How to deal with aggressive behavior? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 01:33 AM Thread Starter
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How to deal with aggressive behavior?

I have a 5 yr old TWH gelding which I purchased about 4 months ago. He is broke but is still pretty raw. He has only occasionally been ridden or worked over the past 2 1/2 years. He is a bit hornery and is still not completely respectful of me. However, we seem to be making progress. I have felt in the past few weeks that he is coming around and beginning to demonstrate more respect for me. I have usually been able to walk up to him in the pasture and halter him without incident. He sometimes lays his ears back and moves away, but will usually comply and stand still to be haltered after I persist. Today, however, he reacted much differently. When I approached him in the pasture with halter and lead rope in hand, he laid his ears back and turned away. When I persisted to move toward him with the halter, he lunged at me with his jaws gaping. He clearly intended to bite me. I instinctively swung the halter at him and he retreated. I took a few seconds to consider this unusually aggressive behavior, then moved forward again with the halter extended. This time he raised up his head very high and again laid his ears back. I stopped my pursuit in anticipation of another possible bite attempt, he then proceeded to charge me. I was, at this point, about 10 feet away from him. I was able to smack his head with the end if the lead rope which caused him to stop and turn away. I stood my ground for about 15 seconds and decided to back away to a safe position near the barn. I apologize for this long story. But I am really puzzled about what to do at this point. I am upset with myself that I let him prevail... But frankly I was concerned for my safety as I was alone with him in the pasture, except for 4 other horses. I will also admit that I will be nervous the next time that I attempt to halter him.... Which I know that he will sense. I would appreciate any advice on how I should handle this situation. Thanks!
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post #2 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 01:57 AM
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Don't feel bad, I would have backed off too. I know it is not the ideal situation, but you were there alone and he came at you twice. Your safety is the most important thing, the retraining can be dealt with another day when you are not alone.

But I think next time you go out to him you need to have at least someone with you, and you need to dominate him. If I were you, I would be armed with all sorts of things, a bucket, a riding whip and a lunge whip.
I would crack the lunge whip if he came at me from a distance away, throw the bucket at him if he got closer (none of which would hurt him) and then whack him with the whip (but not on the head) if he came closer yet. All while yelling and getting as big as possible. I tend to yell in the deepest voice I can manage and it comes out as some kind of bizarre Asian language (I am not Asian, nor do I speak any of the Asian languages) but all my animals seem to understand my Asian like gibberish. I have no idea why I do that, it is just what comes out :)

Once you can halter him, most if not all of the time, you then need to work on all the other ground work and make sure he knows you are boss and he is not.

Edit - just an extra thought, as you have only had him for 4 months, I think he is probably testing you to see what he can get away with.

Last edited by AlexS; 10-20-2010 at 02:00 AM.
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post #3 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 02:19 AM
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My mare will do that sometimes during groundwork, but if I take a step toward her and yell no, that is the end of it, and she;ll go back to working quietly. But, I have the advantage of knowing that she is really a coward at heart. I'm not saying that is what you should do. I would keep driving him away from you with the halter and lead rope, then follow him from a safe distance and keep driving him off. Even when he shows that he wants to come to you, keep driving him off. Occasionally stop, turn your back on him and ask him to come to you, if he does not come to you, drive him off again. Keep repeating it until he comes to you willingly. This will actually accomplish two things; 1: it will show him that you are a dominant member of the herd by moving his feet and 2: it will defuse the aggression that he is showing toward you. When you do allow him to come to you, put the halter on him, reward him, then remove it and walk away for a while. Don't be surprised if he follows you back to the barn when you walk off. This basically teaches him that with you he gets to relax and away from you he has to work. One tip though, if you don't want him so close to you that you have to hit him with the halter and lead rope, carry your lounge whip with you, and use it as an extension of your arm. Also remember that you can change the direction that he is traveling without a halter and lead rope on him, simply by changing what side of him you are on. You can do this without ever leaving a walk.

All of that aside, you need to do a lot of ground work with this gelding. You have got to get him to respect you! And the sooner you do, the sooner his aggression toward you will stop.
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post #4 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 09:21 AM Thread Starter
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AlexS and PaintedFury, Great advice! One more question.... If, when I approach him in the pasture to halter him, he appears to be willing to accept the halter, but lays his ears back when I begin to put it on him, should I retreat immediately or continue to put on the halter until he actually becomes aggressive? Thanks!
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post #5 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 09:43 AM
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Never retreat. You are only reinforcing his behavior!!! I sooo agree with Paintedfury. Keep him moving!!!! If you approach him and he seems willing to let you do so, but pins his ears back, move him again with aggression. Until you can approach him without any aggression from him then and only then can you halter him. Do you have a paddock small enough for him to be in for awhile? Are there other horses in with him? Every time you go out to get him are you taking him and working him? If so, he is telling you he doesnt want to be worked. But you cant let him get away with that. If you have a smaller paddock put him in it alone. Work with him in there. Approach him with halter and lead and retreat only when you get a good attitude from him. When this gets better, halter him and take him out to eat grass or brush him and talk to him. No work. Do this for several days. He will start to associate you and the halter/lead as a good thing not bad. Start to break up your time with him. Take him out, let him eat or brush him then put him back. Next time, go in, and slowly start him back to work. Horses get sour sometimes when constantly taken out and worked.
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post #6 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 12:30 PM
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I couldn't agree more with mbender! This is great advice!!!

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post #7 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 01:54 PM
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Even if the horse just pins his ears at you when you try to halter him, that is still a sign of aggression, and unchecked it will get worse. Drive him off even if it's only that he's pinning his ears at you. You want to halter him while he is showing no signs of aggression. It will take work. And you do need to vary what you do with him when you catch him. I get around my horse getting soured on being caught by giving a good grooming session both before and after I work her. But she loves being groomed, so she really enjoys it. I try to start and end each session with something that she likes. Even hand grazing outside the pasture. But you can only do this once you have your horses respect. Every horse will test you from time to time, but you can't back down when they do. I know it can be intimidating when you have a 1,000 lb animal charging at you, but most horses are really cowards at heart, so when you don't retreat or advance on them they will immediately back down. If you feel insecure about doing this alone, and I don't blame you if you do, take a friend out with you. That way if anything happens you'll have help.
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post #8 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 02:19 PM Thread Starter
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I hope to try these techniques later this afternoon with my bad boy. I will post on that experience. Thanks!!
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post #9 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by mbender View Post
but pins his ears back, move him again with aggression.

If you have a smaller paddock put him in it alone. Work with him in there.

No work.
Have his ears been checked for plaque, ticks, sores, etc? It is possible his ears hurt and he is anticipating the haltering.

Yes - work him alone if you are having issues catching him.

I disagree with the no work for a period of time. The problems will revert or progress when the horse does go back into work. You do not have to work on a daily basis, but do not stop working to only focus on this issue.
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post #10 of 19 Old 10-20-2010, 02:31 PM
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I agree with the comments to get his feet moving... and not just trotting but really moving out. I personally wouldn't care if he is alone or with other horses, it's not too terribly difficult for the other horses to figure out you're only chasing him and not them. It also demonstrates to the whole herd that you are the boss.

Basically give him the choice of being with you, he doesn't have to, but if he turnes away or walks off he is going to do some serious work- the only chance he gets to rest is if he is quietly facing you.

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