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URGENT: Aggressive Yearling

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    12-27-2010, 11:39 PM
You have been advised to drive the pony away from you when she misbehaves and that is what I would do, but if swinging the rope doesn't do it, wont you then have to lay it on her hiney?
Personally, if a horse tried to attack me several times, unprovoked, I would not have such kind thoughts as you do. There may be some horses that get more aggressive if you hit them, but it may also be that you need to be WAY more dominant to her. Not just a minor yelling or a smack, but HUGE response and keep at it even if she reacts back at you. It looks like she needs a very strong response.
Question; how does she react when the other horses enforce their dominance over her? Does she accept a pinned ear glance as enough and walk off, or does she fight back until she can't match the other horse? How hard do the horses have to get to make her respect their space?

I might think of sepereating her from the herd for a bit. She may then become "needy" of a human companion and be more submissive in order to be allowed back into the little group.
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    12-28-2010, 03:31 PM
Super Moderator
Where on earth did you get the idea that what you are doing is 'Natural Horsemanship'? Natural Horsemanship performed right actually 'trains' a horse to be very respectful. Natural horsemanship is supposed to establish YOU as the herd leader and undisputed 'boss'. Done correctly, that is exactly what it does.

You have done everything wrong you have produced a very disrespectful and dominant horse that has trained YOU perfectly. The tail is wagging the dog here.

Let me go into detail and examine what you did and why it worked the way it did and explain what you should have done.

1) " Pony approaches me and proceeds to start moving her rear towards me. Sensing an incoming attack I moved a couple steps back, scolding her again."

'He who moves his feet first, loses'! Pony threatened you and you capitulated. Pony has you trained to give ground to it. In your 'pecking order', you are clearly below this pony.

2) " when you smack her that Pony matches your aggression with a rear-end turn towards you."

Have you actually watched herd dynamics? How long do you think the lead horse in a herd would put up with that? 'Smacking' a horse only aggravates it. Trainers call it 'pecking' at a horse. Discipline should be swift and severe enough to be effective. Being 'effective' is not synonymous with being mean or abusive. Horses actually like those that interact with them from a position of strength and leadership. They have disdain for weak subordinates. You DO NOT 'love', 'buy', 'pet' or 'treat' a horse into liking you. You 'earn' their respect and they 'love' you for it. That's how they think and all of your petting and loving wasted. They actually HATE it when they do not respect you.

3) "She's really gotten too dangerous, especially with children who like to pet and treat her"

I pretty well covered this one with #2. But, I will add, you can pet on a respectful horse. Many learn to like the 'scratches' they get much like mutual 'grooming' in a herd. But, a horse needs to be taught respect and to stay out of any person's space until 'invited' in before you start petting and scratching. I am not an advocate of treats. Few people know how to keep a horse respectful when they give treats. Treats are really for people and not horses.

4) "I read up that when the horse shows like it's about to throw out an aggressive act to love on it"

This just proves you can 'read' anything -- particularly on the internet. Some moron that never trained nice respectful horses had to have written that.

5) "And then today when she tried to kick me multiple times! I'm starting to feel like she's a lost cause and needs to "get lost," but I want to give her a much-needed chance to become that loving filly we bought a year ago. Not a malicious, deadly pony who hates all that come close."

This what you have made her into. If I were to write a manual on how to make a horse mean, I would just tell people to do exactly what you have done. You own it and she deserves to be 'fixed'. Thousands of horses have been shipped to slaughter because someone with good intentions but no horsemanship or horse psychology skills ruined them and made them vicious. I have trained horses full time for more than 50 years. I have taken in literally dozens of horses with the kind of background you gave this pony. They started out nice and turned mean. Many were headed to slaughter when I got them. Most of them re-trained successfully, but they needed a lot more force and pressure put on them than if they had been taught properly to respect people and their space in the first place. When I trained for the public, I would not take in spoiled horses like yours unless the owner agreed to come to several of the training sessions and let me train them along with their horse.

6) "Being the pony she is, I dare not smack her; simply because I don't want to be "one of those people" to her, and because when you do smack her is when things escalate into severe danger."

Please explain to me exactly what "one of those people" is? Again, smacking a horse is totally ineffective. It either turns into a game or makes things worse (as you have found). If you hit a horse or jerk a lead-rope or use any other form of punishment, it has to be severe enough to actually make the horse WANT to 'stop the behavior'. If you do not intend to MAKE the horse move its feet and do not intend to actually 'be in charge', then, you should not own one. This horse (or pony) has you trained. She has trained you let her be in charge.

7) "I also wouldn't suggest "hitting" anyone's horse. Then your horse isn't respectful, it's fearful. And, if it's like two of our horses (the pony and a gelding), they only get more upset and "vicious" after you hit them. I learned this when the gelding, who developed a kicking problem, would try to bite; I'd smack his neck and scold him (a quick and gruff "Knock it off!") only for him to turn his head away, pin his ears, and then come back for round two with more of a vengeance. "

Well, I am afraid you understand very little about how horses think and respond. This underscores the fact that you have spoiled, not only this pony, but other horses, too. If you strike a horse (not my favorite way of disciplining one, by the way) you do not make them fearful if you do it correctly. You do it severely enough to stop the behavior; then you go back and un-do the fear of the whip or rein or stick or whatever you used to spank the horse. For instance, if you spank a horse with a dressage whip for pushing into your space, always say a very firm "Ah!" when you do it. Then, to un-do any fear of the whip, you wave the whip around, strike the ground and go to the horse with it until the horse does not mind it at all. [This is the very basic 'approach and retreat' method of training and it is 100% effective.] Then rub him all over with the whip. Any horse will quickly learn when they have 'crossed' a line you have drawn and will soon 'back off' with just an "Ah!".

I have 60 horses. Not one of them is afraid of me, I can walk up to and catch any one of them, they stand for shots and any other doctoring, they all move out of my way when I "smooch" to them and raise a hand, I groom and saddle them while they are eating, my will is theirs. THEY HAVE NO RULES THAT I HAVE TO FOLLOW! I MAKE ALL OF THE RULES AT MY HOUSE! I cannot even remember the last time one tried to nip or bite me. I have not been kicked at in years and cannot recall being kicked at by any horse I have had for a week or longer. I am their well-respected herd leader and they would follow me off of a cliff. I never have to hit any of them. I don't even have to say "Ah!" very often and that is usually for one laying an ear back at another horse when I am around.

I have trained everything: from TBs on the track and off, Mules, Arabians (including a US National Top Ten, an endurance Champion and a Champion race horse named Kontiki), AQHA reining and cutting horses, Mustangs and hundreds of trail horses. I have shipped more than 25 trained horses to Europe and UK. This is not just an idea of how I think horses can be successfully trained -- It is a proven training program that has worked for decades to produce well-trained, well-mannered happy horses.

This is called effective horse training and I use all natural training methods. I NEVER use force to teach new things. I only use the smallest amount of force necessary to correct problems and behaviors (always in other people's horses). My horses are always willing and above all, HAPPY. Horses love structure and the positive environment of knowing exactly where they stand at all times.

Just like the spoiled bratty child that is unhappy and miserable all of the time; the spoiled horse is miserable. Don't try to ever tell me that a horse with its ears back all of the time and acting aggressive is happy. I have too many happy horses.

I am sorry to be so long-winded, but I just feel compelled to explain to you how your pony went from the 'nice pony' you bought to the dangerous one she has become. If you actually read all of this and want to know more about how to handle specific situations, I will try my best to explain how to have a positive outcome for everyone.
    12-28-2010, 04:23 PM

I tried to say basically what you said, a bit more gently.
I agree with you 99%. The only difference is that there ARE horses that have such a high degree of "fight" in them (rather than the "I just want to get along in the herd" instinct, that they can become extremely aggressive if handled aggressively. This means that the trainer has to know 1. How to stay safe while making changes in the animals way of thinking. And 2. How to establish dominance without pushing the horse to the fight back stage.

It is rare. My old trainer had a mare that was so dangerous. She was beautiful and a wonderful horse under saddle, but she would exhibit the "I want to kill you" behaviour . My trainer worked with her so that the mare stopped doing that, but any other person, especially men, would be in danger of their lives in the round pen with this horse.
    12-28-2010, 04:43 PM
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
The only difference is that there ARE horses that have such a high degree of "fight" in them (rather than the "I just want to get along in the herd" instinct, that they can become extremely aggressive if handled aggressively. This means that the trainer has to know 1. How to stay safe while making changes in the animals way of thinking. And 2. How to establish dominance without pushing the horse to the fight back stage.
Very true. There are handful at both extremes. Some you cannot even think agressive with and then there are those you cannot let up for a second on them.

It does boil down to respect though. Handling an animal that out weighs me 10 times is not going to happen by force. I have to earn their respect.
    12-28-2010, 04:48 PM
Originally Posted by Cherie    
I have trained horses full time for more than 50 years.
I am impressed, it sounds like you are still actively training and in your 70s.
    12-28-2010, 09:15 PM
Super Moderator
The only difference is that there ARE horses that have such a high degree of "fight" in them (rather than the "I just want to get along in the herd" instinct, that they can become extremely aggressive if handled aggressively.

Read more: URGENT: Aggressive Yearling

At one time I also thought there were some horses that were too resistant and/or too reactive to effectively discipline. I have since re-schooled some very mean and fighting stallions and more than one mare and gelding that were attack minded. I re-schooled a 5 year old APHA (Paint) stallion that had attacked several people sending his last trainer to the hospital with a shattered femur. Had a bottom board not been missing from the trainer's round pen, he would have killed him. As it was, he never fully recovered from his injuries. I was this horse's last chance before they were going to put him down. I showed him at the Paint Nationals later that year in halter and Hunt Seat Pleasure. Anyone competent could ride him.

At one time I had 10 stallions in my barn and was standing 6 of them to the public. Two of them had put people in the hospital. I cannot count how many horses I took in and re-trained that were headed for the killer pen when I got them and would have gone there if I had failed. I found a way to get through to all of them.

That being said, re-training badly spoiled horses that have become attack minded, aggressive and dangerous is a lot like making sausage. It is not real pretty to watch. But, I have not found one that did not respond and did not become a horse that could be handled by any other competent person. A person is never going to be meaner or bigger, but I can be smarter and I can put one in a position where doing the right thing is not only easier, it is the ONLY option --- and I can make them like it.

As cheap as good horses have gotten, nowadays, I would not bother with many of them. I would just let them get on that last truck-ride. I have also come to know that there is a great deal of difference in the 'trainability' between different horses. I have come to appreciate horses that are easily trained, do not have a lot of inborn resistance and want to please people. These inherently 'nice' horses can still be spoiled, but they are not naturally aggressive and are much more 'forgiving' than others that jump on the slightest mistake made by their trainer/ handler. Many of the ones that become very aggressive toward people are also very dominant in a herd structure and are more difficult to train.

I would say the pony in question is pretty nice. It has taken a year of poor handling to become this aggressive. That in itself tells me she is very 'fixable'.

Oh! And "Yes!" I started training for the public very young. I have enjoyed every minute of it, but sadly, I am only able to ride on a very limited basis now. I still do a lot of ground schooling and prepare a lot of young horses for their first ride but someone else has to ride them.

I have severe degenerative joint disease and both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. I just cannot do it any more. I am selling all of my best cutting-bred horses at the January Shawnee Sale because I cannot ride one of them at all now. I last showed a reining horse 3 years ago. I have not been on my one stallion since then and did not breed a single mare to him this year.
    12-28-2010, 09:30 PM
Cherie, I wish you would train me!! I would love to learn half of what you must know!
    01-05-2011, 03:09 PM
Originally Posted by mls    
Just how old is this equine? You say two and then yearling.
She's just turned 3. Under the watchful eye of my 2 bosses, I was told that the horse is a filly/yearling up until the age of 5, at which point it "graduates" to the "adult stage" (mare/stallion/etc.).

And Cherie, thank you. I know that by moving my feet first I lost rank over this pony and I'm working on getting it back with her. She's highly aggressive to the other horses; just recently she attacked a young mare that was standing about 3-5 feet away from her for apparently no reason. The mare (named Bit-O-Honey) was simply relaxing not too far from our salt/mineral blocks and showed no signs of imposing behavior to receive the bites and chase that she got.

By "one of those people," I meant the other workers at the barn who have notoriously untied her for grooming/feet picking and forced her (not allowing her to learn balance) to stand for her feet being picked, and all the while a second worker holds her, twisting one of her ears or "twitching" her lip. My boss and I speculate that it was these actions that caused her to get so mean.

And the gelding, Prince, started to act dangerously after we (grudgingly) accepted very young volunteers with minimal/uncoordinated horsemanship experience. And my issue with these horses is that their owners (a livery) say that when they misbehave to slap their neck/point of shoulder and say NO!; that was to avoid people taking disciplinary means into their own hands as the two girls did with this pony by twisting her ear and twitching her lip. As I said to my boss when we talked about it last night: "Most times you'd want to distract the horse, not cause it pain," simply because it would then associate such-and-such action with hurt. (Similar to as you said with the dressage whip.)

I thank you so much for your detailed "break down," because I literally have no other help from her legal owners and the other two more experienced workers are so high on themselves they don't help anyone else out. They simply tell me to take a "pony paddle" (a large leather crop) and smack at her with it, which as you said isn't very affective. My boss even recently told me how driving a horse away from you to "meet up" helps with it learning respect and safety with you.

My boss is recovering from a recent case of Shingles and has had, literally, no time to work with any of the horses. I watched one trainer (it was on RFD-TV, I'm not sure if it was Chris Cox, Dennis Reis, Ken McNabb, or someone else) on the television who said that you act dramatically at certain points. He said something to the effect of, "when the horse acts silly, you act sillier." I don't know how true that is and I can't recall at this moment exactly what it does. (It very well could be stashed away in notes I've taken on these trainers.)

tinyliny, to answer your questions:

How does she react when the other horses enforce their dominance over her? Does she accept a pinned ear glance as enough and walk off, or does she fight back until she can't match the other horse?

There is one young mare (the aforementioned Bit-O-Honey) that she seems to challenge the most. With Bit, it would resort to an all-out brawl until one (usually the pony) walks away. When it comes to the other horses throwing some pinned-eared glares, she normally pins hers and walks away like a temper-tantrum-inflicted teenager.

How hard do the horses have to get to make her respect their space?

Most of our other horses, ranging from 10 on up, won't have to try very hard. For the most part she sticks with her little "herd" (containing 1 gelding, Bit, Bit's mother, and 2 other, older mares). The pony is the youngest of our entire 24-head herd.

I also apologize to all of you for my delayed response; I had computer issues for the past few weeks that, until today, went unsolved.
    01-05-2011, 03:55 PM
Originally Posted by Creampuff    
She's just turned 3. Under the watchful eye of my 2 bosses, I was told that the horse is a filly/yearling up until the age of 5, at which point it "graduates" to the "adult stage" (mare/stallion/etc.).
A female horse is a filly until it turns 4 - or 5 - depending on who you talk to. However, a yearling is a yearling.
    01-10-2011, 07:09 PM
Biting yearling - rescue horse


I'm a long way from the rolling hills of Oklahoma now, but I grew up there and went to OBU in Shawnee! I really enjoyed reading your posts. You have a world of experience and I would love to hear more!

I am currently volunteering for a horse rescue. I had a horse as a kid, spend some time on a ranch as a young adult riding often, but haven't owned/worked with horses in 20 years. Anyway, this is a start-up rescue less than 7 months old. We have thin budget and work force. I am responsible for feeding one barn with an old gelding, two mares with colts, and one yearling colt. The yearling just lost her stall mate (another yearling) to adoption. But she is our problem child and we are hoping to get her adopted soon. However...

Sigh...she is a constant biter (not nipping for treats, which we do rarely anyway, but teeth bared head stretched way out to get you) and turning her butt to kick almost as often, if biting doesn't work. I have not spent a lot of time with her, I do not know her history prior to October (when she was about 8 months old when taken in) but I have this opportunity now that she is alone in her stall/pasture area (she shares a barn so she has company, just fenced apart from the more dominant moms and old man) and I am there feeding every day.

My question for you is do horses have definable drives, like dogs do? For example, dogs have ball, food, and pack drive. I had an extremely aggressive puppy (fearful, but also bad breeding) and had to learn in depth about pack structure, behavior, and drive. I'm teachable and want to do a good job by this horse so her chances of adoption to a forever home are increased. I want to give this high spirited girl a chance to learn her manners and as a result go to a good home. Right now she is in that stage where I'd almost be afraid to send her home with someone, not knowing, given her aggression, how they will handle her and if they might ruin her at a crucial learning time. On the other hand, I know she needs real time spent with her which she just won't get in our rescue situation. I can do 20 minutes a day individual with her.

SO ... are there some good processes I can use with her before/during feeding time? I was thinking of using a lead rope to swing around to keep her back from me (I have not been doing this and she does rush in to see what you are doing), making her give me some space. Do I also make her wait to eat until I let her come back in? Do I stand nearby and make her tolerate my presence when eating, driving her away if she tries to bite or turns to me (she does!) or only work her before feeding her? Because this is rescue situation, I only get that small amount of time once a day with her. I do not want to mishandle her in relation to food. She may have been starved/abused as a much smaller colt, but don't know. She does bite on the feed bowl after clearing it out, would there be teething issues as well? She should be around 11 months old, give or take. She has stood for me to be brushed after being grained. I've been told she is pretty good with a halter being led around. Should I put a halter on and leave it on? (I know my dog's training collar acts as a reminder and she behaves better with it on even when not on leash).

Obviously dogs can't be compared to horses, that isn't what I mean. Just looking for similiar bits of knowledge to help me refresh my brain and do a good job with these horses.

My profile pic is of the horse in question. Her name is Millie (sometimes called Millie the B, meaning she is a you know what!) ;0)

I am WIDE open to suggestions, books, websites, etc.

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