Re-establishing personal space


Freedom giving me the evil eye

Freedom is not a vicious horse but even he look pretty mean if you interrupt a meal. Now, even though he’s giving me the evil eye here, he is 99% bluff. He knows better than to bite.

Freedom is getting grumpy. He’s a horse that needs a job and a horse that needs constant reminders about his place in the hierarchy of the barn. In other words, if he sees an opportunity to move up the ladder, he takes it.

Freedom isn’t a mean horse, but he likes to be in charge. He has managed his harem of mares quite well for several years and he rules with an evil eye and a cocked leg. He’s rarely aggressive but he has the threatening mannerisms down to a tee.

The problem is that when he’s bored, he tries to manage his humans, too. He needs to be reminded of his place. The best cure? Wet saddle blanket therapy. After a long ride he comes back tired, happy, and submissive.

Since the footing has been icy and I’ve been sick, he has not gotten enough exercise to keep him happy. The first sign is that he starts to crowd you at meal times. And he gives you that evil eye with the ears pinned back. That’s just not acceptable.

I insist that my horses stay outside of my safety bubble, especially when they are loose. That bubble is about the size of a hula hoop that extends all the way around me.

My favorite technique for creating a personal space bubble is to carry a lead rope. Holding the clip end (you don’t want to hurt your horse), you can flick it at your horse so that they stay a proper distance from you. It only takes a flick or two for Freedom to realize that I get to choose how close he comes. You can see the thoughts processing in his brain. It’s actually a relief to him to not be in charge. Almost immediately his eye softens and his demeanor changes.

We are in the midst of a major snow storm right now and I’m hoping that by the time it ends, I’ll also feel well enough to ride. There’s nothing like deep snow to get the sillies out of a horse quickly!

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4 responses

  1. If you ever find yourself without a lead rope, holding a hand up to horse’s head height and snapping your fingers works well, too. It’s important to maintain discipline at all times, as Princess Margaret so aptly pointed out: A horse that bullies you on the ground will bully you in the saddle.

  2. That picture with the crabby look is fantastic! It’s so interesting to me how some non-horsey people think all horses are alike and they are void of moods. I have to say I might not outwardly appear as perturbed, but I too like to eat sans interruption. Tell Freedom I totally understand. :)

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