*For all you horse people* Training a young horse???

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Willow's Meadow, Oct 11, 2010.

  1. Willow's Meadow

    Willow's Meadow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Apr 16, 2010
    So there is this young horse at are barn....she is about 4-5 yrs. old. She can be ridden and groomed/handled. But sometimes she doesn't like her face being brushed or rubbed by a rag or a small brush. Its not that she is scared of the brush/rag she just doesn't want it on her face. She will throw her head up in the air and back up when you try to brush her. One person at my barn says to grab her halter and pull her head down and kind of release when she puts it down and put pressure on it when she pulls up. Which usually turns into a fight because the horse is still young and then there is some screaming and the person got lifted off their feet once. But I tried a different way the other day. My way was to take the rag and hold her halter and talk to her slowly/quietly and when she pulled up on her head I still held on to the halter but I didn't pull. Then I held a small treat in my hand and put it about 8 inches away from her nose. Then she put her head all the way down and relaxed. I let her smell the treat but didn't let her have it until she let me rub her face with the rag. I did that a second time and by the third time I didn't give her a treat at all just petting her and telling her good girl for the reward. By the third time she stood quietly, didn't put up a fight and let me rub her face....she didn't even pull once.

    Now I don't know if my way is like spoiling her with treats or is okay. Is it spoiling her? Is the other way better? I know I've heard a lot about getting a horse to know you are the leader and have complete control over the horse and force them to do what you want. And the other person's way (that forces her to put her head down without the treats) would be getting her to know you are the leader. But I do know that in the time it took for me to do my COMPLETE way the other person would have still been fighting with her, yelling at her and making the horse scared. So which way is better??? I don't want to spoil the horse.....but I don't want to fight with her either. [​IMG]
     
  2. chickenzoo

    chickenzoo Emu Hugger

    Well treats can be a double edged sword, can work, but they quickly learn when you do or don't have them. I always do this...... If I find a "oh no spot" that the horse doesn't like, I keep doing what I'm doing until the horse stands still and relaxes... I do not force the horse. I start by "trying to rub the air around the horse" . If the horse is scared of you rubbing the air around his face with the rag, how can it allow you to rub them? One the horse stands still with you rubbing the air, then I move on to rubbing the horse. I do not tie the horse while doing this, if the horse moves, I move with them. Once they stop and relax, even for a few seconds, I retreat and take the pressure away. If you stop while the horse is throwing a fit, you only reward the horse for throwing a fit.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  3. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Getting into a "fight" with the horse, with "screaming and being lifted off the ground", is obviously not the smartest tactic, for a variety of reasons.

    OTOH while using food tidbits in the way you describe will work for some people with some (many) horses, it will not work for everyone nor in all situations and when it *doesn't* work it tends to create a nipping problem on top of whatever the original problem was. Also it sometimes produces a horse who will only let you do <whatever> IF you have detectible food with you.

    Personally I would take a slower more gradual desensitization approach, not TRYING to brush or swipe the horse's face in the first place (I mean, realistically, it is seldom absolutely *necessary* -- if there is crusted dirt where the tack will lie, fingers do just fine as an interim solution) and NOT trying to get it all done in one day/session.

    However as this is evidently a barn horse, not your own horse, you may not have that option, and may not have control over what other people do with her either.

    In which case personally I would still concentrate on gradual desensitization to both aspects of the process (having head/face touched and eventually rubbed, with your bare hand initially; and also having a brush or rag brought up near her face) and not WORRY about trying to actually intensively groom the area. She'll live, and even if other people are doing different things in between times you work with her, it is apt to do at least SOME good.

    Or you could continue with your current approach but just be VERY attentive for ANY sign that she is getting greedy about the food, or starting to 'work' only for the food.

    JMHO, good luck, have fun,

    Pat
     
  4. WIChookchick

    WIChookchick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 25, 2010
    Rural Brooklyn, WI
    There was a great book out several years ago called "The psychology of natural horsemanship" the author went into the history of how people use such things as treats, even in the Lippizans and the spanish riding school,
    using a type of natural horsemanship to train horses.
    One of the things they used and would have on their coats was something called a sugar pocket, and when the horse performed a small task correctly he would get a small bit of a treat.
    When he got a complicated move, or had the major AHA moment, he would be given a small handful of a treat.
    The authors used this method on their horses, english, western, it didn't matter the discipline.
    Treats can be used as a good and functional tool, the method one person described to you was a pressure/release method, and you used that plus the treat method to help this horse to understand
    what you asked it to do. Getting a horse to give to pressure, as in lowering their head when pressure is applied, a rope halter is good because of the knots and pressure points. A web halter is too forgiving and
    a horse can lay into it for a long time and not feel the pressure so doesn't give itself release.
    By using a treat and doing repetitive movements/showing the horse that the rag will not hurt it, you are teaching it that the rag or brush will not hurt it, and that it is easier to stand there and be brushed or rubbed down,
    and get a treat than it is to throw its head up.
    You are on the right track, but don't let the horse turn into a treat monger/monster. Use carrot bits or bits of a treat sparingly and try to get the horse to want to put its head down for pets, a bit of hay, or a nice pat on its head. If you have access to a rope halter, use that and start by light light pressure of only one or two fingers, and pulling down on the lead rope, if it doesn't work, add a finger, and pull a bit harder, then another until the horse gives, IF only a TINY bit, release the rope and pat or rub on the shoulder or neck. Do over and over until you can use two fingers with light pressure to get the horse to almost put its head on the floor...
    Then start with adding the rag or brush, even just holding it near its head.. until its got a quiet eye, licks its lips, or acts like it just doesn't care.. Petting and positive re-enforcment are the keys to long term success.
    Treats are a good tool to use in a large "tool box" and help to teach a horse how to respond and not get the flight/fight response.

    Hope this helps
    Carol
     
  5. ()relics

    ()relics horse/dog shrink

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    indiana
    A horse isn't a dog...Rewarding a horse with a treat will turn her into a biting horse. If you happen to have your back to her and she wants a treat she may very well bite you because "thats what she knows"...Pulling on a horse is a No Win situation for a ametuer trainer...A horse outweighs you 5 to 1 so she will win a fight unless you know exactly when and how to fight her. If you pull on her halter and she screams and lifts you off the ground, I would say, she won and now has "learned" that she can win. Now you have a monster on your hands....demanding treats and thinking she is the herd leader....I could suggest many different training techniques if the horse belonged to you BUT as it sounds the horse is someone elses property and "free" to use by several others you are limited in how or how much you can train her. I t also sounds like she has been the subject of training sessions by some of the "local barn pro's".....This would lead me to say you may want to give this horse plenty of room and never let her get you into a corner as it sounds like she may have reasons to retaliate someday if she felt the mood....BTW...you shouldn't ask the horse if you can touch her head...If you feel like touching her head you should be allowed to regardless how the horse feels about it...another clue to the possible implanted issues of this particular horse. Chance are if you owned this horse and were the sole trainer/handler she would be a great horse but she has "picked up" some attitude at this particular barn from improper or inconsiderate handling...JMO...emphasize Improper and Inconsiderate
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  6. patandchickens

    patandchickens Flock Mistress

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    Ontario, Canada
    Quote:AFAIK the Spanish Riding School does not use their famous sugar cubes for training skills, per se. That is, the horse is not taught to do things by feeding him. What they ARE used for is the (occasional) extra 'good boy!' kind of reinforcement.

    Using them that way is a whole big lot different than using them to TEACH a skill, i.e. the horse is working for tidbits and gets one every time he does it (at least when he's learning).

    Not to say you *can't* train a horse to do <whatever small skill> using food as your main reinforcement -- you can, at least some people some (most) times -- but that sure ain't what the SRS is doing. While using food as your main reinforcer is by no means guaranteed to turn a horse into a biter or lazybutt -- with someone with reasonable judgement -- it is still a less reliable or safe way of proceeding than to do the same type procedure with NONfood rewards, IMHO. Non-food-based methods are also more versatile, thus worth improving your skills with [​IMG]

    Pat
     
  7. denim deb

    denim deb Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sep 15, 2010
    Ditto to the rope halter and just a bit of pressure. I've done that w/several horses, and it's worked w/all of them.

    As for getting the horse to let you rub it's face, this is what I've done. You can use your hand, a brush, rag or whatever. Either cross tie the horse (if they'll cross tie), or hold a lead rope in your hand. Then, take whatever object you're trying to get near the horse's head and get as close as you can. The horse will probably move. Move w/the horse, and try to keep the object at the same spot. (Which isn't always easy) As soon as the horse stops moving, move the object away from the horse. Do not give a treat. Instead, praise the horse, and pet it up. Eventually you'll be able to move whatever you want all over the horse w/out a problem.
     
  8. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    The Spanish Riding School riders say they 'don't teach with treats, they reward with treats'. According to research giving a treat OCCASIONALLY is a much stronger reward than giving a treat every time.

    As far as the training, they teach the horse with a system of 'aids'. They have a training system. You follow the system, everything goes fine. How you teach each thing, what order you teach things in.

    If a horse at a barn where I board is misbehaving, and it's not mine, I stay out of it. Why? Because everyone has a different opinion and no matter what you do they won't like it. If the owner of the horse asks me privately to help train the horse, that is different. Getting involved in a mess where everyone is mad and disagreeing and arguing about what to do, is what you don't want to touch with a ten foot pole. I never touch anyone's horse unless the OWNER asks me directly, him or herself and we discuss what I would do and make sure the owner agrees beforehand.

    Treats? Treats are a 'magic mad button' for most horse people. It's either you MUST use treats or you must NEVER use treats!

    What I think is that treats are useful SOMETIMES. If the treat causes problems, it was used wrong.

    As for training, neither 'MASTERY' nor 'Poor Little Sensitive Horse' works. Being mean doesn't work, but being so vague the horse has no idea what's going on, doesn't work either. I have one friend I talk to, who I can never figure out what he's talking about. You don't want to be like that with a horse either.

    I'm going to use some pressure, but keep the situation cool and calm. A very slow, steady easy pressure on the halter, and he may fuss a bit. Whatever he does, as much as I can, keep a little bit of pressure on. He is eventually going to move forward. The SECOND he comes forward even 1 millimeter of an inch, even with just his NECK, his NOSE, his TOE, this is the most important, the pressure is CLEARLY off. INSTANT reward.

    From moving forward from pressure, it's easy to teach head down from pressure downward on the halter.

    A treat MIGHT help him to calm down and concentrate. But treats are not to signal the horse, but to reward him AFTER he obeys your signal (pressure, cluck, what have you).
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2010
  9. ()relics

    ()relics horse/dog shrink

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    indiana
    Funny somehow related story: We were out riding and one of the others in the party was "training" her horse when while we were stopped and resting the horses. She had a plastic bag tied to a 3' long stick and was flapping it around her horse, which was none too pleased with its present situation. Soon enough the horse had seen enough and broke and ran. After a short run and a little mild suggestion he came back and stood near the tie line. All the other riders were trying to comfort the "trainer" telling her it would be OK and that a run away can happen to anyone. Later that night some of the riders were sitting around talking about the days ride. The "trainer" came up and started to impart her knowledge on some of the younger riders. She was gently reminded that she had her horse run off earlier that day and that was really the only incident durring the whole ride. She said " I bet your horse would run off too if you waved a plastic bag near his face"....the reply..."you may be right but I have never had a reason to wave a bag around my horses face"....why ask your horse to freak out? why not prevent the inevitable blow ups as much as possible?...take it or leave it...I would never cross tie any of my horses for ANY reason except they or I were in mortal danger....but my horses are family friends for the most part.
     
  10. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    That whole plastic bag thing is one of the great mysteries of modern times. Thousands of years from now, scientists will find all these ancient writings about poking horses with plastic bags and will decide it was part of some primitive fertility ritual.
     

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