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HELP! Bad behavior!!!

Hi everyone!

I am new to this site, so forgive me if I am doing this wrong. :wink: I need some advice. I have a 12 year old (?) Thoroughbred gelding that I recently rescued. He has a few different problems that I need some help with. I have had horses my entire life, and a lot of the things that I usually do have not been helping.

  1. EXTREMELY pushy on the ground. I usually solve this issue by backing the horse up every time they walk in front of me or do other things undesirable, BUT when I do this with him he starts pawing at the ground and eventually rears up striking with his front legs. He freaks with a chain on or under his nose, so that is out of the question as well.

  2. Being EXTREMELY buddy sour. Before I rescued him, he had not been with another horse for a good 9 years of his life, and I am guessing this is exactly why is is being this way. I feel bad for keeping him separate from the other horses, but he is unhandleable if I have him with another horse and take him away from them.

  3. Stalling. My field and pasture are not connected, so I bring horses in for feeding, or if the weather is bad. I have VERY large stalls as they are just gated off areas of the barn. Probably a good 15×15 stall is what he goes in (not exact. Just a guestimate haha). Anyways, he flips out when he gets put in. He just trots circles, stick his head out real quick, trot more circles, ect. Untill he gets sweaty and breathing heavy. He doesn’t even eat his hay. He will stop to take a bite of grain every 5 minutes or so, but it is just a small bite then he continues with his circles. I have never had this problem so I am clueless.

Thank you all who respond SO much! I am open to all suggestions! He was broke at one time, but I will be starting over with him under saddle once I get these behavior issues down. He is a gorgeous boy and I love him, I just need to get him under control!!!:confused: Thanks again!

I would say leave him out. Why bring him in. That of course is said in Australia with no snow and ice.

You back him up and then what? Horses learn from release of pressure. If he knows what you want he will try and do that. So let him know that if he stands he gets praised and stroked. If he does the other he is backed up. If he rears you keep at him with the rope. If you stop when he rears you are realeasing the pressure and he learns to rear. Have him in a yard so if he does back he can’t go far before he comes forward again and is praised.

What I have done with my boy who has a problem with separation anxiety is I have let him out. Everyone else is in paddocks. He is out and can go visit.

However with these horses when I want to work them then 100% attention has to be on me. Not on another horse. You should have that much respect from them.

[QUOTE=SuzieQNutter;8943959]
I would say leave him out. Why bring him in. That of course is said in Australia with no snow and ice.

You back him up and then what? Horses learn from release of pressure. If he knows what you want he will try and do that. So let him know that if he stands he gets praised and stroked. If he does the other he is backed up. If he rears you keep at him with the rope. If you stop when he rears you are realeasing the pressure and he learns to rear. Have him in a yard so if he does back he can’t go far before he comes forward again and is praised.

What I have done with my boy who has a problem with separation anxiety is I have let him out. Everyone else is in paddocks. He is out and can go visit.

However with these horses when I want to work them then 100% attention has to be on me. Not on another horse. You should have that much respect from them.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for the response! I would love to just leave him out, but I live in Ohio of the USA. I think he could handle the cold, but the wind is sometimes very rigid. So leaving him outside 100% of the time is not an option.

Along the lines of backing him up, I do exactly what you are explaining, sorry I did not go into that much detail. I have always used pressure and release methods. I have been working with him that way for a while now with no improvement.

I agree that 100% of attention needs to be on me, and I am trying to fix that. The problem is he doesn’t have that respect. When removed from the other horses he runs circles around me looking towards the barn, and rears up every few steps. His attention is not on me.

That all sounds like frantic herdbound behavior. The only way to fix herdbound completely is to remove them from the herd completely. You aren’t going to be able to punish or train him out of being herdbound because he is so frantic he can’t pay attention.

[QUOTE=Laurierace;8944096]
That all sounds like frantic herdbound behavior. The only way to fix herdbound completely is to remove them from the herd completely. You aren’t going to be able to punish or train him out of being herdbound because he is so frantic he can’t pay attention.[/QUOTE]

That is what I have been doing. I just feel bad because he has bever had other horse friends :frowning: That would be a terrible life, but if it is what I have to do to keep him under control then I will.

I have had him separate for a couple weeks now and that has not fixed his pawing and rearing problem when he gets pushy on the ground. But it has made him focus more on me.

It’s not a terrible life, being so anxious they can’t think straight is a terrible life. They adjust. My last horse was prone to being herdbound so was alone for years but as he aged we figured out ways to add other horses into his life. For the last three years of his life he was out with his “sister” every day and did fine with it. I guess he just aged out of it.

That stall walking could be an OCD (obsessive/compulsive behavior) he can’t help when overly stressed, similar to cribbing and weaving, that could become ingrained and then become a problem of it’s own.

He may already be there, if he did that at the track, so it will be hard to extinguish that one.

Could you stable him with some shelter, not necessarily a stall, like a run in overhang, maybe, where he can see the other horses right across his fence?

Some herdbound horses may take help from a professional trainer to get them over it.
That is one behavior we used to get horses to retrain.
Some horses can get dangerous in their anxious moments.
There are several ways to go about this, but all depend on the horse and the one retraining’s skills and for long after retraining to keep with a good program to avoid that default behavior to show up again.

If you don’t feel confident around that horse, reconsider if you want to be the one to try to retrain him, or if you may get hurt trying?

Get him a good blanket and let him live outside 24/7. Lots of horses (mine included) live out in all weather conditions.

[QUOTE=Kellykison4;8944050]
I agree that 100% of attention needs to be on me, and I am trying to fix that. The problem is he doesn’t have that respect. When removed from the other horses he runs circles around me looking towards the barn, and rears up every few steps. His attention is not on me.[/QUOTE]

Do you have access to a round pen? If so, I would suggest trying the Monty Roberts method of ‘joing-up’ - or similar method you like or agree with.

When done correctly - with patience, kindness and accuracy - you should get results. A round pen method will put this horse’s focus on YOU.

Yes, he might run around in the round pen (at first) as if you weren’t there and that’s okay, provided you know and follow the steps that will encourage him to turn to you and begin a conversation that will bring the two of you together.

If you don’t have a round pen you can still implement the round pen method in your riding ring if you have one - or even in your pasture - though it’s a lot more difficult - and you certainly don’t want to do it in an area that is so large your horse won’t/can’t focus on you, and/or your fencing isn’t 100% safe.

Anyway…just a thought.

Yup, a good blanket and windbreak and he’ll be fine living outside. If you don’t have a good windbreak already in his paddock, just buy 5 roundbales and stack, and that’ll get you through the winter while you save up for a lean-to next year.

When you say freaks out with a chain, what does that mean? I really think you need a chain over his nose.

But I also think a horse that paws and deliberately strikes at you is incredibly dangerous and you should think hard whether you’re the right owner/trainer for this guy. That’s not a knock on you, at all. Some behavior is too dangerous for us amateurs.

My OTTB Alex also hated going in a stall when I first got him - so much so that he tried to tear the stall down. So - he got to live out. He had a heavyweight turnout rug and a run-in shelter, and he was fine. (He did finally ‘break himself’ of hating the stall one day when we had a heavy rain/sleet mix with temps hovering right at the freezing mark, and I hadn’t blanketed him because of that - he stood out in it and froze, and I had no choice but to bring him in and blanket him. He’s been fine in a stall ever since.)

The pawing and striking, though - that’s a deal breaker. That means he’s not respectful of YOU and he’s trying to establish who’s dominant. I’ve been hurt badly by a horse (not mine) that had zero respect for humans. I would honestly recommend finding a good professional for this problem.

[QUOTE=Laurierace;8944106]
It’s not a terrible life, being so anxious they can’t think straight is a terrible life. They adjust. My last horse was prone to being herdbound so was alone for years but as he aged we figured out ways to add other horses into his life. For the last three years of his life he was out with his “sister” every day and did fine with it. I guess he just aged out of it.[/QUOTE]

Thank you! I will just continue keeping him separate from the others.

Thanks everyone! I have had horses my whole life, I am just stumped. I will try these suggestions and see what happens! He has improved a lot from the couple months I have had him. Hopefully he continues to improve :slight_smile:

In your case I believe I would avail myself of a trainer who will work with both you and your horse.
I’m not dissing your skills but this horse becomes adversarial when you attempt to discipline him. He is not just a danger to you but other people who have to work with him vet, farrier, saddle fitter etc.
Please don’t put others at risk.
Not saying he can’t be retrained. Just saying I think you need help with this one.
If he won’t tolerate a chain you can try to use a rope halter.
Also give him some down time. He needs some time to decompress.
You can still work with him but be patient. Don’t expect change overnight.
Also look into methods of positive reinforcement. This generally works better than punishment.
Hope this helps and good luck to you.

P.S. Thoroughbreds have a very strong sense of injustice and if they think you are being unfair they will protest very loudly and with strong reaction.

[QUOTE=Hunter Mom;8944132]
Get him a good blanket and let him live outside 24/7. Lots of horses (mine included) live out in all weather conditions.[/QUOTE]

Exactly. My OTTB is exactly the same in his stall. I put him in ONE night 12 years ago. He was just like that.

He has lived out ever since and done just fine. He has good blankets. He has access to shelter but absolutely hates being confined in a stall. He cribs, weaves, stall walks and gets frantic.

[QUOTE=Kellykison4;8943936]
Hi everyone!

I am new to this site, so forgive me if I am doing this wrong. :wink: I need some advice. I have a 12 year old (?) Thoroughbred gelding that I recently rescued. He has a few different problems that I need some help with. I have had horses my entire life, and a lot of the things that I usually do have not been helping.

  1. EXTREMELY pushy on the ground. I usually solve this issue by backing the horse up every time they walk in front of me or do other things undesirable, BUT when I do this with him he starts pawing at the ground and eventually rears up striking with his front legs. He freaks with a chain on or under his nose, so that is out of the question as well.

  2. Being EXTREMELY buddy sour. Before I rescued him, he had not been with another horse for a good 9 years of his life, and I am guessing this is exactly why is is being this way. I feel bad for keeping him separate from the other horses, but he is unhandleable if I have him with another horse and take him away from them.

  3. Stalling. My field and pasture are not connected, so I bring horses in for feeding, or if the weather is bad. I have VERY large stalls as they are just gated off areas of the barn. Probably a good 15×15 stall is what he goes in (not exact. Just a guestimate haha). Anyways, he flips out when he gets put in. He just trots circles, stick his head out real quick, trot more circles, ect. Untill he gets sweaty and breathing heavy. He doesn’t even eat his hay. He will stop to take a bite of grain every 5 minutes or so, but it is just a small bite then he continues with his circles. I have never had this problem so I am clueless.

Thank you all who respond SO much! I am open to all suggestions! He was broke at one time, but I will be starting over with him under saddle once I get these behavior issues down. He is a gorgeous boy and I love him, I just need to get him under control!!!:confused: Thanks again![/QUOTE]

I can and do deal with the herd bound , hating to be stalled issues. I have one similar here The one and only time I tried to stall him he tried to bring the stall down around his ears

He did at one time in another location deal well with a stall , not since he has been here though .

I may have contributed to his issues , as during the spring , summer and fall I leave them out 24/7 , feeding outside as well. So the first winter her was here he decided he preffered outside.

He is In a paddock where he can see and interact over a fence if he chooses, he rarely chooses to do so. He does not have a buddy in the paddock. Blanketed in winter with a run in he rarely makes use of .

He’s fine with that . My guy is a passive aggresive with a pasure buddy . won’t allow them to eat or drink does not bite or kick them just herds them away from the eatables with pinned ears and a threatening attitude.

The rearing and striking though would be a deal breaker for me … I reccomend a good trainer to work with both of you on those issues. I understand that you are experienced and have dealt with horses all of your life , but sometimes a new perspective from an outside source can be helpful and safer for you .

My mustang was a difficult horse and did the rearing and striking thing when lunging. His “tell” on the ground would be pawing - he wouldn’t just rear and strike out of the blue. So while grooming him or asking him to do something, if he started pawing, then I’d know what was next if I didn’t re-direct him. But really, it started before that.

There are many signs that a horse is going to misbehave before they actually get to that point, so you need to step waaaaaayyyyy back and look at his behavior in each moment and decide - is he with me or not? If you can get him with you before his behavior escalates, then you are going to have a better time training him.

I’ve worked with a couple amazing cowboys who have helped me in this regard. Look up Harry Whitney and see if you can read anything about him. The other person is someone that probably nobody has really heard of, but he is along the same lines as Harry.

What they taught me was to get the horse’s thought to be with you. Before even taking any action. Before leading or grooming or riding or any other sort of thing you want to do with your horse, you need to have their attention. It is especially important with this horse of yours since he seems to be so herd bound.

With a horse who is prone to striking and rearing, using backing up as a method of discipline is going to work against you and will only reinforce that bad behavior, because I’m guessing that when he goes up or lifts a hoof to you you release the pressure and let him go in order to keep yourself safe. FORWARD is always the answer for a horse who wants to go back and up.

Do you have a round pen? If so, use it. Get the horse in there and get his attention on you. If he can live in there for a while with water and you come out to feed him, that is fine. Whenever you come around, his eyes need to be on you. Whatever you need to do to get his eyes on you is okay. You can jump up and down. You can slap your hand or a rope on your knee. You can make funny sounds. You can wave a tarp or a flag in the air. You can jingle a bell. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Once he gives you an indication that he’s paying attention to you, relax and release that pressure. The first indication could be an ear moving. It could be a look in the eye. It could be turning his head to look at you. If he looks away, go back to making yourself be noticed. This doesn’t have to involve running the horse around until he “gives in.” The chances of you getting a horse like this to outrun his anxiety are slim - you must have impeccable timing and release. With this method, you could move around the outside of the roundpen while he’s inside to start. Whenever he takes his eye or attention off of you, move, stomp, clang, whatever to get it back.

Once you are safe and have a better read on his body language and know how to get his attention, then you could move inside with him. Again, do what you need to do to get his mind on you and not outside the pen. If you had his attention and are standing near his shoulder (but not near enough to get in the way of any feet) and he looks away, move back toward his hip and see if you can draw his attention that way (again, staying out of any striking range). If he turns toward you, then release and pet him of speak to him softly. See if you can build on the time you have his attention.

I would not run a horse like this around. I would not back up a horse like this. I’d first try to work with him in a round pen and on the ground with just getting his eye and attention. Do a little of this multiple times a day (don’t go on and on for an hour or two - you want to create a foundation you can build on) so that it reinforces his focus on you.

When this is good then you can proceed to putting on a rope halter and walking with him or lunging him or circling him, asking him to give to pressure and engage that inside hind. Or you can send him out and ask him to walk a circle around you and pay attention to you.

It is going to take a lot of ground work, a lot of time and effort and attention and practice. For someone to watch for ground work, I like Buck Brannaman’s 7 Clinics DVDs, and I know others like Warwick Schiller’s YouTube videos.

I would also recommend finding a good “NH” trainer to help you with this. Be careful whom you choose because there are a lot of charlatans out there. If someone can help your horse and teach you at the same time, that would be best.

Working with a horse like this is not for the feint of hart. It takes a lot of determination and perseverance to want to learn how to get the best out of the horse.

I agree with Pocket Pony’s advice, ‘With a horse who is prone to striking and rearing, using backing up as a method of discipline is going to work against you and will only reinforce that bad behavior, because I’m guessing that when he goes up or lifts a hoof to you you release the pressure and let him go in order to keep yourself safe. FORWARD is always the answer for a horse who wants to go back and up.’
and
I would advise you to wear a helmet, and carry a longe whip.

If he is ‘freaking’ with chain over nose, are you using that correctly? Correctly means thread the chain into the near side, side ring, wrap it once or twice around the noseband, depending on length, and snapping it to the bottom ring of the halter. You have to very carefully pull the chain forward as you are wrapping it, to be sure you do not inadvertently hurt his nose while you are pulling it through the side ring.

Good luck, and keep us posted. You probably need a professional to help, IF you have a competent one in your area. If not, and if you cannot get him to behave better, consider that he has some brain abnormality, and maybe he needs to just be euthanatized. That is a better option than have him kill someone.

I agree if he is rearing and striking then you should always be wearing a helmet and get him going forward. One way is to have him a yard where he can’t continue to go back like a said.

If he is rearing and striking and you are asking for help on here then you really need to pay a trainer in your area for help.

Agree with the helmet advice when leading. I also suggest you carry a whip when you work with him in the event he ever does think about striking. You can quickly move a horse’s ass around if one of your hands is holding a buggy whip.

I also agree with separating him indefinitely. It is really difficult to get a horse to begin respecting you when all they can do is frantically panic to return to their buddies.

My horse is herd bound in the summer (not spring, fall or winter), but there is no WAY he would ever strike at me or try to run me over.
I work him by taking him in the arena and doing some serious ground work before anything else. As soon as I started the ground work, he became very focused and then I could ride him.
If I rode him outside, he would still whinny occasionally but he never misbehaved or pulled towards the other horses. He usually went very well with the random “guys! Don’t eat all the grass!”. While it annoys me greatly, as long as he is doing what he’s told, I do not pick a fight.

I agree with the poster that said thoroughbreds have a strong sense of injustice. If they think you are being unfair, they will let you know it! Be fair, don’t get angry and deal with him. Also, look up Warwick Schiller. He is the BEST for ground work.

If you don’t think you can handle it, it would be best if you send him to a pro. Have them stall him and pasture him alone. Because it is a new territory with unfamiliar horses, you can break the herd-bound cycle. After a month or two, bring him home and keep him alone. It seems sad, but they become used to it. My horse was wonderful when I kept him alone, he was actually a lot braver as he didn’t rely on other horses’ emotions to react to different situations.

Once he settles into obeying you, and you can enjoy working/riding him- only THEN you can think about returning him to the herd.