The Horse Forum banner

Behavior or health problem?

1281 Views 13 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  ObiWan
We got our first horse (Cochise) two months ago. My teenage daughter & I both have moderate experience with horses (I owned one when growing up; she's had 3 years of lessons). We're far from experts, though. We got our 15-yo QH gelding from a horse trader who told us that the horse had spent this past summer at a kids camp. In our test rides, and for a while after we brought him home, Cochise was quite friendly and obedient. He did give the farrier some trouble on his first visit, though.

He's still our only horse. The closest equines are two doors down--close enough to yell to, but not close enough to really interact with. He generally spends 24x7 grazing in the 1.5-acre pasture adjacent to his barn stall.

My daughter (his primary caregiver) hasn't spent as much time with him as she'd expected to this fall. She'll try to groom him now & then, but her claims of "I'll ride him every day" have turned into us prodding her to ride once a week. The colder temps (Nebraska) and shorter days aren't helping any. We do not have an indoor arena, just pastures. Despite not getting as much hands-on time with us, his care has always been very friendly and loving. He's well fed and (unfortunately) never forced to work hard.

During the past two months, he's gotten progressively more ornery. He went from nuzzling us, to ignoring us, to yanking away, to now biting when we try to saddle him. My daughter claims that even a month ago, he reacted more poorly when you'd try to brush or pet his back or near the base of his neck.

That leads us to wonder whether his poor behavior is perhaps due to some pain in those areas. The pre-purchase vet check in another small town came back clean, except for somewhat flat feet. We haven't had our local vet look at him yet. We were hoping to make use of their Spring sales, but we can have them make a special trip if anyone thinks it's likely to be necessary.

I've been told many times that the cure for a misbehaving horse is a wet saddle blanket, and despite my prodding, that's something that my daughter has yet to give him in the two months we've had him. Last weekend, we were unable to saddle him at all due to his biting, which makes working him difficult. We do have a lunge line, but we're all pretty new to using it.

So to you experts: does Cochise's behavior sound more like a health problem or a behavioral problem? Is this just something that we need to work out of him, or is it worth paying for a special vet exam? I hate to work him harder if he's in pain, but I also hate to pay for unnecessary vet visits. Any advice would be appreciated.
See less See more
Not open for further replies.
1 - 2 of 14 Posts
I don't have time for a long reply but I'll just say, being kept alone is very stressful for a horse. Even if your care is loving, you'll never be a substitute for the companionship of another horse (or donkey, goat etc if a horse isn't an option). In the wild they are herd animals which take their safety from being with each other. As far as the work load goes, it sucks when you can't get out to ride as much as you'd like, but the horse doesn't usually mind! As long as he has space and pasture, that shouldn't be a reason for bad behaviour.

Biting when being saddled is often indicative of stomach ulcers. These can be caused by stress and many, many horses have them, so definitely worth getting him scoped before putting the reaction down to bad manners. Obviously biting is not an acceptable behaviour and shouldn't be tolerated, but I'd bet there's a reason for the behaviour beyond disrespect which needs to be addressed.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Even when he was friendly, he made it tough to get the cinch on tight. He'd bloat every time we touched the leathers, then let up when we were about to mount. I know that's common, so I'm not sure it's indicative of stomach problems.
I would still consider that a sign of discomfort, either from stomach problems or possibly if you're doing it up too tight/fast and pinching the skin. And then from small signs of discomfort, pain and behaviour can escalate.

Either way, because of the way horses' stomachs are built, they are very prone to ulcers, and an ulcer scope is a fairly routine procedure. As a camp horse, it is more than likely they could have existed before he arrived with you and have just been aggravated recently.
I'm in no way saying that's what the problem definitely is, it's just a suggestion of something worth looking in to.
1 - 2 of 14 Posts
Not open for further replies.