you that every horse is different. This can be caused by previous experiences or lessons taught by others.
This horse is forcing you to think outside of your box or your comfort zone, he is smart and telling you that you have not convinced him of something yet? That is what makes good horsemen, many horses all teaching us different lessons.
It is easy to work with easy horses or horses that know what we know and respond to what we do easily, but the so called difficult, smart, abused, bad breed or whatever else people want to call them, they are the great teachers, they force us to be grow, learn and be better.
When you focus more on you and your horse and not what others tell you is right, you will learn much better and faster. Not a lot of options with horses, it either works or does not, then you change and it either works or does not, then you change, you will find the right answer with each horse and it is not normally where you think it should it be.
If it was easy everyone would be good at it.