Originally Posted by gen32
I'm brand new to this forum, I joined hoping someone might have a solution to my horsey problems.
I've dealt with some pretty difficult horses before, but I have no idea how to go about fixing this one.
I bought this horse (17HH chestnut thoroughbred showjumper) last November and he was approximately 150KGs under weight. I've fed him up, he's quite tanky now, but about 2 months ago he started getting aggressive about his dinner and I figured it was probably because he'd been starved (should have nipped it in the bud when it started, I know).
It's gotten so bad now that I cannot even enter his yard to put his food down because he gets me in the corner and tries to kick me. His newest behaviour other than the food problem is getting aggressive about going into his yard. He tried to bite my older sister today, and he's continually putting his ears back.
When a horse steps forward toward a person with ears pinned, at that very moment he's gauging who is the dominant one and who's submissive. If the person takes a step back (yields) to the horse, then the person is clearly telling the horse that he is dominant. Then you take that same horse and the same person....and now the horse escalates because he's stepped in toward the person, or simply pinned his ears and now the person doesn't move fast enough out of his way, so he must (because of his pecking order instinct: one is dominant and one is submissive in a herd of two)....escalate the pressure.
The only way a horse knows how to escalate pressure is by physical force.
1) he pins his ears (this means "move")
2) he advances with ears pinned ("you better move faster!")
3) he advances and kicks/rears up and strikes out/bites ("You didn't move fast enough!")
This is exactly the same pattern that people use to train the horse to let him know, that the person is in charge. It's what will help you establish your dominance roll.
Dominance in this respect is not a bad thing. It's a necessity. Horses need to know that someone is in charge. Between you and him, it better be you because he's way too big to be the leader.
It's not about punishment. It's not about forcing the horse to submit. It's about using the same "language" that he already understands.
All that said, simply do the following and have everyone who has access to him be the same as well.
1) Carry a training stick or a short whip (longer than a crop). This will be the extention of your body.
2) Take the food in one hand and the stick/whip in the other and approach the gate like you own it.
3) tell him to move away from the gate with the cluck/kiss sound and tap the gate, tap the air to let him know there is pressure if he stays/crowds the gate, soon as he steps back, the pressure goes away (put the stick facing the ground)
4) enter the paddock and the moment he steps toward you, own the paddock and wave the whip back and forth as if tapping the air with rhythm (don't just swing it wildly) and use the cluck/kiss sound. Soon as he steps back, stop all the "pressure"
5) put the food where you want it and stand over it. Stand there and wait and count to ten. If at any time he pins his ears and steps forward toward you and the food (one step) shoo him away immediately. Soon as he steps back, leave him alone. Watch his ears.
6) soon as his ears are up. If he drops his head and licks and chews and steps toward you with ears forward and head down with a soft look on his face...he's asking for permission to come in to the food. This is when you want to invite him in to eat. Take a side step and allow him to come in to eat. But watch his demeanor. At any time, if he shows signs of ear pinning or other dominant attitude, immediately shoo him away. Don't chase him. Leave him alone soon as he leaves. Then try again to invite him in to eat when he's got a better attitude.
7) soon as he's got a good attitude, let him come in and eat and stay there a moment then go ahead and leave (but don't turn your back) side step and walk off.
Repeat this exact same lesson and he will very quickly understand that he's not to walk up to you and the food until he's invited. He'll respect your authority because you'll of earned it this way, telling him what you expect of him. Then all you'll have to eventually do is use the kiss/cluck sound and he'll step away and wait and the unwanted stuff will go away because he'll willingly not do it.
Point is, he doesn't want to be in charge of a person. People are confusing to horses. That is, one minute you're backing off, and the next minute you're trying to stand your ground but you do it with weak cues/energy and so this frustrates the horse even more and he thinks he's got to up the pressure the only way he knows how....through the kicking and charging and biting and all that.
If you take the time to teach your horse what you want. And that you are the leader by way of moving his feet and not allowing him to move yours....this is something that he will respond to and he will respond quickly (depending on how consistent you are and if you don't overuse pressure by nagging him with it, that is, that you are sure to stop pressuring him soon as he does what you ask)
I've retrained many horses who acted just like this. And this is the method that I used with all of them. One horse was so bad that when the owner would open the stall he was already reeling around and kicking out with both hind feet! He would also crow hop on a lead and try to kick whoever's leading him. He'd charge at people in the pasture. It didn't take long at all for him to change for the better. He was pretty relieved not to be in charge anymore and he turned out to be a really cool horse.