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Franklin Levinson's

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Aggressive biting

Hi Franklin,

I have a 7 yr old Quarter Pony stallion who I bred and have owned all his life, and he has always been a pleasure to handle. Never any aggression. 12 wks ago his mother / stable buddy had to be put down. Since then he has been depressed and off his food. We have been to 6 shows as well, all of which he has been a gentleman. He has been on a herbal stomach ulcer treatment for the last 2 wks.

Last Sunday we went to an all day show and towards the end of the day he was very uptight. He also had not gone to the toilet all day. On monday he attacked me, full bite and he lifted me off the ground. If anyone went near him he put his ears flat back. On Tuesday he went to attack another horse and got caught up in the fence, his reaction was of agression not just fear. On Wednesday I had the vet out to do a full blood work, the results were that his cpk levels showed that he was tying up, but he has not shown signs of tying up. Since Monday I cannot go any where near him without him flying at me with teeth beared, but he is ok if I can get a halter on him, he is a different horse. I have to chase him away before I can even attempt to put the halter on, and then his ears are pricked and I have his full attention. I don't know if it is medical or I have become a threat to his or have I lost his repect some how.

I am scared of him at the moment, I am also scared for my 7yr old daughter.

Can you please help me.
Regards Belinda.

Hi Belinda,

I think your horse may be colicky and/or in pain from the stress of losing his mare. Certainly he is upset, anxious and nervous. When he showed you he was unhappy the first time, you basically ignored him and kept taking him to shows. When a horse all of a sudden changes his behavior ("depressed and off his food"), don't just keep doing what you have been, like taking him to shows. Moving him around away from home will not help his depression. If he is off his food and not defecating well, he certainly does have a physical and emotional problem. If you had a physical issue that went ignored by those around you, you might get very upset as well. You will somehow need to deal more with whatever emotional and physical issue he is having. DO NOT keep taking him away from home for a while. I would also not ride the horse for a while until you are able to determine what is going on here. He could also still be grieving over the loss of the other horse. I suggest you actually speak to him about it. Tell him you understand about 'loss' and can relate to his being angry and hurt. You may not think he understands, but he does. Horses live empathetic lives. The loss of the mare is enough to make the horse colicky and very stressed. A period of adjustment would have been in order without the stress of traveling to shows.

Spend more quality time near him without him having to do anything. Talk a lot for now. Make things a good as you can for him for a while without any riding. If you had a round pen I would suggest some light and fun things in the pen. Keep the pressure to a minimum for a little while. What about another companion for him. He will not like being alone. That will aggrevate the problem. There would need to be a long period of adjustment to another horse for him. A cautious introduction and physical separation will be in order for quite a while. But just having the other horse within sight should help your horse (I think). Be careful and let me know how it goes.

Sincerely, Franklin

Hi Franklin,

He has always had other horses around him. I turned him out with my other mare for a few weeks on the Tuesday after he got caught in the fence. I continued to ride him because when ever I did not ride, he would stand in the corner and mope. He is the sort of horse that gets excited when he sees the bridle and saddle.

Also on the Friday or Saturday before the last show, a friend who ageists her horses at the same place as I do, asked me to help her to put her stallion to her mare ( we are in the middle of our breeding season here.), she had had a car accident and was unable to handle her stallion so I handled him for her.

I have left him alone for now and I have been just brushing and patting him. I still cannot go in with him without getting charged at. How will I know if he is ready to forgive me?

Many thanks, Belinda.

Hi Belinda,

I don't think it is a question of him forgiving you. You need to forgive yourself first. There is no blame for not knowing something. Horses do not hold grudges or ill will. They only hold fear (or trust). If there is something in their environment that makes them insecure they are always nervous and fearful. In order for him not to aggress you, show up as a great leader, not the 'boss'. You do need to be able to fend him off. If a horse charges me, I fend them off with a 'flag' (a piece of small plastic bag attached to a 4-5 ft. wand. I then send them around me in a circle either in a round pen or on a line, so they go to work if they do anything I do not want. It is never about discipline. I make what I do not want hard by being able to put them to a task (going around in circles) if they do something I don't want (charging, biting, kicking, rearing, pulling back or anything). There has to be a consequence for unwanted behavior, but not punishment. You should get good at sending him around you in a circle. It gives you a tool to modify unwanted behavior without abuse. This sets him up to trust you, makes you the leader, earns his respect and is respectful behavior by you because you have not abused him. You need either a round pen or the ability to do this on a longeline and then a short line (leadrope). I have several DVD's that show these techniques. I have attached a list of available material (delivery in Feb. '05).

If, before you get in with him, you could get something goin' that would be great. Don't think you need to be next to him to interact and be the leader. Before I go into a small space with any horse, especially one I do not know or that may be dangerous, I talk to him confidently outside the stall. I move back and forth and from side to side a bit as I talk. I may ask him to take one step back by swinging a halter and rope at him just enough to get him to move back a single step. I then give a Good Boy and step back a little myself. I may then ask for another step back, or not. I will move a step to two to the side and invite the horse to follow me with his gaze or body. I like it if I can get a horse to come with me before I get into the sall. I like to be able to move a horse back from the stall door easily before I get into the stall. Even stallions. I carry the flag or a 'wand' a lot. It makes my arm longer and quickly gets the horses attention. If you appear (or feel) vulnerable to the horse either by showing a lack of confidence or not knowing how to respond to the horse's actions, the horse will fend for himself to survive and this means biting you or running over you. If you can somehnow become the good leader, this behavior will stop. Your relationship is formed on the ground through the quality of action, interaction and activity you have with him. It takes a while. But if you knew what you were doing, not that long. Hard to give you a whole lot in an email.

Anyway, good luck and be careful. These techniques work, but working with horses can be dangerous. DON'T TAKE UNNECCESSARY RISKS AND KEEP YOURSELF SAFE NO MATTER WHAT!


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