by Laura Crum
I don’t usually post two days in a row, but I wanted to share this story and ask if any of you had experienced anything like this. My Sunny horse likes to test me, as I referenced in my earlier post this month (see “Picking a Fight”). Its been raining a lot here and I haven’t been able to ride regularly. But I do have lots of green grass along my driveway, so I’ve been trying to get the horses turned out regularly. Yesterday, I caught Sunny to turn him out for awhile and he tried one of his little games.
Now, Sunny feels good, yes, but he is kept in a large corral (100 by 100), and he runs and bucks and plays as much as he wants. So he is not a mass of pent up energy. When I turn him out he does not run around--he grazes steadily. Like all the horses, he is very eager for his “turn” to be out grazing. When I got him out of his corral yesterday he walked sedately beside me for ten strides, and then (when I wasn’t paying attention—of course) he leapt up in the air and kicked out. One little move. He didn’t touch me; he didn’t tighten the leadrope. By the time I looked back at him he was walking again—with a little gleam in his eye that said he thought he’d won one.
Sunny has pulled this trick before, and I always get after him for it. So I backed him off and whacked him a few times. And I swear, he tossed his head and stamped his front foot at me. Like the herd stallion. It was all I could do not to crack up, but I backed him off a few more times and whacked him until he made mouthing motions and had a submissive expression. He put his nose up to me very gently for a pat, which I gave him. Then I led him off and turned him loose to graze with no further sillieness. This interaction is totally typical of Sunny.
Sunny has many other such minor defiances of varied sorts, but they are all alike in that he never touches me or unseats me (when I’m on him), and they are very calculated on his part. He is never upset—either fearful or excited or angry—when he does them. He does not intend to hurt me. He is testing.
This horse just needs me to do the alpha horse thing. He is never the least bit frightened or truly intimidated when I get after him. It makes him feel secure. I am having to get over my wish that we could just “get along”. No, I must demonstrate my boss mare status every once in awhile or he’s not happy.
Do some of you have horses like this? Are there any tricks you know that can reduce a horse’s need for this sort of correction? I really am very fond of my little yellow mule, and I would love to find a path that works for both of us that doesn’t involve me whacking him, but so far I haven’t managed it. I am unwilling to punish him any more harshly than I do—and I’m pretty sure that it would do no real good, even if I were willing to do it. We get along just fine under the current system. And maybe this behavior of his is here to teach me something, as I said in the “Picking a Fight” post. But I can’t seem to get past my wish that I didn’t have to do this. Any suggestions?