One of the deficiencies in Bravo’s repertoire of behaviors was his leading. Our most important criterion is that the horse walk with his jaw parallel to the trainer’s shoulder. We don’t want the horse in front of that level because once the horse’s nose is too far, we have no physical power to stop the horse. They learn to push against the halter and run. They drag you around at best. If they lag behind, you are in much more danger of being run over because you can’t watch the horse and watch where you are going.
Trying to hold the horse on a short lead is especially problematic. The message it gives to the horse seems like it involves reasons to be fearful. Take the lead off the horse (in a safe pen) and work on teaching the horse to self-maintain its correct position.
In this video, we watch Bravo and John in the round pen. There are problems on both sides. I made the mistake of trying to correct trainer behavior in real time and tempers rose. The horse got worse. I put down the camera to do some remediation. But Bravo doesn’t lead that way for me. We have spent lots of time on this task last year. He leads correctly for me.
That is a funny things about horses. They totally discriminate between contexts. They don’t mind different rules for different people. I am not sure they ever totally generalize. So you can’t fix a horse for someone. You have to fix the someone so they quit making their horse behave like an idiot. Let’s watch the video and then discuss it below.
What John had to do to fix this problem is teach the horse where he should be without the distraction of walking, then to generalize that criteria to be in play while walking. I ask John to quit giving a verbal command in order to encourage the horse to self-maintain without cueing. The horse ends up much better, but it will continue to be a problem until John is consistent enough that the horse knows his rules.
In the following video, I show some of John’s behaviors that exacerbate the problem. The key to getting past problems is being systematic and consistent, qualities that don’t come naturally to many people.
A couple of points to be made here. You can train an aggressive horse through the protected contact of a fence. Encourage the horse to assume the “easy” posture between walking. If you have a strong Easy behavior (Task 2), you can get the horse to carry that frame while walking.
Point number two is don’t redirect your horse with a whoa command. It will make your horse worse and faster to forge. Check out our posts on the Premack Principle about this.
We will be posting some updates on this remediation project. I will add them to this post as I get them edited.