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Kati 03-10-2013 05:34 PM

Aggressive Filly?
I'm not even with her now, but I'm trying to get a plan together to 'fix' a problem my filly has when I get home.
Disclaimer: If it's not already obvious, I understand I am not a trainer, nor is this a riding problem. It's a ground problem that needs to be broken, but I'm not even sure how to go about fixing.
Age: 3
Training Level: Just ground work
We got her as an untouched yearling. First time we saw her, she was shivering, drenched in sweat, and shaking in the pen because her owner stupidly penned her with his stallion and he (the horse) ran her until she could barely stand.
She's aggressive with children and small animals. She's totally respectful of adults and an absolute dream to work with. Other horses easily put her in her place. She's bottom of the pecking order. The problem first emerged when we put her with our two ponies (all three yearlings). She would chase them all day long, every day. We pulled them from the pen and she got put with the riding mares when all three started dropping weight and one filly was developing a cough. She double barreled a dog that was chasing the horses, but that was just dismissed as regular horse behavior. Protect the herd right?
During a blizzard we had the horses in the barn with no access to the outside as we temporarily had an extremely late filly we'd snatched from someone we knew for fear that the weather would take her out. A little boy was helping me with chores (3) and he slipped into the stall behind me. This was not supposed to happen. He's not allowed in the stalls. His grandfather was supposed to be watching him and was not at that moment. She came after him (she's 1 and a half at this point), teeth bared and head down. I managed to snatch his coat and swing him out of the stall right away. The minute he was gone her head came up and she walked up to me calm as can be. Behavior was dismissed as stall energy. (I know moving the feet is the worst possible response to a charge, but I'm not going to make a baby stand his ground and my instincts took over. Plus I've never seen a horse with that kind of murder in her eyes)
Fast forward to last summer. We were getting some goats and were 'goat proofing' our fence. I had my dog with me. My dog was near me in the south-western corner of our three acre square pasture. The two horses were in the north-eastern end. The dog was sniffing in the grass no where near the horses when she caught sight of her. The filly charged again, with the same behavior she'd had towards the little boy. Because my dog is a (smart) coward, she ran.
A week later, we got the goats and while transferring from the trailer to the paddock one goat escaped. To make this short and sweet, she again charged from a long ways away, but this time she actually got her teeth into her target. And by that I mean she savaged the goat (who is fine now). She tore at the poor animal with teeth and hooves before getting a good grip on the goats back and throwing her over the fence. Needless to say I am pretty d*mn glad I reacted as fast as I did with the little boy and my dog ran. If she had done the same to either of them...
Conclusion (And Slightly Shorthand):
My thing is, why is she so specifically aggressive and how do you stop it? Mainly dogs, goats, and small children are at risk. She's just fine with a 7 year old, but has charged at a 5 year old (the children were young, but were behaving well at the time). She tolerates the cats but barely.
This is something I'd prefer to fix before she goes to the trainers. (She'll be going to a roper. We often raise foals for him (he's the son of the man who owns the farm) and we've never had this problem before. We believe it's something particular to her.)

And... As thanks for reading this (and because she's beautiful) here's a picture (or four) of our fiery redhead Chase! (With the most fitting name of any horse I've ever met)
Following two are as a two year-old:
Following two are as a yearling:
And this one's not the greatest picture, but I love it:

loosie 03-10-2013 11:00 PM

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This sounds like perfectly normal, natural behaviour & that she's a 'dominant' type - it's often the ones on the lower rungs that want to dominate whoever they can IME. So I wouldn't blame her. Of course, unless you're going to keep her well away from kids(Don't take her behaviour with bigger kids for granted!) and other animals, it is a good idea to work on it.

First & foremost, you need to keep safety in mind at all times & that it's your responsibility to be in control of her & kids/dogs that are anywhere near her, or ensure you prevent their access.

Then, **assuming your situation ensures full safety of the third party, such as fence, parent supervising, etc, to take the little boy eg, rather than snatching him out of reach, I'd be heading her off at the pass - blocking her & in no uncertain terms letting her know this behaviour will not be tolerated. *Obviously your safety also needs to be considered, so I wouldn't be doing this if you fear any likelihood of the horse having a go at you.

Just like you observed she did, don't hold any grudges - immediately after you have reprimanded her & she's no longer being aggressive, quit your 'anger' and 'act normal' with her again.

Combined with giving her clear, consistent & strong consequences for her 'bad' behaviour, I think it's really important to also give positive consequences to any 'good' behaviour, also to change her attitude towards irritating small creatures, by association, to Good Stuff happens when they're around. Any chance you have to reinforce 'polite' behaviour, even if not actually friendly - eg depending on how she is, you may need to start out just reinforcing lack of aggression, or reinforce her paying attention to anything else when a kid's around, even if you need to begin with active distraction.

And one more point, horses pay attention to specifics so don't tend to generalise well. Eg. she may learn quickly that you're Boss Mare & any kids/dogs are your charges, but don't expect her to understand this applies when you're not around. Therefore I'd also be controlling her access to small beings after you establish the rules in your presence and setting up situations where she can learn those lessons.

Thunderspark 03-11-2013 12:28 AM

could you make like a scarecrow type thing that you could put on a stick, lean against a round pen fence? Take her in there and if she takes after it, you chase her and make her move, yelling NO at her!!!
I don't think I would want to use a kid or a dog......I know my youngster who is going to be 4 chases our dogs out of the pasture, head down, trying to stomp them......when I'm out there and he does that I take after him and let him know it is not acceptable! He did that since he was born here, I think sometimes with them being the low guy they will find what they can to dominate whether it be a child or dog......

Kati 03-11-2013 03:29 AM

Thank you for the explanation! I was thinking it was something like that.
Right now we have no kid access to her pen, but I refuse to put a horse like her in a situation such as a rodeo where there are often little kids running around and she may be left unattended for a while when the trainer rides his other horses. Id like to at least find a way to train her before he takes her.
Im not to concerned about the dog behavior, its more little kids Im worried about. I think I will recreate the stall situation the first few times (with the door to the paddock open) as it has the best set-up to be safe for everyone. I will try the scarecrow first but if nothing else, I can easily protect the child in the location theyd be in (just inside the door with a wall to their right and the door just behind them. Id be just to the left and ready to step in front with feedscoop raised. She respects the feedscoop very much after being bopped on the nose a few times. I will not tolerate her crowding space at feeding time.)
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Palomine 03-11-2013 05:35 AM

Like it or not, this horse is a danger.

To do this to human, means her handling is lacking. She will do this to more ages too, that is coming, as each time she does this, she is learning it is okay to do it.

Simply put, this horse is like this because it has been allowed to be by the humans handling it.

Kati 03-11-2013 06:56 AM


Originally Posted by Palomine (Post 1932391)
Like it or not, this horse is a danger.

To do this to human, means her handling is lacking. She will do this to more ages too, that is coming, as each time she does this, she is learning it is okay to do it.

Simply put, this horse is like this because it has been allowed to be by the humans handling it.

Im fully aware that shes dangerous. Thats why Im trying to stop it now. She's only ever charged children two times, so Im hoping she hasnt built too many bad habits based on it. Im looking for advice on safely stopping this behavior as its the first time Ive ever handled this particular problem before. Im aware that our responses were not necessarily the best ones up until this point. My question was mainly how do you go about fixing it. She's been allowed to do it up until this point as her targets simply couldnt stand up to her.
Right now she is isolated from all triggers for this behavior so she doesn't build any more of a habit. Id like to set her back as soon as I can.
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BlueSpark 03-11-2013 10:59 AM

Get a child sized dummy and desensitize her to it, first teack her she cant go near it on the ground, and has to keep a respectful distance. try moving the dummy towards her and making her maintain the same distance. then teach her that when tied, she has to tolerate it. On her back, underneath, around her legs, her job is to stand still and ignore.

I would then try with a goat. teach her to keep a respectful distance in the pasture(or round pen), and that when tied, you can lead a goat up to her and her job is to ignore it and stand still.

repeat with dog. maybe even try having the dog with you in the center for a roundpenning or lunging session, so she assosiates it with you and leadership.

I would put a sign up on her pasture fence warning people not to enter, and if she ever went to a show, I would make sure she was secured as well as possible and had a "stay away" or "do not touch" sign next to her, so no parent wandering around decides its a good horsie for their kids to pet.

you are going to have to be VERY careful with this mare, always, even if she shows no signs of agression for years. If she ever gets her teeth on a toddler.....

Peppy Barrel Racing 03-11-2013 12:53 PM

Not to sound mean but all I read in your discription is she acted with aggression several times without any consequence. I agree that you need to start putting objects which she is agressive towards and show her it is not ok to attack them make her move her feet with lots of direction change but your going to have to be hard and firm when you smack her with the whip I mean it better hurt no pecking. If she charges at you you need to smack her on the chest to back her off then send her off at the base of neck/shoulder then maybe the hip. My mare used to charge at me when she didn't get her way because she got spoiled and unridden for years when I was too busy with college. Makes me wonder how spoiled this mare is and I wonder how respectful she really is toward you. I have a feeling your missing other little things that have built up into this aggression. I've yet to see an aggressive/spoiled horse that wasn't made that way by their owner (besides some wild untouched horses which this horse clearly is not). I mean I have two yearling studs one who will be two this summer. I don't geld till around twoish because I wait for both testicles to drop. I've never had a single one act agressive toward humans or other animals. But I do a lot of work with them and I make sure that when needed they are corrected immediately. This horse needs some serious correction and fast. If you can I recommend maybe having a trainer do this instead of you. When you first correct her she may change her target of aggression to you. She can just as easily tear and stomp you up as she did that pot goat. Good thing goats are hardy I have an interesting story with a goat and pepper. Anyways if you decide to do this yourself please be on your toes I hate for you to have to go to the ER. You need to resolidify that your dominant over her all times. Like when you saw her coming for those kids or your dog you should of came at her like she was gonna get murdered by you. But instead she learned that its ok because you did nothing, which is why I know she gets away with other stuff and you need to think about what those things are even if they are seemingly little things. Be careful and good luck.
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