Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Personality Plus

So a friend of mine and I were talking the other day about a horses training issues vs. personality quirks. Example: an Arabian mare I have in training is snotty, feisty, and pins her and curls her lips almost all the time. While she never bites or kicks or even threatens to do so, the owner just knows that this is her mare's personality. Another example: When I cinch up my Show gelding he will pop up and do mini rears in the cross ties, even though I have always tightened his cinch gently and slowly, but once you let him pitch his fit he is the Golden Boy!! A Perfect angel!! So where is the line between personality and training?

Well, it's a fine line and here it is. A personality quirk is something that just IS you're horse. Something like the specific way he may toss his head while playing or even stomp a foot of impatience. A training quirk is when you're horse is doing something dangerous, like nipping or kicking out, striking etc. A personality quirk is also something that you can accept as being a part of your horse, where as a training issue is something that you can not accept and that is fixable.

Sometimes it can't be fixed though and the horse's personality traits are too strong. My friend used to own a mare a long time ago who threw the most beautiful foals and was a wonderful mother, but she was sinfully mean and would literally try to kill a person who came anywhere near her. After many many trainers and thousands upon thousands of dollars the mare had to be put down. The mare was just a sour angry mare it WAS her personality, there was NO changing it...

So what are some quirks your horses have? What can you or can't you deal with???


The Pale Horseman said...

Nell is very impatient and pulls faces a lot. I've generally learnt to deal with the stubbornness, the barging, the occasional tantrum when she doesn't want to school - but I often find myself wodering what kind of relationship we have. She bites a lot and there is no amount of pulling whiskers or smacking that seems to work. She always looks unhappy despite always having a warm stable, plenty of turnout and exercise and food in her belly. I don't let her get away with being naughty and she is otherwise a saint but I sometimes find myself losing the will to deal with the biting. Any suggestions? I've tried pulling her whiskers, avoiding, smacking and being nice. I would never sell her but I tire of her sour attitude towards an otherwise perfect life.

Nicely dun said...

My guy is pretty cute when it comes to personality. I truly don't believe there is a bad or mean bone in his body. He's never kicked/struck/bit a person, and rarely "starts a fight" with another horse.
One thing we have been dealing with(I've been using some of your suggestions!) is his spooooking habit. He's been getting overhimself, but for a 14 year old he is pretty childish. I KNOW it is just the way he is, and that it will always be there to some extent. Usually I laugh at him, sometimes I get a little tired of the silliness...but really its nothing that scares me. He is who he is and I feel like we make a nice pair.
My coach has a horse who is just a GEM in the showring-kids riding and all, however on the ground...he enjoys biting and dancing around.

phaedra96 said...

One time I read somewhere that if you have a horse that nips or bites; you must establish yourself as the boss mare and tell her the behavior is unacceptable. This is much like the boss mare with her hay pile. Any horse that walks by her pile is greeted with pinned ears and a snarky look. They keep walking. Any horse that tries to grab some of her hay is bitten. Hard. Since you cannot bite her(LOL!) you need to use another form of punishment that does not say we are playing. Be ready for her to reach out to bite you and you lay into her; yelling,smacking her chest with the lead rope, backing her up. Three to four seconds max. Then go back to what you were doing. Just be watching and waiting. If you set the scene; you most likely will be able to end that behavior quite quickly. (I hate, hate biters and kickers. Have never had much of the former since it was quickly dealt with and the only kicker I had went--elsewhere).

peaches1111_00 said...

I had a mare that was very bossy but never mean. She would grit her teeth and sometimes put her ears back. Every time she'd grit her teeth I'd growl and (if I were in arms reach) give her a whop on the butt, sholder, or neck. She rarely kicked and never, ever bit me. She didn't really seem mean about her actions. I just somewhat dealt with it as a personality trait. But I still fussed about it.

Caitlyn said...

I have an arabian mare that seems like she hates people when you go out to catch her. She'll walk up to me most of the time but it's done with tail swishing, ear back and snorting. Once I touch her however she puts her ears forward and seems happy. She is always happy to go out and be ridden and groomed but Izzy is not a lovey type horse, if i try and love on her too much its back to miss grumpy tail.

My AQHA mare Friska is the exact opposite, she almost has to have someone touching her. She'll get out of your space if you ask but even two feet away she'll call for whoever is closest to her. If you leave her to cuddle up to you she faces you and trys to rest her head on your shoulder. She is also very lazy, she knows that a squeeze from my calf means pick up the next gait and that a cluck means speed up whatever gait your in, however she'll speed up for a stride then slow back down and nicker at me almost to say "Are you sure?" then i'll as again and she'll go.

appydoesdressage said...

Pale Horseman-I agree with Phaedra, my philosphy has been if they attempt to bite then I employ the John Lyons of I'm killing you for 3 seconds. Smack as hard as you can (with lead rope, halter, whatever is in your hand, not just your hand), yell, scream, fail arms, scare the poo out of her. At 4 seconds be done and walk away. Has cured the 2 biters I've worked with in less than a week.

Harmony said...

I use to have a saddle type horse that was extremely cinch sour, no matter how slow or easy. I would get the death look "If you weren't the one to feed me, I would so take your boob off." :-) She never actually bit, just gave me the pissy look. I can deal with that, she was a fantastic mare!!

The Pale Horseman said...

Thanks guys, will try it. I'll feel a bit bad after but I guess it will be worth it in the end.

OneDandyHorse said...

Oh boy!!! Of all the horses I've seen, trained and boarded, the worst was a QH mare named Jenny, Jenny was only 3 years old and had NO manners whatsoever. She was friendly and would walk up to you, but as soon as she got near me, that's when I'd stop trusting her. She would rear, strike, bite, kick, chase other horses into people (other horses had no respect for humans so there was no barrier at all). Once I was taking my mare out of the pasture to go on a ride and this girl wouldn't let me... she came running after us, screaming and snorting... I always kept an eye while she was behind which was a good idea. As soon as she got close enough, she reared in my back and nearly struck me in the head with her front hooves... I proceeded to take the lead rope off of my horse and smack her on the neck as hard as I could (because she scared me to death and I was a bit mad that she tryed to kill me). She proceeded to do it again, but I was prepared and smacked her more than once, and stayed on her even when she had put all fours on the ground. She never did it again! She was a pain in the crossties, broke one panic snap (I couldn't get to it) and one halter, she would always start a fight with whoever was the closest. She needed training and lots of it. She was only at my place to board, so I never laid hands on her for training, just to protect and correct nasty behaviour towards me.

My mare Dandy seems to be a saint. The only thing I don't like is when I ride her, she "locks" her head and neck to one side if she doesn't feel like working, she doesn't pay attention if we ride and there is distractions, I've only had her in training part time for a year, I should be ok to resolve the issue in the near future.

My rescues... well one is almost perfect, although she doesn't like the cinch, you can put the saddle on her and she gets a little anty but as soon as you take the girth from under her, her ears are pinned and she is making the worst face ever at the person cinching her up... doesn't matter if you do it slow and gentle... in 3 or 10 steps... she is still the same. She tends to want to stop inthe trail and turn around to go back home, but that is easily controlled.

The other rescue is full of quirks. She swings in the crossties, she is always goes back and forth (as far forward and backward as she can), with her head sky high in the air, doing mini rears when she gets at the forward-most point, she looks scary and dangerous, but a quick and mean "NOOO" gets her to stop. She also paws the ground, cannot LIVE without her mate (the first rescue), cannot stand kisses, especially when she is running out of patience. Does not want to work, even if she is in in great condition (no leg, foot or back issues), she will snort and sigh whenever you come with a halter, she will not be cought, except if her friend gets cought, then you don't even need a halter for her! She tends to turn around on the trails too, but she gets back into it easily, she does rear a little bit when she doesn't want to work or leave the barn, but they are just mini rears, easily corrected also.
They are all different and I love them just the way they are

OneGoldenTeaspoonAQH said...

My mare follows me in the pastre "my golden shadow" I call her..I walk she walks I jog she trots I have yet to try sprinting through my pasture.
She also likes to throw a mini rear or 2 before loading into a trailer...no matter what the trailer looks like. she doesnt pull or look scared...she just does little one or two inches off the ground rears.
My cousins horse cedar likes to stomp her feet and eat the crosstie in impatience.

phaedra96 said...

Do not even for one second feel bad about lambasting your mare for trying to bite you, Pale Horseman! Do not tolerate that behavior. DO NOT!!!Establish yourself as her dominate now, before you have serious problems.

The Pale Horseman said...

Phaedra96 - She respects me in every other way, its just the biting and it gets worse when she's insecure. I really doubt it's a dominance issue becuase she never gets away with the crap she used to pull on her old owner and doesn't try it anymore with me because she knows she'll get in trouble. The biting is the last barrier we need to break through. I know she's never going to be a sweet little pony - its just not her personality - but not biting will be a big improvement in our relationship.

Anonymous said...

My guy has a lot of quirks!

First, anytime he is being made to wait, or wants food, or in any way feels he is being abused (basically, anytime I am not moving fast enough to suit him), he lifts and bends his front right leg and kind of curls his head towards it and stares at you like "I am being beaten and tortured, please stop!" He has done this since I got him.

He does not tie well. This is a training issue/quirk. He is fine in the cross ties, but tie his lead rope to anything and he gets all agitated and the first thing he does is untie it, regardless of how many loops I use. I've given up. He does not move once he unties himself, and I just groom him untied. I ride at a different barn from where I board, so when I'm tacking him up, I use the cross ties. He can be tied if need be, and eventually settles down, but I'm willing to compromise on this one.

He will lick your hand for hours if you let him. In fact, if he gets nervous, I can give him my hand to lick and he calms right down. He used to be mouthy otherwise, but I saw a Clinton Anderson video that said if the horse is being mouthy, reverse it on them by taking your hands and rubbing them all over their muzzle in a really annoying manner everytime they try. It worked!

My boy likes to smell anyone working on his front feet. It's a little creepy, but he has never bitten. Just sticks his nose on your back.

He bloats to twice his normal size for cinching, and has to be walked out to complete the cinching process.

The first time I had a bowl of food in my hands, he lunged at it! No more of that. I have taught him to stand at the food until I say "eat." Same thing for grazing. This inspires a LOT of the "I am being abused" leg lifting, but he does not eat until I say eat.

He does not like his face touched, unless he is in the cross ties, at which point I can do anything to him. This one's weird to me. If I try to touch is face in pasture, he swings his head away, but in the cross ties, I can clean out his ears, clip his face, etc. Strange.

He also will not step in another horse's poop. While riding, he will purposefully move to one side or the other to avoid it. Do they all do this? And he will not pee under saddle, or anywhere but his pasture in fact. I think he held it for three hours one day.

autumnblaze said...

My boy is mouthy.

People have done the 3 second I'll kill you for putting your mouth on them etc. and tried about everything with him.

He's 15 and still mouthy. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body though.

He unzips my jacket, steals my hat, has to mouth most things he sees, pick them up, check them out. Loves to lick, but really doesn't do that unless I offer my hand.

To be honest, I don't fight it all that much anymore because 1) he's not mean and 2) nothing has fully stopped it that is UNLESS teeth come into play. Then HE throws his head back like OH SHIT I broke the rule! - everytime. He knows the line and sometimes when grumpy crosses it slightly but then I give him hell for a short spell. The only times he's done that? He was hurting or I'd just moved him to a new barn and he was pouty/stressed.

He's playful and mouthy and smart and very lovey. We have a line and it's not crossed really. Not even with other people or little kids.

autumnblaze said...

NewHorseMommy - My boy also finds that other horses poop is discusting and avoids it if I let him. He can side step and it be right back on his line before I even realize it sometimes. :)

Grocery Girl said...

i used to have a peruvian paso mix who was a complete training mess when i got him. first time i got on him it took three people to hold him still for me to mount, then i'd barely got my butt in the saddle before he was speed gaiting. he has two gears: stop and full speed ahead; there was no such thing as walk. he neck-reined backwards (lay the reins to the right and he'd turn left and vice versa) and he wouldn't stand still for anything if you asked him to stop on the trail; he'd fidget and prance and sometimes pop his front feet off the ground. the most alarming thing was that he would randomly spin 360 degrees while we were heading down the trail. yep. 360 degrees, not 180. he didn't want to go home, we'd just be cruising and he'd spin then keep on the way we'd been going.

i managed to fix everything but the spinning, which i eventually got used to and just accepted as a quirk. never figured out why he did it, but i honestly got to the point where i didn't even notice it anymore. he was such a cool horse :-D

freezemarked said...

I'd go one step further with the "training quirks" and say that those are also quirks that you trained INTO your horse, whether they're dangerous or not. For instance, I've noticed that horses I train all have the same habit: when they're nervous and seeking reassurance, they'll turn their heads to me and ask me to rub their foreheads. This is obviously a pattern I've set through my behavior with them, not an inherent part of their personalities that just happen to all be the same. (Otherwise they're as different as they can possibly get!) It's not undesirable -- I'd much rather have them ask for a reassuring rub than express their anxiety with bolting, splitting or kicking like they did before! -- but it's still a trait that they've acquired from interacting with me, even if it's now sort of part of their personalities.

A trainer I once knew had similar behaviors trained into her horses inadvertently... you could always tell a horse that she'd "started," because they didn't know how to move out under saddle and they'd get anxious and turn to nip at your legs to tell you to get off. (They acquired that behavior because every time they threatened to bite her legs, she thought it was "cute" that they were "asking her to get off.") Nice, right? I wouldn't ride any horse she'd "trained" because you were very likely to get killed or at least get bitten. They were all like powder kegs waiting to blow.

kestrel said...

I had a colt that bit, sneaky jerk would sneak up and get you in the back as you were going through the gate, etc. Being about 10 or 11 at the time, I finally blew up and bit him back. Hard. He had the most surprised look on his face...I think it was a game for him. No more biting after being bit back though. Solved!

I find that the standard "don't let the horse see the discipline" does not work well with biters. They don't seem to understand corrections or consequences that are not extremely in their face, because biting IS a game of dominance, and a deliberate act.

Amy said...

Freezemarked- I would really like to know how you train your horse to look for a rub... my mare absolutely falls apart at the stupidest things sometimes....

LOLing @ NewHorseMommy and Autumnblaze... that sounds like the kind of horse for me... licky, playful, stealing hats... my gelding is basically too old to care about playing- he does the grumpy old man routine but he will run with my mare in their paddock if riled enough, and even throw a buck for good measure at times.

Licorice... *sigh* my little work in progress. My trainer and I have decided that, at this point, as long as she does what we ask, we can ignore the pissy mare ears. Just got her over colossal hissy fits about work... just this morning I was lunging her to work on her jog, and she did it beautifully, even breaking at the poll on the lungeline... but she was giving me this deadly look, had her ears pinned... would flick the ears forward like she was happy for a minute, then... cranky mare all over again. Dunno what the deal is...

When I free lunge her (also known to me as the "running around the pasture" game), she likes to pretend she's a dressage horsie. My chunky little QH mare has a huge, floaty trot when she wants... lol.

coloradobecs said...

I work with tons of horses an a riding instructor, and the one thing I cannot stand is a disrespectful horse, one who does not understand personal space or one who has been allowed to just walk all over their people. These horses never get told no, and then when they do it is a huge ordeal. Furthermore they begin taking advantage of people who cannot fend for themselves and injuries begin happening from things like head rubbing and then simply getting too close and spooking, or not knowing the simple things in like like how to walk like a normal horse. I know it isnt the horse's fault, it is the people who do not know how to teach a horse to be a horse.