Just Hit Him – Say Again?

Junior was a 2 ½ year old Thoroughbred gelding whose owner was struggling with aggressive and sometimes violent behavior.  The boarding facility Junior lived in was ideal for training with a large indoor arena and a paddock that allowed him to roam on sunny days.  However he was not allowed with other horses since his aggressive behavior was a danger.  My first day of working with Junior it took both the owner and me to halter him as he threw his head into our faces, snapped at us with gnashing teeth and picked us up off the ground once we had the halter on.  “What have gotten myself into” I worried?

I had the owner lead Junior into the arena where I was able to get the halter off without being bit only to have him bolt nearly missing my head with his hind feet.  I attempted my WHolistic Joining methods using herd language to invoke his instinct, but he simply ran wildly, charging and kicking, and then he side-swiped me knocking me down.  He let it be known he didn’t want to be worked with and resented me wholeheartedly.  I kept at it though three times a week for making some progress that seemed two steps forward yet one step back.   This was early in my career as a natural horsemanship trainer, but I had many satisfied clients and horses all ready so why isn’t Junior progressing normally I wondered? Junior’s owner however was quite pleased with the progress since I was the third trainer in six months and I hadn’t left yet.

Three weeks into Junior’s training his owner called one morning and said we needed to reschedule because he had coliced in the night.  This was the second colic since I had started working with him which was disconcerting.  Come to find out Junior had a serious injury at six months old cutting his rear leg down to the bone.  In Junior fashion he had attempted to jump a piece of farm equipment after escaping his paddock, but sorely missed and ended up in an equine hospital for a week.  Junior’s owner was emphatic that he had passed a vet check for training however and that the colics were minor bouts that she was able to treat.   I shrugged it off reminding myself that Junior’s owner was an experienced breeder and long time horse owner so figured she knew best for him.

That weekend the annual horse expo in our area was coming with a young big name, big star natural horsemanship trainer.  I thought if only I could explain Junior to him he could tell me what I’m missing in my training.  I was filled with anticipation as I stood in line at his booth hoping to get a moment of advice, a pearl of wisdom that would be my breakthrough with this horse.  It was my turn to talk to this new giant of the horse industry and I quickly told my story so not to take up too much of his time.  He said two words to me “hit him”!  I was stunned not sure that I heard him right and replied “say again?” he repeated “just hit him”, and then he got up from his stool and walked off as handlers led him to the arena for his next performance.  This can’t be, I thought natural horsemanship was about being the herd leader, gaining control and respect on the ground through moving the horse’s feet, applying pressure and release, not force and pain.  “Hit him” rang in my ears all the way home.

Had I misunderstood natural horsemanship?  Had I been wrong to give up my early days of bits and spurs, crank and spank riding and training?   My training philosophy is DO NO HARM, how could I “hit him”?  My instinct kept telling me there was more to Junior’s behavior, there has to be something else, what is it that is causing Junior to be angry and aggressive one day and compliant the next?

The following Monday after the expo Junior’s owner called and said he had been in the equine hospital over the weekend due to another more serious bout of colic.  The owner explained that the veterinarian could not feel a twisted bowel or make a determination of the colic so she was going to perform surgery.  However the vet decided to scope his stomach first on a hunch.  Scoping was a life saver for Junior; the vet discovered that his stomach was black with ulcers which were causing the colic and surgery was not necessary.  Junior’s owner continued to tell me that she had been giving him Banamine regularly since his injury at six months old which caused the ulcers.  The veterinarian prescribed medication for Junior and he was back home comfortably with a positive prognosis of healing.  Wow there was my answer, Junior’s behavior was related to pain!  I am so grateful to Junior’s owner for being honest and open with me about her misuse of Banamine and how it caused debilitating ulcers.  Realizing pain can be a major influence of behavior was a catalyst for changing my training methods from an in-depth intake on all new horses to most importantly the development of my Training the Whole Horse® methods.  As a horse owner and trainer it is important to keep in mind that Problems are not always training issues.

My Training the Whole Horse® video series is available FREE online at my website MissyWryn.com  Watch FREE Horse Training Videos and my YouTube Channel WholisticHorseWoman (http://www.youtube.com/wholistichorsewoman).

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About Gentle Horse Trainer Missy Wryn

Specializing in problem and dangerous horses Missy Wryn is an internationally recognized Gentle Horse Trainer and member of the Association of Professional Humane Educators. Missy's Training the Whole Horse® methods & techniques and the creation of her widely popular All-In-One Bitless Bridle have been featured in media such as Alaska Airlines Magazine, Equine Monthly, Natural Horse, NW Horse Source, Stable Management, The Horse Show with Rick Lamb, Horse Girl TV and more. For more information visit Missy Wryn’s website at MissyWryn.com or call toll free (888) 406-7689.
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3 Responses to Just Hit Him – Say Again?

  1. A good read and as usual the blame lies with humans and not the horse.

    We started rescuing horses in 2012 and we have 3 ponies now, all have required lots of patience, leadership and TLC. Like yourself it has to be natural horse partnership, no pain and everything as and when the horse is ready.

    I just had beautiful horse 17hh with breeding lines from John Whittaker’s Sires, within a year of him being purchased from the breeder he fell into wrong hands and ended up a skinny wreck, his current owners rescued him 2 years ago but have had problem after problem with him. About a month ago, he seriously threw his rider smacking her against a wall then flipped himself and landed on his saddle. She had someone else try to ride him, but he threw another tantrum and she had to get of for safety reasons.

    The owners approached me as we’re at the same yard but I prefer grass livery so much nicer for the horses to be out.

    I introduce myself to new horses very slowly, then follow a join up process similar to yours at liberty. He bonded the first session with me and it’s taken just a couple of weeks for him to show a relaxed attitude, become less stressed and happy. It’s a beautiful feeling knowing that learning to communicate the horses way can achieve so much.

    Love reading your articles.

    Mel

    x

    Best Wishes

    Mel

    *Melanie Hetfield* *Social Media Advisor* *Administrator * *Personal Assistant* *Profile Photographer*

    http://www.melaniehetfield.com http://www.twitter.com/MelanieHetfield http://www.facebook.com/mhetfield

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    On Sat, Mar 1, 2014 at 7:57 PM, horsemareship wrote:

    > HorseMAREship & Training the Whole Horse posted: “Junior was a 2 1/2 > year old Thoroughbred gelding whose owner was struggling with aggressive > and sometimes violent behavior. The boarding facility Junior lived in was > ideal for training with a large indoor arena and a paddock that allowed him > to roam on sun”

    • Wonderful work you are doing, thank you Melanie for taking the time to write and share your message. So glad to know a kindred spirit on the same journey of learning and communicating with horses. Good on you, wishing you great success and blessings for all your wonderful work. Missy

  2. Bee says:

    Thanks for sharing this, what a story.
    My horse Nazir started to show some resistance during training last summer. The people around me said that he’s just lazy and pretends to have some problem so he can get out of training. I know that horses can’t pretend anything, so I called the vet. The first vet said that he had some tension in his back and I should give him massages. But somehow I knew that wasn’t the cause of the problem. The next vet diagnosed him with arthritis in the right knee. We started treatment right away. The back problem disappeared, the ‘insubordinate’ behaviour, too.
    I just wrote a piece about natural horsemanship yesterday, I’d be curious to know what you think 🙂
    Greeting from Warsaw, Poland

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