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Kicking & Pawing During Grooming?
A Thoroughbred gelding named Dream Catcher that I use for lessons has a tendancy to always paw with his front hooves, and pick up his back legs to try and kick while he is being groomed. I really don't think it's a health problem that causes grooming to hurt him, but rather behavioral issues. This is clearly not safe, and annoying because I'm constantly stopping. So, is there anything I can do to maybe stop this or prevent him from keeping it up? Thanks for any help!
First, this behavior has nothing to do with grooming. Second, if this isn't your horse then it's the owners responsibility to fix it. Finally, don't stop grooming when he kicks or paws. Stay out of the way and keep grooming.
To me this horse needs some basic ground training -- starting with you being able to work all around him safely. Kevinshorses has a good point that if it's not your horse, you shouldn't have to train it, but on the other hand, you don't want to get hurt either, so it's a discussion that needs to be had with the owner.
I would keep a crop handy at all times. When he lifts his back foot for any reason other than you asking him to move, you tell him no and force his weight back onto it by pushing or pulling depending where you are standing. You can push his butt from the opposite side, pull his tail or pull his head; whatever you need to do to change the weight and depending on the risk to yourself for a potential kick. He must understand that his feet have to stay on the ground at all times.
For his pawing, you can again force his weight, but I have always found that more difficult in the front. A firm no and pressure on the top of his leg to push it down might help. If necessary, smack him with the crop, lightly first and progressively harsher if needed.
In any event, if he actually kicks or provides a "I-wanna-kick-but-I'm-not-quite-sure-I-can-get-away-with-it" kick, he needs a solid smack with the crop on his back leg/haunch with your no and possibly and really nice big freak out on him, depending on his personality. Might be an idea to be close enough to the tie to be able to quick release and back him right away as well. No leniency whatsoever with the kicking.
I would watch him for ANY sort of behavior that is disrespectful. The pawing and kicking are only a part of it. Any time you are near him, be sure that YOU are the one dictating when he can and can't move. If you are moving hay or shavings or whatever be sure that he has to get out of your way, not that you are working around him. You must be the bully, not him.
If others are working with this horse, you all need to be at the same table.
Edited to add: agreed, do not stop grooming him. Discipline, then continue as before. Discipline as often as necessary and continue.
Thanks for your help.
I wouldnt pass this behaviour off as him just being rude and disrespectful completely. He could be a highly sensitive horse or he could be sore. Has he always done this is or is it a new behaviour?
Is there any particular area you are grooming when he does this?
If he just does it in general, he's probably impatient. Hoover does the paw and the head toss when being trimmed, because he's my ADHD horse :-P. I firmly tell him no, and take a pinch of his neck skin and twist it if he doesn't listen. The minute he stops, I release the skin.
As for the kicking, make sure you discipline him when he raises his leg, before he kicks, if you can catch it.
And everyone's absolutely right...do not stop grooming him unless you are in physical danger and have to jump out of the way.
You learn to deal with it and eventually the horse does it less and less when it finds it doesn't get a rise out of you.
I read somewhere that you could tie an object to a string, and then tie it around the horse's foot so that when he paws the object flies up and pops his leg. In theory it would punish the horse every time so he wouldn't want to do it.
I've never done it, never seen it, I just read about it one time. So ...maybe it'd work? Obviously don't use something that would really hurt. Kind of like the cracking an egg on a horse's poll when it rears.
Agreed: could use some behavioural evaluation and ground work. While determining the cause and remedy, you could try different brushes/techniques, on the chance that he is just hypersensitive (not unusual at all for some TBs).
My Paso Fino gelding always paws when I groom him because he's impatient to ride, and/or hungry. He doesn't kick though.....that's my Paint Clydesdale, who's soon to be sold
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