Aggressive gelding; abuse or dominance?
Reading a thread about lunging, I thought I would get some opinions on an experience I had last summer at a camp where I was a riding instructor.
We had 4 horses leased from a big, shady farm whose business was leasing horses. No idea of their background, temperament, training, or herd dynamic, and these horses are supposed to be therapy horses for some people with extreme disabilities!
So, very quickly notice that one large gelding, presumably a WB, I am thinking large TB cross or STB cross, named Elvis, is the big baddie. Always bullying everyone, chasing everyone away from his hay, and generally being a jerk. Only turnout is our .5 acre riding ring (I didn't set this up...), so very limited room, and cheap PVC fencing (the kind that looks like posts and boards painted white, and shatters into a zillion pieces if a horse runs through it).
I decide one off day to do some free lunging to try to get some respect. Start driving him away, hootin and hollerin, being very attentive to my body position. I was quite pleased with how well my intentional positioning for turns/rollbacks/stops/etc was going, until I noticed him getting lazy. Not submissive join up signs like chewing, lowering head, etc, just slowing down, cutting corners, and starting to show signs of irritation. So I grab my lunge whip and get him moving again. This goes well for two or three rounds until he has decided he has had enough and starts squaring up to me. I try to send him off and he gets irritated. Eventually he starts striking out and charging. I stand firm and drop my whip, and he stops striking. He watches my every move, staying head on square with me. I finally get him into his stall, and call the farm explaining what happened.
Between then and the next Wednesday, he became nippy, biting campers, counselors, and other staff. We checked for unsoundness and found nothing. Good feet, legs, back and teeth. Owner shows up with new geriatric horse replacement ("Ol White Lightnin!"... 21 yrs old and 100lb underweight). Owner explains "You don't lunge these horses! You let them do what they want!", then after talking to me like a toddler playing Pretty Pony Dress Up (to which I kept my mouth shut), upon entering Elvis' stall with a rump presented to him, gives him an incredibly hard lick with a rope, and the horse acts like a puppy who lost his mother from that point until he loaded up and left.
If you read that, kudos. What do you think was going on here, and do you think I handled it properly?
I have said what I have said. I have not said what I have not said.
Last edited by RunSlideStop; 06-14-2012 at 10:04 PM.