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WTR47 03-14-2012 07:25 PM

Completely stumped with this one- aggressive horse threatening to charge
Hi everyone,
I would really appreciate any advice that you may have about this situation, I am all out of ideas at this point and completely stumped!
I'm currently working with a bit of a difficult horse as far as this issue goes. He is great under saddle, never even tries to act up at all and has won a lot of classes at AQHA shows (Western Pleasure, Hunter Under Saddle etc.). I've been riding and showing him for almost 3 years now with no trouble whatsoever from him. The problem is, he can act very aggressive when on the cross ties or loose in his stall. Generally he is great around people, but when a carried object is involved it is a completely different issue. For example, if anyone goes near him with a bucket, shovel, broom etc. he gets very upset and I have no idea why or how to fix this. For example, just today I went to hang up his water bucket in his stall and he backed into the corner, faced me, then seriously threatened to charge. His ears were back, he was baring his teeth and popping up in the front end as if to strike out. He then proceeded to kick out at the stall wall with his hind leg. I do realize that this type of behavior is extremely dangerous, but I have no idea how to correct it at this point because I feel as if I have tried everything. It is the same story if he is on the ties and someone walks by with a broom in their hands- ears back, teeth bared, threatening stance. I have done tons of ground work with him and any other time his manners are great. I have also tried desensitizing him to these objects, but the problem always seems to come back within a few minutes. Again- he always seems to be fine unless a carried object is involved. I do lots of ground work with him and work around him on the ties and in his stall everyday and he is fine until he sees a carried object, then the major aggression shows itself. Professional trainers have also been involved on a few occasions but to no avail. At one point this gelding even went to a trainer's barn for a month or two and came back ten times worse than he ever was previously, the trainer had no idea how to deal with something as strange as this. Is it safe to say that some sort of abuse has taken place with this horse at some point? And if so, how exactly do I get rid of his anger towards myself or anyone carrying an object? Getting mad at him and not backing away just seems to make him even more aggressive, as if he needs to defend his life or something. I have tried moving him off right away in a "get out of my space" type manner but same thing. He also does not respond well to people carrying whips for protection along with the object. What is going on here? Why does this horse act so friendly towards people until they walk by him carrying something? I really want to sort this out before anyone gets hurt if he ever does carry through with a charge.

yadlim 03-14-2012 09:24 PM

I don't know if this will help. I can only try to guess ways that might help that you might not have tried.

First, have his eyesight checked. He may be having trouble seeing what is going on. This sounds like fear agression.

Baring that - have you tried clicker training? Maybe associating, VERY slowly, the goodness of treats and clicker training with something carried? It might be a long shot, but what do you have to lose?

There might be some abuse in the past, but I have found that abuse gets blamed for way too many things. Some horses just act like someone has beaten them constantly... sigh, I have worked with a few who had completly known histories and never were abused, but sure acted like it.

Then again, it might be, but again, I am loath to label this behavior as such. First and foremost, I would check his eyes. If he is having difficulty seeing the object, it might be what is causing him to react.

Good luck!

tinyliny 03-14-2012 09:47 PM

Actually, that is not a bad idea; clicker training to get him to associate things, then thing being carried with yummy treats.

herdbound 03-14-2012 10:21 PM

WTR47 I am going to flatline this too you and you may not like my answer on the subject. First I will address the issue of was the horse abused? Could have been of course BUT I have worked in rescues and seen animals who have been burnt, drug behind trailers till their skin has been ripped off, beat, shocked, whipped, tied to posts and starved and every sick thing in between BUT most of them do not turn aggressive. It can happen but they seem to be more "forgiving" than that. This boy has a nasty attitude. I have a friend in a similiar situation right now with a TWH that likes to charge. She has been to 2 seperate trainers the gain respect, they get trust, the horse does fine then out of the blue she snaps and will come taring at you ears flat, head snaked and hell bent on getting you. Why does she do this? Really only she knows why just like with your horse honestly only he knows why. What your real decision how far and for how long will you tolerate this and what happens if the horse does hurt someone. Well since it is your horse you are responsible for it's actions so not only may someone be seriously injured by this animal...they could be killed. It is not a joke. And unfortunately I am not like a lot of people who feel that every animal can be saved. There are certain things I will NOT tolerate...and aggression in an animal this large is one of them. Now I will tell you the same thing I told my dear friend. IF you have made reasonable efforts to rectify this and it continues to happen REGARDLESS of why it is happening I personally would put it down. That is after you have consulted a trainer and seen if it can be fixed...if a good trainer can't "fix" is best to just end it BEFORE someone gets hurt and you are forced to do it. What would happen if a small child unknowingly walked up to your horse to pet it and say they were carrying something in their hands as children often do? That is just what I would do in your situation and I know it is a horrible situation to be in I wish you the best.

Palomine 03-15-2012 07:08 AM

What is horse getting fed? It could be that feed is too hot, hay included in that, and horse would chill out somewhat with a change in feed.

And has any blood work been done to rule out hormonal problems?

Eyesight is good idea too.

And there is a chance trainers had success with stopping this at their barn but you might not have like their methods, so they just said they had no luck? Not saying 'tis so, but possibility unless you were there to see horse had not changed.

Irregardless, I'm with Herdbound on this, if CBC/vet check of eyes and ruling out brain tumor and such, and also dental exam, doesn't pinpoint anything, I would probably PTS.

But also want to inquire as to your handling mechanics. Does this horse do this with everyone, or are you the only one handling it at your place? Are you exhibiting timid behavior around this horse in any fashion? Is it only the two times then that he acts like this?

I would not lean towards abuse as being root of this, but question whether he has "learned" he can get by with this behavior only when in stall or cross tied, either because the "intruder" leaves the stall after hanging bucket or feeding and horse thinks it has run person off, and because when acts like this on cross ties people are usually preoccupied and ignore it, or they startle or avoid him.

A lot of how a horse reacts to correction is in the force, is you will, of the person who is correcting it. And don't mean how physically strong person is per se, but how strong a person is in their mindset and physical attitude.

You probably know the type I mean here, same type you hear in grocery store telling obnoxious offspring, "quit that, I'm telling you to quit, stop it right now" over and over, while the kids do whatever they want. Whiny voice, sweety voice, but mainly weak voice. Kids and horses in this case, know there is no backbone to it, and carry on however they want to.

It could also be horse is getting rewarded, because no one is calling its bluff, and getting after it strongly enough too. If horse were really aggressive, I feel it would be turning rump to you and letting you have it, instead of doing what it is.

Has the horse ever come after you? Or just does what you have described?

I really feel this horse needs a CTJM more than anything. I'd stick him on the crossties, and be prepared to leave him there for a couple of hours if necessary, meanwhile I would walk past him and around him with carrying everything but the kitchen sink.

And if you are one of those, that talks soothingly? As in "it's all riggghhhhhtttt" or "don't be like thattttttt"? Quit it. Horses don't respond well to that, and it makes many a problem horse where there wasn't one to begin with. And also talking to the horse, when it is misbehaving other than in a tone that is matter of factly stern, also should not occur.

And curious too, as this just occurred to me, you didn't say horse also does this when you go to halter it, so horse obviously knows how to behave?

I really think the horse has one over on you, either because of your body mechanics, which are somehow expressing timidity, or because horse is getting rewarded with sweet talk or soothing talk possibly.

Also is this horse getting turn out time? Not just a little, but a couple of hours or more. Might have something to do with being stir crazy from being stalled much of life, if that is case.

Also, what type of horses, if any are on other side of him, as I've seen some horses cut up worse, when horses on either side are less dominant, but if boss horse is stalled next to them, they are quieter.

I also don't think abuse is behind this, but rather a horse that has learned he can do this and get away with it.

kait18 03-15-2012 08:41 AM

if i was you i would find a herbal calming remedy like lavender or something of that nature and start outdoors with you and another person and an object. you hold your horse the other prson holds an object. start at a distance and slowly bring it closer to him. when he starts reacting i would have the person with object stop and put the object down,person walk to horse then both of you bring horse to it and let him get a treat out of it. then walk him away and do it again until horse and object and person can all be standing an arms length away.

you could even try treating it like a horse who wont go in a trailer... have the person and object stand still and you walk horse around them until he is comfortable enough to get closer to it. like big circles and slowly making circles smaller...every time he shows any discomfort back him away fast and approach again.


kevinshorses 03-15-2012 11:43 AM

I'd make sure that whenever he was tied I had a broom or bucket in my hand. I'd make so many trips around him with a bucket or broom or shovel or one man band that he would get board with being ornery about it. If I wanted to brush him I'd stand back and brush him with a broom. If he gets grain he'd eat it out of a bucket while I held it or he wouldn't get any. If that didn't work I'd do the same with water. He'd soon start thinking that the broom wasn't so bad and the bucket was pretty darn cool.

WTR47 03-15-2012 11:55 AM

First of all, thank you everyone for your comments and advice so far. Hopefully this will help to clear up some of your questions/concerns:
This horse has had his eyesight checked, teeth done, etc. and nothing abnormal with him. He does not seem to respond well to calming remedies or supplements as he is already a quiet horse outside of this one issue in particular. Food (hay/grain) does not seem to affect him with respect to this issue either. He gets lots of turnout, about 7 hours a day. Also, he is worked about 5 days a week, so it doesn't seem like he is just feeling fresh or spunky. He is perfectly fine with small objects like halters, brushes, bridles etc. and never gives me any trouble with grooming or catching him in his stall or outside. I work around him in his stall and on the ties all the time and he is perfect right up until something like a shovel is involved. He has not actually ran at me at this point in time, just threatened. I absolutely do not act timid or back away when he does this, I usually just proceed with whatever I'm doing after a good loud growl at him so to speak. He is never let off easy or talked to in a timid voice when this happens. I will however not purposely get into a situation like this with him as I have often felt that he will proceed with a charge if I'm not careful. To expand on what seems to happen when trainers are involved, basically they go at him quite aggressively or smack him and it all just blows up to the point that I go to check on the horse and he is completely out of it, angry and striking out at absolutely everything. I have had to bring him home early in these cases as he was going downhill fast. This is why I'm hesitant to reprimand him too heavily and why I'm questioning if he has a history involving abuse. I know for sure that he has been handled quite harshly in the past and I also know for sure that acting aggressive towards him tends to make things worse if he is already upset. I will look into clicker training and maybe give that a try, I do not want to give up on him when otherwise he really is an awesome horse. He has no problem walking up to the objects themselves or walking towards someone carrying the object, he only acts aggressive if someone walks towards him and ends up within a few feet of him.

WTR47 03-15-2012 11:59 AM

Also, I forgot to mention: I am not the only one handling this horse. In fact, most of the time he is brought in or turned out by the barn owner or other barn workers, not myself. None of the other horses there have this issue that I know of, I board three horses there and they are perfectly fine, they have no issues with respecting me or others at all.

kevinshorses 03-15-2012 12:04 PM

Just ignore it but keep a broom or bucket in your hand ALL the time.

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