how do I teach my filly about personal space?
Note: The following excerpt is the transcript from a question I answered from my Facebook Live made in the Steady Horse Facebook Group on 5/29/19. Watch the video or read the text below to learn the answer to the question.
Here’s the number one thing about personal space: Be clear in your communication.
A lot of times we can send mixed signals to our horses without even realizing it. We all love our horses, we like to love on them and rub on them, etc. Although we’re super excited to spend time with them, sometimes when you’re training specific things, we need to make sure that we aren’t putting too much praise or love on them at the wrong time.
Timing is so important. If you’re asking a horse to back off and stay away from you and in the next moment they’d go and nuzzle you a little bit and they suck you in. When you do this, you’re actually confusing your horse.
The important thing is to make sure you’re very consistent and communicating clearly. If you want her to stay out of your space, which is important, especially for a young horse, they need to learn personal space. Make sure that you’re consistently saying no, backing her up from when she tries to crowd you. Shake that lead rope and keep adding pressure until she backs up. What I see a lot of people do is that horse might crowd their personal space, they get mad, and shake the rope, but don’t actually require that the horse does anything.
All the shaking of the rope is worthless. You’re not pushing that horse away from you. Make sure that if you start asking them to move away from you, and continue that pressure until that horse physically moves away from you. Get her to take a step, two steps, three steps away. Work on backing up exercises so that she has a habit of moving away from you and giving space to you. Get your horse to the point when they say, “When she asks me to move, I’m going to move, and I know that when I do move that she’s going to release the pressure, letting me know I did a good job.”
Now, here’s the important thing. If you have a horse that’s really creeping up in your space when you back them up and they back up, don’t go in there and start rubbing and loving on them to reward them.
The reward is that you quit shaking that rope and quit adding pressure. Take a deep breath and just let them stand there. Nice and quiet and relaxed. Again, you don’t want to confuse them. If you were to back them up and they back up and then you go in and you start rubbing on them, they’re going to think you’re inviting them into your space.
Make sure you’re very clear and very consistent with it. And if you’re clear, consistent, and of course be gradual don’t ask for too much too soon, you’re bound to make tons of progress with your horse and not just progress, but lasting progress.