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Archive for the ‘Halter Training’ Category

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,

I rescued two horses- a large Fell pony and a mini. Both had been abused and were starving. I’ve got their weight up, their hooves cared for, shots, worming etc.
But it has been almost 3 months and they are still very hard to halter, to clean their feet ( both have thrush) and to separate them to work with them ( just the simplest ground work in a nearby round pen)! When I have someone else, we can work it out fairly well but usually I am alone. I have few expectations, maybe short rides or a little pulling a cart ( both had some draft experience) – I’m now 65, and even though i had been a horse professional teaching in riding stables, training and judging in dressage,  I’m having an awful time with them. I need encouragement to keep them. It has been very expensive and wonder if others have rescue horse experience. Eileen

HI Eileen,

Just in my email box this morning was an article from The Horse which states that

Each year there are about 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States, too many for the registered equine rescue and sanctuary groups to handle, according to a recent survey by experts at the University of California, Davis. They found that the 236 registered rescue and sanctuary organizations could only help about 13,400 horses a year.

I have no personal experience with rescue horses but wanted to post your note so that if others want to reply, they can do so here.

I do know that retraining any horse can seem like it takes twice as long as it does to train a horse from scratch. Some of my colleagues say ten times as long !

When I taught in college and university equine programs, one of the ways we would get horses for the training and riding classes was through donations. Well, we received some wonderful horses and also some with interesting previous experiences and challenging behaviors. Some took several semesters to sort out and even then, might not be trustworthy with novice riders.

I do encourage you and applaud you for your efforts. It will take time, repetition and very frequent regular handling to alter their suspicious behavior. But it can be done.

Please refer to the many useful articles here on this blog related to ground training, desensitization and more. Here are some examples:

Head Handling

Horse Training – Handling, Gentling, Desensitization, Sacking Out, Flooding

Horse Behavior – Licking and Chewing

Also visit my Horse Information Roundup where I have posted hundreds of free articles related to behavior and training.

Best of luck and let me know if you have specific questions.

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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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Horse Training – Handling Shy Foal

Hi Cherry,I have a 6 week old foal that has had minimal handling, for a variety of reasons, but one is that the mare was dangerous the first couple weeks.   However, what she demonstrated after foaling is different than her normal behavior.  She has mellowed out now, but frankly, I will never trust her (she almost bit a barn worker during feed time last winter when she was already pregnant).

Anyway, now the foal is 6 weeks old and has never been haltered and has only been restrained (with difficulty) to have blood drawn, etc.  He is happy to be scratched all over during meal time(including ears) but only if you are on the outside of the gate.  If you go in with him then he hides behind his mom.  He is very shy.

I’m not sure what to do. Help! Just keep standing there during feed time and wait for him to come around?  They live outside w/shelter so it would be difficult to catch the foal in an emergency (but the mare is easy to catch and handle once haltered–she’s very food motivated).

Nicole
Hello Nicole,
I would not wait for him to come around. Each day he hides, he forms a stronger association of avoidance.
First I would halter the mare and either tie the mare in the pen/stall (if there is a safe place to tie and the mare is good about tying) or have a competent assistant hold the mare. Then I would corner the foal, perhaps by myself or with the aid of another assistant and hold the foal as described in my books or (click on this link) this article. Even thought I wrote the article related to larger foals, draft or warmblood, the principles are the same for a normal size foal. Read the entire article… it is 3 pages long.
When you have caught the foal, scratch him in places he likes to be rubbed. When he is quiet, let him go. Catch and release a number of times. Do this several times each day for several days. Once you feel he is no longer apprehensive about being caught, halter him and begin his halter training.
Be careful and enjoy the process !
Cherry Hill

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