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Alpha Natural Horsemanship

‘Ask with lightness, encourage without forcing, correct with softness’
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Bad Behavior Created by Humans

Unless there's an underlying physical problem, most bad behavior can eventually be turned around with patience and cautious, proper training plan the fixes the cause, consistent training at a pace determined by the horse's comfort level.  Proper training should leave the horse calmer at the end of a lesson than he was at the beginning of it. Recognize that in certain cases, reforming a horse with bad behavior may be a dangerous undertaking best left to calm, experienced and patient professionals.

So what is the best course of action to take if your horse's behavior qualifies him as a rogue?  


  • The first step is to rule out any physical causes for the behavior.  
  • The second step is to rule out any equipment issues.
  • The third step is to document the history of the horse and the symptoms of the bad behavior.
  • EVALUATIONS/ASSESSMENTS will identify many of the cause[s] of behavior problems.  

 

Most problems are caused by humans NOT understanding the Natural Survival Instincts [read more] every Equine is born with during handling, training and riding!  Once the source[s] of the problem[s]Natural Survival Instincts is found, understanding the nature of the problem can help you form a successful training program to solve it.  You must honestly assess your own capabilities. Do you have the patience, knowledge base, physical ability and time to solve the problem[s] yourself? If not, seek out a reputable trainer with the experience you and  horse need. Don't sell the horse until the problem is resolved, unless the buyer is completely aware of the horse's problems and has both the experience and the commitment to work them through. Remember, "Problem" horses usually get passed from hand to hand without getting fixed, ending up mistreated, put down or worse—hurting someone.  It may be too late to change the events of a horse's past, but you can certainly influence his future. The behavior you see today does not have to continue. Bad habits can be changed, training mistakes can be resolved. Believe in the ability of your horse to adapt and reform. Horses, like humans, are never too old to learn, and generally, unlike some humans, horses seem more willing to forgive. 

 

Common Bad Behavior created by Humans

Not only are there many different handling, training and/or riding issues; any given behavior can have a number of different causes. Often these behaviors are symptoms of specific underlying issues.  When addressing any of these issues we need to understand the root cause[s], so we can choose the best method to solve them.  Some problems can be resolved at the initial meeting, while others may require follow-up sessions, depending on the scope of the horse’s problem.  Follow-up sessions include personalized training programs and you should work alongside the professional trainer.  Support and Coaching Advice should be provided if you need it by email or a phone call.  Some issues can be resolved by small changes in management, others may need time and retraining.  Typical problems include:

 

  • Lack of Education. With young or untrained horses, the behavioral problem may simply be due to a lack of education. For example, it is natural for a foal to resist having a hoof lifted and held as this is an unnatural activity for a horse. In such cases, the behavioral problem is really nothing more than the horse not having been taught the correct behavior. In such cases, gentle and gradual education can solve the issue.
  • Holes in the Foundation Training. 
  • Interrupted Education. Horses can forget things over time. Consequently, a horse can forget (or decide to ignore) its training if the training is not continued. For example, if a horse is not ridden for several years, it may need a refresher course to restore it to its previous level of training.
  • Poor education. This is common, certainly if the education is done by novice trainers, but often even when done by experienced professionals. One of the most common issues is domination, excessive use of pain (e.g. spurs, whips) or fear to train a horse. Such methods are common since one can train a horse in basic obedience faster (and thus cheaper) using pain than by gentle persuasion. Gentle training typically requires more expertise, patience, commitment, time and money. Unfortunately, the quick approach can leave a horse with bad memories, which can result in behavioral issues either then or at a later date.
  • Conflicting Education and Signals. If one wants a horse to have consistent behavior, one must give it consistent treatment. In particular, a horse which is handled or ridden by multiple people can be confused by different treatments and have its training deteriate to the lowest common demonitator. For example, a horse which is ridden in Western style one day and English style the next, or a horse which has a rider with light hands one day and a different rider with a heavy hands the next, gets conflicting messages and consequently become unresponsive or difficult.
  • Environment, Stress and Boredom.  The way in which most of us keep horses is very different from their natural environment, which can lead to boredom which can in turn lead to behavioral issues.
  • Change. Any changes (e.g. location, herd members, box location, box neighbors, owner, rider) can potentially disturb a horse, resulting in changes to its behavior. Aside from physical changes, one must remember that a horse is a social and herd creature, so changes to herd members (additions, deletions, deaths) can potentially greatly affect a horse, especially if such changes result in the horse being bullied.
  • Nutrition. The type and quantity of food can greatly affect a horse's behavior, for example making if docile (and lazy) or making it high-strung and difficult.
  • Neglect, Abuse, Accidents. Unfortunately, a number of horses have been the victims of abuse or simple neglect, which can leave bad memories or mental scars. Even where bad experiences are simply accidents, they can have an experience on a horse's behavior (just as a person may be reluctant after a bad riding accident, so a horse may be reluctant to being ridden after suffering a riding accident to itself).
  • Anxieties and Phobias.  Separation anxiety, nervousness, fear of people, objects, places or other animals.  
  • Handling.  Leading, catching, pulling back when tied up, difficulty picking up feet, head shyness, bathing, grooming, tacking up, biting when girthed, refusal to stand for the vet, farrier or to be clipped. 
  • Stereotypes.  Crib-biting, weaving, box-walking, tongue-lolling, head bobbing, head shaking, wind-sucking, pawing, digging, fence walking, wall kicking, self mutilation.  
  • Aggression.  Towards humans, other horses or animals - nipping, biting, charging, striking out and kicking.  
  • Riding.  Refusal to stand for mounting, non-acceptance of tack, napping, bucking, rearing, bolting, spooking, failure to go forward, refusing to jump. 
  • Competing.  Refusal to load into a trailer or wagon, anxiety when travelling or at the showground, difficulty handling or tacking up, ridden problems, refusing to enter the arena. 

 

For example, a horse may resist have its hooves trimmed due to a lack of education or from fear due to a previous bad experience. Consequently, for a given behavior, we need to identify what are the causes of the actual problem.  Rather than addressing the symptom, the professional will help you address the root cause of the problem[s] using positive, compassionate methods.  This ensures not only that the problem is fixed long term, but also that you will have a better understanding of your horse.  John will do this during the assessment. 

 

The Evaluation Process

John will visit you and your horse in your own environment for a private consultation.   He will take a full history and assess your horse's management, environment, training and any problems you are experiencing.  He will then work with you to Understand Your Horse, Communicate effectively so he understands what you are asking, create an effective customized program tailored to suit you and your horse's individual needs.  Many issues can be resolved after one consultation with small changes in management. Other problems may need a follow-up visit and retraining to solve long-term.  The consultation takes approximately 2 hours which will include practical training with you and your horse where appropriate.  You will subsequently receive a written report of the assessment including any management and training programs.

 

Initial Consultation?  


The initial consult is easy to set up by contacting John and he will give you immediate answers at no cost or obligation as to what maybe happening with your horse.  At the initial consult, John does an in-depth evaluation of your horse’s behavior or training issues and the reasons why including explaining the contributing factors. He will also recommend management changes and/or hands-on exercises to help you resolve the issue.  All recommendations are based on tested and behavior modification and training techniques.

 

Support

Email and telephone support is included for 2 months after any visit.