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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've had Pickles a month now, and recently a certain vice of his has come to light, no doubt helped along by my BO's habit of hand-feeding treats to him every day (despite me saying no, but she still does...one of the many reasons we're moving barns in a week).

He's very mouthy. I do not tolerate him grabbing my clothing. When first he did this, I made the angry "Aaaa" sound...I hope you know the one...and made a quick motion with my hands. He'd let go and it would be fine and dandy.

Recently, he's been aiming for skin. I'm not sure where this came from but I have a feeling it has something to do with me not having treats for him when he expects it. Last time he managed to nip me, my fist flew toward his nose but his head was up in a second and I missed. I reprimanded him in a deep angry voice and got him to trot away from me.

Next time he tried it, I actually managed to land one on his nose, but this just p*ssed him off even further. The ears went back, the tail swished and he invaded my space. I didn't have a rope or whip or anything with me so I started waving my arms and yelling at him and lunging at him to move back, but he was having nothing of it and getting more aggresive by the second. Then the next moment something falls in the neighbor's workshop and he spooks and bolts off.

He's normally very sweet on the ground but when you tell him off aggressively for nipping at your clothing in play behaviour, he just gets worse...and it's not a play behaviour any more but a push for dominance and a dangerous situation. I really popped him that one time, his nose was closer than I expected.

I might add that the mere presence of a whip sets him off tearing around the paddock, and thwacking it on the ground only makes him lunge at you. Landing it on his chest to get him to back off makes him strike out. Otherwise I'd take the whip in with me to tell him off...not hit him, but get him out of my space...whenever the biting resurfaces, but it just seems to make matters worse.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Second...he has food issues. Which makes sense as he was about a 2.5 on the body condition scale when we got him. He's become super aggressive at feeding time...rearing close by, bucking, ears pinned, tearing around. As I come into the paddock with the hay, he invades my space again and I growl/yell at him, but like I explained earlier this makes him even more aggressive. The last few times I have made him stand by his feeding tire a few seconds before dumping it in there.

I accept he might always have some slight issues, but will this extreme behaviour dissipate through time as he becomes more trustful of us?

This new barn has a trainer who will be helping us with him but I wanted to know any possible suggestions you may have. He is 13, a gelding and a purebred arab. He has been shuffled from home to home and from my knowledge has mostly been sitting for over a year. His previous owner let him get away with a lot of stuff.

I'm aware it's a dominance issue, but if a hard pop in the nose only makes him more defensive, what can be done?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
See, I think he does fear the whip, but reacts offensively to it rather than running...like the "fight" response overriding the flight, which sounds unreasonable but it's all I can come up with. It's almost like he's been beat with a whip before and has it in his mind that he is going to attack the whip-holder before the whip attacks him.

This trainer knows her stuff so I'm hoping she can help. I got ahold of his breeder recently and apparently he is a responsive ride and has done longe line classes with a young child on his back before, but this issue about not being able handle a reprimand when he is naughty needs to be fixed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
As far as the feeding issue, perhaps what he is talking about would work...


Only problem, is he is boarded and I can not be there all the time to halter him when I feed. Current BO is scared to enter his paddock at this point so she swings the food over the fence. New place has them in smaller runs with the tubs right next to the fence, so the feeder does the same. :/

Man I can't wait until they are in our backyard...
 

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You are doing it right. When it comes to him invading your space. Just dont back down. I think he is testing you. Nip it in the butt now. I would prohibit anyone from feeding him treats by hand until you get his nipping, biting and aggression under control. I also think with the feeding issue, he will settle down when he learns to trust you. I know how you feel about wanting him in your own backyard. I would be worried someone could only be making his aggression worse. My horses arent in my backyard but they are at my relatives and its nice to be able to know they arent being abused physically or mentally. Just do your best with him. If it seems to get worse even tho you are doing your damnest I would try and find another barn. I know,,, easier said then done. I would work with him on the ground. Make him move his feet backward, sideways and forward. If he protests, and he will.. keep at it. He needs to realize you are his leader. Yes use the whip. I would try to desensitize him to it. Rub him alot with it. Scratch him with it. Just an extension of your hand. If it becomes a very dangerous situation then I suggest a trainer. You know your limits. He doesnt respect you yet nor does he trust you. But until you figure out what you want to do, try not to let him get away with any of it. Good luck. I would also watch alot of Clinton Anderson. teaching for respect, I think that's what its called. I think he is a great trainer. Just my opinion.
 

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Okay, I just thought of something, so forgive me if you said this in the OP. These charging problems, are they in his stall, or out in the field?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
You are doing it right. When it comes to him invading your space. Just dont back down. I think he is testing you. Nip it in the butt now. I would prohibit anyone from feeding him treats by hand until you get his nipping, biting and aggression under control. I also think with the feeding issue, he will settle down when he learns to trust you. I know how you feel about wanting him in your own backyard. I would be worried someone could only be making his aggression worse. My horses arent in my backyard but they are at my relatives and its nice to be able to know they arent being abused physically or mentally. Just do your best with him. If it seems to get worse even tho you are doing your damnest I would try and find another barn. I know,,, easier said then done. I would work with him on the ground. Make him move his feet backward, sideways and forward. If he protests, and he will.. keep at it. He needs to realize you are his leader. Yes use the whip. I would try to desensitize him to it. Rub him alot with it. Scratch him with it. Just an extension of your hand. If it becomes a very dangerous situation then I suggest a trainer. You know your limits. He doesnt respect you yet nor does he trust you. But until you figure out what you want to do, try not to let him get away with any of it. Good luck. I would also watch alot of Clinton Anderson. teaching for respect, I think that's what its called. I think he is a great trainer. Just my opinion.
Thank you for the advice. Yeah, he is being moved at the end of this week (fingers crossed) to this new place where I don't have to worry about people feeding him treats and doing odd things around him behind my back. :?

I've been doing a lot of groundwork with him, on the lead rope and the longe line. He leads fine and stops with his head at my shoulder the instant I stop. He was violent longeing in his least favourite direction, but I can now get him to halt, walk, trot through voice both directions...he licks and chews, puts his head down. I can control him and I seem to have obtained the alpha position.

But what I've been noticing is that when the halter is off, he immedietly looses respect. If I go into his paddock to just say hi or clean or feed, with him sans halter, he starts trying to grab my clothing...I growl or reprimand him sharply with my voice, the ears immedietly go back and he starts grabbing with more earnest. I throw my hands at him, he does little rears and jigging and tail swishing...and it escalates from there. He's not mean, but once that halter is off it's like we're back at square one. If the halter is on, and he's tied or being led, he's absolutely fine.

I never back down...but I've had some near misses. I've been watching training videos and I know you're not supposed to give ground, as that's a signal to him that he's won, but it's kinda hard to not dodge to the side and take a few steps back when he whirls around and kicks out.

Like I said, I've been working on the respect thing when he's on a line or lead rope, and he's picture perfect and seems to have given in, but once the halter is off...

So...I'm not disheartened at all, I'm willing to work him through this (hey, he was free afterall...those types of horses usually come with some baggage :wink:).


justsambam - He's in a large paddock right now. In the new place he will be in a much smaller area with a horse on either side...it's the equivelent in size to a stall with a run, although the "stall" part is a three-sided shelter on the end.
 

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I would use his "fear" of the whip to your advantage. I would walk in with the whip, if he invades your space wave it around and let him tear around the pasture. Then when he comes back and if he's respectful keep the whip down, if he tries to dominate you then bring it and your energy back up and send him away. If he learns that dominating you = work and being nice and calm = peace then he should get the picture. Instead of getting into a wrestling match with a horse, you want to keep them moving. Just shoving him away will result in him dominating you, but if you send him far away and only allow him to come back when he behaves he will probably pick it up fast.
Also, don't stand your ground and get run over. If bailing is the difference between being hurt or standing your ground then by all means MOVE! If your horse is striking and coming after you, you standing your ground is not going to solve the problem and moving is not really going to make it any worse. As long as you moving away isn't the last thing that horse remembers for the day. Let him calm himself down, then go back in and ask him to move away from you again. Push, retreat, push retreat. Until you no longer have to retreat is what I would do with this guy. Also, use a real lunge whip so you can be 5-10 feet away from him. If you're using a short whip then you are going to be too close. He can rear and strike and kick and buck 10 feet away from you and it isn't a problem but you don't want to have him doing this 3 feet from you. If he does get aggressive when you are close then slowly back off but don't take the pressure off of him just get out of his way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I would use his "fear" of the whip to your advantage. I would walk in with the whip, if he invades your space wave it around and let him tear around the pasture. Then when he comes back and if he's respectful keep the whip down, if he tries to dominate you then bring it and your energy back up and send him away. If he learns that dominating you = work and being nice and calm = peace then he should get the picture. Instead of getting into a wrestling match with a horse, you want to keep them moving. Just shoving him away will result in him dominating you, but if you send him far away and only allow him to come back when he behaves he will probably pick it up fast.
Also, don't stand your ground and get run over. If bailing is the difference between being hurt or standing your ground then by all means MOVE! If your horse is striking and coming after you, you standing your ground is not going to solve the problem and moving is not really going to make it any worse. As long as you moving away isn't the last thing that horse remembers for the day. Let him calm himself down, then go back in and ask him to move away from you again. Push, retreat, push retreat. Until you no longer have to retreat is what I would do with this guy. Also, use a real lunge whip so you can be 5-10 feet away from him. If you're using a short whip then you are going to be too close. He can rear and strike and kick and buck 10 feet away from you and it isn't a problem but you don't want to have him doing this 3 feet from you. If he does get aggressive when you are close then slowly back off but don't take the pressure off of him just get out of his way.
Thanks, this makes a lot of sense! I've never had to deal with a horse like this before so I worry that I am just making things worse...hearing stuff like this is reassuring. Although I will say, working with him is teaching me a lot of confidence, lol.

I will do the push/repeat with the longe whip tomorrow when I'm over there, with him in the largest paddock so I'll have some room to maneuver. He has purposefully run my direction a few times in similar situations where I was using the longe whip to get him off, so I'll have to take care not to get pinned by a fence.
 

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You can teach a horse (and I have on more than one occasion) to not be nippy by rewarding WITH food. It's not the food that is the issue, or the hand-feeding, but rather the timing of the reward.

Anyway, before I tell you how that's done, you have to fix the bigger issue, which in turn will turn down the volume on the nipping issue you have as well.

When he ups the pressure on you, you MUST reciprocate with an equal rise in pressure of your own. This means for awhile you need to arm yourself with the advantage (and for protection...keep yourself safe!) until he's learned that you can not be fooled with. As long as he keeps upping the pressure, you MUST continue to match it, until he concedes. That's the only way. And you'd better do it right quickly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
You can teach a horse (and I have on more than one occasion) to not be nippy by rewarding WITH food. It's not the food that is the issue, or the hand-feeding, but rather the timing of the reward.

Anyway, before I tell you how that's done, you have to fix the bigger issue, which in turn will turn down the volume on the nipping issue you have as well.

When he ups the pressure on you, you MUST reciprocate with an equal rise in pressure of your own. This means for awhile you need to arm yourself with the advantage (and for protection...keep yourself safe!) until he's learned that you can not be fooled with. As long as he keeps upping the pressure, you MUST continue to match it, until he concedes. That's the only way. And you'd better do it right quickly.
Thanks. :)

I am impatient to get over there now and start approaching him with my newfound "I'm not going to take your ****" attitude when he pulls his shenanigans on me in the paddock. I am going to strive to get this issue at least tuned down by the time we move him over, it'll just take consistency on my part. I don't want anyone getting hurt. He can be quite intimidating and thus far I have managed to get after him for it, but I now realise I need to apply even more pressure on him when he acts out in order to solve this quickly...as obviously I haven't solved anything thus far with my "wrestling matches".

I'll keep this updated...

Thank you again everybody.
 

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For the food issue, as soon as Pumpkin did anything towards me that might be aggresive i simple gave a deep loud 'aaaa' and walked back to the gate and left the paddock.when he walked away, i would enter the paddock and try again. He soon realised that if he wanted his food, he had to walk sensibly beside me, back up and wait until he was told he can eat. it may take some time, but it is definatly worth you and our horses saftey
 

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His previous owner let him get away with a lot of stuff.

I'm aware it's a dominance issue, but if a hard pop in the nose only makes him more defensive, what can be done?
If he wants to 'up' his aggressiveness, than simply put you have to up your level of persistence in getting him to move away.

I don't treat abused, or neglected horses any differently than any other horse I train; your horse is disrespecting you, plain and simple, and he is learning that if he ups his level of aggression, he can definitely push you around. Speak as loudly as you need to in order to get your message across, because that is what he needs right now. If you feel you can't, then find a trainer who will. NOT getting him to move away and respect your space is only giving him more room to actually injure you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
Well, I just got back from feeding. I couldn't be there too long, but when I went in there with his grain he came trotting up to me with his ears back. I did the "aaa" sound and made my intent that he was to back off very clear. Of course he did his usual prancing forward with the tail wringing...so I cracked the whip at my side. He tossed his head and did a small rear, and I kept at it, yelling and stomping up at him and smacking the whip on the ground...in general really raising my energy. This was the hard part as I kind of just wanted to get out of there, heh, but the "heat" of the situation was upon me so I kept at it.

He spun around and ran off bucking, but I kept snapping the whip and keeping after him for a good few minutes until he was standing on the other side of the paddock, watching me with his ears flicking back and forth. After a minute or so of this I told him he was a good boy and finally emptied his "grain" (just biotin for his hooves, flax, and nearing the last of the senior equine we've had him eating to help get his weight up) in the designated grain receptacle, and walked out. :D

I had to leave shortly thereafter and will be unable to feed him breakfast (BO will just swing the hay over the fence and not actually go in there, like we've been doing), but it'll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow afternoon when I work with him some more. I feel like I've made a little headway though, this is the first time since his food aggression started that I was able to get him to move and stay away.
 

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Sounds like a good start. Keep at it. Don't have the intention of starting anything with him, but the instant he decides to give you a go, you just match him, until he concedes. Then when he gives, you back off, praise, and go on your way, just like you did. That's all you've got to do, and he'll come around.

Keep us posted!
 

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Great Job! The best thing you did was continue to push him away from you. If you crack the whip and he runs away he thinks well I showed her, I just ran away from her and her whip. But when you continue to push them away they go, "Hey! What's she doing? Why is she following me? Maybe I better keep moving away from her until she calms down..." And then they learn that when your energy goes up they move away...and then the conditioned response becomes well I'm gonna move over here away from her until she invites me over.
I had a horse that liked to charge stall doors and run people over in her mad dash for freedom. One day I armed myself with a whip and I slowly started opening the door. A crack and she danced up to the door, I tapped her with the whip she backed off. Did that for a few minutes, opened the door a little wider, same thing. Until I was standing in the middle of the open door with a dressage whip daring her to run me over. Of course I had to defend my stand a few times and get in her face and back her off with a lot of energy. But she got the picture. Now she patiently waits by the door when you go in and out and she won't even start to come through it unless it is open all the way and you are out of the way. And on the rare occasions she forgets and starts to push past you if you make a sound and put your hand in front of her she backs right off. It took A LOT of work to get there but it is manageable. And also, when you do finally get him where you want him don't stop "training" this way. A lot of people get so grateful that the horse isn't charging them that they start to slowly let the horse push them around again and the problem escalates back to where it was before. They need consistency 24/7/365 to be happy and healthy and well behaved.
 

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Ha! Awesome, you make it sound like he was thoroughly confused to be standing on the other side of the pen from his hay. :)

You did well-- keep it up! My horse is extremely food aggressive. She had 5 owners by the time she was 1.5 years old, and I have no idea how they handled her in that time, but I'm sure she was neglected.

She got a lot better when she came with me to the farm I managed, she was alpha mare and respectful in the paddock for feeding time to everyone, I was the one feeding her every time. Now at the farm she's currently at, she is low on the totem pole and is very aggressive at food time, and I'm just not there enough to work her out of it. I'll work with her when I go, but by the next time I'm out there it's like we're starting over.

The BO isn't very stern with her and seems to fear her a little bit, so she gets away with murder sometimes. She's a little evil.
 

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To the OP, it sounds like you are on the right track...keep up the good work, and best of wishes in retraining his naughty behavior!

On a side, it always amazes me how horses can decipher those who are a 'leader' from those who aren't. The two 2 year olds I'm training, rarely ever try any of their bratty baby tactics on me (namely nippiness), but they will 'attack' anyone else who doesn't know horses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thank you everybody. :)

Some unexpected stuff came up and I was unable to spend any amount of quality time working with him since I last posted, although I was able to head out there twice to do the pm feeding. He was fine each time...it was rather windy/snowy and his shelter was rattling about so he had relegated himself to his "safe spot", which is a corner of the paddock far from the feeder. So no rushing issues.

Then I call in to check on him and hear that the BO had actually gone into his pen to feed him his hay this evening, and he came up on her and bit her on the back. Not that bad of an injury, thankfully. She told me she swung at him but he pulled his head back too quickly.

Needless to say I'll be driving over at 6 am tomorrow morning to work with him again during that feeding.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
After the "come to Jesus" meeting...(me making him run around a good deal)...

And this evening, I say we're well on our way to correcting this. I brought in his grain, told him to move it, and he was fine. I had mentally envisioned my "hula hoop" surrounding me and the container of grain on the ground, and he was not to pass this mental line. He got the idea pretty quickly. Then a few minutes later as I was standing near the gate talking with someone, after he had finished his meal, he purposely walks over and rams into me with his shoulder. My reaction is to immedietly smack his butt with the stick of the longe whip, and he kicks in response. Therefore, he gets to run around for a bit (which he was going to do anyway for being an a** and invading my space like that).

After this, he had a small break as we went inside. Then, when it was time for his hay -- I told him to back, he walked away toward his feeding tire. Wasn't too thrilled about it, but he moved away without throwing a fit like he has before. I went in there and was able to lock the gate behind me as he kept his distance. I once again told to him to "Back!" as I approached his tire. At first he resisted, so I flicked the longe whip and he trotted off to the fence and waited, facing me. I put the hay down...he tried to come forward but I told him "Back!" again, and he listened. After about two minutes of me just standing by his food with the longe whip behind my back and he standing a ways away watching, I extended my arm and gave him permission to come. Ears up, he slowly walked over.

A success! I have also noticed, since I have been making this much headway with him, he always greets me with his ears up...no more pinning his ears as I approach the fence. I'm so proud of my boy.
 
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