attitude change in new horse
Yep, I'm a novice...and I need some help :wink:
A week ago I got an 18 year old Tennessee Walker "dead broke", sweet docile horse that had been with 3 other horses in the "pasture". Brought him home, saddled him up and rode him the first few days. 5 days later, I go out in the field to get him, and he won't let me put his halter on, rears his head back, walks away, turns his back. Then he turns around and starts walking at me in a fast pace, ears flat back, gets closer and does a turnaround, rears up then kicks his back legs. For 3 days now, he will come in the barn when called, eats his grain, eats snacks from my hand, lets me pet him and brush him, but starts acting all naughty when I try to put his halter or bridle on and acts like he's going to kick, or runs out of the barn. Any suggestions? advice? Feeling frustrated! :-x
Is he the only horse now? I feel it's a definite lack of respect and trust issue. I would do a lot of ground work with him to get his respect. Any time he does something that you don't like, put him to work. His attitude should change pretty quickly.
this horse was in a pasture with three horses, now he is alone? That could be really stressful for him. He may have come from a situation where he was not the dominant horse but now thinks he is. I really don't know and it doesn't matter.
I would have left him alone in his new setting for some time before riding him to allow him to acclimate.
you will have to do as the other post said and start establishining dominance so that he wont' react by coming toward you aggressively nor turning and threatening to kick.
Do as she said and shush the horse off of you if it comes with any sort of stink eye. You can tell, can't you? If your pasture is small enough, you will keep approaching the horse, and if it doesn't stand nicely and wait for you, then you will drive it around the pasture until it realized that you will not go away and it won't get a moment's peace until it lets you catch it.
There are several threads about how to catch a horse that doesn't want to be caught. Do a search and see what you get.
Also, when you approach the horse, keep the halter and lead down by your side, kind of downplay their presence, but walk up to your horse like you have no ulterior motive. Just la de dah like you would walk up to a friend. If he lets you get up and pet him, then turn and walk away. Do that a few times, with breaks in between and then you may be able to just slip the lead rope over his neck, this will hold him long enough for you to gently slip the halter on.
He is definitely just figuring out that he can get away with a lot more with you than his former owners. But you will learn and he will relearn how to be a polite horse. You'll be amazed at the tranformation when you can convince him that you are the boss.
It seems 'honeymoon period' has worn off. Now, please don't start yelling out that the horse was drugged when you got him - I think far too many sellers are accused of drugging horses because the horse changes temperament after a few days.
The 'honeymoon period' usually lasts a few days where the horse is good as gold. In this time, they seem to be sussing the new owner out, and when they think they've got you sussed, the 'testing' behaviour begins. Some horses barely do anything other than trying to push a little into your space, but others will go all out guns blazing, and will turn into a bucking bronco when purchased as dead broke and quiet as a lamb.
The trick is, do not give him an inch. If he moves into your space, push him away. If he goes to bite, let him know that it's not on. Don't take any garbage from him at all. I know its a new horse and you want to kiss and cuddle and make friends and develop this 'mysterious bond' that you see on the Horse Whisperer, but this tends to be where new owners come unstuck and the horse turns into a lunatic.
As Tiny said, he's just measuring you up to see if you'll let him get away with anything, or if you're tough like his old owners. Usually once you get through this testing stage, then you'll be able to 'be friends'. I'm not sure if you've witnessed a new horse being introduced to a paddock of other horses that have already established their 'pecking order'... but its a good demonstration of exactly what I'm saying. The new horse comes in, they all sniff noses and squeal a bit, and then depending on how dominant the new horse is, they will start fighting - kicking, biting, invading each others space. This can go on for a few days, until a new pecking order is established, slotting the new horse into his place. Then they're all 'big happy family' and very little fighting occurs.
He is the only horse now, he was not where he came from, I think the mare in the group was the "boss". Maybe I gave him too much freedom by letting him be in a larger pasture by himself so soon. Should I put him in a smaller gated area for a while?
horses are herd animals and do NOT do well alone for the most part. most horses need to be with other horses or at worst other barnyard animals for companionship. the first thing i would do is find a place to keep your horse where he can have a pasture buddy. and food for thought - two horses buddied up can be just as hard to deal with as one alone because when you bring one out to ride the other can get nervous/upset and then you wind up with two horses acting out for being separated (also known as being herdbound).
three horses in a field (or more) is ideal so that you can take one out to ride and leave the others and there is less of a chance of a meltdown. however i understand that owning multiple horses is not always feasible so i often recommend - esp to new horse owners that adopt through the rescue - that they find a place to board their horse where he can have equine companionship and the comfort/security of a herd (as this is an instinctual need for a horse) and the owner can benefit from having other people to ride with and potentially learn from.
now while my first guess is that this horse is suffering from depression and anxiety over being isolated from any herd, there is also the chance that in addition if you are using different tack than he was used to that the tack you are using is ill-fitting and causing pain issues as well. if you are not using the same tack that the horse has always gone in, check for pressure points and saddle fit, check for bit fit, see if the bit is comparable to what he was using, and so on.
finally, please keep in mind that every horse is different. while a horse's natural instincts are to be with other horses, not EVERY horse will become upset or agitated if kept alone. some horses prefer private turnout with a view of other horses. some horses are even more of an exception and don't mind being alone without another horse in sight at all. some horses enjoy the company of a goat or pig or other barnyard companion over that of another horse. every horse is different. what is important is to learn what YOUR horse needs and go from there. best of luck to you!
Thanks to everyone for responses. I did purchase the horse with is own bridle/pad and saddle that he had been using while the previous owners had him. Although they are little pets, there are chickens, cats, dog and rabbits for him to chat with. This morning was much better, he came right up to the smaller gated area this morning when I called him, and I worked him in that area for a little while, then he came up to me and I very easily got his halter on, then put his bridle and saddle on and had a very enjoyable ride, we rode over to a patch of winter wheat and he had a little snack of that ;) Hopefully things will continue to improve more over time as I learn with the horse.
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