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What Horse Do You Have?

What Horse Do You Have?

Before you start, it will be very beneficial to figure out what kind of horse you are working with.   Knowing this will determine where you start because it makes a difference even when you are just going to hang out with them. 

If you have a horse that tends to be pushy and wants to be close to you in a detrimental way, we’d like to get them to where they prefer to stay away from us (Don’t worry, this will not ruin the connection you are going to be building). 

If you have a horse that tends to ignore or want to stay away from you, we’d like to get them to where they want to hang out with us.  

This is all about the draw/drive balance. If you had 100% drive, as soon as your horse saw you from a distance, they’d run away. If you had 100% draw, as soon as your horse saw you, they’d run up to you, into you and possibly over you. This is a sub-optimal interaction when dealing with an animal 10x your size. 

We’d actually prefer to have a horse that doesn’t want to be anywhere near you than one that wants to run over you. Horses are prey animals and it is perfectly normal for them to wish to maintain a distance from a predator and totally abnormal to want to run up to and push into a predator. So if your horse doesn’t want to be anywhere near you, that’s perfectly normal horse behavior. If you can’t get your horse off of you, then an integral part of what makes a horse a horse, is missing.

In a herd of horses, the only horse who is allowed to lean physically on another horse is the foal who is allowed to lean on his mother. Other members of the herd will allow the foal to have less awareness of their personal space until it becomes weaning time.  Then the mother (and the others) will start to make the foal aware of their space and this is actually a part of the mental & emotional maturation process of the foal, and is a concept ethologist Lucy Rees calls “Collision Avoidance”.  We have seen many horses that are led by humans in a way that allows the horse to push their shoulder into the person while being led (similar to how the foal will push into the mother) and not only does this condone this juvenile behavior, but also is the cause of a lot of other juvenile behaviors that people wish to solve.

Not only does Collision Avoidance help horses to be more self aware and self confident, it’s what allows a herd of horses to move together without jostling each other, like a flock of birds or a school of fish. They want to stick together without running into each other, which I imagine is about a 50% draw and 50% drive ratio. As mentioned earlier, this is the goal, but not usually the starting point for most people, as they are dealing with one that wants to be too close, or one that wants to be too far away.

You will learn about Collision Avoidance in this course – it is made up of Leading With Energy and Focus & Bend exercises. 

The exercise I reference in this video will be the first one you try – but not today!  We still have some other things to figure out before you go out with your horse.

A reminder how to use this course: click on Mark Complete below and you will be taken to the next topic.

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I just got a horse that is very sweet, but is pushing into me at the gate, while leading him from pasture to barn, and when delivering hay to his stall. He will back off if I ask him to back up, but slowly makes his way back to me until he is touching me. I am going to try hanging out with him outside the fence and see if there is any improvement. Hoping to learn new ideas here, and this talk was useful to me.

that was great ! My horse, a 5 year old Arabian, (never handled until I got him ) was an orphan and I thought we were bonding – he’s very loving and runs in from the field – but now I realize he’s too in my space. We’re going to have to work on better balance. . . he’s extremely all over my older mare – never giving her space – rubbing his head all over her – biting and glued to her – she gets so irritated with him
I’ll be sitting outside the fence –

Reassuring to watch this and read the previous two comments. My horse is also too pushy. I try to get him out of my space and he gets stressed. Interesting to see how to start approaching this

I have one of each! A shut-down gelding who’d prefer to avoid humans, and a pushy young mare who knows no boundaries and will literally step on you (and I have had a broken toe to attest to that!) So I get to practice it all…

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) December 28, 2023 at 8:05 pm

Its always good to have one of each, they keep you in the middle.

I have a 20 yr old mare that was clingy for a long time. When I got her at two, she still ‘baby chewed’ at other horses… she had been a severely neglected filly until not long after weaning. Anyway – I knew nothing of this kind of work… but I did note that as soon as I was able to offer TRUST to this mare, when she was 12 or 13 yrs (as opposed to fearing that a spook might occur at any moment) she.. well, she grew up. I think she sensed my determination to TRUST her, and she was able to reach up to that point. Or maybe she’d been ready for a long time, but was offering what she believed I wanted from her (a filly, not a full grown MAREwith a full grown mare’s sense of SELF)

When I started working with you a few years ago my horse literally ran the other way when she saw me coming. Now she will keep grazing or doing what she’s doing, and eventually come over… but when she gets over to me she stands too close. She will stand facing me with her nose touching me. If I try to go around to the side of her she will turn so she is facing me, with her nose touching me. I am 100% certain I did this, as I was so excited when she started coming to me instead of running away I didn’t create appropriate boundaries. I’m not sure what to do now, because if I stand on the other side of the fence I don’t think she will even ever come over, but I’d like her to back up off me a little bit when we are standing together.

PS. I am LOVING this 30 day jump start. It’s so helpful. I’m getting ready to start working with one of our other horses, but it’s, of course, helping me see things I didn’t see before with Goose. <3 Thank you for putting it together. I appreciate it!

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) December 30, 2023 at 11:37 am

The nose touching you is fine. Its where their body is thats determines if they are too close.

Holy smokes that’s the first time I’ve heard a coherent explanation of a horse like mine. I look very much forward to learning more.

This is so interesting! I always used to wish my mare was a bit more ‘pushy’ but now I’m realizing that’s not so great after all. She’s definitely more drive than push. She does walk up to me in the pasture (admittedly, I do give her a ‘hello cookie’ – is that bad?) but she usually stays a metre or two away from me and lets me come up to her. In a training context, she’s definitely more drive and a bit on the ‘Please leave me alone’ side. So I’ll have to work on creating a bit more push while maintaining a healthy amount of drive.

I have a pushy 6 year old Welsh Cob that I bought a year ago. He needs constant reminders to stay out of my space. I haven’t been consistent with him as there is a part of me that enjoys being close with my animals. This video has given me a lot to think about. Self awareness will make me a better horsewoman. For now I’ll cuddle with my dog.

I have one of each. But the one who respects my space and I can just hang with is usually pushy at feeding time – so I need to work on that.

This was helpful. I have an eight year old Gelding, that leans towards more drive. He doesn’t run away, but will avoid me by wedging himself in between a couple other horses. In particular, he will slide up beside the lead mare. He is in a pasture of about 15 horses. When I enter the pasture to hang out with him, Many of the horses come up to greet me, while he is turning away. A couple of those that greet me are very pushy. It’s interesting to watch this video with all of them in mind. Fortunately,, after a few minutes of just hanging out and not asking anything of him, he will generally turn towards me, come over and say hello. We were hanging out near each other a couple of days ago, quite comfortably while he snoozed in the sun. Another horse came alongside me and pushed into me rather hard, disturbing the peace. My horse repositioned himself in between me and the pusher, as if to set a boundary himself, and then went back to snoozing. I would like to try this technique to address the initial avoidance, but I’m unsure of how to manage the pushy pasture mates while working with mine.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) May 22, 2024 at 10:27 am

Can you take him out to work with him individually?

This was already super helpful. I got a 9 year old mustang who is too pushy. I was told by a trainer to just hangout in the pen with him. From day 1 he was in my face and super curious. Never afraid. I was told how amazing that was but really he is just pushy. I will start hanging out outside the pen. Thanks!

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