Sunday, September 2, 2007

If I think happy thoughts, will he stop biting me so much?

Many of you have written to talk about your much loved fugly horses. Fugly they may be, but most of them earned their good homes through having good personalities. They were sweet and amenable to training or they were babysitters who packed your child around and were worth their weight in gold. If a horse is both fugly and ill-trained, it is almost a sure thing that his eventual end will be the slaughterhouse. I am always asked what you, as an individual horse owner, can do to make things better for horses. Well, one thing you can do is do your part every day to create a horse who is likeable and cooperative, and who would have a great chance of finding another caring home if something catastrophic happened to you and you could not care for him any longer.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people who own horses never took riding lessons, and are therefore trying to self-educate about training and horse handling via videos and the Internet. I've already addressed my thoughts on how some "natural horsemanship" training is both ineffective and results in a spoiled horse who can't do a job. Now an alert reader has sent me something way sillier than the worst of the NH gurus.

Alexander Nevzorov is some Russian guy who thinks he can revolutionize horsemanship. The thing is, I agree with the man on some points. A lot of people have shitty hands. Horses shouldn't be used for bullfighting. Most riders really do need to learn to ride more off their seat and legs and less off of their hands. Rollkur is ridiculous. The Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle is an absolutely wonderful creation that I wish were legal to show in. Unfortunately, as with many people who are convinced they have found the One True Way, he takes it too far and his worshipping minions take it even farther. He denounces all equestrian sports as evil based upon the bad behavior of a minority of participants. He opposes all shoeing. He denounces ANY punishment of the horse, for ANY reason. And so we see posts like this one from one of his followers. Original post in bold, my comments in blue.

"My pony bites. Relentlessly. Many people in this forum have told me that they have had young horses that bite and they outgrow it, or whatever. Who has ever had a biting horse that wasn't disciplined simply decide one day to repent and bite no more? Anyone? It is certainly a baby bite, not a mean bite. Your honor, my son is really a very good boy, he was just listening to friends when he decided to assault that old lady. He is a year old, he has hurt me a lot, broken skin, hurt others, scared others, it's not okay. Really? You are certainly sending HIM a message that it IS okay. I cant lead him, it is difficult to put on a halter because he bites my hands. When I am leading him and I push his mouth away, he rears and that gets very dangerous and we get nowhere. Because you run like a chicken with its head cut off when he does this. I'll bet money. But I will not hit him or punish him. WHEN will this STOP??? If you will not punish him, the answer is "never." When will he outgrow this? How long does it take? I'm trying not to be impatient, I dont expect this to go away overnight, but I am getting hurt! It'd go away overnight in a big damn hurry if he were at my house. Other people are getting hurt! Perhaps the first lawsuit or two will teach you a lesson about the necessity of setting boundaries? I try to send energy and thoughts, very calming, and envision my desires in my mind. He's a horse, not a goddamn psychic and he has no idea what you're thinking. He just thinks you are a pussy who lets him bite her. When you're not at the barn, he and the other colts laugh about you. I also try to think about what pleasure he might get from biting, but of course, it is difficult. He's not mean, he's just into S&M! I try to impress upon him with my mind that what he does HURTS and I dont want to be around him when he does it. " You impress upon him with your behavior that you go away and leave him alone when he does it. Great job there, Wonder Trainer.

FHOTD: GOOD GOD, that pony needs an ASS WHUPPING! Sending "energy and thoughts" is no more going to deter his behavior than painting your body with carrot juice. The pony is biting because he is an alpha pony (and I'm betting he's a stud pony, since there seems to be a fear of genital mutilation, aka gelding, among these loons). Does anybody remember that "Six Feet Under" episode where Lisa was telling the ants in her house to please go away in peace? Yeah, that worked really well for her, too.

A friend of mine tells a brilliant story about a nippy suckling colt. One day, after she had broken her arm and was wearing a cast, she was in the stall with mare and baby filling the water pail with a hose. Nippy baby came over and chomped on her upper arm. In shock, she yelled and popped up her arm with the cast and bopped baby under the jaw with it. He flipped completely over backwards and fell on his butt. Needless to say, baby never nipped again in his life. While obviously I don't recommend deliberately beating a weanling with a plaster cast, it is an excellent example of a horse learning from cause-and-effect that biting is not the thing to do!

See, when I look at pictures like these, I don't see an amazing and magical partnership between horse and rider. I see a dumbass trying to qualify for a Darwin Award.

Here's another post.
"I'm considering buying a horse, just to have as a pet. OK my head already hurts. Theres this beautiful black stallion about 5.6 feet tall that I want to buy to recue him from his horrible owner. At the moment he is been used as a money making machine for covering mares. I am sure he just HATES that. We all know how intact males DESPISE having sex and think it is a fate worse than death. I want to keep as a stallion as I don't want to mutillate his natural state. I see lots of mutilation in the future, but that's ok - it'll be your body, not his. His current owner always has a bit in his mouth when taking him from the stable to the field about 100 yards walk. He rears constantly and bits him a little. I think this is because the horse hates him. No, it's because he's a STALLION and nobody has ever taught him NOT to bite and drag people around. So in my quest to save this horse I have converted my garge into a stable and I have rented a five acre paddock down the road about a half a mile away just beyond a neighbours stud farm. Since living in a garage is so "natural!" How high should i have the bounds of my field as it borders another field with many mares? -Do you think the neck string is the right tool to lead him with? Oh please, just tape this for youtube the first time you try to lead the stallion that currently has to be led with a bit with a neck string! The current owner has advised me only to lead him when he has a bit in his mouth but I know he is an ignorant man, so i don't care what he says. - where do i get a neck string? Youtube! Youtube! Youtube! PLEASE! I am so looking forward to having this horse. He's looking forward to having you too. I can tell. I plan to keep him in at night and leave him out early in the morning before i go to work. I am sure the neighbors will enjoy watching you lead him a half mile down the road with a neck string. Hope you are ready for a large lawsuit from whoever eventually finds him running loose on their property, breeding everything with a vagina. Might want to notify your boss now that being very late for work is in your immediate future. This is my first horse. I was wondering how I get good advise to manage this horse as i will only accept the best for him in a purist natural system. " Here's some good advise: Don't buy a horse. Buy a year's worth of riding lessons. If you must buy a horse, may I suggest a 25 year old retired Quarter Horse broodmare? She will probably be willing to live in your garage and lead down the road with a neck string. You may even survive to tell the tale.

I do wonder if Mr. Nevzarov will take these horses when their frustrated and wounded owners finally give up? I'm guessing not. I'm guessing his moronic teachings will result in both of these horses going to slaughter, when most likely both could have been saved with traditional training and a bit of discipline.

You do your horse no favors by allowing him to walk all over you, not now, and not in the long run. A horse is a large animal that can be very dangerous if boundaries for acceptable behavior are not set. Horses vary. There are horses who will realize they have done something wrong, and refrain from repeating it, if you merely growl at them. Others, you may have to get physical with. The point is to make the punishment clearly related to the behavior, to make it immediate, to make it brief and to make it consistent. For example, a horse that drags you down the barn aisle can be led with a chain lead that only hits his nose and causes pain IF he tries to barge past you. If he leads nicely, the chain lies slack and does not hurt him in the least. This is not abusive. The horse always has a simple way to avoid pain - he can choose to stop dragging you down the aisle like a runaway buffalo and walk nicely. Now, there's a difference between that and running the horse backwards snapping on the chain until he rears up and falls over. The latter is a behavior done in anger that does not teach the horse a thing.

This guy just reminds me of Steve all looks way cool until the day you, oops, die.

I think the guy can ride, and some of what he says, he's right about. But what he forgets - what MANY of these people forget - is that they have an entire foundation of knowledge they use every time they are around a horse. They have good instincts. They nip bad behavior in the bud with body language and voice. That's why they can put on these performances. Suzy Backyard Horseowner is not going to be able to do this. She is just going to get hurt, or killed, and the horse will be heading nowhere good.