Frighteningly poor ground manners
I'm currently pony-sitting my neighbor's little herd, and she has a bit of a problem gelding. In the decade since she got him as a colt, life apparently came up so he's still incredibly green. Additionally, he's a very anxious boy with many tics and dislikes.
He's very mouthy (especially when he's nervous)- biting anything in mouth range, being it the dog, my arms, or the other horses. He paces and paws both in the barn and in the field, and typically encroaches on my/other horses space. In the past year since I last watched him, he's also become more prone to striking out with his front hooves (most especially at the dog, but surprisingly also at me) as well as bucking, kicking, charging, and crow hopping at anything remotely threatening- which can include being near the dog, being near another horse, being in proximity to the barn door or paddock fence.
So being that his owner accepts his erratic behavior, I don't intend to do much in way of re-socializing or training him, but for my own safety, I'd love any suggestions about working with him for the next week. I've started leaving the dog in (so she doesn't antagonize him, or the situation doesn't threaten him) and I've found that grooming helps his anxiety (but conversely lends to being more pushy). I'm also trying to make his routine more structured, so he both feels secure and starts to recognize boundaries.
Any other ideas on how to clean up his act?
At first, I thought your post was a joke! This horse is NOT insecure. He is a rogue and a dangerous bully. Your friend is no friend to dump their problem on YOU.
First, do NOT worry about not catching this horse. You need to carry a whip and the FIRST TIME that he attempts to bite you smack him HARD in the face and say, "NO!!!" ALWAYS carry that whip with you. Your safety needs to be your FIRST CONCERN here.
When the owner comes back, THEY can deal with getting him loaded to go home.
Second, if you CAN, isolate this horse away from your other horses. I have owned/trained horses for 28 years and I have had many herd leaders. A few of them were bad leaders and one kicked my favorite horse, "Corporal", Arabian (1982-2009, RIP) SO HARD that I thought she had broken his leg. That wasn't his demise bc he died of a stroke at 27yo many years after I sold "Miss Alpo."
My current herd really like each other and I often see 2/3 of them grooming each other in the pasture, which is as it should be.
Third, and this will sound at first like I'm suggesting starving him, but you need to ask for something every time this horse gets fed. Start with the words, "Come HERE", and don't feed any hay until he does. Keep him on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE. You don't have time and don't need to compromise your safety spending any time teaching him ANY OTHER MANNERS.
If you do these things, this rogue will actually be IMPROVED when your friend takes this monster out of your hair.
Good luck, and PLEASE keep yourself and your other horses and your dogs safe. =D
Nuts to HIS anxiety.
I would go out to that pasture with a lunge whip in and and give him a taste of it for his bad behavior.
I would also give him 2 seconds of h**l every time he started to get mouthy.
IOW's unacceptable behavior has consequences.
And leave the dog in. Deal with him straight up but BE CAREFUL. Once in awhile there is a horse that will escalate the fight instead of backing down. If he is one of those you will know quickly.. so the first time you confront him be sure you have an escape route if he ups the ante and really goes for you.
Do not hesitate to use that whip and your voice where he is loose. Do not hesitate to make him work really hard every time he tries to bite you if you are working with him. If he has enough energy to bite, he has enough energy to run in circles until he's tired.
and I bet he won't be so "anxious" anymore either.
He's a spoiled, bratty, untrained 10 y/o horse. He's not 'anxious', he's been allowed to act like a heathen for a decade. If you've merely been hired as a sitter it's not your responsibility to give him manners. His owner should have done that YEARS ago.
If it were me, I'd make sure I had a dressage whip with me at all times when dealing with him. No horse is allowed to bite, kick, strike, or otherwise attack me. If they try it, they learn how painful it is. I'd also make sure I never did horse care for them again until his OWNER puts some manners on him.
OP-you have gotten really god suggestion, but I would caution you to make certain you are out of striking/kicking distance when you go for him, or you have him on a lead so that you can have control of his head and he can't turn his hind end for you. I would go with the lunge whip, not a dressage one, since it is longer. Even if he is cross-tied for grooming, I would have a lead on him.....just in case you need to get after him.
Thank you, everyone, for your comments! I really appreciate the advice!
I didn't want to admit it, but you're right, he really is a textbook bully. I just fed out lunch hay in the pasture and tried some of your suggestions. The dressage whip is definitely being helpful- he gave me space, backed up when i told him to, and figured out he should keep his teeth in his mouth (for the most part). I also asked him to back away from the fence and waited till he understood he should stand at that length before I fed him, so that was a good start, thanks Corporal!
I'm still worried about turn in and turn outs. I've been spoiled by having gates at home and past jobs, but the BO here has two rows of electrical tape to hook/ unhook. I think Corporal's point about making him accountable before he eats is especially poignant here (as well as figuring out a way to turn him out alone), but I'm still pretty sure he'll try and charge me. Any pointers on how to juggle the fence, dressage whip, and nut job?
Oh, and some pretty relevant information, his owner has been letting him run in and out to the pasture on his own for the past... however long, instead of leading. I'm pretty sure this horse almost never gets handled. I'm really not keen of letting him just run all willy nilly, but I'm also very fond of not being in the ER... Any further thoughts on that, specifically?
My BO has a horse just like what you are describing. During feeding he will charge you and run you over. He is mouthy as they come. A lunge whip will keep him away from you when you need to go in, but you better be out of striking distance when you hit him with it. Iforgot the whip once, and as he ran me over I smacked at him as hard as I could amd yelled, but before I knew what happened he had kicked me in the hand. I thought it was broke, but xrays said otherwise. This was three months ago and it still hurts, and I still can't pull open packages or twist lids off of things. I decided then that it wasnt my job to teach her horse manners, and I aviod him completely now. Tell your friend from now on you are not putting yourself in a dangerous situation.
Another thing about the biting. Do not turn your back on this horse. I had one grab my shoulder blade with his teeth once. It was an auction horse and I got comfortable and let my guard down. Bad things can happen in an instant.
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if you are only horse sitting for a short time, and you do not feel really confident that you can affect a change in his behavior going through gates, I would just do it the way the owner has done it. It's not your job to reteach him. As for carrying the whip during feeding or any time you are near him, yes!! and never turn your back on him. But I can see that juggling the fence and the horse on a lead and all would be tough.
Can you send him(with the big whip) to the far end of the paddock, work on keeping him as far away as possible for a bit, then go open the two strands of electrical tape, and then stand back to indicate he can go through?
IF you can do it, halter him with the strongest halter and double knot instead of snapping to the halter the longest lead you can sacrifice. Tie him to a post to feed him and get a good book to read to make him stand tied for at LEAST one hour each, morning and evening. Be out of the way and let him fight the rope. Be sure to untie it on the other side of the post, so make it a fence post. Even though my geldings aren't any way near this green or mean, whenever I take the trouble to untie whenEVER either of them has been spooked by something, bc if they hurt me they don't get cared for.
I would have some STRONG words for this horse's owner, including tonight's phone call that can go something like, "I know that you are on vacation, but your horse is dangerous, so I cannot handle him or feed him."
Sure, it's a lie, but they were thoughtless to leave anybody but a paid trainer the job to take care of him.
Adding to wjat corporal said, if you have a rope halter with a lead attached you can take it and put it over the top of a hitching rail and tie it to the halper piece underneath his jaw. And tie it in a quick release knot. My horse tends to sit back and its almost impossible for him to escape by pulling if I tie him like this. Its sort of hard to explain but if you need a reference photo I have one.
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