Continued from page 1
Even worse, as a colt develops into a mature stallion they often can become very "nippy." This one was no different at first. Just as he did with his mother, he would sneak tiny bites and nips when you weren't watching, and although there wasn't mean intent behind them let's face it – they hurt!
Anytime a horse strikes at you (and a nip should be considered a strike) it's important that you retaliate with conviction so they think twice about doing so again. But when I would give this colt a fairly light slap he would almost smirk to himself and try to nip me again! Was he being mean-spirited? No! This colt grew up with no significant discipline from his mother and no fear of humans – we imprinted him from birth and thus he trusted us. Since he did not fear me, he thought I was engaging in some horseplay as any other colt would do.
A slap, as harsh as it sounds to us, is not always about force. It generally does not cause a horse much pain, but rather it is intended as a shock technique for a horse that already recognizes you as an alpha. Since this colt saw me as a playmate and equal, he possessed no fear of my slaps – my choice was to either escalate physical force (which is generally not my first choice) or establish my dominance in a gentle way via round pen.
Once I established that slaps or verbal growls would not have any effect on this colt, anytime he would nip at me or try my patience with his rebellious ways we would march straight to round pen or enclosed paddock. While this colt found notion amusing for first five minutes or so, eventually round pen will drain "oats" from nearly any horse and he was no different.
With consistent round pen work, this colt soon learned that I wasn't a simple playmate – I was his leader. Although we could still enjoy each other's company, it had to be on terms that were agreeable to both of us (no more black and blues!). Due to consistent round pen work, leading, nipping and general disrespect issues became a thing of past.
I hope my example of this young colt showed folly of depending upon physical force to achieve your goals – "outgunning" a horse is not easy, practical or desirable. Never accept poor behavior and do not feel your authority is measured solely by your raw strength; both are mistakes that are all too commonly committed by horse owners. Instead consider use of a round pen (or in a pinch you can use a longe line) and find out how easy training and discipline can be when using Great Equalizer.
Jeffrey Rolo, owner of AlphaHorse and an experienced horse trainer and breeder, is the author of the above article. You will find many other informational articles dealing with horse training and care as well as games and other horse fun on his website: http://www.alphahorse.com.
Copyright © 2005 AlphaHorse. All Rights Reserved.