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Need Advice for Horses with Dangerous Behavior at Gate

Hi there,

I am starting a new job as a stable hand and am concerned about some dangerous behavior that 4 of the horses have around gates during turn in time. There are 4 in one very small paddock (about the size of a a dressage ring) that get extremely fiesty and excited when they know it’s time to come in. Crowding the gate, pushing, biting, kicking, and recently I’ve been told about some rearing. I have encountered these problems before individually, but never all at once, and certainly not at a gate. The gate opens in towards the paddock. These 4 horses are the only ones like this at the stable and sometimes have days where they are all great at the gate.

​​​​​​The girl who works there now just toughs it out and gets in the middle of it while leading one horse out and quickly closing the gate behind her before the others can push through. There are two other staff who seem to have no problems, or are at least confident that they can handle it, but I have heard about these 4 horses pushing through the gate and getting loose, or dragging staff around. I used to be confident with these things but have a greater fear of injury now that I’m not a teenager. I worked at a stable for 3 summers a few years ago.

My question​ is:
Is this an issue of the horses being dangerous, or is it an issue of me being inexperienced? And what should be done?


I wouldn’t get in the middle of it, especially not for a volunteer position! Or was this a volunteer position that’s turning into a paid position now that there’s a vacancy?

I think the main thing that should be done is not keeping four horses in a tiny paddock.

One technique that might help is being able to “drive” one horse out the gate so the handler can keep her eye on the others inside the paddock, as opposed to leading the horse out. But this involves training someone else’s horses, which I don’t think you’re getting paid to do. But someone - like their owner! - should address this problem. I would not put up with it from my horses.

Bottom line? Sounds like a badly run operation, and if I were you I wouldn’t want to work there. This is one of those “accident waiting to happen” situations IMO.

Both :slight_smile: It’s very dangerous behavior, for them and you. But it also appears as if they know who will allow it and who won’t.

There are basically 2 ways to approach a situation like this:

  • be someone who they won’t consider challenging, which helps you, but not the next less experienced person
  • be the person who teaches them that behavior doesn’t get them what they want.

Ideally, you choose #2.

If I found myself in that situation, I would walk to the gate confidently but not aggressively, meaning, don’t march. But stand up, look at them, but with a relaxed posture. And I would be carrying a lunge whip.

I would make sure I had a lot of time if needed. The second they started that nonsense, I’d turn and walk away. Once they were quiet enough, I’d stat walking towards the gate again, as above.

Repeat as many times as necessary until you have a group of reasonably quiet horses, and then take the first one out.

You might have to do more repeats.

Once you’re down to 2 in the paddock, you MAY have to take both of them out at the same time, since dealing with a horse who is spazzing because he’s left alone is another battle. Some horses care, some don’t, so you’d have to evaluate that in the moment.

If you simply do not have that time to teach #2, then you’re left with #1, and that’s where the whip really comes in.

If they’re being all spastic at the gate, start waiving the whip before you get there to back them off. Waive it as long as necessary to keep them backed off the gate so you can safely get in. Catch the quietest horse. If you have a few minutes to let them re-settle down, you inside the ring if it’s safe, gate closed, that’s good. Then just quietly go catch the quietest horse. Keep the whip handy in case you need to back off the other 3 while you exit.

Repeat for the next one, and then figure out if you need to take the last 2 out together.

And by all means, if it’s constantly a madhouse, tell them your life isn’t worth it :wink:

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I’d carry a whip but probably a short bat or a dressage whip. I might try making my way through the horses into the paddock a few times and see if they leave the gate then try taking the calmest horse if they crowd the gate and the horse I’m leading, I’d leave the gate again and bags in and again.

Or if if all fails, try a bribe of TwoOr three bits f hay or alfalfa away from the gate. Be careful,

There are a couple of rude one’s that crowd the gate where I board. I have a knot tied at the end of my lead and if they get too close they get a whack. They’ve learned to respect my space and I have very little problems with them now.

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