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We're very new horse owners (01/08). We have two QH's an 8 yr old grula mare, Sophie and a 7 yr old sorrel gelding, Ivan. I've read tons on care but didn't find much in the library on training. How do I create the "invisible bubble" around me that my horses don't enter unless invited. For instance ... crowding at feed time. My mare,Sophie is at the gate waiting for me pacing, ears back (to keep Ivan at bay?). I drop her feed in the bucket in her stall she comes in straight away and I close her in. If I'm not quick dumping that grain she's right there. Then I feed Ivan. As soon as Sophie's getting shut in my boy is right there with bated breath.

How can I work with them? I've backed Ivan up with a scoop of feed in my hand but not Sophie. With Ivan I extened my arm with my hand out in the stop position and firmly said "wait". He complied pretty well.

When I sit out in the field Ivan comes up to me ... which is good casual bonding time for he and I (Sophie has been known to run him if she wants the attention). But sometimes his attention is too much. What techniques can I use? I did try "Lyons" suggestion of petting. To a point it worked cause I was the one being the pain in the behind so he didn't get the chance to be a pain to me but it got pretty tiring and I'd really like them to learn some limits.

Truth be told ... it's intimidating being in a stall with a 1,000 animal saying wait with a scoop of feed in your hand that he wants. But, I'm determined to become a good horsekeeper and I don't let it show.

How do you guys do it ... what do you do with your body, what words do you use, what do you do everyday to reinforce it, do you do other exercises to reinforce the training and what are they?

Last but not least, this is a really nice site you folks have here ... great info., maturity, mutual respect. I'm happy I found it.
Hi Bethany, Welcome to the forum. Congratulations on being a new horse owner. How exciting! Sounds like you are off to a good start in learning to teach your horses ground manners. I'm fairly new here myself but I felt at home right away. We just got horses about 6 years ago. I started with a western trainer but I sure was happy to find the clinicians on RFD-TV and a lot of these forums. We have 10 horses and it can be pretty intimidating when all 10 come to pat you down for cookies at the same time. Fortunately we work with them every time we interact with them on our personal space. I think teaching a horse to back out of your space on command is important. Eventually they get to where they stop and ask before they get too close. If they get excited and forget their manners a wiggle of my finger and shhhhh sound will back them up.

You can teach a horse to back up several ways. One of the easiest I've found is to use your thumb in their chest and poke or press until they take a step back and release. You can also use a dressage whip and tap on thier chest or the end of the lead rope etc. I would have halter and lead rope on them and know what verbal or visual cue you want to use such as wiggle lead rope and say back. Just be consistant. Cue your horse to back up and if they don't back (which they usually don't the first few times) reinforce it with your thumb, whip or lead rope until they take one step back or even think about it then release. Once they start readily taking a step back on cue, you can ask for more steps.

Once they start backing out of your space on command you are in good shape and ready to work on feeding manners. We do the same thing at feeding time. We are lead horse and we get to "eat first" meaning the horse can't stick his head into the feed bucket until we tell them it is OK. If the horse comes too close to the feed bucket we ask them to back away. You will probably need your tools at first (halter, lead rope, whip, stick, or thumb). People who have seen us feed 10 horses are amazed that they are all polite and stay at their own bucket until they are finished. We have to intervene on behalf of some of the slower eaters sometimes(usually mommas and babies) but usually all it takes is the horse's name said in a warning tone or a clump of dirt thrown in their general direction.

Just be consistent in not allowing them into your space without being invited (I think that is the hardest part) and if they do invade your space without being invited get them out of it firmly and quickly.

I'm sure you will get many more techniques to try from the other members. There is a wealth of info out there. Again welcome and you do know that pics of your crew are mandatory [Wink]
Yes, this is something you need to work on separately, rather than waiting until feeding time.

One Parelli excercise I've found to be invaluable in teaching a horse to give you your space, is called the "Yo-Yo Game". Put a halter (preferrably a rope halter) on your horse, and stand directly in front of him. Shake the lead rope, and tell him/her to back. Keep shaking the rope until the horse takes a step backward, and then stop. ESPECIALLY with older horses, this can take awhile. The younger ones catch on pretty quickly. You may have to shake/swing the rope quite vigorously, at first. Everytime the horse takes a step back, release the pressure by not shaking the rope. Once the horse learns to back, start working on teaching him to stay there until you invite him to come forward. Hold your hand up and say "whoa". At first, don't expect him to stay there long; it is something you build up to. You will soon be able to send your horse back, and bring him forward, with hand and voice cues.

The end result is that when you go into the stall to feed, you should be able to say someting like, "Back off!", and your horse will obey.

Hi Bethany;

Welcome to the Forum. You came to the right place. Tell us a bit more about your horses and some pictures would be nice.

Hook(ed)......on Horses

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. " Author: Robert Louis Stevenson
The method that EZ stated is very effective for teaching a horse to move out of your space. It is also effective in other areas, such as teaching a horse to stand still for the farrier. Horses, by nature, aren't fond of backing up. By repetitious use of this method, your horse will soon learn to do whatever it is you are asking.

I have effectively used it on a mare that was notorious for misbehaving with the farrier. It worked like a charm. The farrier was so impressed with its effectiveness that he now uses it with other problematic horses he encounters.


Man does not have the only memory,
The animals remember,
The earth remembers,
The stones remember,
If you know how to listen, they will tell you many things.
- Claude Kuwanijuma - Hopi Spiritual leader

Thanks for the input. I didn't allow the horses in the stall with me (Tuesday) at feed time until I was ready for them to come in to eat. They were both pretty surprised by the change in Mama but by Wednesday it was already running pretty smooth. I'm using my thumb to the chest to back them from me ... works very well & I'll try shaking the lead rope to see if I can get the horse to stand better for the ferrier.
I'm glad it is working well for you. The one thing about the thumb method is that (unless you are a roper) you always have it on you. There isn't always a lead rope or training stick, whip etc.

I had to have a "discussion" with one of our yearlings the other day. She is a little more mischevious than our previous babies. She was standing at the gate when I entered the paddock with the feed buckets and she backed out of my space very nicely. I entered her space to look at a couple of places on her and make sure they weren't injuries (she was fine, just mud). As I reached toward her withers to pull off a tuft of her shedding coat she nipped at my jacket. Of course that got her a "bite" on the neck with my hand but she didn't travel away far. When I got in her space again she pinned her ears and I went to backing her with my voice and wiggling my hand. I never touched her. She went and hid behind her momma. I finally dumped her food in her bucket but didn't immediately let her eat and she was very respectful. No ear pinning or nipping. I've NEVER had one of our babies nip until her, but we've only had three and they have all been little girls. I'm told the little boys are a little more ornery. Keep us posted. And where are your pictures of your guys. I would really love to see them both but especially your mare.
I'm a pretty poor techie but I'm going to work on those pics.

Sophie (grula mare, 15.2 hands) is really pretty with her smokey color and black points. She's a sweet, confident mare, she loves to be groomed and touched & will just hang out with me. Her alter ego is Angelica (that mean little rug rat girl) when she's jealous. She shocked me with a bite to the shoulder blade while I was grooming Ivan (when he first came). I didn't see it coming from that "doll baby".

Ivan (14.2) is as copper as a new penny (when he doesn't have himself all muddy). He's cautious and somewhat fearful. He and Sophie are now bonding and settling down some. I get to hang with him in the pasture when Ms. S. is occupied. He has a lot of curiousity pent up. I've found him to be the "nipper". He got the tinyest but of suede and skin from the tender part of my forearm. I'm working on getting him to come to me for petting and grooming with Sophie presnt & working on teaching Sophie that although she's head mare in the pasture when I'm around she's second in line.

Sunday will be our first ride. We're in walking distance to the beautiful Patapsco State (Maryland) Park here. I hear you can ride for two weeks and not be on the same horse trail.

We've had the horses since (Sophie) 01/01 and (Ivan) 01/18 and my work with them has been 99% on the ground. They live in the pasture behind our home. This is a new world and lifestyle for us. We're very thankful for the opportunity.
I kept expecting the excitement to wear off after a few years being an adult now but the magic of horse ownership is still there. Sounds like you have a couple of great horses and are trying hard to be a "good horse mommie". I was fortunate to find RFD-TV shortly after getting horses. The clinicians on there are all wonderful. There are many to choose from. I think they teach basically the same thing but have different ways of teaching people how to work with horses. I'm also a clinic junkie. After my mare threw me in one of our first rides and broke my ribs I really lost my confidence. She was three with 10 rides on her when I bought her and I had no idea how few that was at the time. The clinics really helped me rebuild my confidence. My favorites are the de-spooking types of clinics that are put on locally. I've also been to a couple of Clinton Anderson clinic and a Craig Cameron clinic (that was a real blast).

Just keep trying to learn all you can to stay safe and enjoy! Hope you have a wonderful trail ride. Let us know how it goes.
"I hear you can ride for two weeks and not be on the same horse trail."

Yeah, I had a horse like that once too.

(Sorry - old joke, couldn't help it...)

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