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Hello Cherry

My miniature horse foal keeps biting, bucking, rearing and jumping up.  He is a 4 month old foal.  I plan to geld him, but our vet said to wait until he is 1 year, so it won’t harm his growth.

Hershey wants to bite and chew on EVERYTHING.  He has toys in the yard that he can play with, but I seldom see him using them.  We have a pet goat who lives with him and his mother, and he is often seen chewing on her legs and tail (she has bite marks to prove it)  I try to enforce the no-bite rule when I am around him by pushing his head away and tapping him on the muzzle, but when I leave for the day, there isn’t anyone to stop him.

Also, when I turn my back to him, he will often run up behind me and rear/kick me.  He also does this to his mother by jumping up and placing his hooves right below her withers.

He is a very smart foal, catches on very easily and  loves to please me.  He let me take his halter on and off him at 5 days old and would move back and to the side with pressure too, but now he is so focused on biting or chewing on me that when I ask him to do something, he ignores my signals.

On a different hoof, when his mother goes to roll in the dirt, she finds it very difficult because he jumps over her.  I have often had to hold him still so she can roll, because I am worried that he will tangle his legs with hers.

Is this a stage, or is it a habit???  And how would I be able to fix it and make him behave?  Would gelding him early help?  I am supposed to show him in showmanship this year.

Thanks, Julia

Hi Julia,

First I want to be sure that you know how to search here on this blog and on my website for information related to Biting and other horse behavior and training topics.

For example, here on this blog, you can type Biting in the Search box at the top of the page or in the right hand column. It will bring up a list of articles here that talk about horses that bite. For example

Horse Behavior – Biting Children

You can also go to the article page on my main website www.horsekeeping.com where there are many more articles. On that page, you can see all of the articles by title, so the fastest way to find what you want is to go to the Behavior category and scroll down to the articles on Biting.

For example, besides the one on the miniatures that bite children, there are the following articles:

Q&As on Horse Biting

Biting Prevention

Horse in Stall Bites at People

Now, to your questions specifically. It is generally a stage that colts (male foals) go through. If a biting horse is dabbed at or played with, or if you lightly tap his nose to tell him no, in many cases it tends to encourage play biting which is a socially acceptable behavior between horses.

You need to make sure your foal knows in no uncertain terms that you are top on the pecking order and biting is not an acceptable behavior.

You also need to set up regular handling sessions so that he learns to respect your personal space. This means 2-3 sessions per day every day – the sessions don’t have to be long – they could be 5-20 minutes each but should be structured. The articles I suggest above and other articles on my website will help with that.

As far as limiting his biting when you are not handling him or near him, that would be difficult. You can deter his biting of certain things like wood rails by coating them with a No Chew product, but that’s a big world out there, so while he is at this stage, perhaps teething, you should focus on his good manners when he is being handled and when you are near him when he is loose.

In terms of gelding him, here is a thorough discussion of why a horse is gelded, when, and aftercare. You should follow your own veterinarian’s advice as to when to geld but do know that many horses are gelding “early” which means before they are a year old – even at weaning – with good results and no negative effects. I don’t want to advise you on that as I can’t see your horse. Your veterinarian has the best picture of your horses, management and so on.

Gelding and Aftercare

Best of luck and remember, there is no substitute for thorough regular effective handling.

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Hi, Cherry.

We bought an 8 yr old mare in June for our daughter to show in 4-H.  She is a beautiful animal, but has a very dangerous problem.  She shows well in showmanship and pleasure, but when trying to use her for patterned work (i.e. horsemanship or reining) she rears, and will even go over backwards, when asked to lope down the center of the arena.  We have taken her to a local trainer, and he said he can’t “fix” the problem.  She is fine along the rail, but she seems to rebel when it comes to working in the center at a lope.  Can you please advise me as to whether she is a “lost cause”, or is there something I can do to master this issue?
Thanks!     *****Char

Hi Char,

I wouldn’t say your rearing horse is a lost cause, but I would say that a rearing horse is a candidate for the most experienced of horse handlers. Just the phrase “will even go over backwards” strikes the fear in the heart of any instructor or parent. I’m just picturing it happening with your 4-H daughter astride. It simply isn’t worth the risk.

I’m hesitant to give you any advice to help you work on this because I don’t know the severity of the problem nor your abilities and it sounds like the trainer you have access to is at a loss for how to proceed.

What I would do if the horse were here would be to start with square one on ground training to identify the spot where the horse loses confidence and has a hole in her training. Then I would take the time it takes to work the horse through her issues, which would certainly take weeks and more likely months or even years to completely eliminate the horse’s tendency to rear as avoidance. Then once the horse was solidly over her rearing, your daughter would need supervised instruction on riding the horse so as not to undo what had been done.

Therefore, I must defer to the position that since your daughter’s safety is at stake, she should not ride the horse. Nor should you for that matter. For the horse’s sake, if you can find a competent trainer that is accustomed to working with horses with such problems and you are willing to spend the time and money it will take to have the horse rehabilitated, then that is route you should take.

If that is not an option, then retire the mare to pasture and find your daughter a more suitable mount.

You might also want to read Looking for the Root of the Rearing Problem and other articles on my website.

I’m sure that is not what you wanted to hear but all it takes is knowing one person who has been on the bottom of the pile when a horse has flipped over backwards for me to advise you to take extreme caution.

Best of luck and be safe,

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Cherry,
I am having a problem with my horse who has picked up this habit of bolting out of the horse trailer when we open the back. Its at the point where it takes 2 people to load her since she will bolt. I’m scared that one of my kids will get hurt since she comes out so forcefully once the butt-bar is taken down. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. – Mitzi

Dear Mitzi,

To start fixing unloading problems you need to work on in-hand work and loading. You state in your question that it takes 2 people to load her which indicates that is where you need to start – with the loading. Start from square one reviewing all in hand work. Some of these things might be a quick review and others will show you where your horse’s “holes” are and where you need to work. Here’s a checklist to get you going:

  • Head Down
  • Whoa on a Long Line
  • Leading Next to You
  • Respecting Your Personal Space
  • Turn on the Forehand
  • Side Pass
  • Back
  • Backing Through obstacles such as rails, barrels
  • Turn on the Center in a Box
  • Crossing odd footing such as concrete, wooden bridge
  • Standing on elevated platform
  • Leading Under a safe low ceiling such as a tarp
  • Leading past the Traile
Trailering Your Horse by Cherry Hill

Trailering Your Horse by Cherry Hill

There are step-by-step photo instructions for some of these lessons on my website Horsekeeping and for all of these lessons and more in my book

Trailering Your Horse

Once you and your horse have mastered all of these things, sending her into the trailer will be a piece of cake, very anti-climactic. When you DO start loading here again in the trailer, just ask her to take ONE STEP AT A TIME. You might make her stand with just her front feet in and then back her out. This may take days or weeks but when you have finished, you will have a solid horse that will retain the good habits for life. Cherry Hill, award-winning author of books on horse training, riding, horse

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I have a mare that just recently decided that she will eat grass and by golly she will eat! She’s my first horse and I’ve owned her for two years now and we just moved her to our own property about a month ago.
I’ve been training her, as she hadn’t been trained very well and I can’t figure out how to make her stop.  Every time I go out for a ride she throws her head down and eats.  No matter what I do I can’t bring her head up, and if she does, then it goes right back down again.  Riding her has become a fight that I can’t really win and she’s no longer a joy to get on.  I don’t want to be cruel and tug on her mouth and kick or use severe corrections, because I know those just put fear into the horse.
I would really appreciate it if you could give me a pointer or two if you have time.  Thanks for reading this!
Katie

Hi Katie,

You can approach this situation with ground work or when you are riding. In either situation, make sure the horse has just eaten her full feed of hay and any supplements or grain she gets. Or if she is a pastured horse, be sure she has had her usual time on pasture.

For example, our horses are turned out for 12 hours overnight to graze. When we lead them out to pasture in the evening, if I would stop on the way to the pasture in spot with lush grass, it wouldn’t surprise me if my horse would start salivating and looking at that grass with an intent to dive down and grab some. But in the morning, when I jingle the horses, the last thing on their minds is to eat grass on the way back to the barn. They’ve had their fill.

So as soon after your horse finishes eating, begin your training session. You will have better chance for success on a full stomach.

First a few pointers and tips.

If you don’t feel confident doing this yourself, ask for someone to help you. Sometimes just the confidence of having someone nearby will help things go better. And its a good safety precaution.

If you feel unable to perform these exercises in a grassy area, first practice them in the arena or a pen just to get your timing down.

I suggest you review all ground training exercises to see where your horse’s strengths and weaknesses are so you can build on her strong points and work on improving her weak areas. You can see an In-Hand Checklist here.

I’d start out with ground training. I’d outfit the horse in a rope halter and you could consider putting a grazing muzzle on the horse for the early lessons. A grazing muzzle will prevent your horse from eating even if she DOES get her head down. You see, each time your horse even snatches one blade of grass when she dives down, she has rewarded herself for her behavior. Each time she does this, it becomes a more deeply entrenched habit, one that will require more persistence on your part to change. So if you can first eliminate the reward, no grass, even if she does dive down, she won’t get the grass !

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

Now you have several choices as to how you want to approach this.

1. Establish rules as to when a horse can and can’t eat elsewhere and then here. Like you train dogs to wait until you give them a bowl of food, teach your horse to wait until you give him the signal to approach his grain. You’ll need to develop a clean distinction between when it is fine to eat and not eat. You should be able to dump grain in a dish on the ground and your horse should wait until you give her the signal it is OK to move forward to eat. You should also be able to back your horse away from that dish while she is eating.

2. When the horse is most likely to snatch grass, be ready to give the horse something else to do. When she starts to lower her head, make her move forward right away – if ground training, send the horse out on the longe line. If riding, use your method to get the horse to move forward – use as little as you need to get the job done but as much as it takes from leg pressure to clucking to kicking to a tap with a whip to spanking across the hindquarters with a rope. The object is to get the horse to move her feet forward and raise her head. As soon as she does, stop your cues.

3. Whether you are ground training or riding, when a horse starts to dive down, turn the horse rather than pull straight back on both reins. Pulling back or up doesn’t accomplish much more than isometric arm exercise for you and banging on the horse’s mouth ! Instead turn the horse one way or the other. When riding this is best done in a snaffle bit, a side pull or a bosal using a leading rein. Bend the horse and send him forward at the same time and once you gain control, “bait” him again by giving the horse a slack rein.

4. As with many training situations, when you are riding a grass snatcher, you must always be “on” – always ready to react.

101 Longeing and Long Lining Exercises by Cherry Hill

101 Longeing and Long Lining Exercises by Cherry Hill

Best of luck and let me know how your horse training program progresses.

Cherry Hill

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Dear Cherry,

What a wonderful web site and resource center. Your love for equine education is graciously depicted.

I guess I am seeking reassurance about departing my daughters current lesson barn. The program was based on natural horsemanship and the structure and knowledge base and of the owner instructor/ owner had always overridden any weaknesses in the past.

I am a mother of a 12 yr old. Her riding instructor (owner of the lesson horse) became extremely upset with me when I described erratic behavior in my daughter’s horse as “kicking at her.” The instructor/owner was not initially present to observe. The horse was tied at a rail for groom and tack. My daughter was on the right side of the horse. I looked up and saw horse’s head jerking back and forth and then back hooves off of the ground in my daughter’s direction. No one was hurt; but the horse’s behavior concerned me. My daughter described it as a buck. She has ridden for 2 1/2 years. My daughter also said she thought the stationary rope on the rail she was required to use was too short.

Would I have been making an statement as a novice that would have been that inflammatory to the instructor? She kind of went off on me and kept asking me over and over again if it was a kick. I felt I was being bullied into changing my answer, but I saw what I saw and I stuck to my description only to really irritate her. Is there really that much of a difference when a child’s safety is an issue?

Sincerely,

Brenda

Hi Brenda,

Today there are so many wonderful horsemen out there providing lessons that there is no sense feeling like once you have chosen one you are married or are a disciple or bound by any strings, business, legal, personal or otherwise. I used those words not because of anything in your letter but because I have observed these things with other people in their relationships with trainers. And I am hoping my answer will help those people as well as you.

I am so thrilled that there has been a surge of horse activities in many areas which makes the choice of instructors and trainers so much better for people wanting lessons or training. Of course with the surge came good trainers and not-so-good trainers, but generally the good trainers prevail. I hope it is that way in your area – that you have good choices – because once you feel the way your letter depicts, it sounds like a rift, a loss of respect and confidence and it could be time to say good bye and go shopping for a new lesson barn.

How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillNow specifically to your letter. YES ! A child’s safety is uppermost in any situation involving horses. Semantics of whether a horse is bucking, kicking, cow kicking or grouching in some other way is immaterial. The fact that hooves toward child is unsafe no matter what you call it. And you as guardian of your daughter have every right to bring the matter to the attention of the instructor/owner of the horse.

Horse people can get (unjustifiably) very defensive of their horses – we call this “barn blind” – “What? MY horse kicked? No way.” – That sort of thing. Perhaps that is what you experienced. Well, take comfort in that it is very common for people to think their horses, dogs, pets can do no wrong………but that doesn’t make their perception or reaction correct or right – and it would be especially ludicrous since the owner wasn’t present when the behavior occurred – that indeed is a blind sort of defensiveness.

Of course, the best thing would have been to have an experienced unbiased eye witness, but since that didn’t happen, it becomes one person’s opinion against another’s. And since you are the novice, it is not hard to see a bit of bullying to get you to change your testimony.

Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry HillI can’t say what the horse was doing and why and if he was tied too short or any of that, but if you feel your child’s safety is at risk and you have lost faith in the owner or the establishment, then by all means, look for a new barn. But knowing what it is like to be a 12 year old girl who loves horses and has had several years of riding, I do hope you are able to find a new place soon !

Best of luck and thanks for your note.
I hope something I said has put your mind at ease.

Cherry Hill horse trainer and author of 30 books and DVDs

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I have a friend with a 10 year old quarter horse mare who has been rearing a lot over the past few months, (she actually started around September last year) It has now gotten so bad that she cannot take her off of the farm. The horse rears when she is asked to move away from the others, or sometimes just as a way to get out of doing things she does not want to. I think that my friend perhaps was trying to go too fast too soon around barrels, and the other games before the fair last year, because I remember her telling me that she did it when she clucked to ask her to go forward, and she was going up right before the start flags. About 3 months ago Maddy started to take a few English lessons at a local riding farm, and said that The mare has been very bad for it ever since. she stopped going to the lessons, and said that Cassie is generally okay at home, but it is dangerous, and shes not sure what to do about it. Do you have any advice? Emily

Dear Emily,

How nice you are trying to help your friend with her horse. I want you to know right away that there are two habits that I think require the assistance of a qualified professional horse trainer – rearing and kicking.  Both of these habits are very dangerous. Your friend should be working with a qualified instructor who can help her diagnose her horse’s problem in person.

Rearing usually gets worse before it gets better.  The big risk, of course, is that when a horse rears, the rider can easily fall off, and often when a horse really gets into rearing, he can fall over backwards which can be deadly.

But let’s talk a little bit about what causes rearing and what you can SAFELY try to eliminate the bad habit.

Rearing is an “avoidance behavior” – the horse is trying to avoid going forward.  This usually occurs when a horse has not learned that when you say go forward, he must go forward, so he is confused and needs progressive training and/or a review of the basics. (See 101 Arena Exercises)

OR it could be a horse that is becoming herd bound or barn sour and does not want to leave a certain area where she can see the barn or her buddies.  The horse is saying “NO”.  This is more of a psychological problem.  The horse needs to develop security and confidence in the rider.

OR it could be a horse that has at one time or another has received a sharp jerk or rough handling when he DID go forward so now he is afraid of the consequences of going forward.  When a horse that tends to rear is switched from a curb bit to a snaffle and the rider is very good with her hands (following the horse’s movement), the horse tends to move OUT (forward) rather than UP (rearing).  It is important that when the leg cue is applied for the horse to go forward, the rider doesn’t also pull on the bit as that would be conflicting signals which would confuse the horse.

You can rule out physical causes by having a veterinarian check the horse’s mouth and back to be sure there are no dental or spinal problems.

You can also review “forward” lessons in in-hand work (walk out and trot out promptly when leading) and longeing, concentrating on the horse working in a long, low frame with lots of extended trot type work, rather than collected work.  Collecting a horse too soon or improperly can lead to rearing.

I invite you to visit my Horse Information Roundup where you will find related articles on herd bound, barn sour, forward movement, all aspects of ground training and riding and more.

 

Good Luck Cherry Hill

101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill

101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill

Cherry – I am not being facetious here – but when I was a child in “yesteryear” I was an avid fan of The Lone Ranger. His horse, “Silver”, reared when unmounted and also when mounted by The Lone Ranger during the program signoff finale. I wonder why this was allowed during each episode if rearing is a negative trait. Thank you. Barby

Hi Barby !

You ask an interesting and excellent question. I’m answering it as part of the actual post so that I can insert a photo.

Rearing, when taught as a specific exercise, trick, or movement shows high skill and balance on the part of the horse. Not every horse can rear and stand in balance as the Lone Ranger’s horse did. It is especially difficult when carrying the additional weight of that heavy silver saddle and a rider.

So as far as exhibition, it demonstrates that the horse rears on command, stands balanced on two legs instead of four, and returns to the ground in a controlled fashion.

Rearing in exhibition can also be seen in many circuses and is a part of high level dressage training and exhibition as demonstrated by the Lipizzaner horses, most notably those of Vienna.

The exercise whereby a horse stands on his hind legs is a Levade. It is part of classical dressage, specifically the Haute Ecole. The levade is a collected, controlled rear. The horse lifts both front legs from the ground and stands with the hind legs bent in the joints. This pose is held for several seconds.

Classical Dressage, the Levade, a controlled collected rear

Classical Dressage, the Levade, a controlled collected rear

So why is a rear so highly prized in some situations and discouraged in others? It is all about control and intent.

Think about a horse running. Playfully in a pasture with herdmates, it is a good thing. At a race track where speed is the goal, it is a good thing. But a horse running away (which we call bolting) uncontrollably with a frightened rider on board, that’s a bad situation.

Similarly with rearing. If it is a response that is not asked for and uncontrollable, it is a dangerous behavior.

Thanks for asking such an interesting question !

Cherry

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I have a 4 year old mare that I’ve had for about a year since she was green broke.  When I first got her my trainer who does Parelli natural horsemanship, noticed that she was crabby and mean most of the time.  Over the next couple of months she got worse, bullying the kids and bullying the other horses.

I was ready to get rid of her but then I decided to just focus on her training for about a year and see if I could get her to improve.  She started doing much better within just a few weeks, and she is doing excellent under the saddle.  Last week we left for vacation for a week and my friend and her 9 year old daughter were taking care of the horses for me.  They are familiar with all of our horses and come and ride regularly.  My friend said that my mare was getting really mean, putting her ears back and actually bit her daughter one day.  I was not totally surprised, because she does get crabby when she is not handled regularly.  Since I’ve been back though she seems to be really bad.  Every time I approach her at liberty from the side or rear, she pins her ears back and clearly tries to get away from me.  If I approach her from in front, she is fine and puts her head down.  I’m always careful not to get kicked, but I’m not sure how to handle or correct this latest ear pinning thing.  In the past whenever she has presented her butt to me in a rude manner, I would smack it.  But now its not that she is presenting her butt, its more that she is trying to get away.  I don’t want to smack her butt because then she’ll get away and be rewarded, I’m afraid if I pet her when she is pinning her ears, then I’m telling her that its ok to pin her ears at me.  What do I do?

The first thing that came to mind as I read about your mare was PMS – Pouty Mare Syndrome – not an official phrase but one I use to describe certain mares that are extra grouchy.

I might be off base here but here’s how it sounds. When you first got the mare, about a year ago, it was summer time, she was green broke and grouchy  – it was a season when she was cycling, that is coming in and going out of heat and her training was not complete – she was still testing the limits of her behavior.

Then you had her a while, saw she was hard to deal with and trust, almost gave up on her, but then decided to focus on her training – and did that over the fall and winter…and she improved…a time when she would be in anestrus or not cycling. Mares in the winter are often like geldings.

Then at the early part of this breeding season, she was pretty good for you since you had established some rules, but when you were on vacation, it didn’t take long for her to slip back into her old bossy ways and now you feel you have to start from square one again.

Which is what you probably should do. First, I’d have your vet rule out a granulosa tumor which might cause her to be extra crabby. (See list of reference articles below).

When it comes time to work on altering her behavior and improving her manners, like all training, you need to be consistent, thorough, and always be training with this mare. I’d spend a lot of time desensitizing her to touch and approaching from the rear by making this her main lesson for a number of days. You can do it yourself with the mare on a long line or have an assistant hold her. You need to desensitize her hindquarters, her tail area, lift her tail, all those hot spots that mares have. Some mares just do not like being approached from the rear or being touched there ever, no matter if they are in heat or not. The more thorough you are with all of this, the safer she will be when she is at liberty in her pen and you go to catch her.

As far as smacking her on the butt if she is rude when you approach, if she is in a suitable pen to free longe her, well that might be the perfect thing to do and send her out and around and have her face you.

If she is not in a suitable training pen when she turns her butt to you and pins her ears, you will have to make it a point to take her to a pen so you can work on reviewing the “face me” lesson so you can safely approach her. This must be a formal lesson, it is one of the basics. Your trainer most likely taught the mare “face me” in a specific Parelli manner, so it would be best if you ask him what methods he used and recommends.

Here are a couple of related articles that you might find interesting and helpful.

How to Tell if Your Mare is In Heat

Grouchy Horse

Desensitization

What Spaying a Mare Involves and About Granulosa Tumors

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

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Bad Habits in Horses

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Horses are some of the kindest, most generous and trainable animal partners you can find.  That’s why when a horse does something “bad”, it’s usually due to poor management or training.  In order to deal with vices and bad habits, we need to understand what causes them.  THEN we can design our horse care and training to PREVENT them.

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

A vice is an abnormal behavior that usually shows up in the barn or stable environment that results from confinement, improper management, or lack of exercise.  A vice can affect a horse’s usefulness, dependability, and health.  Examples are cribbing, weaving, and self-mutilation. (see an upcoming post on Vices)

A bad habit is an undesirable behavior that occurs during training or handling and is usually a result of poor techniques and a lack of understanding of horse behavior.  Examples are rearing, halter pulling, striking and kicking.

Bad Habits in Horses
©  2002 Cherry Hill www.horsekeeping.com

HABIT

DESCRIPTION

CAUSES

TREATMENT

Balking Refusal to go forward often followed by violent temper if rider insists. Fear, heavy hands, stubbornness, extreme fatigue. Curable.
Review forward work with in-hand & longeing.
Turn horse’s head to untrack left or right.
Strong driving aids with no conflicting restraining aids (no pull on bit).
Do not try to force horse forward by pulling – you’ll lose.
Barn Sour
Herd Bound
Balking, rearing, swinging around, screaming and then rushing back to the barn or herd. Separation from buddies or barn (food, comfort). Curable but stubborn cases require professional.
A confident, capable trainer that insists the horse leave the barn (herd) and then positively reinforces the horse’s good behavior so horse develops confidence.
The lessons GO and WHOA must both be reviewed.
Biting Nibbling with lips or grabbing with teeth especially young horses. Greed (treats), playfulness (curiosity) or resentment (irritated or sore). Investigate things with mouth. Often from hand-feeding treats. Curable. Handle lips, muzzle, & nostrils regularly in a business-like way; when horse nips, tug on nose chain, then resume as if nothing happened.
Can also use thumb tack on sleeve; hold wire brush toward lips; use muzzle.
Bolting When Turned Loose Wheels away suddenly before halter is fully removed. Poor handling, anxious to exercise or join other horses. Curable but dangerous as horse often kicks as he wheels away.
Use treats on ground before you remove halter; use rope around the neck.
Bucking Arching the back, lowering the head, kicking with hind or leaping. High spirits, get rid of rider or tack, sensitive or sore back, reaction to legs or spurs. Monitor feed and exercise; proper progressive training; check tack fit.
Can’t Catch Avoids humans with halter and lead. Fear, resentment, disrespect, bad habit. Curable. Take time to properly train, use walk-down method in small area first, progress to larger. Remove other horses from pasture; treats on ground, never punish horse once caught.
Can’t Handle Feet Swaying, leaning, rearing, jerking foot away, kicking, striking. Insufficient or improper training. Horse hasn’t learned to cooperate, balance on 3 legs, take pressure and movement of farrier work. Curable but persistent cases require professional.
Thorough, systematic conditioning and restraint lessons: pick up foot, hold in both flexed & extended positions for several minutes while cleaning, grooming, rubbing leg, coronary band, bulbs etc.
Halter Pulling Rearing or setting back when tied, often until something breaks or horse falls and/or hangs by halter. Rushed, poor halter training, using weak equipment or unsafe facilities so horse gets free by breaking something.
Often horse was tied by bridle reins and broke free.
Can be curable but very dangerous and incurable in some chronic cases which require professional.
Might use stiff bristled broom on the rump or wither rope on advice of professional.
Head Shy Moves head away during grooming, bridling, clipping, vet work. Initially rough handling or insufficient conditioning, painful ears or mouth problems. Curable. First eliminate medical reasons such as ear, tongue, lip or dental problems.
Start from square one with handling; after horse allows touching, then teach him to put head down.
Jigging Short, stilted walk/jog with hollow back and high head. Poor training attempt at collection, horse not trained to aids, too strong bridle aids, sore back. Curable. Check tack fit, use aids properly including use of pressure/release (half halt) to bring horse to walk or use strong driving aids to push horse into active trot.
Kicking Lashing back at a person with one or both hind legs, also “cow kicking” which is lashing out to the side. Initially reflex to touching legs, then fear (defense) of rough handling or to get rid of a threat or unwanted nuisance. Might be curable but serious cases are very dangerous and require professional to use remedial restraint methods.
Unlikely to ever completely cure.
Rearing Standing on hind legs when led or ridden, sometimes falling over backwards. Fear, rough handling, doesn’t think he must go forward or is afraid to go forward into contact with bit; associated with balking; a response to collected work. Can be curable but is a very dangerous habit that might be impossible to cure even by professional.
Check to be sure no mouth or back problems.
Review going forward in-hand with a whip and review longeing.
Running Away;
Bolting
Galloping out of control. Fear, panic, (flight response), lack of training to the aids, overfeeding, under exercise, pain from poor fitting tack. Might be curable but very dangerous as when horse panics, can run into traffic, over cliff, through fence, etc.; remedy is to pull (with pressure and release) the horse into a large circle, gradually decreasing the size.
Shying Spooking at real or imagined sights, sounds, smells, or occurrences. Fear (of object or of trainer’s reaction to horse’s behavior), poor vision, head being forcibly held so horse can’t see, playful habit. Generally curable.
Put horse on aids and guide and control his movement with driving and restraining aids
Striking Taking a swipe at a person with a front leg. Reaction to clipping, first use of chain or twitch, restraint of head, dental work. Curable but very dangerous especially if coupled with rearing as person’s head could be struck.
Review head handling (mouth, nostrils, ears); head down lesson; and thorough body handling and sacking out.
Stumbling Losing balance or catching the toe on the ground and missing a beat or falling. Weakness, lack of coordination, lack of condition, young, lazy, long toe/low heel, delayed breakover of hooves, horse ridden on forehand, poor footing. Curable.
Have hoof balance assessed, check breakover, ride horse with more weight on the hindquarters (collect), conditioning horse properly.
Tail Wringing Switching and/or rotating tail in an irritated or angry fashion. Sore back from poor fitting tack, poorly balanced rider, injury, rushed training. May not be curable once established.
Proper saddle fit, rider lessons, massage and other medical therapy, proper warm-up & progressive, achievable training demands.

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When Good Horses Do Bad Things

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Most horses are good. However, any horse can become a bad actor with improper care or handling. Certain horses have a predisposition to neurotic breakdown when faced with domestication pressures. This psychological frailty may be genetically inherited, formed from early experiences with the dam or training, or may develop later in life due to disease or trauma. Horses with neurotic tendencies often form vices.

Vices are undesirable habits that horses exhibit in the stable environment and are generally caused by confinement, over feeding, and stress. Examples are cribbing, stall kicking, and weaving.

Bad habits, such as rearing, halter pulling, or tail wringing are undesirable behaviors in response to human handling and are generally caused by rushed or improper training, uncertainty, insecurity, or resentment. A resentful horse is uncooperative and resistant. His resistance can be based on confusion, fear, disrespect, fatigue, and occasionally high spirits.

How  to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillOften a horse’s action is interpreted by humans as misbehavior but is perfectly legitimate horse conduct. Of course, what is acceptable behavior between two horses is not between a horse and a human. Here’s where practical horse psychology, behavior modification, training, attitude adjustment, conditioning, whatever you want to call it, is essential.

Most vices and bad habits are preventable, that is, with forethought and proper management and training, most of them can be avoided. Prevention is the desirable route because once certain habits are established, they can be extremely difficult to change. Some habits are manageable, that is, certain techniques and equipment can be used to diminish the negative effects of the habit, but the underlying habit is still there. If the equipment is not used, the habit resurfaces. A few habits are curable. With carefully planned, diligent efforts, some habits can be permanently changed. Some vices and bad habits are incurable.

Vices and bad habits are best approached in a step-by-step manner:

1. Understand horse behavior and needs
2. Identify and describe the vice or bad habit
3. Determine the cause(s)
4. Make management changes (facilities, exercise, nutrition, conditioning, grooming)
5. Implement appropriate training practices
6. Consider remedial training practices
7. Consider medical and surgical solutions.

UNDERSTANDING HORSE BEHAVIOR AND NEEDS A horse’s natural behavior must be altered somewhat so that the horse can adapt to domestication. Basing these modifications on natural behaviors results in minimal stress and long-lasting results.

Whether or not there is action, there is always behavior. A sullen horse, rigid and unyielding, is “behaving” just as is the wildly bucking one. Behavior that is repeated may become habit (even though it was not a human-designed lesson). Horses are constantly learning as a result of their casual handling and their everyday environment as well as from formal training sessions.

The horse is a gregarious nomad with keen senses and instincts and highly developed reflexes. These characteristics are responsible for sending a reining horse to the winners circle as well as sending a panic-stricken horse through a wire fence. Gregarious animals are sociable herd animals. Given the choice, horses are rarely seen alone, preferring to be in close proximity to other horses; there is safety and comfort in numbers.

Horses perform daily routines in response to various needs: eating, drinking, rolling, playing, participating in mutual grooming. The desire to perform these rituals is not diminished, and in fact is probably intensified, for the horse in confinement. Humans might think a horse Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanacprefers to be clean, clipped and blanketed but most horses will opt for a good roll in the mud. The old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” is based on firmly implanted habits which are governed by a biological-clock. Many behaviors are socially oriented (and contagious): eating, pawing and rolling, running and bucking, wood chewing, cribbing.

Just because horses want to be with other horses doesn’t mean all horses get along. Battles are fought to determine the pecking order or dominance hierarchy. This establishment of social rank usually makes future aggression unnecessary. Humans occupy a rung on the ladder of power and are tested by horses to see where they stand. A horse handler must convince a horse that the human is on top. Sometimes horses try to interact with humans as if they were horses. While a young horse is being groomed, he often wants to reciprocate as he would to his mutual grooming buddy in the pasture. Even though such a gesture is meant to be friendly, not aggressive, intentions don’t count. The act of nibbling must be discouraged with a clap on the horses neck or shoulder along with a firm “No”. Then get the horse busy doing something else.

Horse  For Sale by Cherry HillIf a horse has not been sufficiently socialized away from other horses and with humans, the horse will be insecure and often will desperately attempt to retain communication with or proximity to herd-mates or the barn. The chronic case is called herd bound or barn sour because the insecure horse links comfort, companionship, and food with the barn. What may originate in a young horse as a temporary insecurity may evolve into a long-standing and dangerous habit. In order to ensure that such a bad habit does not get started, handle horses separately from a very early age.

Look for upcoming posts on specific vices and bad habits.

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