If you have an aggressive horse, then it is something to care about. You should know that horses are somewhat aggressive instinctively. However, if their aggressive behavior is causing a problem for other horses or humans in the house, then you should interfere.
You can seek the help of a veterinarian and ask him or her to reach to the root cause of the problem. However, he or she may not be able to do that every time. In that case, you should observe the behavior of the horse and find out how to deal with an aggressive horse.
In this article, we would provide a detailed description of why your horse is aggressive as well as how to handle an aggressive horse. The first and foremost thing you would need is patience and lots of love. Horses are childish by nature, who seek your attention. Learn to handle them with care. So without wasting much time, let’s get started.
As previously stated, aggression is very common in horses. However, you should know to distinguish between aggression and affiliation. If you observe that your horse is engaged in affiliative behavior most of the time and only occasionally aggressive, then there is nothing to worry about.
So what are affiliative behaviors?
Affiliative behaviors are behaviors that promote harmony in the group. If your horse engages in aggressive behavior most of the time, then you would have to deal with it separately.
The aggressive horse is not only bad for other horses, but it does more harm to the horse himself. The horse has to go through very high physiological and physical stress. It may suffer injuries. It can even attract predators. Moreover, it can affect its social relationships with other horses.
There are several reasons behind aggressive horse behavior. They are as follows:
- It is frightened or threatened.
- It has gone through a painful medical disease or condition.
- The horse is in pain and frustrated.
- Your horse wants to challenge the social hierarchy in the stable.
- Horse Aggressive behavior can also result due to artificial social groupings.
- Your horse wants to control access to resources like food, water, breeding partner, space, etc.
- Addition of a new member in the group
To treat your horse, you should first know how to calm an aggressive horse. There are various signs which indicate that your horse is aggressive. It may pin its ears back. It may give kick threats. If more aggressive, the horse may start chasing, kicking, biting, or striking. You will have to make yourself the master of observing these signs.
A horse can become aggressive to show its dominance over humans as well. There are scientific studies that suggest that horses do not follow a linear hierarchy. However, their dominance is not for making decisions or controlling the group. They dominate to have an early share in resources like food and water.
Horses do behave aggressively towards humans if they feel threatened. They may also act aggressively if they are avoiding doing things that the human wants. These aggressive horse behaviors are also linked to previous experiences.
For example, if you enter the stable with a bucket of grain. The horse pins its ears back. You understand that the horse is aggressive. You try to suppress the aggression by feeding it first. Yeah? No. It is wrong. You should try to understand the root cause of aggression. Suppressing it will not help. The horse will start to associate its pinning ears with quick access to food. And it will pin its ears every time you enter the stable with a bucket of grain.
Before you learn how to stop an aggressive horse, you need to learn to find out the reason behind the dominant behavior of the horse.
Most of the horses are followers. They work best when someone is giving them instructions as to what to do and how to do. But then, you may find a dominant horse. The follower horse will do whatever you tell him to do. However, a dominant horse will question your instruction with “why.”
This dominant horse can resort to aggressive behaviors like kicking the owner, shoving the handler, and even throwing a rider. So a dominant horse can quickly become a dangerous horse.
Can you deal with an aggressive horse?
Before you start dealing with a dominant horse, you should ask yourself if you can do it or not. If there is a little bit of doubt that you are not capable, then it is better to leave this thing to a professional. An aggressive horse can be very dangerous.
An aggressive horse can use force on you to get his or her way out. (Generally, the dominant horses are mares and sometimes stallions, but I have encountered geldings as well.)
Not everyone can handle an aggressive horse. You may not be mentally prepared for it. The horse is more powerful than you. However, this task is not about size. I have seen a five-foot man dominating a large horse. This task is more about your mental attitude.
If you find that your horse is more dominant on you, it is better to seek the help of a professional. If the horse is too aggressive, you can even think of selling it off. It may be harsh, but again an aggressive horse can quickly become a dangerous horse.
Some ground rules
When you are dealing with an aggressive horse, it is better to wear a helmet. Even for groundwork, I would suggest you wear a helmet. If you can afford it, you can wear a vest as well.
Always try to carry a dressage whip or a crop. One of the most important ground rule while dealing with an aggressive horse is the knowledge of how and when to use the crop. You should not be afraid of using it. To make things clear, I am not advocating beating your horse. Never. That is harsh. But if it comes to your self-defense, you should not back from giving it a harsh blow.
And the final rule is that you should not work with an aggressive horse alone. If you are a beginner, you should have someone with you who knows what you are doing. Remember that an aggressive horse will not back away from giving you a hard blow. You should know how to handle it.
How to stop aggressive horse behavior?
As already stated, you should interfere when your horse becomes too aggressive. But this is also very dangerous. If you feel fearful or hesitant at any point in time, then seek the help of a professional. Your horse will start to dominate you, and this can cause serious injury.
You should tell your horse, who is the boss of the house. You can use lunges to establish that you are the leader and the dominant one. If the horse does not adhere to your commands, use your lunge. Lunge hard till it responds. There is nothing wrong with being harsh sometimes. Remember, if this aggressive horse is not treated, it can cause serious harm to you and your family members as well. If he does not respond even after repeated lunging, you can start lunging in its hamstring. However, be careful in this area. Do not use too much force. Use only that much effort as is needed to move the horse forward.
If the horse tries to become dominant on you and tries to kick you, respond immediately by keeping its feet moving. You can make use of the rope behind the horse. Your complete focus should be to keep its feet moving. Try to change its direction of movement several times. You should not allow the horse to come close to you.
Once the horse starts obeying your commands, be gentle with it. Pat on its head. Make the horse feel how much you love it. One sign of a calm horse is that it will lower his head and start licking its lips. Before approaching the horse, make sure that it is standing still. Praise it for his good behavior. You should not have much trouble in this process if you know how to bond with an aggressive horse. Or else you could always seek the help of a professional.
During this entire process, one thing you should keep in mind is that you should be at a sufficient distance from the horse. An aggressive horse may try to kick you, which can leave you in serious injuries.
Some horses tend to kick at mealtime. If you observe this behavior, punish them by not providing the meal.
If you feed them when they are kicking, you are reinforcing a wrong behavior. The horse will start to associate its kicking with getting food, which will result in kicking every time you feed it. So reinforce only good behavior.
If you do not feed the horse, then it understands that its kicking is keeping it away from food. This way, the horse will stop kicking. It is the reward and punishment trick, which is the basic knowledge of how to train an aggressive horse.
If the horse kicks in the stall, then there is a risk that it will start destroying his stall. It may even injure itself. In that case, you could use a kick chain. These chains are worn around the foot of the horse. If the horse tries to kick, the chain hits its leg, which is the punishment for unacceptable behavior.
You can also use devices that are available in the market to stop the kicking behavior of an aggressive horse. You can install the device in the stall. They are sensors that can find out if your horse is kicking. If the horse kicks, then these sensors use water to calm it down.
Biting is not always a sign of an aggressive horse. Your horse may bite because of playfulness. Horses are childish and try to earn your attention.
However, it does not matter whether the horse bites you playfully or aggressively. In both terms, it hurts, and so should not be reinforced. It is a negative behavior, and you can use punishment to teach it to behave properly.
If your horse bites often, stop hand feeding it. However, you will have to reward the horse when it behaves positively. In such a case, feed it using a bucket. Keep your hands far from its teeth.
In case the horse tries to bite you or succeeds in biting you, give it a thrashing, both verbal and physical. Teach the horse that this behavior is not acceptable. If the horse keeps biting even after that pinch it in the nose. Pinch the horse every time it bites or succeeds to bite. The horse will start associating pinching with its biting, and so will stop it. The reward and punishment method is very useful in training an aggressive horse. However, never hit the horse in its face or head.
With Other Horses
There are times when your horse starts to behave aggressively with other horses. It can be due to a new addition in the herd. It can also be because the horse wants to establish its dominance in the herd. Whatever may be the case, you must interfere in this case. However, you don’t have many options in this one. You can only change the dynamics of the herd.
If you find that your horse is constantly biting, striking, kicking, or chasing other horses, you should either keep that aggressive horse away from the herd or find out a grouping system that works. If this behavior is sudden, then you can ask your veterinarian to check your horse.
The Bottom Line
Correcting your aggressive horse is very necessary. An aggressive horse is not only dangerous for other horses but also for your family. However, you should first understand the root cause of its aggression before doing anything. It is best to seek the help of a professional. A happy and satisfied herd is one where there is no aggressive horse.