Upon reentering the barn, the horses were eating hay, the boys calm as usual and Lola, a little on edge. She truly was one big ball of attitude. I blocked her with my arm bend and moving it upwards a few times, keeping her well out of my space until I haltered her and put on the 22 foot line, grabbed my carrot stick and string, and then moved outside with her. In hindsight, I should have sprayed the both of us with bug spray but, there was about 15 minutes of daylight left and I didn't think of it, I was more intersted in fixing our relationship.
The first thing I asked her to do was to walk, me in zone 3, but at a distance (about 5 feet away). I didn't allow her to get ahead and used the stick and string, wiggling it in front of her when she needed a reminder. After getting to the open area in the paddock, I asked her to back up the entire length of the rope, and with some impulsion. She did that well but I could tell she was having a hard time thinking and focusing. Then, the fireworks started. I asked her to circle and she blew her top. All I did initially (phase 1 mind you) was point, then lift the stick, wiggle and pow, freak out! She bucked, reared, squealed, could barely look at me, and couldn't move forward, just up. This happened for several asks and eventually she moved forward but fast, out of control, bucking, squealing, and she kept trying to turn her hind quarters towards me (totally disrespectful) and I could tell she could not look at me. I've seen this behavior before but not this bad (I still don't know why she was so upset). I maintained my emotions and her dignity and continued to ask her politely, as always, and tried to giver her time to respond, rewarding the slightest try. I did this in the other direction as well intermingling backing and pausing, giving her time to lick and chew. Once she had herself more in control of her emotions, I asked for sideways down the fence line in both directions, some squeeze, and eventually, I asked her to back down part of the paddock, around the corners to and into the barn. We ended on a positive note, both calm, both in a good place. I then remembered to spray all of the horses (all at liberty of course) to chase away some of the bugs.
As I headed to the barn, I started replaying this in my mind. Why did she bite, what was going on? I remembered her trying to bite me yesterday when I rode her and the day before she nipped me. I need to be more aware of my cues to ensure that I am being polite while mounted. I believe that as we progress, she is challenging my leadership but taking it to another level. She's always challenged and now, perhaps she's upped the ante? I am not sure of course, only Lola knows but, I do have a plan. I wrote a long time ago about biting and decided to dig up that post. I am also going to read her horsenality report again, gaining me more insight to strategies working with her. Some of this behavior is exactly the kinds of things (similar anyway) to what Fosse did as a young horse, testing me. I recall a time when he grabbed my finger and chomped me, my arm too, anyhow, backing certainly helped cure that (he was backed up the mountainside, fast and that made him think twice). I never hurt my horses over this but do establish a leadership role using the techniques from Parelli.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about horses and biting:
- Disengage the hindquarters (breaking the hindquarters) to break a brace with a horse taking away the power they have, braciness (start on the ground), be sure to give release, horses are bracey—people usually asking too much too fast (rude or abrupt)
- Backing cures biting—it starts on the ground, horses get into habits, try new things all of the time, sometimes a physical thing--problem usually mental, emotional, or physical
- On the ground, backing cures biting for two reasons: 1. Horse backs out of your proximity 2. You back a horse psychologically, you are moving up in the leadership ladder (the pecking order of horses)
- Horses check you every minute and try to challenge when they can, they try new things to see what your response is
- Punishment does not work with horses because if you watch horses (geldings) two, one bites the other, the other bites back, they will do it all day just for fun, when people smack a horse for biting, you agree to participate in their game so this would not work
- On the horses back, back him because they cannot bite you, if the horse wants to come around, (the horse can get lower jaw caught on the stirrup if you remove your foot from it--especially in an English saddle), get your horse busy and back the horse up, give them something else to do
- You could also, move your foot forward into the curl of their neck (say if you are bareback), they cannot curl their nose and neck around to get to you to bite (just make it difficult for them—they cannot reach)
- Backing cures biting (ask yourself, how do I change their mind about this behavior and make it not fun anymore?)
- If the horse views you as a leader, they would not do this.
- Many considerations, not a simple question, really.
- True leadership with the horse, the behaviors will go away.
Lastly, I love Lola, I love all of my horses, but, I do have to remember that they are horses, not humans, and that I have to be a good leader, a partner, and keep any anthropomorphic ideas in check. It also occurs to me that I need to remember the horse's hierarchy of needs...maybe too many treats during playtime?? HMMM.
Horse's Hierarchy of Needs (IN THIS ORDER)
• Safety = Confidence + Leadership
• Comfort = Release
• Play = Fun + Creativity
• Food = Incentive