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My horse attacking other horses, plus racing forward with other horses

Hello Franklin.
I am from the UK and found your site while trying to desperately find some info to help a horse that has come a long way in trusting people. When I bought him he would attack anyone who approached him whether stabled or in the field, he would barge through doors gates and people. Rear when lunged or ridden etc etc. All the classic signs of a horse trying to protect himself. After a year of being with me I can safely say he has become a best and trusted friend. Always greets me with a neck rub in return for a bottom scratch of course. As soon as he hears or sees me in the field he charges over to see me. I can happily say he is a confident and perfect chap in every way.

We have two problems I would like to try and overcome. Firstly he has a habit of attacking other horses in the field and over his stable door for no apparent reason. He could be grazing happily then just swing round and grip something by the neck. At first I put it down to either confidence or the threat of someone entering his space but he is neither as he is confident, in a settled small herd of geldings. He is more aggressive towards other horses when I am around and he will not allow any of the horses to approach me..

Secondly he is an angel to ride confident, likes to have fun but puts the thinking cap on in the school or faced with new sites. In the school I can ride him no saddle or bridle in all paces and he is clever enough to figure out what I an attempting to ask of him.

When riding out especially in company he has a tendency to stop listening if we canter and thinks its a race, we end up with no brakes. I have tried tight circles and pushing him on to run further and flexing. Nothing seems to brake this habit, people have said try a harsher bit but he is only five and when I got him he had been broke in a pelham and it has taken a long time to get him safe comfortable and confident in a normal snaffle. If this helps the only movement he is uncomfortable with on the ground and ridden is "backing up" it is something we are working on slowly but surprisingly he will back up with no hesitance when its just me and him in the stable. I would be so very grateful of you could help with this lovable but complicated chaps problem.

Thank you so much for reading this. Natalie

Hi Natalie,

Some horses do become bullies of other horses for no known apparante reason. If another horse gets too close, or for no obvious reason in a field, they will swing chase another horse biting at it. Many folks think that this horse is the leader or alpha horse. This is not correct. This horse is simply a bully. It can be a mare, a gelding or a young stallion. He may be great with you now. But, with other horses has learned that bullying behavior gets him some respect (fear) from the others around him. Not being there to observe the behavior myself and how it sets up, this is a guess. If he was very fearful before, charging and barging around, this behavior may be a result of him gaining some confidence and figuring out that he can up his level on the pecking order by bullying other horses. When you are around this bullying behavior could be interpretated as him being a bit jealous and keeping the other horses away from his 'beloved' human (you). A way to train him not to do this would be to put him immediately to doing hind quarter yields on the ground, or lungeing around you in tight circles. He will eventually associate his behavior with having to go to work (a consequence) and will probably decide it is too much hassle to bully other horses when you are there. When you are not right there and he bullies other horse, there is not much you can do about it.

As far as him rushing off into a race when you are hacking out with other horses, again providing a consequence for the unwanted behavior is a good idea. He may be hardened to the snaffle (most folks leave horses in snaffles too long). English riders, without realizing it, hang on to snaffles (hang on to the horses mouth) way too much and deaden the animal's responses to the bit. Sounds like this could be the case here, even if you don't realize it. I suggest several things: train him for a good stop in an arena by riding with a rope halter and leadrope tied up as reins. Teach him a good verbal stop and a stop off of your 'seat.' Do not go out hacking with other horses until his 'stop' is perfect. Once you have this, without using a bit at all, you will have the opportunity to re-develop a sensitive mouth on him. Go to some other bit (forget a snaffle as you will begin to hang on it and use it too much unconsciously) with a medium shank and a curb stap or chain. Remember it is not the bit that abuses and deadens a horse's mouth (assuming it fits properly), it is the rider's hands. It is never about the bit (or the horse). It is always about the human's skill and attitude. Using a shanked bit will allow you to be much lighter with your hands. NEVER PULL ON THE REINS. BETTER TO LIGHTLY BUMP WITH ONE REIN, DEVELOP A ONE REIN STOP, AND BECOME A BETTER LEG AND SEAT RIDER. Ride bridle-less once he stops well with halter and lead. Get a great and fabulous stop w/o a bridle. Then once you go to a bridle again (not a snaffle), his stop will be immediate and most impressive. English riders, in my experience, are very one demensional (hunt seat and a little dressage and that it) and generally scoff at developing really light hands and really good seats. They think that because they use a snaffle they are not abusing their horse's mouth. But they constantly hang on it with their body weight. They cannot imagine bridle-less riding as they feel they would have absolutly no control of the beast (and they wouldn't). But it is not supposed to be about control. It is supposed to be a dance, like ballroom dancing. The human is always supposed to be the great leader of the dance.

These things take much more time than you would imagine to get good. There is no quick fix. Months and months of practice to develop the kind of stop I am suggesting is what it will take. Most humans don't have the patience for it. Only gentle, patient trainers generally have the desire and will take the time neccessary to do this with their horses. But, I guarantee, these suggestions will solve your problems.

I am due to teach again in the UK, Ireland and Belgium in May, 2008. If you would like details and scheduling of clinic information please email my UK coordinator
Karen Fullbrook
and she will keep you posted of the details of the schedule. I would be delighted to work with you personally there if you desire it or you could join a seminar. Just tell Karen.

Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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