Question about bad behavior - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 03:58 AM Thread Starter
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Question about bad behavior

This is my first time posting in this forum, I've actually joined because of a specific question but I'll probably end up spending more time on the site so a proper introduction will probably be coming soon. Before I describe my problem i
I'll give just a little background info. Although I'm posting in the new to horses section, I've been around them for most of my life. However, I only became an owner a year or so ago and know I still have much to learn. I would not say I'm beginner, but certainly no expert. I currently have two quarter horse geldings: one incredibly stout grade ranch horse, and the other a retired racer with a thouroughbred build and mindset. The stout one is 6yo and an absolute gentle giant. The other is 12 and a little obnoxious at times.

My problem occurred today as I was saddling them to teach a friend how to ride. I had them tied and ready to go as my friend got there. I was going to put him on the six year old, because he's by far the better horse despite his young age. I went to unhitch the racer in the way I always have, and something set him off. He reared up and got very close to striking me. It took half a minute to calm him down. I always use a tension knot to avoid damage to my fence in this type of situation. Of course, Today I was unable to do that and he tipped my fence considerably before I could free him. I got him loose and led him out and ensures he had cooled off and was ready to go. I then went to unhitch the other. He acted fine as I approached and checked his tack. I went to untie him and he lost his mind. He reared and jumped and trashed. There was no calming this horse that is usually a borderline deadhead. I couldn't free him and as I reached for my knife to cut the lead, he broke the fencepost (two inch stell tube sunk into cement) and proceeded to backflip. My saddle did not survive. These two horses have been through this routine a hundred times no problem. The only thing I can think of that might have caused the problem is that this occurred 30 minutes before their usual feeding time. I've dealt with hungry horses, but that seems a little extreme to me. I'm actually feeding them a little extra lately, as the racer is sort of a hard keeper. Could being sort of hungry really cause such bad behavior? I almost believe my grade horse was following the others bad behavior in a way. He's been nothing short of a model citizen until we put him in with the racer. I hope to hear some thoughts on this.

Thanks for reading,
Nick in Sivogah, UT
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post #2 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 05:51 AM
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Hi Nick, welcome!

One lesson that has constantly been drummed into me since pony club is do not tie solid. It's not so much not to tie solid, but more don't tie solid unless you're sure of the circumstances. To me that mainly is, if I'm not sure whatever it is will hold with all the weight of the horse, I tie the horse to a tie-up ring or some twine. They'll both break with the weight of the horse. All my clips between my halters and leads are pretty cheap and will easily break under pressure, so that way, I know that if my horse gets tangled up it will break. However, I know my horse is fine with tying, these are only for "emergency" situations. The quick release knots - once there is pressure on the rope they're not going to get undone.

I don't know what caused it. That much of a routine change shouldn't have such an extreme reaction. It's dangerous for horses to rear to the point where they flip - so most aren't going to do it unless they're pretty freaked out. I also don't think the TBs behaviour would cause the QHs, after that much of an interval.

It would be my guess, that something caused them to do that. Not sure what would, perhaps a snake? Was there anything out of the ordinary happening?
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post #3 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 08:36 AM
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I agree with Saskia never hard tie a horse to something they can break.

Secondly regardless of the reason the horses flipped out you now have a problem on your hands that needs to be corrected, and I am willing to bet there are some other holes with their behavior that you don't recognize or think are not a problem. I would advise that you not hard tie either one of them so this type thing does not happen again.

Just because they have done something a thousand times does not preclude them from something going wrong, they are horses, horses are prey animals with fast reaction time, flight or fight. Both of yours went into flight mode, then fight mode in a matter of seconds, thankfully no one was hurt, but your saddle was destroyed that could have been you or your horse. I suggest you find someone with a lot of experience with horses to come watch you and see if they can point out anything that is amiss. Be safe
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post #4 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 09:28 AM
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Wasp or big horsefly?? You may never know for sure but you may now have a bit of tying/retraining to do.
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post #5 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 10:25 AM
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First thing that came to mind was what Boo said..... However, you may never really know.

I agree with the rest who have stated not to tie to something that will break or tie a knot that is not a slip knot etc.

No matter how trained my horses are or how many times they have done something....I never take that for granted. I always have in the back of my mind that something could go wrong at any time.

Equestrian Life - Videos: Tying Knots for Horse Safety
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post #6 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 11:05 AM
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I believe in tying to something solid. If that horse starts flipping out, get out of the way! I never rush in to a horse pulling and thrashing against being tied, it's dangerous.
If you don't have something solid to tie to, I suggest the 2nd tie ring on here: D Rings and Tie Loops since it slowly lets out the rope if the hors freaks out

Last edited by tinyliny; 08-25-2013 at 12:31 AM.
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post #7 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 12:09 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. As I said in the first post, I rarely tie solid. In the situation I was in yesterday however, there wasn't really a way not to tie a quick release. I don't believe it was a snake or insect either. It occurred at the exact second I went to untie each of them. The main thing confusing me is their body language at the time. They didn't look or act spooked, so much as they showed signs of being irritable, frustrated or angry. After my QH backflipped he jumped right up and started crow hopping around the pasture while showing signs that looked closer to playful then scared or angry. He actually looked like he was proud of himself afterwards if that makes sense. I was able to approach him almost immediately after. He had his back leg cocked, head down and eyes half closed. He was a content horse once he was free. That's why to me, it came across almost as a temper tantrum from a hungry horse that just didn't want to ride. The fact that they behaved so similarly has me puzzled though.
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post #8 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 12:28 PM
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Hunger especially if regularly fed shouldn't do that even if routine changes and you are expecting them to work before feeding. That said feeding early if you knew you would be riding if there was no way to ride at a later time or making sure they had hay to occupy them and put something in their belly far enough in advance that there not be an issue. For both horses to respond I'd have to ask if this was a usual tie space for them. It would be unusual for both horses to have the same reaction that far apart and it not be something with where they are tied or you, your friend or both. I'd start tying and untying and see if it happens again. Likely you will have issues and having someone around with more experience than you would be helpful. Not saying you couldn't handle it but if this is totally out of character it is always advisable to have someone with you no matter your experience level.
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post #9 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 01:14 PM
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Could there have been an electrical shock involved? this reminds me of when I grounded the water tank, horse touched it and went wacko from the shock.

What I mean is that a loose elec. fence wire was touching the water tank, I brought horse up and somehow I either touched the wire, or just him touching the water tank was enough to shock him.
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post #10 of 11 Old 08-24-2013, 07:15 PM
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At least no one was hurt. The other things can be replaced or fixed.
I agree with gssw5 on this one. In that unless your horses were experiencing some kind of illness or were physically uncomfortable/fearful itís more likely that they have been building up to this for quite some time without you realising it. Once youíve ruled out illness and discomfort chances are that, over time, your horses have been committing minor mistakes that have gone uncorrected because they seemed at the time to be nothing to be concerned about. Some of these mistakes might have gone completely unnoticed. Although neither horse has reacted this badly before, my moneyís on them having been quietly working away at getting to this point and you may not have recognised them planting the seeds along the way.

Horses behave in ways we donít want them to for just one reason: TO GET A REWARD. It could be to get something they like (food). But the most common reward a horse will seek out is being able to avoid something they donít like (using up too much energy).

You can be almost certain that for your grade horse to react the way he did, he saw the first horse rewarded for his efforts in some way. I think almost all of us have fallen into the trap of Ďgiving the horse time to calm downí after things have taken a turn for the worse. But we must keep in mind that this only reinforces the bad behaviour. Even a break in the action lasting just seconds is a powerful reward and motivates the horse much more than we think.
By the sound of it, you were unable to complete the ride, which is understandable. Still though itís the REWARD the horses wanted.

The first thing you must do to prevent this behaviour is to be hyper alert for even minor changes in your horseís behaviour and correct immediately (not 10 seconds later but within Ĺ a second). Second (once everyone's safety is established), is to get back to what you were doing, even if you have to go back a step or two in the exercise in order to end the session on a positive for you both.

Good luck!
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