Posts Tagged ‘ask monty’

 

How to overcome a fear of horses

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Question: I’m writing because, at age 54, I’ve been given opportunity to get involved with horses. My husband adopted a 15 y/o paint gelding (El Nino) and a 17 y/o quarter horse mare (Sugar) from a friend with cancer, who could no longer keep her horses. The horse are healthy and of reasonable disposition.

We have a farm, with two large fenced pastures and a barn with two stalls, where the horses will eventually be moved to later this Spring. In the interim, they are boarded where my husband’s friend has had them boarded the past several years and where they receive good care.

My question to you is this: I’m 54. I’ve had little experience with horses except for the occasional nose-to-tail trail ride, maybe 6 of these rides in my life time. To me, horses are beautiful, but large and frightening. I enjoy them from a distance but am quite fearful up close.

Will I really, ever be able to get over my fear of horses?… to perhaps ride competently and comfortably one day?… or at the very least (but really most important), to be able to at least care for them on the ground competently and comfortably.

I read your book “The Man Who Listens to Horses” and have signed up for the Equus Online University. I have completed 32 of your lessons in 8 days. Yet, I’m still fearful. And on Saturday at the barn during a lesson, Sugar spooked at some very loud outdoor noises while an experienced rider was on her. Sugar started running sideways full steam until the experienced rider calmed and settled her. If I’d have been on her, I’d likely have fallen and been injured. Now I’m even more fearful. This was out-of-character for Sugar, but the noises from outdoors were very loud and unusual.

As I said above, really the most important thing is for me to be comfortable and competent with them on the ground, for their daily care and well-being. I’d be thrilled if I could at least do this. My husband will be the main caregiver, but I’d like to be able to help and support him. My husband is not fearful, just has the healthy respect for horses.

We live in Wisconsin, but I’m mulling over trying to attend your H101 course. It sounds like just the thing, but time and distance are a factor.

Monty’s Answer: Thank you very much for your question. Please understand that I believe every word of it was well founded and deserves congratulations to you as your comments were exactly as I would want them to be if you were my daughter or my best friend. There is absolutely no disgrace in being respectful of the size and the potential danger connected with the power of horses and their athleticism.

This is a healthy position for anyone to express and what would concern me is the amateur who expresses no fear or concern for potential dangers. Congratulations on your ability to express a healthy concern for your safety and well being while in the process of learning what and who horses are and the potential for danger if significant errors are made. Please do not for one minute hold the thought that I am discouraging you from dealing with horses. That is simply not the case.

As you probably know, horses have dominated my existence for almost 8 decades now. I am relatively free of any injuries significantly enough to list as major. In considering your question I suddenly realize that I have never been hospitalized for an injury caused by a horse. When you consider that I have dealt with about 70,000 horses, I believe that you will agree that this is a relatively amazing statistic.

Please consider that my activities have been as a “Stunt Kid” from the age of 4 and right through to my 60s. Also consider that i competed professionally in rodeos, cuttings and working cow horse competitions well into my 50s. One might tend to say “Well that was you and this is me.” Obviously I agree with that statement but the point is however that I have devoted the balance of my life to helping people understand the need for caution and education.

Thank you for mentioning that you have viewed a large number of lessons on my Online University. That is a good a start as I could recommend. Thank you also for considering the course Horsemanship 101 because that would, in a very significant way, increase your educational needs. At this point in my answer it is appropriate to remind you that selecting the right horse to be around is a critical issue. Is it full-proof or can there be unique exceptions where horses are concerned.

Your communication addresses that very issue with the horse that was otherwise quiet and trustworthy but on a given moment decided to cause trouble for the other rider. Those circumstances can occur with any horse at any given moment. The better the choice of horses, the less likely for this occurrence. My book From My Hands to Yours is a huge part of the education I would recommend. Virtually very segment required by you is covered on those pages.

In the final analysis, learning to be at one with your horse, confident in your ability to be in the right place at the right time is absolutely essential to the ultimate success of overcoming theses natural fears that are healthy for us to have until we are satisfied that we are in control of virtually all of the potential pit falls that can challenge us on any given day. I think the same thing could be said for learning to ride a motorcycle or even a bicycle.

I think its fair to even suggest that it is not unlike learning to roller skate or even negotiating the streets, on foot, of any given city we might traverse. Please remain in touch and do not hesitate to continue to ask questions of experienced, trustworthy people as to how you might acquire the appropriate education that I have discussed with you in answering your question.

 

How sensitive is your horse?

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Question:
My horse is very sensitive in the flank and the stifle area. When I am grooming her, she seems to get very angry. She puts her ears back and even acts as though she would kick me. When I brush or touch her in the area of the flank or the stifle, she moves her hips toward me and not away. If I push harder, she pushes much harder against me. She has pinned me up against the wall several times and it’s very frightening. What should I do, Mr. Roberts? My instructor says that I should not go into her stall without a whip. I don’t want to whip her, but I don’t want her to hurt me either. There must be a solution to this problem. Can you help me? Sincerely, “Extremely Frightened!”
  
Monty’s Answer:    
Thank you for your inquiry. This is actually a subject near and dear to my heart. This is the pattern of behavior that causes so much trouble with horses in the starting stalls in racing. There are rails inside the stalls which jut out toward the horse. They are there to protect the feet of the jockey but in my opinion, they cause more trouble than they save. The horse that is sensitive in the flanks and stifles will go ‘into pressure’ particularly if its applied to that area of their body. I have maintained for most of my adult life that horses are ‘into pressure’ animals. It is the same phenomenon as we see in the human baby as they bring in new teeth. 
 
The gums are irritated and the child gets comfort from pressing hard on them typically from a teething ring. The horse has survived, in part, because they have learned to go into the sharp pain of a dog biting in the region of the flank. If the horse should run away the dog would simply rip the flesh allowing the intestines to exit the body and the dog makes a successful kill. Survival of the fittest has caused horses to behave with an ‘into pressure’ pattern of dealing with sharp pain. One must use soft grooming brushes on this type of horse and be very careful about staying out of the kick zone. It is essential that we treat this area carefully.
 
You have probably trained your horse to move off pressure without even knowing it. While riding, you will put a leg against your horses side and when the horse moves off the leg, you remove the pressure. You have probably done this on both sides of your horse. Most likely, when your horse was ridden only a few times, there was a tendency to move into the rider’s leg and not away from it. Eventually however your horse learned it was better to move away from the leg. At this present time I have some experiments going on which may prove to be a help with the very problem that you have described. It is to see if we can teach the horse to move off pressure in the area of the flanks. 
 
In order to alter this behavior, I have asked that a soccer ball be attached to the end of a strong bamboo pole. I have asked that the pole be about 6 feet long (2 meters). The ball is actually taped onto the end of the stick, covered with sponge and more tape applied… any way to cause the bamboo stick to be safe when pushed against the horses flanks. I direct the handler to press the ball into the area of the flanks, and stay with it if the horse pushes back. After a few minutes of work, most horses will step away experimenting with how to get the pressure off the ball in the flank. With the slightest step away the handler will remove the ball immediately, releasing all pressure.
 
The reason for the large ball is so that the horse feels no sharp pain. After removing the ball the handler should proceed to the other side and repeat the process. When one can achieve behavior that is immediately off pressure instead of into pressure, you’re well on your way to a successful alteration of deeply imbedded behavioral patterns. Having accomplished this you will be safer to groom, open gates more easily and even have better flying lead changes than you could achieve prior to training your horse to move off pressure even when it’s in the flank area. It is still early in this experimentation, but I think I am the first person to set up this kind of trial. 

After making sure that your horse has no physical ailments, the next step is to desensitize that area. As a point of interest, people who imprint their foals and have aspirations to train them to be performance horses, do not desensitize this area. They leave this area naturally sensitive so that cues can be given by the rider.

 

How to Prepare Your Horse for the Farrier

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Question:

My young horse, who is 10 months old, needs farrier attention yet it seems to me that he is too young for Join-Up. What steps should I take before bringing in my farrier? Kerry Milford

Monty’s Answer:

Thank you for your timely question. This week we have added a sixth farrier lesson to my Equus Online University. Students should ask their farriers to watch along with them as they learn from world renowned farrier Ada Gates showing us how she achieves a balanced foot and objective farriery. Farriers will appreciate that these owners are willing to prepare their horses for the farrier’s visit.

 

I remember, as a child, my father telling me that he had never been to a dentist and that he hated the thought of ever having to go. I remember my first visit vividly. I was totally unprepared, scared to death, and hated every minute of it. By the time our children made their first visit to the dentist, times had changed dramatically, and our family dentist was willing to take the time for a mock visit, where an assistant explained to the children the value of dentistry, and educated them about the great lengths taken to keep it pain free.

Consequently, our children have never feared the dentist, and our family has enjoyed a much improved dental environment than from my childhood. This is precisely the message that I believe to be applicable when preparing your horse to deal with the farrier. Let’s first address your question about Join-Up®.

Once your foal has been weaned and no longer calls out for his mother, he is ready for his Join-Up sessions. Accomplishing Join-Up is a great way for your foal to enter that period of his life when his mother is no longer a factor. Properly done, it will promote an understanding between weanling and human that will be beneficial lifelong. I recommend two or three Join-Up sessions on consecutive days. Be gentle and patient with foals as they are small and ultra-sensitive.

Doing too many Join-Up sessions at this stage is usually counterproductive. It is a little like often telling a child the same story; the foal will come to resent it and exhibit gestures of anger. Prudently accomplished, two or three Join-Up sessions will allow you to live by the concepts of Join-Up throughout the relationship with your horse.

The post Join-Up work with the Dually halter should proceed until you achieve strong signs of willingness and relaxation. Then, you can move on to accomplish other goals. The Dually is very effective for schooling a horse to stand for the farrier or the veterinarian. The Dually halter will also help a horse load into a trailer, walk into a starting gate (starting stalls), walk through water, stand for mounting or any other handling problems.

Any person preparing a horse to be trimmed or shod by the farrier should take this responsibility seriously. I have seen extremely wild and fractious horses that require a week or more to be prepared for the farrier’s visit. During this training period the sessions might take up to an hour a day. Half-hour sessions twice a day are not a bad idea.

In every country I have visited, I have found that some people believe that the farrier can educate the horse himself when it comes to standing and behaving while the footwork is done. This is an unacceptable mind-set. A farrier is a professional and should be treated as such. His expertise is to care for your horse’s feet, not to train him. While it is true that some farriers are also good horsemen and quite capable of doing the training, most horse owners do not plan to pay the farrier for training services.

The farrier often feels that he is being taken advantage of and should not be required to take the time necessary to train. This can result in short tempers, and horses dealt with in an inappropriate way. While farriers are generally physically fit, muscular and capable of administering harsh treatment, should something like this occur, the blame should rest with the people securing their services, and not the farrier. Starting to prepare your horse to meet the farrier should preferably be done just after weaning, but you might inherit an older horse that has not had this education.

The following procedure is for yearlings and older horses. I would suggest that your student be introduced to the round pen and go through one, two or three Join-Ups on successive days. Once Join-Up has been achieved and your horse is perfectly willing to follow you with his adrenaline down and volunteers to stay with you comfortably, I suggest that you put your student though two or three daily sessions with the Dually halter.

Once that has been accomplished, you are well on your way to having your horse stand comfortably while you pick up and deal with his feet. To begin the farrier-schooling process, you should first rub your horse over, or spray him, with insect repellent. He finds it disconcerting if he has to stand on three legs and can’t stomp one to remove an insect. Once the repellent is applied, you can begin to pick each foot up repeatedly.

If, at this juncture, your horse is perfectly willing to give you one foot at a time and stand on the other three while you tap on the lifted foot and run a rasp over it, you are probably ready to give your farrier a call. If your student is reluctant, offers to kick, or refuses to allow you to tap or rasp the lifted foot, I suggest that you fabricate an “artificial arm,” which I’ll discuss later.

arm

At this point, the good horseman should reflect on why a horse might react in this fashion. Each of us should quickly remember that the flight animal relies upon his legs to carry him to flee for survival. We should immediately understand that acting out violently toward the horse does nothing but convince him that we are predators and out to cause him harm. Delivering pain to your student is absolutely inappropriate.

To make an artificial arm like the one I use to train horses that are difficult for the farrier, you will need the following items:

1. An old rake or broom handle, cut 3 feet (approx. 1 meter) long, or a hardwood cane with a straight-handle grip, not curved grip.

2. One heavy-duty work glove.

3. One sleeve of a discarded sweatshirt or heavy work shirt.

4. One roll of electrical, gaffer or duct tape.

Place the glove over one end of the pole and fill it with straw or shavings. Slide the sleeve into place so that the cuff can be taped at the wrist portion of the work glove. Fill the sleeve with sponge, straw or shavings, and tape the upper end of the sleeve to secure the material inside. You should have approximately one foot (30 cm) of uncovered pole for easy handling.

I’m finding it fun for me, at this stage in my life, that innovative students, encouraged to keep open minds, are making some very interesting discoveries. Kelly Marks is the director of the original Monty Roberts courses in England. She brought Ian Vandenberghe to be an instructor in my concepts. Ian came up with an idea that is very helpful, particularly for small, female trainers. He concluded that if the arm had a stiff thumb on it, the handler could, at the appropriate moment, slide the thumb down behind the rear leg, stopping at the pastern.

Using the padded thumb, the handler could actually lift the hind leg without placing her own arm in jeopardy. I was on tour in England when I received a very difficult horse, with a strong desire to kick. The English team brought me Ian’s improved arm and I found it very effective.

If your equine student wants to kick the artificial arm, do not discourage him. Return the arm to the position that bothered the horse until the horse accepts it anywhere you want to put it.

Begin using the arm by massaging the body, shoulders and hips of the horse before proceeding to his legs. You can even rub the belly, and up between the hind legs. Spend considerable time in the area of the flank, as it will be often touched by the farrier’s shoulder. Bad habits can get started if the horse is still sensitive in the flank area before the leg-lifting procedures begin. Use the arm to massage all four legs until the horse is perfectly happy dealing with the procedure.

If you are dealing with an extremely flighty or dangerous horse, you may consider using an assistant so that one person can control the head while the other uses the arm. Remember, if the horse acts out or pulls his leg away from you, drop the leg immediately and then school with the Dually halter. This will not be necessary with most horses that are raised domestically, but it could be an advantage with mustangs or horses raised with little human contact.

Be alert and watch for improvement, and when you get it, remove the arm from that position at once and go to the other side of the horse to continue working. Your student will regard this as reward for not kicking, and is likely to quickly improve. With your student cooperating fully when you pick up all four feet and tap and rasp, ask your farrier if he has an old pair of farrier’s chaps that he can lend you, if you don’t own a pair yourself.

You need your horse to allow you to work on all four legs while you are wearing loose-fitting chaps, which may frighten him and present a problem when the farrier visits. Most horses become accustomed to chaps within five to ten minutes without a much difficulty. On the day the farrier arrives, your student should have the person who has been working with him present for his first farrier procedure.

You should choose a place for this work that the horse is familiar with and one where you have accomplished a large part of your schooling. It should be a safe enclosure with good lighting so that the farrier can see the feet clearly. Good footing should be provided, and a firm, level surface should be available so that the farrier can judge the action of the feet as the horse walks away from, and back toward, the farrier.

You should have the Dually halter on your student, and move through the procedure slowly so that he accepts the activity while staying calm and relaxed. Advise your farrier that you believe it is a good idea to pick the feet up and put them down a few times before working on the foot just to accustom the horse to the activity. It is also a good idea if the farrier picks up the foreleg briefly just before picking up the rear leg on that same side, to help prepare the horse for work on the hind foot.

If you find that you have done insufficient work to prepare your horse for the farrier, then stop the procedure at once and allow additional time for further schooling before reintroducing him to the farrier. Following these procedures, your farrier is likely to be a much happier member of your team than if he would be if required to deal with an unprepared horse. And just as important, your horse will be a much happier individual, likely to enjoy a lifetime of comfort with the farrier.

Anyone who owns a horse should read material written by notable farriers to better understand the importance of foot care. The old saying “No foot, no horse” is certainly valid. An owner should take the responsibility of being as informed as possible when it comes to this critical part of the horse’s anatomy. The informed owner will judge the farrier’s work by the angle, shape and health of the foot he helps to create, and not by the amount of material he removes.

Good luck with your foal’s training and let us know how it goes with all his new experiences.

 

Ask Monty: Is there such a thing a ‘coldback horse’?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Question:

My husband would like to know if there is such a thing as a “coldback horse”. In other words “one that you have to lunge before each ride”? We think not, but there are others who tell us yes. Robert says he’ll take your word before anyone else’s.

Monty’s Answer:

The Coldback horse is a phenomenon generally referred to by horse people whereby the horse tends to want to buck with the saddle or the saddle and rider in the first minutes of any given day. The inference is that when the back is cold the horse wants to buck. When the back warms up, the tendency is to accept the saddle and rider. When assessing this phenomenon, one wants to be very careful not to confuse a physical problem with a psychological problem.

Many Coldback horses will generally outgrow it and resolve the problem pretty much on their own. One should be careful to exercise moderately before mounting. If we are dealing with a physical problem, the odds are that it will not resolve itself without dealing with the physical malady before expecting a resolution to what we term the Coldback problem. At this point in time I know of no other diagnostic solution than to X-ray the dorsal processes of the spinal column.

Once the X-ray is completed, the competent vet will diagnose normality or abnormality of the dorsal processes, their spacing and their alignment. Should there be the problem of misalignment, it is likely that the vet will determine it to be ‘Kissing Spine’. I am discovering that many horses who have heretofore been termed buckers or horses with many negative labels are actually horses with anatomical abnormalities that can cause extreme pain with the weight of a rider. One should be sure to investigate the potential for physical problems before labeling the horse as having psychological problems.

What can you do to help this horse? The vet might use an anti-inflammatory between the dorsals or even the removal of some processes with no ill effect with the horse being able to carry the saddle and rider.

 

Ask Monty: What do you use to protect your horse’s back?

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Question: My lovely appaloosa mare, Leggs, and I enjoy rambling round the countryside (hacks/trails of 10-20 miles) and a few long distance rides each year. Leggs’ current saddle pad is a bit too long, rubbing slightly over her lumbar spine/loin area. The problem is that we live in the UK and ride western. Well, Leggs is Western and has been a great teacher so now we amble along happily understanding each other. The point is that there are no Western saddlers anywhere nearby to go and explore suitable saddle pads. Instead I’ve done some research online and come up with two possible options and wanted to see if any of you have experience of them. I am considering the Cavallo Western All Purpose – Performance Enhanced and the Horsedream Products 30mm pile merino lambskin western pad with a twill outer. I think the outer is a bit like a normal English numbna. I hope anyone with a Cavallo saddle pad could let me know what you think of its performance as to import one to the UK costs half as much again on the usual price – very expensive! Or if you use a merino wool pad without all the extras, like felt and woven exterior, how does it work? I want Leggs to be as comfortable and happy as possible, so if you’ve got any comments on the above or even another saddle pad idea it would be good to hear. Liz n Leggs

Monty’s Answer: Recently, I filmed a series of lessons for Equus Online University called ‘The Science of Saddle Fitting’ with saddle tech, Robert Ferrand. Our findings confirmed that no saddle can fit perfectly under all circumstances, but we can optimize the effect of a proper fitting saddle accompanied by an effective saddle pad cushion.

Since 2007, I have been working with a Canadian company, Cavallo Inc., that has reached out to assist us in this effort to maximize the effect of the saddle pad in the area of protecting the horse’s back. In this video, you will see me reviewing the qualities and benefits of Cavallo pads as I work with my horse, Nice Chrome.

 

Ask Monty: Why is my horse aggressive at feeding time?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Question: What do you do with a mare that pins her ears when you feed her?

Monty’s Answer: If a horse should own any part of the day, it’s when they’re eating. When you feed a horse, leave them alone. Get the feed to them as easily as you can without mixing in at all, and then leave them alone. If they tend to get impatient when you feed them, take them out of the stall first, feed the stall and then return your horse to the stall. This is not a time to train your horse.

This is not a time when they ought to be pleased with having you in their lives. Horses that are cranky when they’re fed are cranky because they want you out of their territory and they want the tranquility of being able to eat without being bothered by a human being. You wouldn’t want them coming and hanging their head over your table when you’re having lunch, and they feel the same way. So, it is best to leave your mare alone when you feed her.

Get free training tips from Monty by email or submit your question for his weekly question and answer column. Email: askmonty@montyroberts.com

 

Ask Monty: How do you clip a big horse who is terrified of the clippers?

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Question: How would you clip a big horse who is terrified of the clippers without doping him?

Monty’s Answer: Thank you for sending this question to me. In the past two years my menu of procedures has grown tremendously where this problem is concerned. Yes it’s true; at 76 I’m still learning. There was a time when I recommended Join-Up® schooling to the Dually halter and then the use of the hair dryer to cause the horse to be more comfortable with electric motor sounds and the feel of the air on sensitive areas of their body.

These early procedures worked well and have served to improve the lives of countless horses all over the world. Some of my instructors came up with an additional procedure that I have found to be extremely effective. It is the use of a battery powered toothbrush. There are no sharp edges and you can get ones that have a very low volume so far as the electric motor is concerned. For the extreme case, taping the toothbrush to a bamboo pole can help one be more incremental in their approach.

Recently, I discovered all on my own, the addition of a gentle gelding that I could ride while massaging my equine student with the electric toothbrush. It seems that frightened horses will allow you to do much more from the back of another horse than they will when your feet are on the ground. We have been calling it the Monty Roberts Centaur effect. It has been an extremely valuable addition to the list of procedures I already had in place.

I am not asking a student to eliminate any of the early procedures. I am only suggesting the addition of those that I have listed here. Please do not use clippers while mounted on your quiet gelding as clippers have sharp edges and many have attached electrical cords. I do not recommend the use of an electrical cord until your equine student is perceived to be around 90% cured of the clipper phobia. The use of battery powered clippers should be employed before any cord is brought into play. Good luck. Keep us informed as to the outcome of employing these measures.

 

Ask Monty: Isn’t it OK to hit the horse who bites you?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Editor’s note: This post from Monty is in response to a Facebook comment raising the issue of hitting a horse that bites…

Dear Derek,

I couldn’t ask for a better opening of the door for me to explain my position regarding the statements that you made which I am considering a question. Your response is an invitation to thousands to better understand that the human mind, in the horse world, is still not traveling with the mind of the horse. To strike a horse for pain is the world’s #1 worst piece of horsemanship. And while one might perceive the immediate results to be effective the damage done is permanent. To hit a horse anywhere about the head for the act of biting will produce a more effective biter. Your question is perfect to promote learning.

So, you were walking down through the stable and the horse bit you and it hurt so you hit the horse back. Can you immediately see two young lads playing in the sandbox and operating under this same theory. Pretty soon, you have a war and often the parents enter in and the whole thing ends up as a gang rumble. Do you really think that hitting the horse will somehow cause it to rationalize that the next time you walk through the barn he won’t bite you. I have spent 75 years proving that he simply becomes a more dangerous biter. Striking sets a pattern so that after the clamp-down of teeth there is an immediate draw back that really hurts.

In my writings I have consistently suggested way to take the horses brain to another part of their anatomy. One can set it up for the stable as well. The knowing horseman will realize that since we domesticated horses and tend to place them in little rooms for an extended period of their existence, they tend to become territorial. A man’s home is his castle and we tend to believe that for ourselves. There are many ways to deal with territorial behavior and I suggest that you continue to study my concepts as you will undoubtedly evolve to the position that you ultimately will realize that I have done my homework and have addressed your concerns.

It is with regularity that I hear people say “Oh, Monty people don’t believe in striking horses anymore. You have done a great job of educating the world that violence is never the answer.” I appreciate your fortitude in deciding to open this door by coming forward with the comments that I have read from you. It proves categorically that I have NOT finished my mission and that I can’t afford to get old and die. I need to keep getting up every morning and even working harder to learn more so that I can pass it on to those that are still on the curve. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to invite you to deeper study my concepts.

Just 3 days ago I dealt with a horse that was extremely head shy. Some groom, owner or veterinarian, farrier or an individual unidentified had chosen to twist ears and strike the horse about the head. Horses don’t lie and this one leaves no room for error, she was abused. By chance I happened on to a procedure that I have never tried before and within 15 minutes I had a student walking up to her, rubbing her ears and massaging her entire head with his hands. These actions would have caused him to receive a front foot between his eyes only a few minutes before. This is a different subject and I will address it at a different time.

Monty Roberts

Editor’s note (2): For solutions on dealing with horses without resorting to violence, and gaining an understanding of the horse’s nature and mindset, please see Monty’s textbook, From My Hands to Yours. You can also sign up for Monty’s free weekly enewsletter, called Ask Monty, in which Monty answers questions about horses and horsemanship. Below is his answer to a previous question about hitting horses that bite. Keep learning!

Ask Monty Question, 11/25/2009: Why don’t you hit a horse when it bites you?

Monty’s Answer: Attacking the point of consternation is an open invitation to war. If we go to war with the horse it is likely the horse will win. They’re bigger, stronger and faster. What happens when one chooses to hit the horse for biting is that the biting will continue at the same level. The horse will become more cunning as to timing, faster on the attack and very quick to ‘jerk back’ anticipating being hit. The overall outcome is that the biting becomes much worse rather than experiencing an improvement.

Professional trainers will sometimes recommend harsh measures in an attempt to discourage biting. I have heard them say that you hit with your fist very hard at the slightest indication that a bite is coming. I have been told to use vibrating practical joke mechanisms which have a sharp point on them. Some have said to use a clothes peg to execute a painful pinch; I’ve even heard it recommended using a pair of pliers. The worst I know of is the recommendation to place a nail between your fingers jabbing the horse that bites.

Each of these measures is guaranteed to produce a horse which is a more dangerous biter than previously. One must agree to take all painful/violent measures out of the training scenario. It is critical that no attention is paid to the muzzle area of the biting horse whatsoever. These measures will simply cause the horse to bite down with the teeth and then exit taking parts of your clothing and possibly even your skin along with him. There are much more effective ways to deal with this problem.

First let me say that when I deal with biting horses more than 90% of them have been fed treats from the human hand. When we associate food with the human body we are training horses to bite, science has found that the same is true for sharks and other ocean predators. Often times the owner will say they have never fed from the hand only to find out that the damage was done by a previous owner long before the current one was on the scene. Remember, we still have the problem to deal with.

Once all hand feeding has been eliminated the effective horse person will watch the horse closely and instantly take action on the very moment the horse initiates a bite. The action should be to bump the horse on the shin with your boot, not kick the horse, bump the horse, pain is not advisable. What you are after is a distraction which takes the horses mind to another part of their anatomy. One can step on the coronary band (hair line) and let your heel slide down the hoof itself. Horses respond differently; selecting one method is helpful.

Immediately after distracting the horse simply walk away leading the horse with you, stop, observe and respond to any act of biting in the fashion I have recommended. Typically, after about 8 repetitions, the horse will start to bite then stop and look down at his shin or his foot. In using this method one has used distractibility to your advantage. Horses have an ample supply of distractibility and one can eliminate violence and utilize this characteristic to their advantage particularly in this area of biting.

 

Ask Monty!

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Monty’s latest Question and Answer: Which qualities should a person have if they would like to work with horses?

For Monty’s answer, go to his blog at: http://blog.montyroberts.com/bid/46267/Ask-Monty-Roberts-The-qualities-of-a-good-horse-trainer