I don’t like it when a horse has bad ground manners. Horses are large creatures, and there needs to a mutual respect between handler and horse that includes not getting trod on, shoved around, or generally bullied.
Whenever I start working with a new horse, or even a foal, my view to instilling good manners doesn’t include coercing the horse into good behavior. Instead, I try to put the horse in situations where the behavior I want is the easiest and most obvious option for the horse to try.
For instance (aside: yes, get ready for some of my own training theory- not like I came up with it all but whatevs), starting with cross tying a weanling. I don’t immediately go to the cross ties, as the stimuli associated with these might make the horse feel trapped, and it would be my fault if they gave the wrong response due to their flight instinct. So instead, we start with leading. Moving forward while being attached to a lead rope gets them used to the idea of being controlled by their head, but constant movement means that there is little sense of claustrophobia involved. Once leading is old hat, then we progress to standing with the leadline.
I don’t like to give babies treats, because I think there is some danger of creating nippy horses that way, so instead positive reinforcement comes with scratches, words of encouragement, and attention. Keeping the sessions short, once standing in place becomes a concept, then I will slowly introduce the cross tie- one side at a time. Always short, always rewarding, and always allowing the horse an easy way to choose the best behavior.
Sometimes though, when working with horses, we inherit another person’s bad training, or the horse’s personal baggage, that creates for bad manners on the ground. I know I have seen plenty of horses that shove their humans around, using their head or shoulders, and these in particular are my pet peeves. I’d more easily forgive a horse who didn’t willingly pick its feet up, or one that didn’t take the bridle so easily, but that’s just me.
What are your pet peeves when it comes to ground manners? How do you like to approach teaching good ground manners? Have you ever inherited sticky issues with bad behaviors that you’ve had to solve?