Horse Psychology Tutorial: Part 8 Vices

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Horse Psychology Tutorial - Part 8 - Vices

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Horse Psychology: Vices
The final part of an 8-part series on horse psychology by trainer Gina Gaye Muzinich of the Morgan Horse Ranch

Ninety-nine percent of the time a horse is not trying to get the best of us when he fails to “behave”. A horse doesn’t know when he’s being “bad”. He has no concept of right or wrong.

Some of us are unaware that we create situations where the horse has no choice but to do things we don’t want him to. Some unruly things that horses do become habitual because people have allowed them to continue. I refer to most problems or vices as “people problems” because the horse is usually not to blame. We’ve labeled some horses with inappropriate names such as: ornery, spoiled, stubborn, disobedient, spooky and dumb. I believe they should be replaced with words like: protective, undisciplined, unschooled, confused, insecure, and smart. There are numerous problems and vices. The following list shows but a few.

(a) Tough mouth. She is difficult to control, turn, or stop. If a horse was never taught to respond to “light” rein cues or has been subjected to a rider with “heavy” or unsteady hands, she will ignore the signals and give the impression of having a tough mouth, although there is no such thing as a tough-mouthed horse.

(b) Difficult to bridle. The horse lifts his head up high to avoid having the bit put into his mouth. He probably had his gums pinched, his teeth banged, or an ice-cold bit forced into his mouth during the bitting process. Now he thinks he’s supposed to lift his head because he’s been bridled that way so many times. We often are in a hurry to bridle our horse to go riding and condition his body, yet we neglect to condition his mind. Horses are whole and complete. Their body, mind, and emotions should be tended to equally.

(c) Difficult to load into a trailer. Perhaps the horse has never been in a trailer, had a fearful past experience, or a handler did not recognize and reward the horse’s slightest try to enter the trailer during the initial exposure. A slight try on the horse’s part can be as small as a “look”.

(d) Doesn’t stand still when the person is trying to mount up. The horse may be nervous, eager to go, or has never been taught to stand for 10 to 15 seconds before ever being asked to move.

(e) Tosses his head while being ridden. Perhaps the horse has a tooth ache, too severe of a bit, too tight of a chin strap, or a badly fitting bridle. The rider could be either heavy-handed or not rhythmically in time with the horse’s head action. The horse’s back could be sore. The horse could be irritated.

(f) Horse is afraid of people. Horses that are truly afraid were probably handled roughly and in a way that they did not understand. Some fearful horses are that way because they never have related to people before. These horses can be very difficult to catch and are usually jumpy at the slightest movement a person makes. If they feel trapped or cornered they can kick or run over you to escape.

(g) Starts or stops movement before receiving any cues. The horse may have a mind of his own because he has received so many mixed messages from people. He could be anticipating because he was never given a mental break after each maneuver. In other words, he may have been worked too quickly.

(h) Rears or bucks. This horse is considered un-broke no matter what age. Many things can cause this. Is the rider pulling the reins too hard or keeping too much contact on the bit? Is the horse being held back while others pass him? Is the rider asking the horse to do something he doesn’t understand or go somewhere that he is afraid to? Is there a lack of immediate correction or response from the rider because he is so busy trying to stay in the saddle?

(i) Jigs. The jig is actually a bouncy, springy trot. The horse can be nervous when she jigs but not always. During jigging the horse’s body is rigid. Her body and mind need something to do correctly with lots of bending to relax her. Tasks occupy the horse’s mind and decrease the opportunity to jig. The rider’s companionship and leadership with the horse may not be developed enough to keep her from feeling insecure or having disrespect. Being around new horses or areas, fear of being left behind, eagerness to get home and lack of pertinent training are common causes for horses to jig.

(j) Chews fences. The horse might be copying other horses or even lacking a certain mineral. Perhaps he’s bored!

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