Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2004 12:27 pm Post subject: Mane+pulling
My horse, a 9 yr.old, won't let me touch her mane .She starts shaking, and then turns to bite you, with her ears pinned back. The only place I can braid it is in the washrack area. What can I do to correct this?
That sounds like pain, or possibly very bad memory associations. Do you pull her mane? That can be very painful to a sensitive horse. Why do you want to braid her mane?
It's very important to listen to your horse. If she is nervous about something and you still persist in doing it, you can make her completely sour on it. When we don't listen to our horses more subtle signals, we create a situation where the horse thinks that her only option is to threaten you to make you stop. If she's hurting and you're not listening, she is going to get very If something truly upsets your horse, you should not do it until you have found a way to get around the fear or pain.
If you want to work with her to get over this, then I suggest that you stop messing with her mane entirely, for now. Don't do anything that could be painful, like combing, pulling, or braiding. Try to help her develop new memories of having her mane touched, memories that are entirely pleasant instead.
Find something that she likes, such as a nice treat or a place that she does like to be scratched (often between the forelegs is a good spot). Give her the thing that she does like, and then also start touching her mane gently. Try to keep her distracted with the good experience while making the "bad" experience (touching her mane) non-instrusive and positive.
You will have to be careful, because you don't want to inadvertantly reward her for being snappy, even if she's just reacting as she always does. If she puts her ears back and goes to bite, then you should immediately stop giving the treat or the good scratch; be sure not to let her think that you will keep rewarding her even when she does something she should not. Your timing will have to be excellent to make sure that she is rewarded or comforted when she should be, and that you also discourage the biting response.
As with the jumping problem, this could take a long, long time to fix. It will take much patience and tolerance on your part. For this, too I recommend finding a local trainer. S/he could help you to get started, and possibly help you to determine just what it is that makes her so upset about her mane. Good luck.
Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2004 4:54 pm Post subject: Mane
Thanks for the advice. I was asking, because i'd like to braid her mane for shows,..although it's not neccessary. There is a trainer at my barn, and she's helped me, saying that its just a bad habit, but, like you did, maybe it was painful to her or she didn't like it
Hey again. I'm really glad to hear that you've got a trainer working with you and Coco. If you've got time and patience, a lot of problems can be worked through. You just have to be very sure that you're rewarding the right behavior, and correcting the wrong; it really helps if you can figure out a way to set it up such that she's getting rewarded more often than she is getting corrected.
But overall, it's important not to rush or to skip steps. When you do try to go too quickly, you can end up with a frightened horse. Patience and knowing when to move to the next step are key to training
Once again, I am very glad that you've got someone there working with you. A bird in the hand is worth 30 on the internet
thanks again, but i still have one last question:
My trainer and i have figured what she likes: to be scratched right under her ears.Could that work,and what excactly did you mean by correcting? :
Oh, yes, if she likes being scratched under her ears, that sounds just right
"Correcting" can mean one of two things: The horse is doing something you don't want (or is NOT doing something you do want) so 1) you withhold good things, as a sort of passive punishment, or 2) you actively punish him, with words or a smack. I tend to advocate actually smacking a horse only when he is doing something that puts you in physical danger, and otherwise using either voice correction or withholding of pleasant rewards.
Either of these, or both together, can be effective. For example, when I ran a boarding stable, I would not feed any horse who was pushy. I simply stood there until the horse turned his head away, and then gave him his food. By withholding something the horse wanted until he behaved, I reinforced the behavior that I wanted: for the horse to back away from the feed bucket until I was done. All the horses quickly picked up what I wanted.
You can accomplish a lot if you set up the situation so that both you and the horse can win. So when I was feeding, I knew that as excited as the horse was, if I simply stood there until he *did* briefly turn away, then I could reward him. It took more time at first, a lot of patience, to wait until the horse turned away, but it accomplished a lot for me and it was worth the time. If you have a situation where you need to teach a horse something, try to find a way to arrange it so that the horse *will* at some point do right; then you can reward her for her good behavior.
So, with your mare, you can work on her sensitivity around her mane by doing something she likes until she relaxes (like scratching under her ear!), and then very gently, briefly touch her mane, and (if she behaves) stop and reward her with a treat or a "good girl." You might get your best results by starting with your hand touching her neck, then sliding it up to her mane, and sliding it back down again. That way it won't be a sudden, startling contact.
If, however, she reacts poorly when you touch her mane, you can both correct her by withdrawing the pleasant ear scratch, AND correct her more actively, something like saying "No!" or making a loud "AAAAH!" sound (like to a puppy). I find that "No" sounds a bit too much like other words we use in training a horse (like "Whoa" for instance) so I use an "AAAAP!" sound.
But do try very hard to make it so that she is doing right and being rewarded, not doing badly and being corrected. If you're not making any progress at all one day, and you're both getting wound up, set it aside and try another day. If all you're doing is correcting her over and over, you're both going to get tired and tense; if both of you are tense, you're not going to accomplish much relaxation!
Try to work on it when she is relaxed and happy; try to make sure that she is not tense and not about to react badly. If you can get her started, realizing that 1) you're not hurting her, and 2) she's being rewarded when you touch her mane, then you should be able to do more and more over time; she should learn to *like* having her mane, since she is rewarded for it.
I have a question in regard to the reaction you get while touching the mane. I know so little about the wonderful world of horses but it is my belief that they (and all animals) have recall and memories of positive and negitives experiences.
My question is, has she always been like this or is it a new behavior? Also, is she a new horse for you - because I can't help to think that she maybe remembering the past.
Again, I know very, very, very little about horse behavior (that is why I am on this sight is to learn) but my first thought (for some reason) was she was reacting to bad memories of pain and not actually in pain (PLEASE REMEMBER, I KNOW SO LITTLE AND I AM NOT GIVING ADVISE AT ALL) or maybe when you brade, it is to tight.
Just my little thought that came to mind - I am not sure the date you posted but I wish you all the luck and happy riding.