Monty Roberts Equus Online University
Horse Training Video Instruction Program

Learn all about Equus • Dually Halter • Shy Boy Mustang • Jumping Horses
• Story of a Horse Whisperer • Riding Horsemanship • Dressage Horses • Willing Partners
• Horse Training • Round Pen Lessons • Performance Horses • Join-Up

← back

Horse Sense for People

Solving a Pawing issue

Please upload your photo
I found my husband hitting one of our horses very hard with a pvc pipe on his legs to try to get him to stop kicking at the gate.  I have tried telling him the violence is not going to work but he won't listen.  I really need some advise because this has to stop or someone will get hurt for sure.
vicci - UK (North Wales)
Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed 200 lessons completed 250 lessons completed 300 lessons completed 350 lessons completed
Hi Julie

This is a horrible situation for you and your horse. You describe them as "our" horses but I am sensing this is not an equal partnership as your husband is taking disciplinary action without any reference to your opinion or consent. You have the right to say what happens to them.  Without wanting to be too personal I wonder if this is mirrored in any other aspects of your relationship with your husband or only where the horses are concerned. Please don't think I'm being nosy; this is an important thing to consider. If it's purely with the horses then we can talk about your husband's need to be re-educated and how we can help you with this. If this is part of a bigger issue within your relationship with him as a whole then this is much deeper and more complex. I will leave those thoughts with you and of course this moves into a very personal realm and I will not delve further.

On a practical note; the best way to deal with an undesired behaviour is to ignore it. Animals very quickly learn there is no pay off. Your horse has learned that kicking the gate gets a response; in the past it may have been a positive one, i.e. it gets your attention or it gets food or something else. If that is the case then you can retrain your horse to get what it wants from a different behaviour. For example, he kicks the gate, nothing happens - ignore COMPLETELY, no looking, no talking, no gestures, nothing. The next step you can take two ways. If it's not an ingrained habit, just leave it at that but be consistent and do the same EVERY single time; he will get it because animals do not engage in pointless behaviour - everything is for a reason. However, if it is a very ingrained trait that needs 'training out' of him, the next stage is to wait until he stops kicking the gate, count to three and if he is still quiet, praise him and throw food on the floor i.e. you are REWARDING the behaviour you WANT not punishing the behaviour you don't want. As he improves you increase the time that you leave him before offering a reward. Once he gets it(likely to be a week or so) you reward him randomly and gradually fade it out (you don't want to set up a whole new set of demands). One warning, you may find he gets worse for a day or so while you're ignoring him because he won't understand at first and will just try harder haha but stick with it, that phase quickly passes :)

Your husband's method may technically work but only because it causes pain and fear. The price you both and your horse pay for inflicting pain and fear will be immeasurable. Your horse will likely 'displace' the behaviour somewhere else, he will become fearful and anxious around your  husband which could, if it escalates, make him unsafe. If your husband cannot see that, it is likely he will blame the horse and so it goes on so the faster he is able to see an alternative way of working the better for all of you!

Good luck, let us know how you get on