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How do you reprimand stallions for rude behavior?

Apologies if this isn’t the right forum for this!

I’ve been trying to research best practices, because the stallion I train is losing respect for me, but not his owner. I do get after him (usually with growls/yells, a crop, or smacks) for misbehavior, but clearly not the right way, because it’s not getting through. Mom can give him a big jerk with a chain/bit and he’ll be good and back off, where he gets right back to misbehavior after I do the same. I just don’t command as much respect, which is odd, because I don’t let him walk all over me.

I haven’t found a ton of information besides on other horse forums, so I thought I’d do an informal poll here (and send out a request for resources)!

A lot of what I’ve read is dependent on the offense, so I’ll break it down, too. How do you react if a stallion…

  1. refuses to yield to pressure (e.g., doesn’t move when you try to move his hindquarters over)
  2. invades your space without welcome (runs into you when walking, gets in your face, etc)
  3. nips
  4. goes in for a full bite
  5. gets studdish in-hand in non-breeding situations (calling, prancing, snorting, and/or erection)

Same way as you would any other horse. Same way as your mother does it, probably.

If you don’t have authority with this horse, develop it. Or stop handling him, because that’s not safe.


Easiest way is to stop bad behavior before it happens, before you have to get after them (smacking, etc), on a daily/constant basis. That requires good timing and being able to read their body language (the subtle stuff, before they go to bite or whatever), as well as control your own movements/energy/confidence/focus. If they’re already nipping/charging at you/not giving way to you, that does need to be corrected, but always better imo if it doesn’t get to that point in the first place. As for correcting it when it has gotten to that point, you have to do it in a way that de-escalates the situation and so you earn the horse’s trust and respect, not in a way that ramps them up. I think it’s not just what you do, but how and when and why. Rewarding (not necessarily with treats) good behavior is another approach also.

And if I, personally, can’t do it, I send them to someone who can instill ground manners and then show me how to maintain it. I don’t love the idea of jerking a bit, but can your mom show you what she does or give you advice on how to handle this horse? Could be what you’re doing – even if it’s ostensibly the same thing as your mom – lacks the same timing, energy or follow through, and the horse can sense that.


Adjust your attitude and energy or learn how to use a lip chain.


He doesn’t charge at me and doesn’t often bite; he more does little defiances, like not yielding to pressure, not standing still. I was just curious based on what I’ve read about how others do react in those situations.

My current approch is smacking/jerking, and I get after him a lot, but some people are of the opinion that that’s too much like playing, and that punishing with pain-based responses isn’t necessarily effective for stallions. That’s why I wanted to hear others’ opinions.

I wasn’t clear—it’s his mom, not mine, that commands more respect. It’s not necessarily that our responses to misbehavior are different, they just seem to mean something difference when she does them.

I do have a certain amount of respect from him. I started him, am his only rider, and am his primary handler. The little defiance’s are just starting to add up!

I think some people go in with a different energy when they know the horse is a stallion. Most people have been conditioned that stallions can be dangerous (which is true to a degree), so they consciously or subconsciously do things differently than they would with another horse. I’m not saying this to “accuse” you of doing anything wrong or being fearful; not at all! But it is something we all need to be mindful of. Good horse handling practices should not change just because of the gender.

Like any horse, clear expectations and consistency are needed. If how you are asking him to do something isn’t getting a response, you need evaluate why and possibly change how you are asking. I’m sure you know this, but horses are individuals and you often need to readjust yourself to make sure the communication is clear.

You mention growls, crops, and smacks. Unless this guy is an unusually aggressive breeding stallion (and they do exist), it sounds like you may be either escalating the situation too quickly or allowing his misbehavior to go too far before redirection… because those types of things should generally be reserved for BIG offenses (taking a chunk out of you, kicking at you, trying to kill you), not every day corrections. And if you resort to them too much, he’s going to start tuning them (and you) out.

Otherwise, it’s hard for me to say how to proceed without knowing the horse. He may be a punk who needs you to give him a “come to Jesus” moment, or you may need to do the exact opposite and tone your energy down and ask him the questions more clearly and calmly. Just remember that whoever moves their feet is the boss— he needs to be moving his feet when you ask, and if he does not comply, you need to find a way to make it a non-negotiable.

Re: nipping and biting. More often than not, colts are going to have it in them to nip and bite. First and foremost, reduce the temptation for them to nip and bite you. Don’t linger in front of their face as we might obliviously do with mares or geldings.

I like any attempt at malicious biting to be met with a well timed, unemotional, fist or elbow to the nose, sometimes in combination with a sharp word or shank so they know it is never okay. If they repeatedly try even after getting thunked in the mouth a few times, you need a different approach. I’ve handled stallions who were such bad biters I needed to carry a broom handle with me for a few days and just keep allowing them to thunk their head into it when they tried to come at me; but that is extreme and definitely not how you begin to address the issue.

But playful nipping, it’s often better to redirect somehow and not engage- if you’ve ever watched colts play with one another, giving them a slap when they want to play “bitey face” is almost an open invitation… because the game starts when the other bites back. If you raise a colt from a young age, it’s pretty easy to teach them that it’s not appropriate to get nippy with humans… but once they learn to do it, it can be a tough habit to break… at least that’s my experience. Redirection can be jingling the chain, or asking them to move/bend/engage their brain somehow. Just something else to focus on.


I don’t think I usually approach him differently…I started him 2 years ago and have been his primary handler and only rider since then. Lately, I probably have been more defensive, because he seems to be acting out a little more.

He is a breeding stallion, though rarely aggressive, but there is a stud colt in the pasture next to his that has been running with a mare, so that might be part of his issue lately. He was just terrible at an event this weekend, but a mare from his herd was also there. Otherwise, he’s fantastic at shows, etc.

I honestly think you may be right about me escalating the situation more quickly. I probably need to cool it and be more purposeful. My rebukes may be so frequent that they’ve lost their meaning.

I’m thinking when he doesn’t yield to pressure when I ask, instead of, for example, smacking his hind end when he doesn’t step over, I maybe should go for a big rushing movement and see if he scoots away from it. Just try different ways to get a more prompt response until he figures out I mean business.

I think something to keep in mind is that nuanced, methodical, deliberate small readjustments are often more effective than a dramatic punishment. At the point you’re slapping you’re just saying “NO” instead of actually successfully directing the behaviour you want.

Stock horse people are a great example of demonstrating methodology that I think is applicable to just about any horse. Horse being disrespectful and not standing? Keep backing him up and placing him where you want him to be. Catch it sooner rather than later: pressure point in the chest to back him a step as soon as you can anticipate him thinking about moving forward, as opposed to after he’s taken three steps.

Instead of looking at big reactions as remonstrations figure out how to redirect the behaviour and turn it into training. It’s a bit of a perspective alteration but I think it could be beneficial in your situation.

(Unemotional redirection when at all possible, and for biting issues I agree with an above poster: make a serious bite an unpleasant prospect. “You go to bite, you run your nose into my elbow.” Which again, shouldn’t be a dramatic movement from the person but more of a ho-hum fancy that it looks like my elbow was in your way, oh darn.)

while very rarely I think there is reason for extreme cues/overasking, I also think those situations are a significant minority and create more problems especially when applied with bad timing or too rigorously. Having a horse that learns to overreact isn’t helpful to anyone.


In my experience, you don’t want to muscle a stallion. One, strong-arming them is a direct invitation for physical rebuke and stallions tend to think a whack is invitation to play — and two, constant physical correction desensitizes them and then you’re really in trouble.

My two cents: start working him in a rope halter, not a chain. Not sure what you are using now, but I don’t like chains because they don’t release pressure quick enough, desensitize the horse to pressure, and can overcorrect. I especially hate stallions in chains because IME the constant pressure makes them rude and bargy because they don’t care anymore, because the pressure never goes away. Rope halters release pressure as soon as you release, where chains get ‘caught’ in the metal you thread it through and sometimes don’t even release at all.

I know it might seem humiliating, but why not ask his mom to help you with it? I have tremendous respect for people who say “wait, I don’t know how to do that, can you show me how?” - it shows initiative but it also shows that you’re a critical thinker, and you can recognize your own short-comings and how to improve them. That’s much more useful to me than someone who just continues to go on oblivious to their environment or how they might not be handling a situation appropriately.

How are you asking him to do these things?

Some tips for teaching a horse to yield to pressure:
Start with backing up, provided the horse is not the type to rear. You ask the horse to stop, take a second to pat it, and then apply pressure with your hand to the chest, and with your other hand, to the lead – as soon as the horse drags a foot back, praise lavishly and rinse and repeat.

Don’t push - horses instinctively lean into pressure, so you need to be using a tap or poke to get the horse to move over until they do. Do these quickly - tap-tap-tap the flank and stop the second the horse’s barrel shifts away. For particularly bargy horses, I might not use a hand at all and instead twirl the leadrope until they give and move away.

I always use a voice command first. ‘Back’ for back up, ‘over’ for move over - followed by a gesture (no contact) - if that does not get a response, it is onto contact - a poke, or tap, until the horse moves over. It only takes a few sessions to install a reaction to gesture alone - for instance, ‘over’ , I’ll say “Over.” and move towards the horse (gesture 1) and place a palm out as if to push the horse over (gesture 2) - at this point, my horse knows to move over and almost always does before I need to contact him with a tap.

The goal is to condition the horse to respond before you add pressure. A lot of people think they need to touch the horse physically to get it to do something; no - working on getting the horse to respond to voice and gestures is, IMHO, safer and easier than always needing to physically poke or haul the horse’s head to get it to do something.

The other thing is… 90% of interacting with a stallion is doing so preemptively… you know that popular phrase… CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Well, it applies to stallions too - shut down behaviors before they have a chance to happen… extreme example… you ask him to stop and he starts to balk - that’s your cue he’s about to rear – rather than pull against him or try to get him to stop what he is doing, go to his flank and ask him to move over, or walk on, or whatever – or, better yet, work him in such a way that you are not enticing him to balk… either halt towards the gate, or keep the sessions short enough they don’t get to that point where they’re looking to fight over cooperate.

A less extreme example would be the nipping - it can be really hard to shut this down in a stallion, but I’ve found that smacking them does not stop the behavior as reliably as completely preventing it from happening… easier said than done, but most studs have a particular circumstance (something I call a behavioral routine, or a reliable habit demonstrated consistently in response to a specific stimuli) they like to get nippy over and you should critically go over when and why the stallion bites and look for ways to avoid that - IE some people hold the lead too close to the head, and studs nip then - try not to hold underneath his halter, and keep your arms closer to your body rather than out… another time I’ve found studs bitey is leading in from the paddock - doing zigzags, circles, and not going straight to the stall can help break the behavioral routine… and in the event the horse does nip, try to arrange it so that as he goes to nip you, he comes into abrupt contact with an elbow. Smacking after the behavior will not, in my experience, prevent the behavior from happening again - you have to make the actual behavior (in this case, biting) uninviting, not the reaction to the behavior.

AKA - with stallions, it is much more about prevention than reaction -if you are reacting to an unwanted behavior with them, IMHO, you’re too late.


This was super helpful! I’ll try to address all your points!

I currently use a regular halter and lead. Used a chain this weekend because we were at an event with several other stallions and a mare from his herd was with us. He was awful. Have used a chain the last 3 or so times when going to turn his out, too. In the 2 years I’ve worked with him, I’ve used a chain a total of like 6 times.

His mom Mom knows there’s an issue. She saw how disrespectful he was this weekend and suggested I take two days and work with him on the ground before he loses all respect for me. I agree, just looking for advice on how to make it different that what I already do, because clearly that’s not working! Hence why I’m here. :slight_smile: She seems to do physical punishment, too (jerking, etc.), but it means more from her. Maybe because she handles him less and he isn’t as casual with her.

He is expected to back up when you stand at his head neck and back yourself up. I’ve had to do some in-hand physio exercises with him lately, and I have to face his hind to keep him straight. He gets halter pressure and chest pressure to back, if needed. I also say, “back,” but definitely not as often as I could. For moving over, I use pressure on the hip, usually a push, then a smack. I will try to use my finger more so than my whole hand. He also has to do turns on the forehand on the ground (physio), and sometimes he blatantly ignores the finger behind the girth and gets a dressage whip reaction, but usually he’s good about that.

His nipping trigger is coming in from the paddock. His “I’m going to bump my shoulder into you” trigger is mostly going out to the paddock, but he can also be a close-walker in general. Going out to the paddock (where he can see all his mares) is usually the trigger for the “worst” misbehavior—calling, prancing sometimes, running his shoulder into me. Never sure how much I should get after him for calling and dancing, assuming he doesn’t invade my space. He’s a stallion, so he’s supposed to vocalize to his herd, but is it appropriate in hand? Usually his mom and I just make him back up until he stops it.

Re bold, no. He’s supposed to behave how you ask and train him to.
Clearly you know when he’s going to be bad, or misbehave, so stop the bad behavior before he does it.
Praise good behavior and make those correct responses the easier ones and the wrong answers the harder ones.

I have a stupid question, you say you are his trainer but ‘mom’ is better with him… why isn’t 'mom
training him?

The chain all the time isn’t going to make a difference. Much of his resistance is in cross ties, with things like not wanting to move over, etc. I’m not going to be jerking a chain to correct that. I put the chain on when I know he’s going to have issues that the chain would correct, like bumping into me, etc. Which, like I said, isn’t often.

I’m also not going to have a 1/2 hour manners session every single day. I of course am always working on his manners whenever I handle him, but when I referenced the two-day thing, I was referring to two long sessions where ground manners is all we do.

I train him because I ride. His mom doesn’t. I started him as a 3 year old; he’s 5 now. He’s really a good stallion—no problems at shows, etc. I didn’t mean to paint this picture of him as being awful, because he’s not. I just wanted to see how other people react to their stallions’ misbehavior, whatever that may be. His issues are by and large small things, like not stepping away immediately when I ask him to, or trying to be mouthy, or bumping his shoulder into me when I take him to the field. I just wanted opinions on how others command respect at all times and how they react to certain issues. For instance, on the calling out, some people think that that’s not a punishable offense if that’s the only thing the stallion is doing. Some, like you, disagree. Some thing chains and smacks are
ineffective, or maybe just in certain contexts. Some recommend chains all the time, like you. Just interested in the range of opinions.

Are you praising him when he does something right? Sometimes that’s easy to forget, especially for the basics that we take for granted. Identifying and reinforcing the correct behavior often helps, versus only identifying and punishing the wrong stuff, even for something as simple as backing up in hand.

At five he’s also just at that age of “oh yeah? make me.” It’s like the terrible twos with toddlers. They realize they don’t HAVE to do what you say. With consistent handling, it passes, but it can be a trying couple of years.

Thats a good point. I should praise him more. I do think I tend to take it for granted when he behaves, and I need to be more intentional about saying good boy.

Thanks for mentioning about the age—he definitely seemed a more compliant last year, so maybe he’s just going through a phase! He also hasn’t been turned out with a mare in awhile to be put in his place. No plans for that anytime soon, either!

If you need a half hour manners session with him every day for a week or two, then that’s what you do. Of course the same manners work and vigilance applies whenever you are working with him even grooming.

You might want to get some coaching from a ground work trainer who can improve your timing and response.


One thing that helps is to get them ok with being in their own space. Start by giving him one job—pay attention to the space between you. Be sure you give him chances to respond to appropriate pressure before escalating and follow the same pattern every time in your correction. Release when you get right answers even if he then makes another mistake after.

So for some of the dancing around behavior—at first ignore it. If he does it in his own space, ok fine. Get him good at being in control of his space and body and aware of yours. Then from there you can work towards relaxation.

Maybe watch some TRT Method videos. Some are available for free, but in the subscription you can see him work with a 3yo colt. There is something different about your energy and posture from the horse’s mom, and it’s likely very subtle and maybe subconscious. You have to heighten your awareness of those little things to fix them.

Agree with this. Used to have to deal with a naughty Percheron stallion that was in the same pasture as the horse I was leasing. I wasn’t even trying to train him, merely manage him, so I could get his buddy out to work. He had a sweet disposition but no sense of proprioception or concept of how big he was. His feet were the size of dinner plates! He was a bumper (out of affection, but still), and he would come up behind me and nibble on my jacket shoulders. I found a longe whip worked well with him because it allowed me more distance, which he did respect.

You do need to watch body language very carefully and anticipate all the time. Never put yourself in a situation where you feel threatened or in danger because the horse will pick up on this and use it.

One thing I’ve learned with naughty boys in general is that if you can keep their minds occupied, you can avert a lot of undesirable behavior. The minute you anticipate he’s going to do something you don’t want, change direction or do something else to take his mind off the undesirable action. You need to keep his brain working all the time, so he doesn’t have a chance to think of something unwanted.

I wouldn’t use physical punishment much with a stallion because of misinterpretation. Is there a way you can incorporate some positive reinforcement into your training without him taking advantage of it? Can you reward him with a long rein or some activity he loves when he does what you want? The reward would have to come pretty quickly on the heels of the desired behavior for him to make the connection. I’ve never used clicker training, but maybe there is a place for it here?

It’s not just about saying good boy but releasing pressure and allowing him to find moments of relaxation. A lot of the behaviors come from a place of being hyper alert. Get him down into the parasympathetic nervous system. Help him do this. He will find that release to be relaxing and rewarding. To help him get there, you’ve got to get his focus and attention on you. That doesn’t mean he needs to be always standing still and looking at you. But, can you easily gain his focus? Is he being aware of you and your space or disregardful or pushy? When you correct and redirect negative behavior and release, does he lick and chew? Does his face twitch (precursor to the lick and chew)? You may need to wait for those releases. Some people ask the horse to lower its head at this time to help them out. Some even with use a treat…not sure about yours, but mine will take a treat and just hold it in his mouth if he’s still alert. Wait for him to chew it. His ability to relax will get easier, and he will be able to stay relaxed longer…eventually. He may still need to be hyper aware but he may be able to be aware of other things while also not running you over in the meantime. He will also be more aware of you. That’s where the respect part comes from. He pays attention to you and he takes more responsibility for controlling himself. Some horses like rubs and treats and things but a lot of the time, the reward is just leaving them alone when you get the right response. And that means letting all of your energy out too…don’t hold onto the body language and energy you had when making the correction. You also need to be good at switching between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous responses. Breathe.

Once you’ve established the basics of handling appropriately, then I agree that your handling should be business-like and any groundwork you do, keep him busy. Give him something to focus on that is productive.

I also find the use of voice cues as the pre-cue to be helpful, but some are more receptive to this than others.

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