simple and easy let me just ask....

 

What do you think is the reason why a horse is bullyish towards strangers? 

 

What are your suggestions to do something about it? 

 

Have you seen any good training videos or tools used to properly introduce a bully horse to new people...

 

 

Short background.  My horse, Oliver, he is very docile with me..... and anyone he knows he's sweet... but new people, borderline kind of dangerous... it saddens me to have a horse that I love that I cannot trust with my friends or family and I would love some easy steps to start with as this problem has got to be resolved or Oliver will not ever be able to leave my yard without my trainer.  I'm not sure if I trigger it or not... he is an orphaned horse, I raised him.. I just wonder what is going on with him... he is sweet/scary.....

Tags: horse behavior, horse behavior towards strangers

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Hi,

is he a stallion?
No he is not a stallion.... he's been gelded since he was 9 months old.
Exactly what form does the bullying behaviour take? Biting? Kicking? Crowding into the person's space looking for goodies? The horse's mindset makes a difference to how I would approach it.
Hi, Jennifer:

I know some of the foregoing is hard to hear, but I think slc2 is on the right track. I suspect that Oliver is compliant with you, but not actually obedient, and there's a huge difference between the two. From what you've said it sounds like he's unsure of his place, so he challenges authority or potential authority whenever a situation has a variable in it. The very best thing for him would be integration into a herd, which would be very hard for you, but very good for him.

Obedient horses are relaxed and confident, but compliant horses can only be counted on in restricted situations, and that's dangerous. Obedience doesn't mean "truckling subservience", as the FEI puts it, it means that the horse understands its place in relation to people, other horses, dogs, children, etc., and can be counted upon to obey requests regardless of the variables. That's what good training produces, and if Oliver can't be described that way the message is clear: there's a problem in the training somewhere. Allowing a natural herd to train young horses is invaluable - it's often not pretty, and can be upsetting for some owners, but a clear understanding of how horses operate within groups and with leaders is essential to good training.

One of the most unpleasant things I have to do as a trainer is to not restrict variables around my training situations. I insist that I face those variables with my horses, and that both the horses and I learn to deal with the stressors/variables together. The better we become at doing that the more I can count on the horses in difficult situations, and that makes their lives safer and easier too. You will be doing Oliver a service if you approach these behaviour issues as his trainer, rather than as his caregiver. That doesn't mean you don't love him, it means you love him enough to do what he needs.
I think you guys are right. It's not a safe situation by any means. Thank you for your comments. To answer I guess what the horse is doing is just what Jan summarized. You guys are right. When I ask questions I know that it is going to be a training answer. I'm okay with that. I can't do the work myself but I do have a pro here. I was wondering what you would do specifically, what techniques you would use. Mostly what I see is a physical behavior of pinning his ears and pushing forward and stretching his neck. Strangers do not enter the area where he is.... he is behind a fence. He doesn't usually bite but he might bite if you turn your back on him and you were in the arena with him, but he's pushy with his nose... .... . I've seen people handle him that knew what they were doing and he backed down.... but I am thinking of my family and kids that come over.. he is not cool.... they can't really go near him. Not now. So I want to know what actually training techniques you guys would use and then I'm gonna talk to his trainer about it and we are gonna pick one and do the work. He has an idea too and I just wanted to see if any of you would do the same thing he described to me. .... I can't feel comfortable riding him or leading him around people if he is going to hurt someone that's why I don't take him around by myself .. it's because don't forget, I'm just learning to be a handler so he is in training but so am I so it's okay to tell me the truth.. I'm okay with that. I made up the term "practice ain't pretty"..... it doesn't mean I don't love him it means I have to do what he needs, totally... why get horses if you aren't going to do that. ... it's tiring, LOL.. In my heart I've tried my best to discipline him because he was orphaned. I do what my trainer told me to the best of my ability. I'm just not able to correct him..... so that's why I talk to trainers like you, watch videos and have a professional here.... instead of feeling like a screw up right now I just want to figure out the best way to hopefully fix him so I can enjoy him.. I want to ride him. He and I get along good actually....
Sic....Let's not cross the line of emotionalness with this topic. I don't want to resent your comments when you know nothing about me or what I've done for five years to raise an orphan horse.... I hope what you suggested is in and out wham bam and done and that's the end of it too... thanks for your suggestions.... that is really what I wanted.....
why don't take the easy raod and just ask a professional for advice?
It might have the additional benefit for your own riding as well.
Sometimes we need fresh ideas.

I had a difficult horse that was biting and kicking to other people and I had to sell it. The buyer put it together with a nice looking pony mare and only put it indoors during the night.
When I visited them half a year later the horse had changed completely. No biting or kicking anymore. I hadn't thought of this trick,- and I had no pony available. - but that did it.

What I mean is: sometimes its just another idea.
Asking a professional has the advantage that they have a lot of experience and have probably solved your problem at other places before.

Good luck
I am not disagreeing with you or attacking you..... and I know this is a dangerous serious problem..... and that I might have to euthanize my horse.. this is why I came here for help..... lecture no, training, yes... every time I post here on Barnmice I get shit for something..... I'm not coming back here anymore.. I don't get why you have to go off your big long tangents like I am an idiot..... duh..... can it be fixed is the issue...
Hey Jennifer, thanks for posting your problem. It really helps the rest of us learn about training issues and how to solve them. I am as far away from an expert as anyone could be, but I have found Chris Irwin's free online videos extremely helpful. Maybe you would too. At the very least, it might help you judge whether the trainer you are working with is the right person for you and your horse. Good luck ... and keep us in the loop. This sounds like a work in progress!
I hope you don't give up on Barnmice Jennifer. This is a relatively quiet discussion forum so the few nasty comments do tend to stick out more. Anyway, to your problem:

Horses know who they're dealing with and can and do figure who is going to let them do what. Exactly the same way they do in a herd situation. Oliver knows the trainer and quickly figures out those experienced friends and so he behaves for them. This is great because it tells me that he is most likely not really a dangerous fellow, but one who needs boundaries and consistent handling. Often horses like this desperately want a leader, but they want a leader who is worth following. You need to be that leader for him.

Yes, you are going to have to be really tough, and feel "mean" in handling him for a good while. You said you raised him as he was an orphan? How old is he? That is how long you have been training him to have no respect for you. Figure on being "mean" for that long and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly he does learn to respect you. Whatever methods you choose they won't be a one time permanent "fix". You're going to have to learn the responses you need to do to deal with his disrespect - expect that behaviour to get worse initially as he has a sort of "what? but you ALWAYS let me do that before" kind of reaction. Then make sure you never let something slide - correct him every single time. Horses are smart enough to know that if something they did works for them at least part of the time they'll keep on trying it, but also can figure out that if X never gets them anywhere there is no point in doing X.

Now, what exactly do you need to do? You need to know exactly what you WANT him to be DOING at every moment you are with him. What you WANT expressed to yourself in words using only positives. For example "I want him to stop..." is a negative. "I want him to stop shoving me with his nose." should be phrased as a positive "I want him to keep his nose off me." Then any time he touches you, you know that's not allowed and you can do something like push his nose back to an acceptable position. Initially I like to use low key corrections because the horse simply doesn't know what he did wrong, much less what he should be doing instead so I want to show him - then later I can get mad at him for doing the wrong thing.

Look at another example: "I want him to stand still beside me." Even though this is a "still" goal it is something the horse is DOING. So if he moves a foot in any direction, comes into your space with his nose, tries to graze, etc you will immediately see that is not the desired behaviour and can put him back into the spot you chose for him to stand still beside you. This "putting him back into place" idea is also very important. Simply stopping the undesired movement isn't enough because the horse made some progress towards his goal even if it was only one step. Make him take the step(s) back in the opposite direction - he went forward, you push him back, if he went sideways, you push him back sideways in the opposite direction back to where he started. Count steps - two steps forward means he goes two steps back. Again start with quiet corrections, but also do what you need to in order to get the response you need. If he takes three steps forward, and then goes sideways when you ask him to back up you can either insist on the backing up and then go sideways, or correct the sideways and then back up. If you need a chain over his nose, use it (get your trainer to show you the technique - constant pressure allows the horse to bull through it). Remember to give him a little rub on his neck when you have him back where you want him. Always tell him when he's right - he needs to know what is acceptable.

So we have:
1. Know what you WANT him to be DOING at all times (focus on this, all else is secondary - for example standing still on the crossties while being groomed, the act of grooming is secondary as your focus is on him moving so you can correct immediately).
2. Be consistent - correct EVERY time.
3. Put him back where he started by making him do the opposite of his movement - where you want him.
4. Praise.
and we could add:
5. Teach him what you want before getting mad at him for doing the wrong thing. When you do get mad, you correct him and it's done - let go of the mad and calmly return to what you were doing. Repeat as needed, but make sure he learns that if he makes a mistake and gets whomped, it's done unless he genuinely does something wrong again. Stick with number 2 and don't change the boundaries because he's pissed you off today.

Oh yeah - at this stage, while you are learning how to handle him and starting to gain his respect it is OKAY to avoid a given situation if you think it's going to cause a fight you can't win (provided that situation isn't something that must be done right now - you've got to fight those as your starting place, maybe have your trainer on hand for those). As you start to gain his respect you will be in a better position to fight those battles as he will give in more easily - some may turn out to be non issues. But if you start something you'd better be able to get out of it with him doing what you wanted (or very close to it). This is of course the perfect world - if you truly can't win it without putting someone's safety at risk, walk away and get your trainer to set up the situation again so you can work it through with help the very next time. If you keep trying on your own you will be reinforcing his knowledge that he doesn't have to do what you want.

I realize this is rather abstract, but it's difficult to be super specific as relative positioning, speed of action, tools to hand, other beings proximity, other dangers proximity, and so on really affect exactly how one might proceed in a given situation. I do hope it helps. You may never be able to let novice horsemen handle him alone, but there are some horses like that around - it's not a big issue.
Hi Jennifer, The answers to the question you have asked were always going to be hard to hear . I think you knew that when you posted it, but don't take some of the comments so hard. I don't think that anyone is seriously suggesting that you euthanize the horse. THAT WOULD BE DUM! There is no reason that you can't do this work yourself, with some guidance. You will always get some hard answers on a forum like this, but you will also get some GEMS, so don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!! lol..
4Xchestnut's advice is very good! Jan is , I think, right when she says the horse is compliant but not necessarily obedient ( there is a difference). Bernt's right on the money with his advice about a professional,( you have a guy you trust to help so follow his advice)
Orphan horse's are different! They haven't had the benefit of a herd to show them right from wrong, one thing you can do for your horse is to put him in a paddock with a couple of dominant mares, they will show him what's what very dam quickly!!
If you show some confidence about how you work with him it will get better, still going to take a while no matter who does it but it's not to late.
Cheers Geoffrey
BRILLIANT POST AND SPOT ON 4xchestnut!!!

to the op.. this horse is far from being a candidate for euthanasia...

he just needs precisely what 4xchestnut has given you, leadership..boundaries...consistency...

not sure where you are feeling like anyone has had a go at you either.. I have read all of this 3 times over trying to find it and I can not see anything but good well rounded good herd information...

all the best
L

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