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7 month old colt that is pushy and nips

I have a young 7 month old colt that is approx. 14h and will be weaned in the next couple of weeks. His mother will be going elsewhere and a yearling will be his new companion. He has had both a rope halter and a web halter put on him. We have started teaching him the basics, but I think we are confusing him. He will follow behind us, but we can't figure how we can get him to lead beside us and without nipping us. He is always leaning into us and trying to push us around. I would like to get this pushing and nipping business sorted before he gets too big and scrappy for me to handle.

Are we supposed to push him away so that he doesn't lean into us or will this cause him to lean even more? Also how do we stop him nipping. Is this because he has been given toys to play with as he and his mum don't graze with other mares and their foals?

We are in the process of building a round pen, so that we can encourage him to work forward and start the join-up process, even though he already seems attached to us.

How do we encourage/teach him to keep out of our personal space?

What sort of equipment should we be using while leading or working him in the round pen?

Regards, Anita

Hi Anita,

Thank you for your question. I agree now is the time to lead him out of the nippy and pushy business. Here are several non-violent ways to deal with the nipping; Put the rope halter on him and ask him to stand still, no fidget or nip for 10 seconds. If he doesn't snake the lead rope of the rope halter really quickly, really fast and hard under his chin. So hard he may start to back up. You could even walk towards him to encourage his yielding ground to you. Then say HO! Ask him to stand patiently and quietly again for 10 seconds. If he doesn't, do the same thing. It may take three of four times for the colt to stop everything and stand still. DO NOT push him into something. Give him room to back away from you. Do not make him afraid. He should not run away from you. Only yield ground to you. If he runs away you have been too aggressive. Every time he tries to push into you or walk ahead of you or invade your space, have him yield a few steps to you in this fashion. Be assertive and precise in your movements and attitude. But always with love and respect. You do not need to pop him in the chops to get this handled now. He is so young he may rear and bolt if you push too hard. He could spin and kick out at you. It's possible so be careful. Try to feel your way into the situation as sensitively as possible. The least amount of pressure it takes to move him back is what you are looking for.

This is an excellent opportunity to teach him to lunge. Use a wand or short 'stock whip' of some sort. Stroke him all over with it. Down his legs, under his belly, across his rump. Get him used to the touch of it. Then gently teach him to move away from the wand. Have him go forward and then around you in a circle. Also to back up when you tap the wand on the ground in front of his feet. Once he goes around you on a lead line in either direction easily, you have another tool in your bag of tricks to make it hard for him to do what you don't want. Now, if he nips, you can send him around you in a circle, both directions a few times. Then ask for a HO! If he doesn't stop and stand there and be a good boy, he goes to work again by going around you in tight circles. Make what you don't want hard for him to do and what you do want easy for him. You don't want nipping or invasion of space, so, either back him away from you (by this time you could probably just flick the rope a bit, say “No” and he'll stop whatever he is doing) or send him around you in a tight circle in both directions. When you do get what you want, i.e. no nipping and a well mannered stop, even for a few seconds, give him a 'good boy' and a little scratch. Don't dwell on the praise. We're looking for acknowledgement of effort and no need for much more than that. That is showing respect and actually is appropriate praise for the effort and not over done gushing over the effort. Horses are really fast learners. Once he gets you are the Great Mom, the Great but assertive Mom, the Mom who gives praise and can also make life somewhat uncomfortable, but still loving Mom, he should be a pretty good 'kid'. He's young so cut him a lot of slack and don't you get hurt. Remember it is not about punishment or control. It is about trust and respect and you need to earn them both.

I hope I have been able to offer some good suggestions to you. Thank you for the opportunity to help. Please let me know how it all goes. I am interested and here to help.

Aloha from the Rocky Mountains,


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