This question comes from Melissa in Indiana and is typical of ones like this that I receive on a regular basis. Her situation involves a horse that is just too bossy! Perhaps this sounds familiar to you too? Melissa writes:

I have a 4.5 year old gelding quarter mix I’ve had since he was seven months old. He has had 45 days professional (natural horsemanship) training and that was almost two years ago. I know that’s not much and I’m at fault for him being so pushy because I do not put enough time in saddle!

I just find I’m more easily intimidated and less confident riding since having kids. Very common I’m told. I really want to ride but its more work and aggravation than fun riding him because he’s very pushy, bossy and stubborn! I wanted to send him back this spring for a refresher, however I’m not comfortable with other local trainers in our area because there are not a lot of good stories from fellow horseman; there is a lot of bullying and cowboy riding.

I can’t bring myself to get off my butt to work with him on a regular basis. There’s no excuse but what do you suggest I do without spending a fortune or getting a broken bone from getting bucked off?

What I wrote to her:

I recommend you slow down and get into a connected relationship with your horse; that is, a relationship based on understanding what he is really seeking, which is leadership. If you read my book and watch my DVD about the Waterhole Rituals™, you will see that there is a relationship built on connecting to the very heart of the horse that will solve many of your problems. It does not allow the horse to be bossy or pushy, and it is simple to do.

The first thing I recommend you do is spend some time with your horse at liberty in his pen. Take a 5’ flexible reed or stick, one that is very light or you can use a very soft whip. Your intention is not to disturb your horse or frighten him. You will walk slowly around the pen away from your horse, slowly moving the reed right and left with the reed pointed down at the ground. Then turn toward him and slowly approach. As soon as he moves away from you, you are to turn and move away from him. Repeat this a number of times until you are seeing your horse respond to the lightest suggestion to move away.

This will give you your horse’s respect. It puts you in a leadership position. You are declaring your leadership in your horse’s eyes by taking territory. If your horse becomes panicked or too defensive, then you may need to work with someone who has been trained in my Method.

Keep your horse company by sitting in a chair in his pen and read a book. If he approaches and you feel safe and comfortable, then let him stay close to you. If he is bothering you or if he is too aggressive, then ask him to move away from you. If he is sensitive, then you can move away from him by picking up the chair
and sitting elsewhere.

These exercises will create a closer bond with respect. Plus, they are fun and enjoyable!


Carolyn Resnick

Natural Horsemanship from the Ground Up


Views: 2553


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Comment by Vicki Holmes on January 26, 2011 at 12:08am

Thanks for your question Melissa. I have had the same problem with my Fjord off and on. She is a very intelligent horse, a real thinker and has a lot of self esteem.  So, I have to always be one step ahead of her in terms of what's happening in our relationship. If I used too much pressure, she would literally dig her heels in. It's not easy to move a Fjord when they've decided not to move. Also, I don't have a lot of experience with horses and safety is my priority.She also doesn't have a lot of professional training. I've read Carolyn's book and watched her DVD on the Waterhole Rituals. I found them extremely helpful. My Fjord and I have started from the beginning. For the past 2 months all I do is sit with her, let her come to me and if she gets to pushy I ask her to move her away. I try to follow Carolyn's method. It has made a difference. She is softer now, in terms of our relationship. And I no longer feel as if there's going to be an argument. She seems interested in me and what I'm asking her. I plan to continue going slowly with her because I am really enjoying the beginnings of our connection and trust. I have confidence that it will make a difference in the spring when we can ride. 

Happy Trails, Vicki

Comment by Marlene Thoms on January 21, 2011 at 10:53am
My horse is also a bit bossy if he has a chance. It is his natural tendency probably learned because it worked in the past. I've had him a year and I accept that is his way and I didn't want a doormat for a horse anyway. I also don't like to do a lot of on the ground work, but I do a lot of small things at liberty with him just normal handling so that he has to learn to put up with me. At some point you have to establish what you want, and what you will or will not put up with. I prefer to do that riding, so I know I will occassionally eat dirt if I am not up to his standards as far as taking control. I also  believe that getting  too harsh with him would be counterproductive. Once he realizes I am ready physically and mentally to ride him, he settles down and we have great rides. Some days he just tests me for about thirty seconds, I am guessing it may be a little longer after his winter of mostly rest and relaxation. Then I will just ride him for a bit in his field before we hit the road. Maybe one day he will give up the little tests altogether. In the meantime I just have to accept that I cannot sleep while riding him.
Comment by vickie lawson on January 20, 2011 at 2:21am

i really think you'll have to put the time and work into him in order to be able to safely enjoy him. if this is too much, maybe you need to have a serious think about why you wanted a horse in the first place. there are always other options to the owning route and if it's in the too hard basket, (for now), another solution might be the answer. if you decide you can make the committment to his training, then you need to sort out the ground work and don't let him boss you. here in nz, we use rope halters (sort of like natural horsemanship) which have pressure point knots. just a quick flick puts a horse in his place.

i agree with carolyn that they are looking for leadership. and without a strong leader the bossiness is actually a coping mechanism. as herd animals, they definitely need a leader, who is strong (mentally not necessarily physically- as who can be strong against a horse?) and consistent good luck!!

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