What is your horse telling you? Aggressive Stallion Kicks!

I really get annoyed when people say they know how to do something such as join up with a horse, then when someone tells them that what they did was violent and not a nice way to treat a horse they go and put them down, calling them names.  Once such video that caught my attention is of a woman who approached her horse from behind, wielding a whip as she approached. The horse first startled with the approach, then goes and defends itself with turning to kick, the person then charges and whips the back of the horse hard.

I’ve been told to watch this woman work, so I did with even more detail.

What are we really telling our horses, it’s not what you might be thinking. Unintentionally you might be telling your horse something, but you’ve not come to realise that every body movement you make, your horse interprets it.  For horses that have been mishandled they are quickly to interpret unintentional behaviour from humans.

My observations of the video I’m about to share was the horse was defending itself. Had the woman not have approached in such a manner, body language big, wielding the whip, this horse would not have threatened to kick.

Here’s the video link see what you think. Have a watch and read at the same time.  http://youtu.be/PurqAVgdlnY

Horses do not use whips, so when someone claims to be treating a horse like another horse would do  but then uses a whip to inflict pain because the horse didn’t do what they expected,  they overstep the mark which only humans have the capability to do – cause pain to force a creature or human to do what they want them to do.

Breaking this video to pieces we can see the woman approached him aggressively “in the horse language”  Upright body and wielding the whip to the horse would have been and aggressive move and also confusing. As she gets closer to him, you can see him itching across towards the fence until he can’t go any further that way, notice his head and ears he’s unsure of what she wants. Nothing the woman did in her body language or words asked for this horse to move on. When he could not go further because of the fence, his actions became defensive, still not understanding what the woman wanted his head flexes, ears go back and he turns his rear end towards the woman, The woman steps back – another mistake, in stepping back this instils in the horse that he is hierarchy so continues to be defensive, the woman then lunges forward with a sharp smack of the whip across his rump and the stallion starts to run away and if you notice his head movement, he is now in flight mode from fear of the whip. The woman then reiterates this fear by going in for another strike with the whip. Even is using a whip in this nature was alright, as soon as the stallion was running away pressure should have been released, but it was not.

Respect and trust goes much further than fear of a whip.

Throughout the rest of the video the woman continues to give unclear signs as to what she wants the horse to do. The way the horse was running around trying to get away from the whip is telling her that he was scared, his head high and not relaxed as if he was trusting her.

Something that caught my ears when I was listening to the woman speak, when she said “now I’m going to do something different,  MY ANGER IS GONE….”  Showing that this woman acted in anger when she thought the horse was going to  kick her. She didn’t see that what she’d done before hand and made him go defensive and that created anger in her which she took out on the horse with the whip.

The woman continues to talk about joining up, but as you look through the video you’ll see the only times he comes to her is when her hand is offering treats, or going to her pocket to get a treat.

There are 4 signs to a join up process that occurs naturally in the wild, we’ll call them horse 1 – Japan and horse 2 – noodles.  Japan wants to join the herd or has something to say, Noodles say no it’s not your place to do it or no you cannot join the herd. Noodles would have made eye contact with Japan first, if Japan didn’t respond then the ears would have gone back on Noodles, if still Japan didn’t respond Noodles would have taken a step forwards with his head low and ears back. If Japan still doesn’t listen and and refuses to back down, Noodles would then start to charge, ears pinned, eyes locked on eyes and head lowered with a stretched neck. At this point Japan knows to run away and that he’s being told to back off. Noodles however wants a bit of respect from Japan, so he keeps sending Japan away until he see the signs that Japan is now listening. Japan will locks his inner ear onto Noodles, but this isn’t enough yet. Noodles will keep sending Japan away until he’s see more signs that he is listening and that he is showing respect to Noodles. The next sign will be Japan starts to lick and chew the one sending away slightly softens the send away message, but not fully. Next Japan starts to move in smaller circles around the Noodles, at this point Noodles will still send Japan away, but will relax a bit more. Japan’s next move will to be still going around Noodles in a circle but he will drop his head to the ground in submission to Noodles. Shortly after this Noodles will let Japan return to the herd, Japan will do so but with a bit more respect for Noodles.

Real join up with a horse can be achieve in a round pen, square one, a school and even a field if done in the Equus language.

Our interactions with our horses can be the same in taking the lead with our herd. A herd could just be you and your horse!

The woman in the video didn’t do anything to achieve a join up and the horse did not give any signs to the woman that he was listening.He did know  however that when the woman put her hand to her pocket she was getting him a treat, you can see his immediate reaction when her hand reaches to the pocket each time. Even if she never gave him a treat, that hand action of going to the pocket was his signal that he was going to get a treat so came in for it.

At one point in the video after giving him a treat, she says she’s going to bond with him, and walks around him, what she fails to see is the aggressive swish of the tail which said don’t do that, go away, but she doesn’t, she carries on walking around the horse, then the horse goes away from her. In the horses mind who walks away first is the leader, so this action of letting him walk away first put the woman at the bottom of the hierarchy.

The woman then makes him jump with her body action that he thinks she’s going to whip him again and too right the last time he turned his back on her, she whipped him. The only reason this horse is circling the woman is the fear of the  whip that she keep raising up and down. There is no trust in a whip that has just been whipped across the bottom.

For up to date facts on horses and muscles bruising from whips, there are quite a few scientific articles on google. It would be a good idea to find the facts, a horse can feel a fly land on it, so sure as anything he did feel that first whip she did.

This point in the video the horse is being very clear with his language, but the woman refuses to listen and is in face invading his space with her body. http://youtu.be/PurqAVgdlnY?t=3m46s

The woman walks over to him with her hand held out exactly the same as if she was offering him a treat, he walks to her, but she strokes him instead. Then he says where’s the treat and goes to her pocket, Not treat in hand and nothing to get at in the pocket and look at his ears they’re back and he’s not trusting you. As she’s trying to stoke his head he is throwing his head away from her and look at that tail switch in annoyance.  Interestingly when watching horses when they challenge each other the horse who wins is the one who moves the other ones feet. All the time she was stroking his head and he was moving his head away from her, was exactly the same as when a horse is challenged, you’ll note the horses feet didn’t move the whole time she was trying to stoke his head and whilst she was trying to explain about him not liking his left/right ear touched. The woman makes another mistake now in the horses eye, she steps backwards, she was the first to move her feet so the horse is still hierarchy, he shows this too by then walking away from her. But… she raises the whip again and he runs off, notice his head is high, there is no respect here.

She then puts her hand out again as if offering a treat, strokes him instead and then gets a treat out of the pocket to give him. Notice though as soon as he’s had that treat and she tries to stroke him again that he’s moving his head away from her again as if to say ‘get off’ He walks away from her again, show again he is the hierarchy. She raises the whip and he runs again.

Something the woman said about intellect made me laugh a little, she’s smarter than the horse. I would have to disagree, he knows to run away when the whip is raised and he knows to come to her for treats when she puts her hand out.  But there is a lot more that this horse is communication that the woman is failing to recognise.

Moving on to this bit http://youtu.be/PurqAVgdlnY?t=7m4s

The woman is talking about how much calmer the horse is, but as she goes to his side to stroke him, his ears go back, then she raises the whip and his head goes high, she starts to try and desensitize him, but look at his head movement, he is not trusting her, each time she moves the whip in another direction his head goes high, he takes steps backwards, a sign of distrust. There is then a little bit of licking and chewing, so he’s realised that she’s not going to hit his head, he then came forward when she offered out her hand as if there was a treat in it, but this time she don’t give him a treat, she put the whip up near his head instead, his head goes up and he backs off again. No Trust here as he just had the hand out to come and get a treat but gets rewarded with the whip being raised.

She then goes into stroke him talking how the horse is trusting her and she’s his friend, but look again at his head…. ears are back his head too high, he is not trusting this woman. she’s showing with the  head raising that he’s  not sure what she wants of him. She  step backwards and holds out her hand and he ignores it, clever horse not fooled this time, last time she offered her hand she raised the whip over his head. Now he sees the her  hand goes to the pocket he comes forward knowing there is a  treat there.

This is not join up, this is not building trust, You’ll notice after the treat she tries to stroke him again after she gave him the treat and he jerks his head away from her once again,

He’s distracted by a noise but then sees her hand going to her pocket again so he follows for kisses and candy, he thinks it’s treat time, that’s what that action is – hand in pocket = treat. Oh no she didn’t get a treat she was just pulling her trousers up. When the horse saw this, he backed away from her once again. Everything we do with our bodies our horses interpret it into Equus, the language of the horse.

I find it amusing that the woman comes and shows us the reward, I couldn’t care less if it was a polo, fact is this horse is not trusting the woman and only comes to her because she give kisses and candy. You’ll have to read the comments on YouTube to know what I mean.

He’s walking to her again, her hand went in her pocket….. Look at his face though when he realises there’s no treat in her hand, ears straight back and his nose goes straight to her pocket.

She then disrespectfully walk straight into his space that he has to move his head, she says he’s interested and he’s more calm, but look at his ears and head, that’s not what he’s saying.  She’s then telling us that’s she’s his friend and quickly pops a treat to his mouth, but hang on look at what he’s saying to her. That movement with his head he did as she walked past him said go away, then she get to rubbing his rump and what happens, don’t blame him he turns is away from her, cos hey last time she got his rump she hit the thing.

The woman goes on to explain that the horse follows her and is trusting her, but what she’s failing to realise is that the head is low and the ears are backwards, this is herding behaviour not following behaviour.  She turn and faces him and he stops.  When he walks forward again look where his face goes to, her pocket pocket and hand. She’s talking about a horse following you, but as she goes away and the horse follows you’ll notice he’s actually backing up, with good cause she’s raised that whip again.  Then it’s back to the whip to make him go around once again.

A whip that has stung a horse does not build trust. As you can guess I’ve been writing this bit by bit as I’m watching the video. The screen on the video says Doing the same as in the start, what you’re going to whip him again, that’s what he thinks look how fast he moved that rump away from her, look at how high his head is. This is not a relaxed horse being free lunged.

Head high, ears back for most of that last bit of free lunging, the only time he relaxed his head and body was when her body language stopped moving. She then over steps his shoulder and he turns away from her, that’s what her body language just told him to do, then she charged him. Excuse me but what did the horse do wrong that she had to charge him, he did nothing wrong, he just fled from you again, head high in panic.

She said she was praising him with her voice, just pause the video on that bit for a second as the horse passes, he couldn’t care less about your praise, his ears are back,his head is high and there is zero licking and chewing to show that he’s accepting what she thinks she’s trying to tell him.

She then flicks the whip at him whilst he’s in the corner, only one way to go from there…. let me press play again…. oh what did she say? When he’s got it right she doesn’t do anything else she’s just there! That was when he was the most relaxed when she did NOTHING. then she speaks of the bond she’s  created with this horse, look at his head whilst she’s stroking him, he looks away then when he comes back to her he’s at her pocket again kisses and candy.

I Love the ending, she walk away from him and he doesn’t follow but he just turns and walks the other way.

Bit long winded and if you made it to the end of the blog, well done 😉  Horsemanship does not require the use of human instruments to forcing a horse or any other creature through pain. If a horse can feel a fly land on it’s back, it can also feel the sting of a whip.

Don’t have me wrong, there is nothing wrong with using a  whip to instruct your horse,  I use dressage whips and lunge whips, but NEVER are they used in anger or to harm the horse. It’s not the tool that damages, it’s the hands that hold them.

Equine with Melanie Hetfield

It’s all about the horse!


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