Help With My Horse

Working with a Pushy Horse: Finding Balance and Establishing Respect


Working with a pushy horse can be a challenging experience for any equestrian. Horses are strong and powerful animals, and when they exhibit pushy behavior, it can lead to safety concerns and a breakdown in the horse-rider relationship. However, with patience, structure, and consistency, it is possible to address and overcome pushy behavior from horses. This article will provide insights into the underlying causes of pushiness, strategies for managing pushy behavior, and tips for establishing a respectful and balanced partnership with your horse.

Understanding Pushiness in Horses

Before delving into how to work with a pushy horse, it is essential to understand the reasons behind such behavior. Pushiness can stem from a variety of factors, including a lack of clear boundaries, insecurity, fear, dominance, or improper handling and training. It is important that you not understand that being pushy is only a symptom of another problem. To correct a pushy horse, you are correcting the root problem, not correcting “pushy”. Correcting the pushy behavior usually requires the handler to change their behavior that created the pushy behavior to begin with.
Some horses become pushy as a means of testing their boundaries and asserting dominance. Horses typically learn to be pushy because that behavior allowed them to get what they want, such as treats or attention, which reinforces their behavior. In other cases, pushiness can be a manifestation of anxiety or insecurity, where the horse seeks to control its environment to feel more secure. Recognizing the underlying motivation for pushy behavior is crucial in developing effective strategies to address it.

Establishing Clear Boundaries

One of the first steps in working with a pushy horse is establishing clear boundaries. Horses are social animals that thrive on structure and hierarchy. By clearly defining your role as the leader and setting consistent boundaries, you can help your horse understand their place in the partnership. You can not only have boundaries sometimes. Horses need consistent structure, rules, and boundaries all the time. Don’t expect your horse to have to figure out which rules and structures apply when.
Consistency is key when setting boundaries. Ensure that the rules and expectations you establish apply at all times, whether you’re in the stable, on the ground, or in the saddle. Use clear body language and assertive yet calm vocal cues to communicate your expectations to your horse.
Groundwork exercises, such as leading exercises and lunging, can be invaluable in reinforcing boundaries. Focus on teaching your horse to respect your personal space, walk calmly beside you, halt when asked, and yield to pressure. Exactly what exercises you want to use does not matter. The objective is to reward desirable behavior with praise, or scratches, and discourage undesired behavior with work. I typically do not like to reward desired behavior with treats because that can lead to more undesired behavior.

Addressing Fear and Insecurity

If your pushy horse’s behavior stems from fear or insecurity, it’s crucial to approach the issue with patience and empathy. Pushiness may be a coping mechanism for them to regain control and feel more secure in uncertain situations. This most often occurs when your horse is needing leadership, and you have not proven yourself to your horse as a worthy leader. In this situation, you want to demonstrate to your horse that you can make sound and safe decisions on your horse’s behalf.
Start by gradually exposing your horse to various environments, objects, and experiences in a controlled manner. Desensitization exercises can help them build confidence and trust in you as their handler. Begin with small, non-threatening challenges and gradually increase the difficulty level as your horse becomes more comfortable and confident in your decisions.

Building a Strong Partnership

When establishing working sessions with your horse, do not spend excessive amounts of time grooming your horse before a work session. This is confusing to your horse and the structure does not make sense to your horse. Do the grooming necessary for the work you plan to do, then spend a long time grooming as a reward for work well done after the work is completed. Spend time bonding with your horse after work.
This positive reinforcement encourages your horse to repeat the desired behavior, fostering a harmonious working relationship.
Remember to be patient and maintain a calm and confident demeanor. Horses are highly perceptive animals and will respond better to a handler who exhibits assertiveness without aggression. If you are intimidated by your horse, or you feel threatened, you should seek professional guidance, as an experienced trainer can provide valuable insights and techniques specific to your horse’s needs and keep you safe.


Working with a pushy horse can be a challenging journey, but it is not an insurmountable obstacle. By understanding the underlying causes of pushiness, establishing clear boundaries, addressing fear and insecurity, and building a strong partnership, you can gradually transform a pushy horse into a respectful and cooperative partner. Patience, consistency, and empathy are key throughout this process. Remember, every horse is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Be open to adjusting your approach and seeking professional guidance when necessary. With dedication and a proactive mindset, you can create a balanced and fulfilling partnership with your pushy horse, enhancing both your safety and enjoyment in the equestrian world. All problems go back to either lack of training, lack of respect, or pain. In the article, How Lack of Respect causes behavior Problems, I go in depth on the relationship of respect and behavior problems. You can watch a video of me working with a disrespectful horse in the video, Pushy, Aggressive, Biting, and Dominant Horse Behavior. Thank you for reading.

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