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tianaluthien
12-11-2014, 04:48 AM
I'm not sure if this is better posted in the "Pets & Animals" forum (if it is, I'll move it), but here goes:

Situation: One of my MCs is Not A Nice Guy and he uses spurs and a whip when riding and disciplining his horse. The horse is extremely antagonistic towards him.

Question: is it possible for that relationship to be repaired? As in, if Mr. Not Nice underwent a change of heart and became more reasonable, would he (with time) be able to have a calmer/better relationship with his horse?

Any help would be greatly appreciated since I know zero about horse training. And please let me know if this isn't clear.

Cheers,
Tia

Roxxsmom
12-11-2014, 04:59 AM
Animals are sensitive to patterns in relationships, and they certainly do develop a fear of individuals or situations they associate with pain or other unpleasant stimuli. Once a pattern of association is established, it can take quite a while to unlearn it, but it's possible if the person or situation that is distasteful is repeatedly and predictably paired with things that are pleasant to the animal.

You may want to google classical conditioning and counterconditioning/desensitization. I've run across it most often in reference to dog training, but there may be some information out there about using it with horses too.

I will say that horses and dogs (and other animals, including people) vary greatly in temperament and past experience, so how their fear is expressed may vary a lot. Some bite, kick, bolt etc, while others seem to be remarkably tolerant of the people who hurt them. Sometimes the signs of discomfort and fear are so subtle that the owner of said animal doesn't even notice them, until/unless the situation explodes.

tianaluthien
12-11-2014, 05:19 AM
This is very helpful, thank you :)

cmhbob
12-11-2014, 06:09 AM
My daughter is going to school for horse training, among other things. I'll hit her up and see what she has to say.

tianaluthien
12-11-2014, 06:54 AM
Genius, thank you!!! :)

cmhbob
12-11-2014, 07:15 AM
She's up working late on a project, but she yes, it could be done, but it would take a lot of time and effort and the guy's part.

mimstrel
12-11-2014, 08:18 AM
As cmhbob stated, it would take a LOT of time and effort but would be possible.

My favorite horse ever was abused. The barn where I took lessons during high school bought him out of the kill pens at auction. When I met him, he'd already had months of work done to teach him to trust people again, and he still had problems. In the beginning, it was a challenge to groom and saddle him but I put in a lot of hours with him.
And after a few more months, that horse would do just about anything for me. We did a lot of stuff that I wouldn't do with any other horse (and which no one else could do with this one)... I miss him like crazy (I went to college and the barn closed down and all the horses were sold while I was gone. If I'd known about it, I'd have bought him. If I knew where he was now, I think I'd sell a kidney if I had to to get him back.)

but we're pretty sure that what happened was someone had him as a cart horse and hit him if he cantered. And he never quite got over that.




Be aware that spurs, crops, and lunge whips can be used in a way which does not harm the horse. I don't typically use them, but if properly utilized, they don't cause any harm.

But it takes some skill, patience, understanding, and effort to use them properly. They are easy to misuse.

tianaluthien
12-11-2014, 06:19 PM
Thank you all. This is super helpful :)

Tazlima
12-11-2014, 07:55 PM
One way to help the process along would be to change some condition of their interaction. For example, let's say every time a dog gets in trouble, the owner:
1) yells the dog's name
2) Chases it down
3) Hits or kicks it.

In this scenario, the dog may become terrified of the sound of its own name because it knows that steps 2 & 3 aren't far behind. That's why changing an abused animal's name is often a crucial step toward gaining their trust.

Animals can predict events based on extremely subtle details, often cues that owners don't realize they're giving. For example, when I get home from work and change clothes, my dogs watch to see which shoes I put on. They've learned that sneakers=walk, other shoes=they stay home. This despite the fact that I never mention walking until the moment I'm ready to step out the door (it's annoying to try and do anything with three super-excited dogs underfoot). The little suckers figured that one out all on their own.

In your story, the tools of abuse are the spurs and whip, so ditching or replacing those items would be a good first step toward a fresh start, but there could be some more subtle detail that the horse picks up on. If the abuse is sporadic in the first place, an intelligent horse may already be excellent at "reading" the man to gauge the likelihood of a particular interaction going sour.

thothguard51
12-11-2014, 08:11 PM
Animals can detect attitude and respond to it...

RCtheBanditQueen
12-12-2014, 12:13 AM
In time it could happen, if Mr. Not Nice really did change his attitude. Horses are very, very good at reading their handlers. It's very hard to fake them out.

It would depend on the individual horse as well, which gives you a lot of leeway to craft a workable situation for your story. Some horses are so sensitive that a rider's action that would be perfectly normal for another horse will make the more touchy one explode. I have one of those. She is so sensitive to any touch or body language, I can get her to move around me on the ground just by focusing my energy at whatever part of her I want to move. It is partly just her nature -- I've never known another horse like her -- and partly because I've had her for years, and that trust and communication between us has been built up over time.

But if somebody took her and rough-handled her with crazy spurring, whipping, yelling, etc., she would become antagonistic, because she has a very strong sense of justice. If you don't treat her right, she will let you know.

One time she and I had a riding lesson from a macho guy who thought he would just show me how it's done, and he started muscling her around. Imagine a 6 foot plus, brawny, linebacker-size guy with a very petite little Arabian mare maybe 14 hands tall at the withers (horse height is measured in 4-inch "hands" -- 14 hands is not that big; you probably researched that already). He was pushing her around because he could. Finally she got frustrated and bit him a good one.

...It was hilarious. :P

She didn't hurt him. She just stood up for herself. And he got the message, and started giving her more gentle cues. She responded to that.

So yeah. If your MC really does change, and puts in the time and effort, it would be possible to repair the relationship with his horse. You've got leeway to make it fit your story. :)

kuwisdelu
12-12-2014, 01:39 AM
...did anyone else expect this thread to be about something else?

unionrdr
12-12-2014, 02:11 AM
Well, animals read body language & the tone of your voice mainly. It's unclear how many human words they actually understand being around us. But I think a good movie to watch concerning this interaction is Hidaldgo. I love how he calls his horse "little brother". It's based on a true story as well. Then the others that abuse their horses to try & beat him. Then Custer who ordered the ponies killed at Wounded Knee, etc.

tianaluthien
12-12-2014, 02:39 AM
You guys are better than Google, seriously. This is all enormously helpful.

In this case, Mr. Not Nice does actually have a change of heart so that will affect the progress. Also, this has got me thinking about the horse's temperament as well.

Thanks!

Introversion
12-12-2014, 02:46 AM
...did anyone else expect this thread to be about something else?

:D I admit nothing. :D

Mr Flibble
12-12-2014, 04:28 AM
I used to work in a place where all the horses had previously...not been treated well

All of them reacted differently. Because all of them were individual personalities, just like people in a lot of ways.

Some horses are more forgiving than others. Some will be fine, or at least non-antagonistic provided you never use the whip/spurs again, though they may be still on edge for some time. Some will hold a grudge (for years, even if they haven't seen you in that time)

So, unless you're thinking something extreme (they become best buds the second he doesn't put the spurs on -- horses are built for flight, and can be somewhat mad, but they are not stupid) it could be believable

tianaluthien
12-12-2014, 05:49 AM
Definitely not extreme like that. I'm also looking at it as a process over time since the story takes place over several months.

yxz79
12-12-2014, 06:17 AM
...did anyone else expect this thread to be about something else?

Oh my. :roll:

kuwisdelu
12-12-2014, 06:24 AM
But I think a good movie to watch concerning this interaction is Hidaldgo. I love how he calls his horse "little brother". It's based on a true story as well. Then the others that abuse their horses to try & beat him. Then Custer who ordered the ponies killed at Wounded Knee, etc.

I like the story the movie tells, but there's hardly anything true about it.

mimstrel
12-12-2014, 11:47 AM
All of them reacted differently. Because all of them were individual personalities, just like people in a lot of ways.

Some horses are more forgiving than others. Some will be fine, or at least non-antagonistic provided you never use the whip/spurs again, though they may be still on edge for some time. Some will hold a grudge (for years, even if they haven't seen you in that time)


I know a formerly abused horse who has the nickname "Killer" and his new owners keep him as a pasture pet, because he's apparently AMAZING 99% of the time (strong, fast, responsive, incredible stamina). And then something (they could never figure out what) would set him off, and he would absolutely RAGE. Nearly killed his rider a couple of times. And these people are good with horses, even the crazy ones and unmanageable ones. They've been thrown before. And both of them agree, they've never experienced the kind of fury that comes out in this horse.

He's lucky. He lives with people who decided since he's too dangerous to ride, he can just live in their pasture and look nice.

(contrast "Killer" with my boy Little John, who I mentioned in my prior post)

RCtheBanditQueen
12-12-2014, 06:57 PM
Definitely not extreme like that. I'm also looking at it as a process over time since the story takes place over several months.

Sounds like a story I would enjoy reading. :Thumbs:

unionrdr
12-12-2014, 07:00 PM
I like the story the movie tells, but there's hardly anything true about it.

The man & the horse in the story were real people. I forget the guy's name, but the extras on the DVD show & talk about him, the horse & the back story. The movie is basically true, but embellished a little here & there.

kuwisdelu
12-13-2014, 01:26 AM
The man & the horse in the story were real people. I forget the guy's name, but the extras on the DVD show & talk about him, the horse & the back story. The movie is basically true, but embellished a little here & there.

He was a real person, but his whole biography is basically made-up, which rather disappointed me. Especially because I'm getting really tired of white people pretending to be native. I just pretend it's fiction and enjoy it that way.

Mr Flibble
12-13-2014, 01:37 AM
And then something (they could never figure out what) would set him off

One of the horses it took us a while to figure out

It was the colour yellow. (Yes I know horses don't see colour the same us us, but bear with me)

It seemed really random at first -- a bucket he didn't like, the jogger who he bolted from despite not having a problem with other joggers, this car but not that one, biting his favourite groom when they wore a certain jumper. Then we figured out everything that freaked him was yellow

Kept him (as far as possible!) away from yellow he was fine, and at least we were prepared when someone in a yellow top turned up...

NinjaFingers
12-13-2014, 01:38 AM
It very much depends on the horse.

Here's the thing. Consistent abusive treatment can "break" a horse. They will become dispirited, do only what their handler/rider demands. A horseman can see this - I've encountered it before.

This can be temporary/fixable, but it can be permanent. The longer the ill treatment went on, the less likely it is to be fixed. The softer-minded the horse, the less likely it is to be fixed, but you said the horse became antagonistic, which implies it's a tough-minded horse.

Also, if the horse has never known anything BUT ill treatment it is much harder to fix.

So, think about these elements in the back story.

Also.

CORRECT use of whip and spurs is not abusive - please do remember that. I've used both on horses at different times. They are tools that can be used correctly or incorrectly. Horses have a surprisingly strong sense of justice, and a rider who uses the whip and spurs for discipline only when the horse deserves it will actually gain that horse's respect and affection, providing it's not a particularly weak-minded horse (some horses can't take any kind of harsh discipline). The whip and spurs are also not always or solely used for discipline.

If you come over as "whip and spurs are always bad" then you will write one of those books that we horsemen like to throw across the room ;).

He has to be using them wrong - the two most obvious things that come to mind are using an implement on the horse's head (a major no-no) or beating/spurring the horse when it is obviously afraid and/or in pain. The most common form of horse abuse in my experience is beating horses for spooking. Or, he's using them enough to mark the animal - you might want to have the horse have white marks on its side from being cut by the spurs.

And then have it take time. He will have to ditch the whip and spurs to start with, and then eventually carry a whip but not, ever, ever use it. (Yes, I've had some experience with this kind of thing). He will have to get it completely out of his head that a horse should be disciplined for being afraid, etc.

Eventually, if the horse is basically sound minded, it can get over it, yes.

Tazlima
12-13-2014, 02:13 AM
Also.

CORRECT use of whip and spurs is not abusive - please do remember that. I've used both on horses at different times. They are tools that can be used correctly or incorrectly.

QFT. They're in the same "misunderstood" category as the (horribly-named) choke-chain. Properly used, a choke-chain actually trains primarily with sound. The distinctive noise of the chain right near the dog's ears gets its attention and the dog quickly learns that the sound of a couple links tightening means it's losing slack. That gives it an opportunity to self-correct its position relative to the owner before it goes too far astray. The initial training is done by tugging the chain and immediately releasing the pressure. If you're actually choking your dog, you're doing it wrong.

Unfortunately, many people hear the term choke-chain and either:
1) Assume that anyone who uses one is abusing their dog.
2) Think that they're supposed to choke their dog with it.

Side note: The absolute WORST "training tool" I've ever seen for sale was a choke-chain with a ribbon threaded through the links to "avoid frightening the animal with the sound of the chain."

:rant:

NinjaFingers
12-13-2014, 02:23 AM
Right.

A whip is used to:

1. Reinforce a leg aid that is being ignored.
2. Replace the off side leg for ladies riding side saddle.
3. Apply an aid directly to the horse's hind quarters when training certain advanced movements or working on independent control of the front and rear end of the horse.
4. Remind a jumping horse to pick his hooves up, usually by a gentle tap on the shoulder. (This is why show jumpers carry very short whips).
5. Apply BRIEF discipline to a horse that is balking or misbehaving.

Spurs are used to:
1. Reinforce a leg aid that is being ignored (see the pattern here).
2. Apply a leg aid more precisely with a horse that has been trained to an advanced level. At very high levels the signals for maneuvers can be very similar, and the extra precision of spurs helps make sure the horse gets the correct message. (This is why Olympic dressage riders all wear spurs).

If you mark the horse, you are doing it wrong. If you continue to keep pressure on the horse after he has done what you ask, you are doing it wrong. If you apply discipline incorrectly - as I already mentioned, on a scared horse, or on a horse that did the wrong movement because it simply misunderstood, or on a green horse that barely knows what you want - you are doing it wrong.

I would say I ride with a whip about half the time and with spurs rarely (the reason being that I'm going back to the basics and learning to jump again after years, and I don't want to reintroduce spurs until my leg is absolutely solid in jump position). Whether I carry a whip or not depends entirely on one thing: The temperament and personality of the horse I'm riding.

Ken
12-13-2014, 04:16 AM
It may depend in part on horses' memories. Are they good, on average. Elephants' are excellent. They never forget; ever! Horses? Something to research.

mimstrel
12-13-2014, 04:28 AM
If you come over as "whip and spurs are always bad" then you will write one of those books that we horsemen like to throw across the room ;).


The first time I rode with spurs, I was completely freaked out by the idea. I'd only ever read stories where they are used in an abusive manner, and none of the people I rode with ever used them.

But I was really struggling with a particular horse not responding to my leg cues so my instructor suggested I try spurs. I agreed because I trusted her to never harm an animal... but it wasn't until I actually tried it (and saw how the horse paid attention but wasn't afraid or hurt by them) that I really believed that, if properly used, spurs are not bad.



Or, he's using them enough to mark the animal - you might want to have the horse have white marks on its side from being cut by the spurs.

Little John had scars - my guess based on location and shape (and the fact that he was primarily a cart horse before the auction) was from being hit or whipped rather than from spurs. But some of them remained sensitive.

NinjaFingers
12-13-2014, 06:44 AM
Ken, horses have excellent memories. When I was in college, I came back home for a visit, went to the barn I grew up riding at, and was actually recognized by more than one of the horses.

Studies have been done that definitively prove that horses can recognize individuals and remember how they were treated by them. They will react in a more positive and affectionate manner to people who treated them well and fairly than to people who were indifferent to them.

Horses can have problems for years based off of one fear inducing incident. I once knew an ex Standardbred racer who had a wreck on the track. The sulky flipped and landed on him. He was injured quite badly. He recovered physically, but was never drivable again after that - he would panic if you tried to put him in the shafts of a wheeled vehicle. He did, however, spend the rest of his life as a happy saddle horse - he had no bad associations with being ridden.

Ken
12-13-2014, 07:00 AM
Always have liked horses. So good to know :-)

Reminds me of a very famous recognition. Odysseus' return from a 20-year journey. His dog still remembers him; scrambles over, tail wagging; then departs on a journey himself :-(

Thnx for the anecdote.