Ask Monty, July '07

Read legal disclaimer here.

7/25/07: We have an acquaintance that will not put her two horses together. She goes to all sorts of extremes to keep a fence between them; which the horses continually tear down to get at each other. I bite my tongue because I'd hate to encourage her to put them together and have it go bad. But horses are herd animals and need to be together for their own emotional well-being and stress levels. So many people read the herd pecking-order behavior as being mean, when it has nothing whatsoever to do with being mean. Establishing and testing the pecking order has been written into their DNA for millions of years because the leadership that the pecking order creates makes the herd safer, more secure. It's their way. So... should I keep my mouth shut? Or tell her to do Join-Up and all will be fine?"

7/18/07: Please interpret a horse's licking and chewing.

7/11/07: Part II continued from July 4, 2007 Ask Monty...

I have a gelding by the name of Troy and he is absolutely terrified of injections and going through water. He will rear when I try to get him to follow other horses into water. When we have to inject him he instinctively knows, and starts to rear. I would like to handle this using the non violent methods that I know you will encourage.

Many thanks,
Colleen Keal
Kokstad South Africa

7/4/07: I have a gelding by the name of Troy and he is absolutely terrified of injections and going through water. He will rear when I try to get him to follow other horses into water. When we have to inject him he instinctively knows, and starts to rear. I would like to handle this using the non violent methods that I know you will encourage.
Many thanks,
Colleen Keal
Kokstad South Africa

Answers to July 2007 Ask Monty Questions

Question: We have an acquaintance that will not put her two horses together. She goes to all sorts of extremes to keep a fence between them; which the horses continually tear down to get at each other. I bite my tongue because I'd hate to encourage her to put them together and have it go bad. But horses are herd animals and need to be together for their own emotional well-being and stress levels. So many people read the herd pecking-order behavior as being mean, when it has nothing whatsoever to do with being mean. Establishing and testing the pecking order has been written into their DNA for millions of years because the leadership that the pecking order creates makes the herd safer, more secure. It's their way. So... should I keep my mouth shut? Or tell her to do Join-Up and all will be fine?"

Monty's Answer: Thank you very much for an interesting question. Like so many things in life it is not likely that either of your solutions is the answer to this question. If you kept your mouth shut you would not be able to study this phenomenon with any degree of open dialog. If you tore the fence down you would probably be arrested for destroying the property. And that would end your project for sure.

Now let’s take a look at this behavioral pattern in a serious attempt to make some sense of it. You are absolutely right that horses are a herd animal. Over bonding however presents us with a difficult remedial problem called separation anxiety. In viewing how we live with horses in this day and age we must realize that it is not practical for most of us to simply create a herd society and then expect to use our horses for their intended purposes.

Whether we are interested in pleasure, ranch or competition horses, it is necessary to individualize our animals to successfully negotiate our chosen discipline. It is virtually impossible to expect acceptable performance from an over bonded screaming maniac. Causing the horse to be cooperative, relaxed and generous during sessions as a partner with us is imperative to an acceptable relationship.

Join-Up®, properly executed will go a long way to developing a sense of well being for the horse in the presence of the human in question. Removing anxieties that are normal patterns of behavior in the un-Joined-Up horse is a huge step in the right direction in seeking the answer to this question. Join-Up is seldom the entire solution as a stand alone measure. In addition, one must create activities that the horse finds to be entertaining and fun.

In the quest to discover interesting exercises one must take into consideration breed and conformation traits that tend to identify desirable activities. To give you a simplified example, I might say “it is hard for the Belgian draft horse to get excited about jumping a five foot fence” or “one will find difficulty in creating a desire within the 17 hand warm blood to cut cattle” I often say that one of the strongest attributes of the great trainer is to discover what the horse wants to do and then create an environment which helps him do it.

One might consider taking this answer to the neighbors, keeping an open mind and discussing with them options that could identify the solutions to the problems you have identified while at the same time learning a good deal about the nature of equus. I would be interested to hear more from you once your project is on its way.

- Monty

(See more questions)

Question: Please interpret a horse's licking and chewing.

Monty's Answer: I have written about this in my textbook From My Hands to Yours where there is an explanation of licking and chewing. I describe the first two signs of Join-Up® then while the third and fourth gestures often switch order positions, I list as the third gesture "licking and chewing." In doing so, the horse communicates that he is an herbivore and is eating. If he is eating, he cannot be afraid of the situation he is in. In fact, this can be considered a sort of smoke screen. The horse is testing the waters, so to speak, prepared to flee if necessary. I believe that this gesture is a later version of one expressed by foals when they snap their jaws open and shut at the sight of a strange horse, or have a frightening experience. I believe this gesture means that while the horse is eating he cannot be afraid. I think he is saying, 'We have guard horse on our herds and when a predator is present we must stop eating. We must get our heads high and get ready for the run or we die.'

- Monty

See more questions

Question: Part II continued from July 4, 2007 Ask Monty

I have a gelding by the name of Troy and he is absolutely terrified of injections and going through water. He will rear when I try to get him to follow other horses into water. When we have to inject him he instinctively knows, and starts to rear. I would like to handle this using the non violent methods that I know you will encourage.

Many thanks,
Colleen Keal
Kokstad South Africa

Monty's Answer: As I said last week, please don’t think that your questions are unheard of. These are problems shared by many thousands of horse owners worldwide. Today I will answer the second question regarding injections. The introduction is nearly the same for both issues.

You need to settle yourself down, realize that these are natural fears that can be dealt with relatively easily if you get your work right. My first suggestion is to get a good Join-Up® causing your horse to willingly be with you and follow you. The second phase of this collective measure is to school the horse to the Dually halter until he is willing to move forward and with no pressure on the halter at all.

With these two measures accomplished, I recommend that you begin a process of desensitizing your horse to the injections. The next process that I recommend is the use of the hair dryer. I have used the hair dryer very effectively to help a horse accept the clippers and also to correct a head shy condition. The use of the hair dryer is also very effective where injections are concerned. One should acquire a large veterinary syringe. There is no need to put a needle on it. The objective is to cause your horse to allow the syringe to be pressed against the area of the neck most often used for injections.

Place the hair dryer on the warm mode; not hot. Pass it up and down the area of the jugular vein. School the horse firmly with the Dually halter anytime he moves a foot. When your horse will stand relaxed while using the hair dryer in this fashion then add the sight of the syringe. As you do, school the horse in a similar fashion to the Dually halter per usual.

Begin to use the syringe aggressively holding it to the jugular vein area and expect your horse to stand still should there be any resistance use the Dually halter until you experience only relaxation. When there is an actual first injection use the hairdryer prior to penetration. It is normally not the pain of the needle but the sight of the syringe after a sting has been felt sometime in the past.

- Monty

(see more questions)

Question: I have a gelding by the name of Troy and he is absolutely terrified of injections and going through water. He will rear when I try to get him to follow other horses into water. When we have to inject him he instinctively knows, and starts to rear. I would like to handle this using the non violent methods that I know you will encourage.

Many thanks,
Colleen Keal
Kokstad South Africa

Monty's Answer: Please don’t think that your questions are unheard of. These are problems shared by many thousands of horse owners worldwide. I will answer this in two parts but the introduction is nearly the same for both issues.

You need to settle yourself down, realize that these are natural fears that can be dealt with relatively easily if you get your work right. My first suggestion is to get a good Join-Up® causing your horse to willingly be with you and follow you. The second phase of this collective measure is to school the horse to the Dually halter until he is willing to move forward and with no pressure on the halter at all.

With these two measures accomplished, I recommend that you begin a process of walking your horse over objects that he finds slightly frightening. These might include some jump poles lying on the ground. Next might be a large piece of plywood lying on the ground and then it might be a piece of blue tarpaulin (plastic).

If there is any resistance shown then school the horse with the Dually halter until there is complete cooperation over each of the objects in question. If one executes these first objects while walking with your horse, be very careful not to be in a position that is in the way of your horse as you negotiate poles, plywood or plastic.

With each of these procedures in place one could ride another horse and execute the same obstacles mentioned. When you horse is cooperative while you are on another horse then you may begin to enter the walking through water phase. When executing the walking through water phase it is recommended that you always ride another horse as to be completely safe.

I recommend that you first find or create a slight depression in the ground and then begin to wet that section only slightly at first. While riding another horse begin to lead your horse through the slightly moistened soil continuing to add water until you are walking your horse through mud. Continue adding water until it is mushy and then continue the process until your horse is walking through water.

Once your horse will walk through water then you be in the process of with the walking through the water with the rider on.

These procedures are clearly outlined in my textbook From My Hands to Yours and I strongly recommend the Fix-Up DVD that expands on this outline. Next week we will cover fear of injections.

- Monty

(see more questions)

Continue to June 2007 Ask Monty >

Return to main Ask Monty page >


monty roberts email signup
Get ASK MONTY Tips Free
Your Email:
For Email Marketing you can trust
©2008 Monty and Pat Roberts. All Rights Reserved.