I am about to start working on a horse farm for free rent. I will be feeding them, cleaning out their stalls, leading them out to go frolick, etc… The only problem is I am very frightened of them, they are so big and clunky and unpredictable. Is there anything extra I can do that will make them like me and not act up around me. Apparently most of them are well trained and good horses, they are quartering horses and are worth alot of money. One of them bucked while my brother was trying to lead him though, he did alright, I would have been terrified. Any info would be greatly appreciated
If you feed them, you will be their best friend. Seriously–they are highly food-motivated animals.
This may seem scary, but scared or no, do NOT let them dominate you. Horses are trained from day 1 that people are “lead mare,” not them. Then main way a horse will attempt to boss you around is to be in your space. When you lead them, for example, they may brush against you or shove into you. NEVER let them get away with that–as you lead with your right hand, give them a solid elbowing with your right elbow. It shoves them safely out of the way and reinforces not to mess with your space. (It causes no hurt and mimics the same kind of thing that’d happen in the herd. They wouldn’t dare this behavior on Boss Mare.) Similarly, NEVER let a horse scratch against you–this, too, is domineering behavior.
Find a good itchy spot (my mare loves being scratched on her forehead).
Rent or buy the John Lyons video “Round Pen Reasoning.” It teaches essentially how to gain respect with a horse. I also recommend his “On the Trail” videos, particularly the 1st one. It talks about handling spooky things.
You can’t really “make a horse like” you. The key thing as far as not acting up around you is making it clear you’re in charge. (This does not mean being a jerk, just means not letting them push you around, literally.) Now, you being in charge won’t keep them from spooking at a funny-looking bush, but it can help keep the spook under control if they trust you.
The main thing you need to get over is being scared of them. Watch videos, ask advice, read books–I recommend Horses for Dummies, and it’s no insult! I found it highly usable and understandable info.
There’s plenty more tips, but that’s what comes off the top of my head. Many other horsey Dopers will be coming around soon to offer their input. Keep in touch if you need; I’m quite willing to help you along.
Agree with everything Ruffian says and add a few:
-Controlling the source of food makes you the “boss” IF you enforce that you are in control. When I used to feed horses, I always insisted that they take a step back from me before I would throw hay in their stall or pour their grain. This is telling them “I am in charge of the food… that means I’m in charge.” If the horse crowds you aggressively and then you give them their food, that’s saying “good job! I love bared teeth in the morning!”
-Horses don’t really understand that you are smaller than them. If you want a horse to take a step back from you, all you really need to do is wave your arms about a bit and clearly say “back.”
-Move with smooth determined motions. Don’t jump around nervously or fuss at them. When you project an air of confidence, they will have confidence in you. Like dogs, horses seek a leader.
Also, Don’t ever run after a loose horse – WALK. If you chase, they will run from you. Look where they are going and try to move to block them.
Good luck – don’t worry in a few weeks you will have the hang of it!
Dang, that was me posting above. Phatlewt did used to help me feed some mornings though.
PS – I think you were trying to say “Quarter Horses” – a popular American breed.
To make horses like you, make some horses in the usual way and discard the ones that aren’t very much like you.
A horse does not have to like you he has to respect you as a leader. Keep in mind is that a horse is a herd animal. It relies on a strong leader to help the herd survive. In a horse herd someone is always in charge.
If it is just you and a horse one of you is going to be dominant. Just make sure it is you.
A horse will test you to see if you or he is the boss.
keep a packet handy.
consciously try not to freeze up your muscles, big deep breaths, nice slow movements.
avoid their feet. being stood on hurts more than being kicked.
you can be quite rough, if a gentle push isn’t working to move it out of the way, put your shoulder into it and use your full weight to MAKE the horse back up.
accept that horses have personalities.
some are cute, sweet, little angels who will do exactly what you want all the time, some are ornery b**tards who don’t like people and try to make your life hell.
generally a change in personality from nice to nasty is related to illness or a problem somewhere.
horses have off days too.
I can’t remember what it’s called, but I saw at a tack store some stuff that’s supposed to mask the “scent of fear” so that horses wouldn’t catch on to your nervousness. I have no idea if it actually works.
I can’t add anything else to the above posts. Those guys know what they’re talking about, me thinks.
Irishgirl hit the nail on the head when she said horses have personalities.
I was told a long time ago horses are the same a people,
You have all kinds of people and you have all kinds of horses
Smart or stupid
Mean or gentle
Weak or athletic
Beautiful or ugly
Even tempered or crazy
Any kind of disposition you see in people you can find in a horse.
carry a carrot or two in your pockets the first time you meet them (and share it)
don’t try to pet the top of the horse’s head or do anything else that involves moving your arm quickly up and near their faces
move slowly, deliberately, and gently. work on getting it used to feeling your hands on it–neck, back, muzzle
talk to the horse in calm, soothing tones, all the time that you’re around it, especially when you walk behind it
do some occasional ‘clucking’ noises while you’re around the horse and petting it so that it pays attention and stays interested
if the horse seems a little freaked out (ears are pointed way up, head goes up, lots of stamping, etc.) then you need to slow down or back off a bit and lower your hands again. Lots of horses find hands worrisome, so if you’re having trouble, just keep your hands behind your back but stay close enough that the horse can touch you and you can talk quietly and calmly to it
parisms, try one thing upon meeting any horse: stand in front of it, and exhale through your nose so that the horse can smell it. It will most likely return your gracious gesture by exhaling through it’s nose at you. If so, congratulations. Pretend this is nice. You are now formally introduced. I know it sounds silly, but that is how horses identify other beings. Should you do this upon every meeting of ANY horse, they will feel more comfortable with you.
Beyond that simple first step, the other advice here is great! Always remember, a horse knows hundreds of ways to hurt you.
Talk to them, don’t ever sneak up on a horse, let them know you are coming. Be gentle, but firm with your commands. What everyone has said about fear is true, horses are very good at detecting fear, so try to be confident in what you do. When I was younger I had several horses, all Thoroughbreds. One of them was an outright devil, I still have a scar from where he bit me once. Another one was just sort of difficult to work around, the other two were like big puppies, friendly and easy to work around. Point being, horses are like people and each one has a unique personality.
Also, and maybe this is obvious, don’t ever wrap the lead rope around your hand, that’s probably the easiest way to get hurt around a horse.
I would caution you not to use too many treats. I have seen horse get nippy and obnoxious when their owners fed them by hand all the time. Personally, I would say treats should be very infrequent, and only when deserved. I remember one woman who used to feed her horse a bag of carrots a day, I thought it was bizzare.
Thanks for the advice everyone, especially yours AHunter3:)
Apparently the owner does not give them treats aside form the odd flake of alphalpha hay sometimes, so I will not be incorporating that
I would be really interested in that stuff that masks the fear scent , but it sounds as if that might be like those pheremones that are supposed to pick up women and do not work(not that I tried them or anything:)) Has anyone else heard of this stuff?
Is it okay to let go of the guide rope and just let them go ahead of you into the stalls or is that giving up dominance? I did that with a few of the horses, but I had a feeling it might be a bad idea.
If there are any Catholics out there, please say a prayer to St Francis for me:)
Any other info would be greatly appreciated
I wouldn’t do that, if only because they may get into the habit of rushing into the stall and might knock you over or push you into the wall. Better to keep them under control, walk in with them, turn around and then take the lead and halter off. (I never liked to leave a halter on when they are in the stall)
To be safe around horses, it’s more important to have their respect than their affection (and indeed, respect often leads to affection). In addition to what has been mentioned, try to have calm, confident body language (head up, shoulders back, etc), and ask the owner if it would be okay to use a stud chain on the younger ones for some extra authority.
If they start to act up, a sharp “Hey!” and a quick jerk will help to restore behavior. When you turn them loose, turn them to face you first before removing the halter (and perhaps even give them a bit of grass or carrot after you do so), so that they don’t develop the habit of charging off bucking as soon as they’re through the gate. Do NOT take off the halter while they’re still moving and slap them on the rump as they trot away; that encourages them to gallop away from you and is a good way to get kicked.
I would not let them charge right into their stalls ahead of you–if, for some reason, you or a cat or someone is in their way, you might not be able to stop them in time to prevent a bad accident. I make mine stop before entering their stalls, then allow them to walk in ahead of me when I say so (while holding onto the lead rope) and then turn them around to face me before going in to remove the halter.
Try not to stand between a horse and a wide-open doorway or gate; he might try to push you aside to get through.
If possible, avoid walking behind a horse. If you have to, keep a hand on his rump and talk to him as you do so, and stay as close to him as you can so he’ll have less leverage if he kicks. If you approach a horse from behind, talk to him first so he’s not startled.
Most horse accidents result from carelessness, not from intentional malice on the part of the horse. While there are always exceptions, the average horse is not out to get you. Just be very assertive about keeping them out of your personal space, and be consistent.
As ** piaffe** says try to avoid walking behind them. Horses don’t like it when they can’t you so if you walk behind them sart at the head and keep one hand running along its back as you walk so it knows where you are.
The horses ears will tell you its mood, if they are perky and pricked forwards it is interested and happy, if they are back, or more especially laid flat along its head move away slowelly and carefully because it is a sign of anger.
So you are getting ready to lead a horse back to it’s stall and it is pawing the ground and not acting right. You get the halter on and it starts shoving into you. You firmly tell it no and shove it away from you. Then as you lead it out of the paddock to walk back to the stall it begins going in a direction not where you want, it is definately shoving you so you shove it away from yourself to esatablish your space again, it rears and there is 1500 lbs of mad hooves in front of you.
The long and short of it. I held onto the rope, told him no and when he got back down, spoke calmly and gently to him while slowly rubbing his neck to tell him it is ok. Then started to walk again and the same thing all over again. Probably three times in all.
So what to do at that point? Someone was there to take over fortunately but he did the same for them once or twice and generally was a pain on the way back to the stall and his evening dinner.
I went over to his stall a bit later and looked in and he came right over to me and poked his nose out at me, didn’t bite at me or anything and we just looked at each other eye to eye.
How should I approach him next time? Should I just act like nothing happened? Should I be really soothing in voice and motion? Should I be firm and maybe a bit pissed? I want to be in control or I have no business there.
How do I make Horses like me?
I have a video but it looks very painful. Im not sure you would want horses to like you this much.
First of all, welcome to the wonderful world of horses! They’re beautiful, fun animals that are a great pleasure to be around. Each of them has a personality of his or her own, and they really worm their way into your heart quickly. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself enchanted with them and itching to learn to ride! Have fun with the new job. There’s nothing more calming than closing up the barn at the end of the day listening to the horses eat their hay.
You’ve already gotten some good advice here, but I do have a couple things to add.
One thing to remember is that they’re just horses. They’re not tigers. They’re not looking to attack you or hurt you. They’re prey animals whose first response to anything scary or threatening is to run away. And even though you’re new to the turning out/bringing in routine, they’re pretty used to it. And horses love routine!
It’s easy to get scared because they’re so big, but either they don’t know they’re bigger than you or they just don’t care. After being around them a while, you’ll realize that they’re much more intimidated by you than you are by them. With most well-trained horses, a firm “no” or “quit” gets them to stop acting up. (Actually, I use a buzzing “eh” sound with my mare when she’s naughty.) The biggest risk to you is that your foot will accidently get stepped on!
I’d suggest watching the owner turn them out and bring them in a few times. Then do it yourself under his/her supervision until you’re comfortable before attempting it yourself. With well-trained horses, it really won’t be a big deal, but you really should watch someone experienced do it before trying it yourself.
Just be calm, you’ll do fine.
One quick note about food treats: horses love 'em and they’re fun to give to them. But just as horses aren’t tigers, they’re also not dogs. They don’t react the same way to receiving treats that a dog does. It will make them happy to see you coming towards them with food–but it doesn’t mean they’re going to like or respect you. Some horses get a lot worse when given a lot of treats. They get pushy and nippy and some even begin to think it means they’re the boss–after all, they’re getting your food away from you. If you want to give them treats (and it is so much fun to do), put a broken up carrot or something in their feed tub for the first couple months (believe me, they’ll know they’re there and that they’re from you) until you get more used to dealing with horses.
Cyclechris, if you’re not used to handling horses, I’d get someone with more experience to deal with one that’s rearing. Rearing can be dangerous and dealing with a chronic rearer is probably best left to those well used to horse behavior.
(FYI, one of the ways to deal with rearing is to keep the horse’s feet moving forward before he gets a chance to rear. Rearing is a refusal of a horse to move forward, and they can’t really rear while their feet are moving. Most of the time, if a horse is getting balky and giving the signals that he may rear, you can turn him in a small circle till you get him to understand that he absolutely must move his feet. However, to do so, you’ve got to be able to recognize when a horse may rear and act first. And since it is dangerous, dealing with a rearing horse is best left to experienced handlers.)
That being said, when you approach this horse next time (and I’m saying that assuming you’re approaching the horse to go into his stall to feed/water/hay since I still recommend you not be the one to bring this horse in or turn him out), don’t act as if anything is wrong. He won’t remember the incident. Just be calm. If he starts getting in your space, just be firm and make him step out of it.
<adjusting my ladylike cowboy hat and plucking a stem of fresh clover to munch on while watching the fun>
BeatenMan, you’re my kind of cowboy! LOL !!!