Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training/Stall issue

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Question
I am an inexperienced horse owner. I have a 10 yr old quarter horse. After purchasing her in January she was moved to a new barn. She seemed very content until fly catchers were hung around the property. She showed obvious distress with the catchers too close to her stall. They have been moved but she is still concerned. Over the last 2 weeks, she does not want to go into her stall. I tried everything I could think of and then just tied a long line to the inside of the stall. After I walk off she would walk in. Now she doesn't want to go in at all. A barn mate watched tonight and said she feels Bisbee doesn't want me to leave and she knows when she goes into her stall I leave. This evening I felt once she was in, she was trying to block me from leaving by standing in front of the stall door. How do I change this behavior?

Answer
Horse has your number.  She is doing this because you are inexperienced.  You may have babied her, used a soothing voice thinking you were helping...by this I mean the "Yooouuu  aarree allllrriggghhhhtte" and "don't be scarrrreeedddd" speaking, which does nothing but make a horse act like this.

She knows that you do not have the inner core to make her mind, so she is showing you who is running the show.  And it isn't you.

You need to get some backbone in dealing with this mare, before she decides to hurt you.  Horses do not particularly care if we are around or not, and don't care if we go or leave, as long as there is food.  

Your handling skills are causing this and your voice too.  Have seen it happen time and again.


When you work with this horse, keep a matter of fact voice and attitude.  Much as you would with co-worker you don't like much.  Business only.  No pats, nor treats, nor praise.  She is doing nothing to garner any.

The only way to change this, and also keep it from getting much, much worse, is to expect her to act right and that means getting after her, and toughening up on her.  She should not ever be allowed to ignore what you are wanting her to do.  Every time she does?  You are teaching her she doesn't have to the next time.

Do not face horse when leading as that will stop one dead in its tracks.  And walk like you are the boss, shoulders back, and decisive.  OWN your space!  

Any chattering you are doing, stop it.

Lead horse to stall and walk right in and turn around so horse is facing opening and your back is to it, and only when YOU decide to unhalter, do you do it.  And make horse stand stock still while you halter and unhalter.  While leading, alter your pace, slow to faster and stop intermittently, so horse gets used to you running the show and waits for your decision.

But above all, do not keep thinking horse has human thoughts, because they do not.  They are herd animals, and go by pecking order.  Right now you are on bottom.  And her blocking door is completely wrong and tells me you are leading her in and then just standing there.  You never want her between you and the door, that will get you hurt.

Do not let horse get by with anything, and get after her if she balks going into stall at any time and make her move her feet and follow you in.

And the best thing, would be to locate a trainer, that really knows how to handle horses, and how to read them.  I could help you so much more in person in one hour, than you can get online I am afraid.  

Any horse can and will get into this type of behavior.  Some are less inclined to be pushy with it, but some will go overboard.

As an example of just how quickly handling can ruin a horse when it is babying and ineffectual?

I worked for WP barn, high level horses, went to all the major shows during each year.  We had horse that went in on trade for one at another barn in area.  That staff, all women of the "baby sweetie kissy kiss" type, within a month had this horse a complete fool.  

At our barn, she would stand still to be saddled, didn't act like the village idiot at all.

Up there?  She went up in crossties while being tacked, went to backpedaling, and then flipped herself upside down in front of stall 6 feet away, because she had been allowed to be a fool.

And have seen ponies and horses, turn into brats in far less time too.  As well as seen horses that were running the show turn into sensible citizens when someone came along that knew what they were doing.  

It is the inner core of a human more than anything else.  You are the one that wrote the check, not her.

Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training

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Melanie Rowley

Expertise

Questions relating to first time, or inexperienced horse owners. Other questions as needed. Questions on American Saddlebreds. Old fashioned training advice, riding advice for beginners, and general care questions. Behavior problems, with emphasis on thinking through aspects of problems that might not seem an issue at first.

Experience

About to turn 55. My father was a Saddlebred trainer, and I grew up around horses. I have also worked as a Master Saddlebred Show Horse Groom, working with Dale Pugh, Art Simmons, Sonny Sutton, and others. I also have worked with Quarter Horses, and Thoroughbreds on a mare and foal operation in Alabama. I have owned for years, and currently have two teenaged geldings. I also for many years have taught riding lessons, to adults and children, working with beginners just learning, and older adults who have lost their confidence, or wanted to get "back in the saddle." I was lucky to be around many of the best horsemen in MO, and AL and learn from them, and strive always to think through a situation and work to keep riders and horses safe. Those also include the many talented grooms, and farriers I met along the way.

Education/Credentials
Some college. General studies towards a nursing degree, which derailed due to divorce. Horse skills learned through over 50 years of watching, learning, doing and absorbing as I grew.

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