Disrespectful Horse Behavior: Training Guide

Disrespectful Horse Behaviors

Horses are beautiful and majestic creatures, but they’re also big, powerful, and vying for the authority in their relationships with humans and other horses. If you’re new around horses or have just gotten your first horse, it’s important to recognize when your horse is being disrespectful and questioning your leadership.

Horses can be disrespectful in many ways; here are the most common disrespectful behaviors when it comes to dealing with horses:

  • Grazing While Being Led or Ridden
  • Bumping Into You
  • Dragging You or Walking Too Slow When Being Led
  • Being Aggressive Towards You When It’s Time to Eat
  • Acting Out When Riding
  • Not Letting You Pick Up Its Feet
  • Refusing to Be Tied

 

If you can recognize bad behavior in your horse and correct it right away, it will save you from a lot of trouble in the long run. Being assertive and confident in these situations will demonstrate to your horse that you are the alpha. Knowing how to handle the specific behaviors will make you a better communicator with your horse.

Groundwork is the foundation for correcting any bad behavior in your horse. Before we get started, check out our article, 5 Best Groundwork Exercises for Your Horse, to get a grasp of some very simple but effective groundwork exercises.

A Horse Grazing While Being Led or Ridden

How to avoid getting kicked by a horse

Behavior:

There’s no doubting it; horses love grass. They love it so much that they may be willing to drag their handler over to a nice lush patch as they lead them back to the barn.

Another thing that some horses like to do is when they’re being ridden, they like to throw their head to the ground to snatch a bite of grass. I’ve seen many a young rider go toppling over the horse’s head when this happens.

Why it Shouldn’t be Tolerated:

This behavior is considered rude because the horse is completely ignoring the handler. When a horse gets to decide when it can graze, the horse has figured out that its the leader. This behavior is a complete act of rebellion against you and your authority as the handler of the horse.

Correction:

The way I correct this behavior is by making the horse work every time they go to eat grass when they shouldn’t be. Horses, like humans, don’t want to do more work than they have to. If a horse learns that when they try to eat grass it’s just going to result in more work, they’ll figure that it’s not worth their time.

Put a rope halter and lead on your horse. You may need a lunge whip to encourage your horse to move when you ask them. Take your horse and find a nice level patch of lush grass. As soon as the horse reaches for the grass, send them out at a working trot in a circle around you.

Keep them trotting for a few minutes. Ask your horse to stop. Give them the chance to reach for the grass again, and if they do, repeat by sending your horse back out at a trot. Repeat this task until your horse can stand by the grass on a slack leadline without reaching for it.

To get a more in-depth look at how I correct this behavior in my horses, read my article, How to Stop a Horse From Grazing While Riding.

A Horse Bumping Into You

Behavior:

Do you ever find your horse randomly bumping into you? When I first bought my POA pony, he was really bad about this. I would be leading him and I’d come to a stop, but he would just keep walking and run right into me! He wasn’t paying attention to where I was or respecting my personal space.

This behavior can also look like a horse bumping you with its nose when it wants to eat or even stepping into you as you groom them.

Why it Shouldn’t be Tolerated:

A horse that bumps in you does not respect your personal space. In the wild, horses show their dominance by trying to get other horses to move out of their space. If a horse can bump you and get you to step away, they’ve just proven that they’re the dominant one in the relationship.

Another reason this behavior shouldn’t be tolerated is that your horse simply may not be paying attention to you. It’s can be dangerous having a 1,000 Lbz animal not focusing on where you are.

Correction:

The best way to get your horse focused on where you are and where the boundaries of your personal bubble ends is by using groundwork techniques to communicate those bounds. Refer back to the groundwork article to learn how to move your horse’s front-end and hind-end.

In these exercises, the horse is learning to step away and out of your space. By doing this, you’ll also get your horse paying attention to you and what you’re asking of them. To learn more about getting a horse to pay attention to you, check out How to Get Your Horse to Pay Attention to You.

A Horse Either Dragging You or Walking Too Slow When Being Led

Behavior:

We’ve all dealt with a lesson pony that seemed like it had to be dragged to and from the arena. When it comes to leading, it seems like some horses were never taught the proper process of walking next to a human.

I’ve had horses who will try and walk in front of me, pulling me along in the process. I’ve also had horses that literally have to be dragged wherever they go. They move as slow as molasses!

Why it Shouldn’t be Tolerated:

This behavior shouldn’t be tolerated since the horse is either resisting pressure (the slow horse) or disrespecting your boundaries (fast horse.)

A horse you have to drag behind you to get them anywhere is a horse that is resisting the pressure you put on the lead rope. This horse has no respect for your cues and is openly disrespecting what you’re asking of it.

If you have a horse that barges past you when being led, this horse doesn’t respect your boundaries. Anything ahead of you is considered your space, and if a horse is willing to run past you and into this area, he’s testing your bounds.

Correction:

Not only is having to drag a horse anywhere you lead it super annoying, but it’s also a sign that the horse has no respect for applied pressure. At the other end of the spectrum, a horse that is willing to push past you has no respect for your space or your authority.

To correct a horse that tends to lag behind when being led, you’ll need a rope halter and lunge whip. Simply practice leading the horse; if the horse is resisting pressure to the lead rope, use your lunge whip to encourage them to respond to the pressure correctly by moving up.

To correct a horse that likes to lead you rather than you leading it, the first thing you’re going to have to do is establish your boundaries and your authority. You can do this the same way you would with a horse that likes to bump into you; start by getting the horse to move its hind-end and front-end away from you and stepping out of your bubble.

A Horse Getting Aggressive Towards You When It’s Time to Eat

Behavior:

A horse’s favorite time of the day is feeding time; with that being said, a lot of horses will tend to get aggressive towards each other and their handler when this hour rolls around.

This behavior could look like a horse turning its hind-end to you if you try to approach them when they’re eating. It can also be a horse pinning its ears back and giving you a nasty look as they eat their food.

Why it Shouldn’t be Tolerated:

This behavior shouldn’t be tolerated because, in essence, your horse is challenging your authority. In the wild, when the alpha comes around, the other horses will quickly step away to let the alpha eat or drink. If a horse can get you to step away from its food, then in that horse’s mind, it just became the alpha in your relationship.

Correction:

I would correct this behavior by first, doing some groundwork with the horse outside of feeding time. I would specifically work on groundwork exercises that require the horse to step away from pressure, like moving the hind-end and front-end. (I know; it’s getting repetitive. But this really does work for just about everything.)

When you do this, you are communicating to your horse that you’re the alpha and they have to move out of the way for you. Next, add an empty feed bucket to the mix. keep your horse on the lead, but allow them to go over and lick it.

When you approach them, gently ask them to move away. If they don’t, immediately get after them and send them out at a working trot. Remember, the alpha should have the ability to get other horses to move.

As you work with the empty bucket, start adding handfuls of grain as you see fit. Use the same technique when it’s actual feeding time. The more aggressive your horse gets, the more assertive you should get with your commands. If your horse is being bad, make them move their feet!

A Horse Acting Out When Riding

Behavior:

A horse acting out when riding can look like a number of different things. It can be bucking, rearing, taking off, bolting, etc. When dealing with a horse like this, make sure you rule out any health issue before you assume that it’s simply disrespectful behavior.

Usually, if a horse is acting out of disrespectful behavior, it will be in response to a cue or a command you give. They are showing direct retaliation to what you just asked them to do.

Why it Shouldn’t be Tolerated:

A horse exhibiting bad behavior when being ridden is not only dangerous but it also means that the horse is challenging your cues or and commands.

Horses learn by repetition, so if every time you ask a horse to do a certain thing under saddle and they act out without that behavior being corrected, you’ve just trained your horse to respond to that cue by being bad. This behavior should be corrected immediately.

Correction:

My correction for this problem would be to work the heck out of this horse. I mentioned above that no horse wants to do more work than it has to; well, teach your horse that bad behavior means more work!

I had a horse that started rearing one day. She was young and it was spring, and I could just tell she was in a mood. I immediately got off of her, put a rope halter on, and started doing hard groundwork exercises. I was making her move her feet continuously and quickly. After about 20 minutes of hard work, I got back on and had a great ride.

Likewise, I was out riding with my friend and her mom one time. The mom’s horse decided to buck and managed to dump her off. Her daughter immediately hopped off, got on the mom’s horse, and galloped her around the field for 20 minutes. The horse came back sweaty, but it never bucked again.

A Horse Won’t Let You Pick Up Its Feet

Behavior:

This is another behavior where you’ll want to rule out any medical issue or balance issue before assuming that the horse is acting out of bad behavior.

This behavior can be demonstrated in a number of ways: a horse refusing to lift its feet altogether or a horse leaning back and pulling its foot away once you have it picked up. I’ve even had horses lean their entire weight on me when I’ve been working with their hooves.

Why it Shouldn’t be Tolerated:

If a horse is refusing to let you pick up its feet, it is simply disrespecting your cues. Horses don’t like to do more work than they have to, and horses consider picking up their feet to be work.

Your horse is testing you with this behavior. They’re trying to see how long you’ll keep at it before you give up. If you give up, they win. Once again, horses learn by repetition; every time the horse can get away with not picking up its feet, the thought is becoming instilled in their mind that this should be their response.

Correction:

If you’ve ruled out pain issues or balancing issues as to why a horse won’t pick up its feet, then it probably just means that the horse is being stubborn. Remember horses consider picking up their feet as work; if your horse refuses to pick up its feet because it doesn’t want to work, then you should make them work.

Put a rope halter on your horse and find a level area. Ask your horse to pick up its feet. If it refuses, immediately send your horse out around you at a working trot. Trot them for a few minutes, then have them stop. Ask the horse to pick up its feet again. If it refuses, send it back out. Repeat these steps until your horse starts offering its hoof.

To learn more about this behavior in your horse, check out our article, Why Won’t My Horse Let Me Pick Up Its Feet?

A Horse Refusing to Be Tied

Behavior:

A horse that refuses to be tied can dance around side-to-side, testing its restraints.

A horse that doesn’t like to be tied may also pull back on the rope with its full body weight. Many horses use this as a scare tactic on their owners; they notice that if they pull back like this while tied, their owners will untie them and move them somewhere else.

Why it Shouldn’t be Tolerated:

A horse that acts out when being tied is usually using a scare tactic on you. Many horses know that if they start dramatically pulling back on the rope, their owners will come to untie them and move them somewhere else.

The bottom line in, being tied is a simple task in the everyday routine that a horse should be able to do without misbehaving. When a horse demonstrates disrespectful behavior like this, they’re potentially putting themselves and others in harm’s way.

Correction:

Some people may not agree with this, but the best way I’ve seen horses learn to stand tied is simply by tying them up to a nice solid object and leaving them there to figure it out themselves.

If your horse tends to pull back and fight the rope when tied, leave them. Chances are they know that you’ll come and untie them when they do that. If you refuse to untie them, sooner or later they’ll learn that it’s pointless to fight it.

When your horse exhibits disrespectful behavior, you may start to wonder does my horse even like me? In our article Why Doesn’t My Horse Like Me we discuss how you can build a better bond with your horse and change their attitude towards you.

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Disrespectful Horse Behaviors Training Guide