Problems lounging (Horse kicks at my head)
I have a three year old paint gelding. He was gelded as a yearling, and as a stallion he was a complete gentleman. He was extremely mild mannered. About a week after he was gelded, on our daily walks around the barn to help him stretch, he started acting up. He would spook at nothing and get really testy. My vet told me not to worry, because all newly gelded horses go through a bit of a hormone rage for up to two months after they're gelded. Well my horse never really grew out of that.
His ground manners are superb, except for the farrier, but that's a story for another day. He is sweet and gentle all other times. He's even great around small animals, including my barn cats, chickens, and MinPins.
The problem is, as soon as you get him on the lunge line and try to get him moving, he kicks at your head. I've even had him do this for a professional trainer. It's not even him kicking just to kick. He turns his butt at you and will back up in your direction. He's even chased me once or twice. He managed to get me in the chin once. It dislocated both sides of my jaw and split my lip.
To be perfectly honest, I'm a bit afraid of him now. Even just in his pasture at liberty, I don't trust him. I feel like I'm always making up excuses not to be with him or handle him. Now don't get me wrong, I love him very much, and he's definitely a loved member of this family.
I guess what I'd like to know is
A: Is there a way to keep him from kicking out, or any excersizes I can try to relax him?
B: What can I do to build my trust back up in him?
C: (this seems like such a newb question, but) can I progress in his training without lunging him?
Unfortunatly, it sounds like you may be in over your head on this one. Whatever the reason for his naughty behavior, it seems like you may have inadvertently reinforced it because you are nervous around him and let him get the upper hand. Right now you are not a leader, he is and I think it may take someone else to get him back under control to where you may be able to work with him.
Does he only do it on the lunge? Can you walk him and handle him in a halter okay?
He only does it while lunging. I can lead him, tie him, pick up his feet. He's bomb proof. I have desensitized him to the whip, balloons, gunfire, dogs, cars, car horns, everything I can think of. He pivots well, both on the haunches and the forequarters in both directions.
I do understand what you're saying, but there is no way I am feeding his habit on this. I haven't lunged him in months. He has been working with three professional trainers. The first one dropped him because she got kicked. The second one I dropped because he refused to try working with him (heard stories from the first trainer), and he does the same thing with the trainer I have now.
What do you do when he starts these behaviors?
It is possible to continue working without lunging (maybe he has gotten sour on it?) but the fact that he would act out in such an extreme way would cause my great concern especially if you've already lost your confidence around him.
When he first started doing it, I was pretty much in the mindset of "no big deal, he spooked, keep him moving" and he worked through it pretty quickly. Then he got me in the face. I think that's what got him to do it consistantly. I actually lost consciousness for a few minutes and had to be rushed to the ER. So pretty much, he was free to run around the round pen as he pleased. I heard that somebody brought him in for me, but because of what happened and the fact that they didn't know him they used a stud chain and a twitch on him. Ever since then (and since then only other people have lunged him) he immediately starts with this kicking. Before that incident it would happen at about the five minute mark. Now it's the first thing he does.
What about a whip with a plastic bag on the end?
Sarahver just posted a great description about how to behave when a horse displays aggressive behavior in the thread under this section by Princecharlie. I will probably repeat some of the information here.
Even softies like me who work with horses all the time understand there is a time when you have to be aggressive enough that your horse believes you are going to kill him. This has to be done WITHOUT anger or spite (he is a horse and does not fully understand that when he kicks you that it might kill you). But there are a few behaviors from horses that should be met with zero tolerance. Kicking at you, biting you, stomping on you, etc. When these behaviors are directed intentionally at you, you must show extreme aggression toward the horse. This means loud noises, smacks, snapping with the whip, hitting with rope, anything that will not actually injure your horse but will scare him into thinking you could kill him if you wanted to.
Now if I were training your horse, I have to think that rule #1 while lunging is that the hind end never comes toward me. I would also feel that I had two safety zones: one where I was too close for him to kick me, and one where I was too far away. I would start out snubbed up to his nose, leading him. I would turn his nose into me and his hind end out of the circle. Then I would ask him to walk forward following me as I backed away. I would feed him a couple of inches of rope, move slightly toward a more normal lunging position, and if the hind end ever started toward me I would pull the head back in to me and use the lunge whip to get his hind end back out. I would work on getting a little farther away from his nose, but if he ever turned that butt or threatened me you would hear me yelling, snapping the lunge whip and whacking him on the butt with the whip. I would work up to a distance where I felt he could almost reach me with his kickers if he tried (but was still walking nicely with his butt angled out just a bit), and then I would scoot out to a distance where I knew he couldn't reach me. From this safe distance I would do the same thing: severely punish the hind end turning toward me, rewarding a gentle walk on the line. If he decided to back toward me, I would pull that head around to face me, using the leverage of the lunge line, or even running around to face his head and then regaining control. If he decided to charge me, I would first swing the lunge line back and forth hard so the buckle smacked him in the face, and if that didn't stop him I would have my arms up waving and smack him hard on the face with the lunge whip. He's only 3 and has not had problems with aggressiveness, so it seems to me that he should be easy to bluff and not very practiced at aggressive behavior. Even so, if you are afraid of him you need to find a real trainer (or just an experienced horse person) who can work on retraining him how to lunge.
You can ride and be around horses without lunging them. I'm amazed sometimes at how many horses people are riding around daily don't know how to lunge. BUT if your horse knows he can show aggressive behavior and have you flinch away from him, he is smart enough to know that he can do this when he is not lunging as well.
Be careful also that you make sure when he is not displaying any bad behavior that you let him go back to lunging normally. If your cues get confusing he may think he can turn to face you and avoid lunging. I would practice lunging at the walk nicely for at least several days before going any faster. If I found I couldn't control his head with a halter, I would lunge with a bit and bridle on.
OK, just a few suggestions in case you wanted some ideas for working with the horse yourself.
Only thing I would add here is get a whip. A big one. And use it!
Don't hit him of course but make sure you can crack it really well and get after him as soon as he begins to show signs of aggression, really make a big deal of it. That type of behaviour is NOT acceptable.
What your horse has learned is very unacceptable behavior brought on most likely, because he has "won the battle by using the weapon that is available to him namely his hind feet. The experience with having been twitched and a nose chain used did not help matters at all.
What you need to do, if it's worth the risk involved, is "arm yourself" with a "weapon" since he has already used his hind feet as such. You'll need a lunge whip or stock whip at least 4 foot long. When the horse swings his hind end toward you give him one welt on the rump. Do the same thing when he comes at you in the "charging mode", but go for the nose with the whip. Only until he backs down and you have "won" in his book. You'll more than likely will have to carry the lunge whip or stock whip anytime your around him just in case he reverts back to using his "weapons".
If you stop lunging him all together that is only avoiding the problem not curing/fixing it.
Just read your response Candyandy and I wanted to add: If he actually kicks at you then yes, I would sure as hell be swatting him on the butt.
Preferably you want to have the right timing so that you can get after him by cracking the whip before he actually kicks out. He'll tell you what he is about to do with his body language. As soon as he starts showing signs of dominance/defiance crack that whip and drive him to the outside of the round pen before he even has a chance to raise a leg.
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