The story so far, part 3: Fall FINALLY arrives

Thank goodness, my fears were unfounded. She lived through the summer, but I had to suspend her training until it got cooler, which it FINALLY did a couple of weeks ago.

By this time, she was firmly established as “lead mare” of the herd. And, unfortunately, those bossy tendencies carried over into her relationship with me. She was no longer the gentle, timid mare I’d known before. Instead, she seemed to take every available opportunity to balk and/or push me around (and I had the bruises to prove it!). I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into, adopting a 10-year-old, 1400lb, untrained, unsocialized mare! She was SO big and strong, and she had no respect for me.

I’d never been in that situation before, and I desperately started reading everything I could about how to regain control of a dominant horse. Thanks to books by Monty Roberts, Kelly Marks, Richard Shrake and Bill Dorrance, I started realizing some of the mistakes I’d been making, such as showing hesitance and looking her in the eye.

The most intriguing concept I came across in my reading was called “Join Up.” Join Up is a process which involves using body language to send the horse away from you, then invite him to come back and submit to you as he would submit to a more dominant horse.  I was skeptical but desperate, so I tried it. 

And it worked! Within five minutes of sending Rhona away from me, she was displaying submissive body language. I then invited her to follow me, which she immediately did, and I haven’t had any dominance problems with her since.

I highly recommend Join Up to anyone training a horse, and particularly to anyone training a large, older horse. You can find complete instructions for Join Up in Kelly Marks’ book Teach Your Horse Perfect Manners: How You Should Behave So Your Horse Does Too. Wonderful book, worth every penny.

And that’s where this blog picks up…

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