Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'LL tell you what horseanality you've got there: Spotted Shithead!

A Q & A from that moron Pat Parelli's newsletter...


I have an Appaloosa who is nine years old and I bought him last November. Within a week or so he bit me, and really meant it, on my side which left huge bruising. I was shocked as I was undoing the chest strap on his rug that came with him. I had noticed in the first week that he would pin his ears back and turn his head towards me. I was quite aware of this and became cautious around him. When he bit me, I did not react and had to go away and suffer in pain for a while. I came back and did approach and retreat but he still would pin his ears back. I researched his previous owners and found out he had bitten the previous owner twice around feed time or when doing the girth up but other owners said they had no problems with him. The other day I was with an instructor and told her my main fear was his biting and other than that he was great to ride and do ground skills with. We did approach and retreat with the saddle on and off and then he swung around to bite me, I blocked him, tripped over my own feet or his and fell to the ground. I was told there was too much energy for him to cope with. I am now so scared to do anything with him because of this biting. I get my husband to hold him while I do up the saddle. This is not the best way but for me it is safe. Can you help me figure out what he is feeling so I can deal with it so we can both get through this safely and I can hopefully regain my confidence? -Kim


Have you done a Horsenality Profile on your horse yet? He sounds to me as if he is a LB Extrovert / Introvert combo. These are most likely to become aggressive because it is their nature to dominate. You need to be accepted as his leader, which you will do via the Seven Games, but you have to 'win' them. In essence this means you have to win the position of alpha where your horse accepts your leadership. If you are not a confident person, but your horse is overconfident, this is not an easy task, however there are a couple of things on your side.

If your horse turns out to be LB Introvert and Extrovert, or just Introvert, treats work like a charm. Some people think that this encourages the behavior but it does the opposite. Think about someone who is trying to win your favor... they bring you chocolates and flowers and gifts! Pretty soon it's hard not to like them!! The same thing happens with this kind of horse, but note that treats alone do not work. You have to also play the Seven Games with him so you can actually get him to do something... and then reward him. Don't just give him treats for no reason.

Now, when it comes to the Seven Games, the most important ones for this kind of horse are going to be backing and driving the forehand away from you, but they will also be the most challenging because dominant horses do not allow this... they do it to others! I would practice your technique and learn how to be really soft and get really firm with wiggling the rope and not moving your feet. Every time you move your feet when trying to back him, this horse sees it as weakness and his opportunity to have the upper hoof again. Also, do it from behind a fence or a barrier that he cannot cross. This will keep you safe if he decides to push on you, and it will do a lot for your confidence. Once you can consistently back him up with light pressure you'll feel safer to be on the same side as him. Same thing with driving his front end away. You need to get to where you can do this easily and convincingly. Most people overdo HQ yields / disengagement, and this w ill get you in trouble with the LB horse because it brings the front end to you!

Biting is how LB horses dominate others, and that's what he's doing to you. You just have to be better than he is at those driving games because that is the only way he will respect you! If your instructor is Parelli Certified, please tell them to get in touch with us and we can personally coach them to coach you if necessary.

Oh, and on the saddling issue... give him a great big carrot when he swings around to nip you! He'll be so surprised that after several instances his whole opinion of saddling will change and you'll only have to do it now and then. You may even have to play some driving games with him before saddling to make sure he accepts your doing something to him. Again, that's something dominant horses do to others, they don't like things being done to them. But once they are submissive to your leadership, they are quite happy to comply. You just have to maintain that position and not let it slip.


Yes. Yes, you did. My brain is bleeding.

Just for comparison's sake, I'd like to provide MY answer to Kim's question. Maybe she will read this...and survive to her next birthday...and actually get to enjoy her horse!

FHOTD ANSWER: Kim, you've got an Appy. And while Appies have many fine qualities including hooves like iron, endurance, and the ability to perform well in a wide variety of events - they are also known for what we call AppyTude. In short, your horse would like to be the boss. He is highly amused by his ability to bite you and make you run away. This is a game he can play all day and never get bored!

The reason this behavior is escalating is that you haven't done a thing to correct it. He nailed you good, and you ran away. He nailed you again, same result. Awesome! Apparently YOU are really EASY to train.

We don't "approach and retreat" with an aggressive horse. We goddamn APPROACH, ANY TIME WE WANT, for as LONG AS WE WANT, and we do WHAT WE WANT. The first time your Appy swung his head at me with his ears pinned, I would have swung my fist at his nose and made my best loud growling noise. I probably wouldn't have needed to make contact. He would have figured out really quickly I wasn't backing down, and he would have backed down. Sure, I would still have to pay attention and watch for another strike, but he would have learned very quickly it wasn't going to fly with me. My guess is that the previous owner who did not have problems with him established it wasn't going to fly with them, either - probably on the first day. Why don't you see if they will come out and show you how they handled him? I bet they can show you what works in one easy lesson.

You tripped over your own feet because you were running away. That doesn't happen when you stand your ground.

I would NEVER hand-feed treats to a biter. If he has been good, you can put carrots in his grain. Hand feeding any treats is just going to escalate the nippy behavior - he won't just nip when you're cinching him, he'll nip all the time. Won't THAT be fun?

Horses are, intrinsically, wimps. You may find it hard to believe but I can't tell you how many times I've blocked a galloping loose horse, and made him stop, by holding my arms wide, stepping aggressively at him, and saying HO in my sternest voice. That shouldn't work. I should get my ass run over. It works because a horse is basically a wimpy prey animal. All you have to do, Kim, is make this horse believe that he is going to die if he ever bites you again. You can do it and it has nothing to do with seven games, yielding his hindquarters or backing up.

By the way, if anybody has tried to tell you that actually popping a biter in the nose when he swings around to bite you will make him headshy...they are full of it. No, it will not. Beating a horse in the head for no reason, or earing him to control him - those are the things that make a horse headshy. Popping him in the nose as he's trying to bite is a clear response to his action that he will have NO trouble understanding.

Now, one thing I would do is get him adjusted by the chiropractor and make sure he is not in pain when you're girthing him up. Have the chiro check your saddle fit, etc. While biting is not acceptable EVEN IF the horse is in pain, you certainly don't want your horse to be uncomfortable - so rule out any physical problems ASAP.

Kim, get yourself a non-Parelli instructor before you get hurt, and before your horse has become so spoiled he's going to wind up in a kill pen. He sounds like a nice horse with one, extremely fixable issue. Stop listening to the snake oil salesman and just fix the problem so you can enjoy your horse!

P.S. "Think about someone who is trying to win your favor... they bring you chocolates and flowers and gifts! Pretty soon it's hard not to like them!!" Man, he doesn't know anything more about women than he does horses! Does this guy ever get laid? I'm thinking not...