June 24, 2020 – Ask Monty Newsletter

Question: How do you discipline a horse without force?

I need help with a behavior that my youngster is doing. She has always pawed at the ground when she is getting impatient, for example when tied up or you have asked her to stand still and she wants to go and investigate. However, over the past few days when I give her a treat she eats it and then tries to paw me to get another one. I appreciate a lot of people will say don’t give treats, and if this is what I need to do to stop the behavior then that is what I will do, but I do like to reward her with a treat when we are training.

But I was wondering… I have read online that if a youngster gets nippy when teething to never tell them off as it can become a game to them and I was wondering if instead of telling her off (when she has pawed towards me I have been telling her no in a firm voice and making her take two steps backwards) would it be possible to use this to train her something new instead of telling her off. So when she paws, to pick up the leg and tell her paw as we would a dog and then give her a reward for this or would this encourage an unwanted behaviour and therefore it’s best to let her know that in no circumstances is it okay to lift a leg in my direction?

Monty’s Answer:

Thank you very much for this question. At this time I am going to go back to the first day of any Horsemanship 101 to give you the information you desperately need. Without knowing it, you are training your horse to become more proficient with the use of bad manners. Take a breath, sit back and realize that you need a whole new perspective on improving the behavior of horses in general. It is with that in mind I will outline the basic elements you need.

Having pondered your question, I decided it is very valuable for tens of thousands of horse owners. Your question reminds me that I still have a lot of work to do. Your mindset is about as far from my concepts as you could get. Please let me say that my textbook From My Hands to Yours has ample information regarding your question. My Online University has many offerings that speak to the elements you have outlined. No blade of grass has ever run from a horse. While predators consider their food a trophy, no horse for 50 million years has had to stalk or kill in order to devour a blade of grass.

Horses are flight animals and, in addition, they are classified as grazers. Horses typically eat grass. This grass grows from the ground and never runs away from them. Their food is provided by nature and is most often never touched by human hand before being eaten. With this in mind, one must realize that the food for horses has never run from them, so food from the hand is not accepted by the horse as a treat. In your question, you outlined that your horse displays unacceptable and dangerous behavior. Giving a treat to stop this behavior is unacceptable and will cause the horse to increase the bad behavior. Never feed from the hand.

Backing the horse up whenever bad behavior is expressed is a good idea. Attempting to reward the horse against bad behavior with food from the hand is a fallacy without any question. In my books and Online University I outline that the instant bad behavior is experienced, you can bump the shin of the horse with the side of your foot to distract him. A few repeats of this discipline will cause the biter to contemplate biting and then quickly look down at the shin.

You have taken the time to insert this question when information regarding this subject is explained in detail in the two formats I have recommended. The Dually Halter will assist in the disciplinary actions you create when putting together your reaction to this bad behavior. Let us know how it’s going and if need be, ask other questions as you progress through this effort.


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