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"Difficult" horses and how to handle them.

3559 Views 9 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Palomine
I attend a riding school, the horse I ride is Fudge (my namesake) I love him to pieces but he has always been labelled as "difficult".
He doesn't ride very well and will fight to escape the arena, pulling against the bit, tossing his head and will stand at the gate and wait there. He is unpredictable, you'll think all is going well and then he'll surprise you by running you into something or turning sharply and throwing you off.
He is a very determined pony, and will strive to get what he wants, even if it hurts him. Some would call him stupid but I think he is just wilful.
Don't get me wrong, he doesn't always behave like this but he'll surprise you by having an off day.
The riding instructor is on holidays so we're looking after Fudge and one other, he's a bit on the large side so we're exercising him and generally trying to get him to be better behaved.
He's always been a bit mouthy, so thats the first thing I sought to correct, tapping him on the shoulder with the crop whenever he went to bite but he still left a few decent bruises on my arms. My hope was to stop the mouthiness dead in it's tracks before it could manifest into full on aggressiveness.
I failed.
He's been getting progressively worse all week, he's very, very strong for such a small pony and knows how to use his strength so when trying to lead him out of the paddock this morning he pulled against the lead, he's never been the best at leading but it became full on tug of war until I was dragging behind and he was trotting away.
My mother gave it a shot, but he pulled away from her too, even taking a flying kick at her head when she wouldn't give up (it might have just been a pigroot but I'm unsure). Also, lately if I even go near him he'll pin his ears and take a nip at me.
Do you think its because he knows that I'll take him away from his nice safe paddock?
It's become progressively worse and worse, is it because I'm working him too hard (He only really gets ridden once or twice a week)?
Any help would be greatly appreciated, he's great to ride once you bypass the difficulties and I would love to be able to help him!
Thankyou!
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Sounds like Fudge needs to learn some respect before he kills or seriously hurts someone!

Let me start by asking how much experience you have. If you're a beginner, I can't even begin to imagine what sort of place would let you work with him when he doesn't respect you. You should check with your instructor before you do anything major with Fudge though - technically, he's not yours to work with.

Other people here will be able to say things much better than me, so I'll leave the advice to them.
 

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A horse that is biting and leaving bruises is more than just “mouthy”. This behavior should not be addressed by a tap on the shoulder. Doing so only teaches an aggressive horse that bad behavior has no real consequence.

Regardless of the reason behind this behavior, it must be stopped before it becomes even more dangerous. I want to teach a horse in a relaxed environment. However, before this can happen, there must be order. I believe it was John Lyons who said, “If a horse tries to bite you, kill it.” While he did not mean this literally, he meant that you should respond in such a way that the horse feels you might kill it. This also doesn’t mean that you should continue to beat a horse once it submits. Horses generally submit to just punishment. Once they submit, however, the punishment should end or it will no longer be just.

If a horse does not feel safe, it will usually try to run away. If this is not possible, it will fight. A third possibility is that it will simply shut down and submit to its fate. While this would be a safer response for a handler than having the horse fight, I would want to teach a horse than he would be treated fairly and cared for if he cooperates. This is a much more involved process than can be addressed over the internet. A knowledgeable trainer adjusts his approach to the situation at the moment.

This horse should really be handed over to a knowledgeable and experienced trainer. A good trainer should be able to establish a safe environment for learning. He should, then, address the horse with respect even as he expects the horse to respect him. Once this is accomplished, the trainer should teach the owner how to address the horse in a similar manner so the horse does not revert to its previous behavior.
 

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As I read your post the grin on my face got wider and wider until I felt like the Cheshire Cat.

Oh what memories it brought back from some of the ponies I met as a child - I have met them too as an adult and sorted them in a couple of sessions with both ground and riding manners.

You are inexperienced and he knows it so the little toe rag is taking more and more advantage. He has no respect for you and why should he because you are not making him realise that bad behaviour has consequences.

What you are doing is nagging or threatening but not carrying through.

When a pony I rode persisted in biting, and he was a severe biter where he would draw blood, tried to bite me I got mad and having seen people hit him which never stopped him, I grabbed his ear and bit it hard between my back teeth. I hung on as he swung me off my feet and spun in a circle squealing like a pig.

Guess what? He never ever tried to bite me again and became my gymkhana pony where he had plenty of chances to bite me.

He knows his strength so you have to prove to him that if he tries to use that strength you can and will cause him discomfort.

Get a length of chain such as a chain dog lead. Fix the end of the chain to the far side of the halter, bring it across his nose and through the halter on the other side. Fix a long rope to this.

Wear gloves! when he starts to get strong and set his neck against you, with both hands on the rope, you give a sharp pull as hard as you can before he gets to far ahead so he cannot kick you,
This will shock him into slowing of not stopping, if he doesn't actually stop you give a second jerk, just as hard as the first.
Then when he stops you make him walk backwards a few steps.

Carry on as if nothing has happened.

Get tough with the little toe rag, if he doesn't stand still when you are brushing him poke him hard with your finger or the pointy end of the hoof pick.

This pony is nothing more than a bully and like most bullies, face up to them and give them a hiding they soon back down.

Get the things on the ground right and th riding behaviour will improve. If he carts you to the gate get cross and make him go away from the gate. Be ready for him to turn sharp, they usually prefer to do it to one side rather than the other, carry your whip to the side he spins and don't be frightened to use it hard or to wave it by his eye so he can see it.

He might not want to leave his friends, tough, it is not for him to decide on the matter anymore than it is yours to decide whether you go to school or not!

Also. No, you are not working him to hard, he wants working a lot harder so he hasn't the energy to take advantage.

Set tight boundaries and as he improves in respect for the rules you can widen them.

Good luck!
 

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This pony is just plain spoiled. He has gotten away with waaaay too much for faaaar too long. He is a perfect example of what happens when a horse or pony is 'pecked' at and 'nagged' at. Their behavior often becomes MUCH worse. It can escalate to the point of becoming dangerous. He is about there.

It is far better and a 1000x more effective to punish bad behavior hard and then leave the animal alone. My standard for whether a correction is effect or a failure is this: If you have to correct a horse more than twice for the same offense, your method is flawed and ineffective! Obviously, by this standard, your method (and others tried on this pony) are completely ineffective.

The biting is very easily stopped. Just hold a nail in your hand with only the point sticking out. Position this hand to be between you and the pony's mouth while working with him. I have never seen a biter/nipper run into a nail more than twice and keep on biting. [This, by the way, is not sufficient for a viscous biter that charges with its mouth wide open and ears flat back. That is a very different situation and requires a much different and harsher approach.]

As for handling him: I would start out with a lead-chain over his nose. I would jerk him around hard any time he would not face me immediately when asked. I would MAKE him back up every time I put a halter on his head and would back him up 15 or 20 feet every single time he barged forward. If you 'over-correct' bad behavior instead of doing the least you can do to get by the situation, the behavior will completely stop. You will also find that once you have established a high level of respect from him, he will suddenly get 'happy'. I cannot exactly explain why this is is true but it is. The angry horse that is constantly trying to be aggressive and nasty is a miserable horse. They just are -- ears back all the time and not happy about doing anything asked. The well mannered, respectful horse has its ears up and is perfectly happy to do everything you ask. They just are.

I look at it this way. Have you ever seen a tantrum throwing child that is not a mad, unhappy and miserable child? Then, compare that to the children that are well-behaved and in a family that has their children's respect. They are happy and happily interact with other family members all of the time. I think spoiled children are about as miserable as spoiled horses are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you everyone!
These replies were super helpful, I'll try to apply them while working with him.
I'd also like to add that I've made him sound like the most difficult horse in the world but he's not. He can be quite good when he feels like it and if I can correct these behavioural faults then maybe we can get back on track! :wink:
Thanks again!
 

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Thank you everyone!
These replies were super helpful, I'll try to apply them while working with him.
I'd also like to add that I've made him sound like the most difficult horse in the world but he's not. He can be quite good when he feels like it and if I can correct these behavioural faults then maybe we can get back on track! :wink:
Thanks again!
There is absolutely no way he is the worse pony in the world, he is just heading that way! :D

Many people are under the misconception that if they get tough and give corrections that cause discomfort the animal will not like them anymore,

As long as the correction is done fast from th sin and fairly then it is the opposite and they think far more highly of you that is respect.

More than once I have horses that I have had to be very tough on. In the end if they were thinking of doing something wrong I would only have to say "Eh!" And they would immediately say, "Yes ma'am!"
They were not afraid of me at all, they just knew their position which was below me.
 

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How does it feel to be outsmarted by a pony? He's got a bag of tricks up his sleeve that he's hauling out one by one to see how well they work on you. He needs either a knotted rope halter or a lead with a chain that is attached so it runs across his nose, partly on top of the nose band. He'll listen to either when you give it a yank. When he bites, your hitting his shoulder just annoys him. When my previous gelding tried to bite me I just happened to be holding the crop and he got three hard ones on his neck. That was the last time he tried that. He tho't I was going to kill him and that's what I wanted him to think.
 

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He is, as stated,. spoiled.
Not unusual for smart horses, that are handled by a variety of skilled or un skilled people, esp doing the same job over and over again

Does not matter that he is 'good' on some days, when he feels like being co -operative, thus obeying the cues he understands. He has learned, through in correct handling, people letting things slip, that he can resort to dangerous behavior when ever it suits him, and win
He needs to be handled by someone skilled enough to make every one of his vises both un successful and to have consequences
Get a stud shank on that pony, so he learns trying to pull away is both unsuccessful and has some physical dis comfort involved
For bitting, carry pain so he runs into it
The onus is on that stable owner, to make sure horses being used for lessons, don't become spoiled or dangerous. Even now, this pony will never be one that just anyone can handle, since if he is not handled in a consistent way, not allowed to get aWAY stuff, he will revert
 

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You need to be more aware of your body placement too. No way should he be in position for him to bite at you or bite you if you were standing correctly and being proactive.
 
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