Last week we started to talk about why horses do the things they do and what they are trying to tell you, so here are a few little things that you shouldn’t ignore.
#1 – Nipping
Nipping is a “no-no” in my book. It’s one thing when your horse is checking you out, sniffing you, and touching you with his lips. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Nipping is when there is a deliberate “little bite”, a nip where your horse’s teeth close on your clothes or skin and there’s a pull.
Usually your horse is looking at you when he does this and seeing how you will react. This is an act of dominance to see if he can get one over on you. It isn’t meant to be mean or cause pain, just to jockey for position with herd dynamics.
But if you don’t stop this right away and actually catch it before it happens, it will quickly turn into a bite. You definitely don’t want to encourage that behavior by allowing a nip.
#2 – Biting
This is a major “no-no” in my book. A bite is usually done out of aggression, anger, or frustration. It’s a reaction to you not listening to something your horse was already trying to tell you and now he has to bite you to get your attention.
In this case he’s telling you louder that something is wrong, he’s not happy, and he wants you to fix it. If you ignore this behavior, your horse will only have to get louder for you to listen to what he’s trying to tell you. That means more aggressive. That’s not something to encourage by ignoring it.
A bit is a big sign that there is a problem. Figure it out now before the behavior gets worse, the bite gets harder, or more behaviors are attached with the bite.
#3 – Ears Pinned
Usually this is the first sign that there is a problem. It’s also the easiest to miss or ignore. Most people don’t realize how good their horses are at talking with their ears.
The ears can move forward and back as well as turn left and right. They can turn one ear to listen to their surroundings and have the other ear turned differently to listen to their owner. Horses’ ears are very telling.
When the ears are facing forward and up, your horse is attentive and happy. When they are pinned back and almost flat, your horse is upset and really not happy. In between could mean paying attention to different things, being interested, afraid, thinking, and more.
But if your horse’s ears are pinned back or his face looks rather unhappy to match those ears – don’t ignore this. Your horse is trying to tell you he is not happy with something happening right now and you need to do something about it to help the situation.
#4 – Stomping the Ground
Stomping the ground could be a nervous habit I’ve seen horses do when eating. They are basically saying that they aren’t comfortable with you that close while they eat. They could also be stomping their feet if there are a lot of flies around and they are bothered.
Either way, this means they are irritated or frustrated and trying to tell you they don’t like something. Don’t ignore this either because this can escalate into your horse striking out with his front feet or aiming for one of your feet while he’s stomping.
Being someone who was stepped on accidentally when I was young once or twice, this is not a good feeling. I’ve lost two toenails to this behavior. You should see how fast I move my feet when a horse moves his shoulder now.
#5 – Pushing into You
Pushing into you can be the fault of your horse or yourself. I’ve seen people lead their horse to a specific area and while they were walking they would accidentally cross in front of their horse, bumping into him. One person told me her horse kept pushing into her. In reality, when I watched this, she was not walking in a straight line and she kept bumping into him.
So this sign is when you are sure you are walking in a straight line and you can feel your horse deliberately move over and push into you. This may seem like a small thing, but your horse is testing the waters, so to speak.
Can he push you around and tell you where to go? Can he direct you in whatever direction he wants by pushing into you? If he can, he just went up in the herd hierarchy and now he will be able to do more to you because you are the low man on the totem pole.
This is not a position which you want to accidentally find yourself in. It’s one thing when the relationship is a give and take and you are aware of what’s going on. But if your horse knows that he is in charge and can push you around anytime he wants…nothing good will come of this.
If it gets worse, you may be accidentally or intentionally hurt. You definitely do not want to ignore this sign.
#6 – Not Allowing You to Halter
Now this one is one that could also be your fault or your horses. It all depends on how you halter. However, if your horse is definitely not letting you halter him by running away, picking his head up really high, or pulling his head out of the halter while you try to put it on, then YES your horse is telling you something.
Most of the time it’s not because they are trying to be bad and are doing it as a grudge. It’s usually because of something that happened last time they were haltered or something going on right now while you are trying to halter.
This is something that will get worse if you ignore it and it could turn into a major disrespectful attitude.
The little details mean a lot to your horse and when you ignore them, that in itself can tell your horse a lot about you and what your expectations are. Basically, you could be telling your horse something you really don’t mean to or want to.
These are just the top six (6) items that I see ALL the time that will always get worse if you ignore them. There are quite a few more than this but this will get you started.
The easiest way to fix them is just figure out immediately what’s going on and what your horse is trying to tell you so you can come to an understanding together. Remember this is a partnership and a relationship that you want to encourage and develop deeper. The best way is to be a good listener and pay attention to all the little stuff your horse is telling you.
This definitely means a lot to your horse as this is his natural way of communicating, body language. And actually, it’s a good thing that your horse is trying to talk to you and communicate his thoughts and feelings with you. You want to encourage that bond and communication by listening and helping your horse when he needs you.
If this resonates with you and you haven’t yet dipped your toe into my programs, then click this link. Check them out and let me know if you have any questions, by contacting me. I look forward to hearing from you.