youngster very agressive in stable

Discussion in 'Problem Horses' started by Lily, Oct 27, 2003.

  1. Lily

    Lily Well-known Member

    I've just added horse number 3 to my stables, he arrived on the weekend. He is two years old and has very basic and limited training, so I have a lot of work (and fun) ahead of me. When he is in his stable (which has a WIWO yard), and in particular, when he is eating, and I come near him in the breezeway, he pins his ears back, lunges his head forwards and then swings his rump towards me. He can't actually get me (solid jarrah kick boards - phew), but I went to go in last night and take his water bucket out to refill it and he did the same, cornering me, and that could have been messy.

    I'm thinking he is just defending his meal - but any advice on how to desensitise him to me entering the stable would be much appreciated. So far I have made sure I don't back off if he threatens, so he doesn't gain anything from being agressive, is that the right approach? Tell him off? Soothe him and say it's OK? Inch by inch from the door?

    Aside from this - he is very friendly - calls out to me in the paddock if I am walking past and comes for cuddles.
  2. Dinah Fleming

    Dinah Fleming New Member

    Hi Magic

    Young horses are prone to use herd and survival instincts to keep predators and other herd animals away from their feed.

    Protective herd behaviour can vary from swinging hindquarters, lifting and threatening with a back leg, laying ears back, barring teeth, spinning around or a combination of these. Similar behaviour can occur when feeding a horse in a paddock.

    Herd behaviour always has a 'pecking order'. As a horse trainer /handler you must establish a position higher in the pecking order then your horse.

    Disciplining a horse in the stable requires experince in reading body language correctly as well as good timing.

    There are many correct ways to discipline a young horse in a stable while still preseving his natural character and justice.

    If you are unsure what to do I suggest not distrubing your horse whilst eating until you and your horse have developed a mutual trust and respect for each other.

    If you have to disturb him while feeding then I suggest catching with halter and lead rope and tying him up while you complete the tasks you have to do. You can also remove him from the stable which is even safer.

    Make sure you are always consistent and fair in what ever method you choose, and never take on a challenge unless you know you can win!

    Rest assured there will be other new challenges to falso tackle as your young two year old progresses with his equestrian education.

  3. Lily

    Lily Well-known Member

    Thanks Dinah,

    Thanks for your advice I will keep those valuable things in mind. I guess you reminded me he needs to know that he is safe with me whatever I do and I haven't yet given him a chance to learn to trust me - so I'll stick with things he likes for now, patting, brushing, and generally making friends before I start asking him for too much.

    Next step to get me going with him - learn to tie up (I felt sick floating him untied but the float wasn't the place to learn to tie up the same day as moving house/leaving mum - too much for one day!). I read another post on this forum with a healthy discussion about tying up lessons, obviously there are many different opinions.... He gives well to pressure so I think I am halfway there.

  4. Dinah Fleming

    Dinah Fleming New Member

    Magic you sound a very sensible horse owner.
    Common sense combined with a quiet, firm, confident and consistent approach will quickly build your young horses trust in you.

    Establishing the rules on the ground makes acceptance to being broken to saddle so much easier for the horse.

    We teach our horses to tye by firstly teaching them to stand still and be patient. Our young horses, learn to walk a few paces and then have to stop when their handler stops. This take a good session to teach, as it requires the horse to concentrate on you and not be distracted by things around him.

    Similarly tying up is always supervised with the horse made to stand and concentrate on the handler. The rope is never secured in the early stages but rather wrapped around a thick rail.

    The young horse tying up sessions are built up from a few minutes for the first session and then longer as they become accustomed to standing still.

    Grooming at the same time associates tying up and standing still as a pleasurable experience.

    There will be lots of other good ideas posted, but always be firm, fair and consistent and your horse will reward you many times over.

    Good luck
  5. widgelli

    widgelli Well-known Member

    One method that we have used to get a horse used to us when they are eating was to tie them up and groom then while they were eating. Sometimes I know that it is a bit dicey with the rear end , but it is not really necessary to go there.
    The idea of this is to let them know that we are not going to hurt them or try to take their feed from them. As Dinah has said , he is most likely trying to protect his feed and as yet doesn't really know that you are not going to take it.
    He would also be a bit at sea just at the moment , being in a new environment and away from his usual company. I think that you will find that he will settle down , especially when he becomes used to you moving around him.

  6. ashka

    ashka Well-known Member

    My 5 year old just doesn't like you invading her space, I think. It is only ever around dinner time, but sometimes she will back into you and threaten to kick with ears back. I tend to rug my horses while they are eating (because of time) and she doesn't think that's much fun. Yet, stick a halter on her and she doesn't bat an eyelid if you are there or not. I like to try and respect that this is her space and not do much with her when she is in her stable at feed times.
  7. sil

    sil Gold Member

    Personally I insist on all of my horses getting right out of my way if I need to do waters and feeds.

    For that reason I will shoo them right out of the stable and there they must stand and wait until I am done, they get a tidbit for it and off I go.

    I am also a chicken and not fond of chasing horses out by myself, so I cheat and use the bucket *grin* A nice loud 'donk' on the backside with the bucket works a treat for young missies with a bossy attitude, and keeps you out of firing range. The second time you usually just need to grizzle and they are out of your way.

    ~ Do as much as it takes, do as little as it takes. ~
  8. The Old Grey Mare

    The Old Grey Mare Active Member

    I agree with the earlier post about grooming while they are eating. my mare is used to me checking the stable, rugging her, grooming her, doing waters etc. anything i can think of. just because she is eating is so excuse for bad manners.

    imagine if people slapped each other around just because someone came into the room while they were eating. LOL
    (got a funny image in my head now..)

    and regardless of whether they are stallions or mares, respect is always an issue. OK, you have to respect them also, but if allowed to be dominate at feed time, then they will try to be dominant at other times. (did i spell that right?)

    if your horse is new, then he may need to settle into a routine first, then little by little, try to groom him & to make his dinner time a happy experience & relaxing for you & him.
  9. Lily

    Lily Well-known Member

    Thanks everyone, it's so great having all these ideas and comments - don't feel so alone! Step one last night wasto take him out and do the stop/start thing Dinah mentioned (we must be on the same wavelength Dinah) and getting his full attention. It didn't take him long to work out what to do. I only did it for 10 minutes then put him back away, but stayed in the stable for a few minutes patting and fussing with him so he grows used to me bing in there and everything being ok - (plus he saw that I didn't steal his dinner from him!). Tonight I will do the same, and tomorrow, and by the end of the week I'm hoping I have moved up a notch in the pecking order.
  10. Paddys girl

    Paddys girl Well-known Member

    My horse did this also, its there way of saying I don't want you in here I'll chuck my temper tantrum to get you out quick.

    Stand still and ignore him. Wait until he goes back to his food and forgets you then take him a treat (ie carrot or something). He will then learn that no, you aren't leaving and if he ignores you, good things will come to him.

    Also carry a crop just in case he gets agressive and lunges at you. If you have to use it, make sure AS SOON AS HE BACKS OFF, as in immediately after he does it - praise praise praise and give him a treat. Work from there...

    Clicker training is fantastic for these sorts of horses as it turns there dominance into "what can I do for you?"
  11. Caroline

    Caroline Well-known Member

    I had a new filly that was rather aggressive and dominant over food, and would give you both back feet if you were not careful. This is a bad habit that needs nipping in the butt before it becomes an entrenched habit. Safety comes first, so I would go in with her feed and a plastic garden rake. If she came too close she got a whack on her bum with the rake, and she very quickly learnt to respect your space. Eventually I would just wave it at her to remind her and now she is as good as gold. Just be firm and consist with what ever technique you use. Post any developments!

  12. Lily

    Lily Well-known Member

    Hi All,

    Thanks for the ongoing support. I have made some good progress - uning a combination of all your ideas. I have gone in a few times with either plastic rake or riding crop in hand (rake because I like to rake their shavings on last time at night as part of my 'tucking in process'.) and if he has laid his ears back or turned his rump I have given him a loud AARRHHHHH and pointed rake/crop at him bum and stayed there until he settled back down, at which point I leave, close the door and come back again in 5 minutes and repeat if necessary. I've not actually touched him with either - that has been enough so far. It isn't 100% fixed but it is steadily improving.

  13. Dinah Fleming

    Dinah Fleming New Member

    Hi Magic

    You are making good progress.

    It was only yestereday I had to remind my 6 year old warmblood mare of the same rules and then again during her dressage schooling session.

    But today were were partners and happily working as a team.

    I have been told horses have the mentality of a four year old child, but think this is exaggerated as horses are not decptive, manipulative or scheming, although some people like to use this as an excuse for their horses bad behaviour.

    Mares, stallions and young stock will tend to put up more challenges then geldings who have had their hormones lessened.

    We are keen to hear how you progress.

  14. Lily

    Lily Well-known Member

    Thanks Dinah its going to be an interesting process. My other horse is 16 y/o and I have had him since he was 20 months old - we know each other pretty well by now, and I forget that I had to do all this with him way back then.
  15. TB4Me

    TB4Me Well-known Member

    I think horses are supposed to have the reasoning power of a young child, therefore it's pointless to 'argue' with them, but they have excellent memory and problem-solving ability. I read a book a few years ago about a trial testing horses' responses and memories. When asked to pick colour patterns for rewards, most horses showed very good memories of which patterns meant reward. Some could remember the patterns and cues years later, with no reinforcement in the meantime. Another test involved a simple maze with 2 choices, left turn good, right turn bad or something like that. One group of horses were rewarded when they made the right decision, the other group were punished (not sure how!) when they made the wrong decision. Oddly enough, the punished horses learned faster to go the 'right' way.......but they would sometimes stand for hours anxiously deliberating before making a decision, and once again they remembered their experiences for many years. This is so off the topic!! But I guess the main point is that horses' memories of punishment or discipline last a very long time, so be careful how you use it.....
  16. sil

    sil Gold Member

    I like to say that horses are intelligent, but lack intellect.

    Intelligence being memory, imagination, reason, learning, etc

    Intellect being the ability to put 'two and two together'.

    For example a horse will learn that if he pats you down for carrots, he might find one. But he will never learn that if he is a really good boy today he will get carrots tonight.

    ~ Do as much as it takes, do as little as it takes. ~
  17. ashka

    ashka Well-known Member

    yes, but how much easier would that make life if he did!
  18. The Old Grey Mare

    The Old Grey Mare Active Member

    if only you could say to them, hey i won't work you in exchange for a perfect pattern or workout at the shows.

    do you think this concept could ever catch on???
  19. Chilcotin

    Chilcotin Guest

    Hello Magic. You've had some good advice here but I'd like to ad a couple of things. I start horses and quite a few come here thinking that they are 'numero uno' because they have been 'taught' that they are by their well meaning owners.

    I make a point with these sort of horses, at feeding time, to go into their yard, put their feed in their bin and then keep them away from it until they give me both eyes in a respectful way. I then give them a stroke on the forehead and walk out and let them have their feed.

    Yes, quite often I have to get a bit 'strong' but it pays huge dividends in the general demeanor and attitude of the horse towards me in general and not just at feed time. I have shown the horsethat I am someone to be reckoned with and not just pushed aside.

    Now I wouldn't try this in a normal horse box with a horse such as yours that turns its rear and lifts a leg as it is too cramped to be safe. And I don't advise you to do it anyway if you are not confident that you will be able to 'defend' the feed bin until you get the respectful two eyes, but this is something to think about.

    As for brushing, rugging or anything else while the horse is eating, I like to let the horse eat in peace and not use this as a 'sneak' period where the horse is preoccupied with his feed and therefore may let you do stuff that otherwise may be more difficult.

    You mentioned tieing up and said that because your horse leads/yields well you are half way there. You are indeed correct, probably more than half way. Until a horse leads with the softest invitation and stands quietly when asked, he is certainly not ready to be tied. If you are interested, go to my website ( and under "Tips 'n Tricks" I have posted an article on tieing up.


    Grant Walske
    "Towards Partnership with the horse"
  20. ashka

    ashka Well-known Member

    Grant, that is really great advice - I'm sure all Stockyardians really appreciate you dropping into these forums to offer your expertise.

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