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I would consider myself a pretty chilled out person when it comes to horses. I don’t obsess over the perfect bed, I don’t mind them getting dirty and being horses and I don’t mind them being a bit cheeky and having a bit of personality. But I really struggle with horses who do not have any manners.
Now I don’t expect a perfectly behaved horse. But I do expect them to not be tanking off with me, barging through me and they certainly shouldn’t be lashing out at me with any body part! Obviously, there are times when they spook and accidents happen. But at the same time, not many horses spook and run into the brick wall next to them.
Bad manners are dangerous
Manners are something I have touched upon before when I have said I would rather ride a rude horse than lead one. This is mainly because I feel like I have more control and you tend to be out of the way of trampling limbs. But an article in Horse & Hound today got me thinking about this topic and I completely agree with what they were saying.
In this article a livery owner is speaking out about the importance of manners and how it is the horse owners responsibility to teach them. This is after one of their liveries trampled them, breaking their cheekbone. She was lucky to have escaped with just this injury and nothing more serious.
Now if the horse genuinely spooked, then no, manners may not have helped. But how many horses barge through gates on a regular basis? These horses could easy cause a serious injury to the handler.
But it’s not just dangerous for the day to day handling of horses. Other equine professionals such as; farriers, vets, dentists and physios are all at risk. I couldn’t tell you how many nasty bites I’ve seen on farriers or how many vets have been kicked.
Why does the responsibility lay with the horse owner?
I do occasionally see people asking this question and I find it very worrying! If your child went into school and kicked a teacher or bit a doctor, you wouldn’t expect the adult to correct this behaviour. It would be your responsibility as a parent to make sure your child knew this wasn’t okay.
But also, why should other people take time out of their day to train your horse for you? I don’t pay my vet to make my horse to behave, they are there for medical reasons. And I bet anyone you are paying to help with your daily yard jobs doesn’t have the time to teach your horse manners.
If Scottie injured someone I had asked and/or paid to work with him, I would be embarrassed and very sorry. Luckily Scottie has incredibly good manners so this isn’t something I have to worry about too much with him. Yes accidents can always happen but I am confident that no one will get injured as a result of Scottie’s manners.
How to improve your horse’s manners
Don’t be afraid to tell them off
Firstly, don’t be afraid to tell your horse off for bad behaviour! This is something I have talked about before and I think a lot of people are worried about telling their horse off as it is often seen as animal abuse. It isn’t! I’m not saying it’s okay to beat your horse, but a slap on the shoulder if they barge you out the way is absolutely fine.
Reward good behaviour
For horses who tend to be naughty to turn out or bring in, I like to have a treat in my pocket. If they walk out nicely with no bad behaviour, I will offer them a treat after I remove the head collar.
Repeat the process
Some bad behaviours can take a long time to fix. So you will need to repeat a process to let them know how they should behave. A good example of this is when a horse charges out the stable in the morning because they want to go out in the field. You put their head collar on and take them out the stable. If they charge, you take them back into the stable, wait a minute then try again. They should eventually learn to wait.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There are plenty of fantastic instructors and behaviourists out their who specialise in ground work. They can help you work through any problems you are finding particularly difficult.