GESTURE 2: Snaking
Usually if a horse lowers his head,
it’s a sign of subordination. “Snaking,”
however, is a dominant communicative gesture.
Snaking is when a horse lowers his
head in a tense fashion. His ears are
pinned, he’s showing some teeth, and
he shifts his head from side to side
in a “snaking” movement. With this
dominant gesture, he’ll drive other
horses away or control their direction.
A horse may chase another horse
around to remind the subordinate
horse that he is the boss.
A horse-human example is when
a horse turns and nips at your foot
in the stirrup with an aggressive attitude. Discourage your horse any time
he turns and moves his head toward
your foot; it may be a dominant
behavior and shouldn’t be allowed to
escalate. Nudge the horse with your
boot and scold him to remind him he
is not the boss.
GESTURE 3: Head Tossing
You may see this gesture when you’re
working a new horse in the round
pen. Your goal is to establish ground
rules for your relationship, showing
that you are the leader. Similar to
what happens when you introduce
a new horse to an existing herd, you
drive the horse around the pen somewhat aggressively (using appropriate
body language and gestures yourself).
Then you change his direction repeatedly to prove to the horse that you
control his direction and speed.
If the horse is doing what you ask
but tossing his head in the air and
moving his nose in a circular motion
(tossing his mane in the process), he’s
giving you a gesture of defiance.
The head toss means that the horse
is not yet fully accepting of you as the
herd leader. There’s not much you
can do about it; it’s an expression of a
horse’s emotion at that moment, and
you can’t punish an emotion.
Continue working with the same