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Dangerous behavior from my retired gelding around feeding time

Dear Mr. Levinson,

I have an older gelding (30yrs) that has been docile his entire life. He's never offered to bite, kick, strike out, nothing. Not even when we had him as a standing stud. For goodness sakes we could even take him (as a stallion) and ride him with the mares and he was always sweet tempered. We retired him a few years ago and just recently he's started becoming aggressive. I went to grain him the other day, and he kicked me in his stall. I don't understand what his problem is. Its not that he doesn't view me as the 'dominant mare' because my horses and I have a very clear pecking order. He's never been abused, we've had him since he was two. I'm just at a loss for what might be causing his aggression, both toward my mare and toward myself. It would be wonderful if you could perhaps tell me what might be causing this and how to fix it.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Sincerely, Brooke

Hi Brooke,

Just like a human who has recently retired from their former routine of activity, aberrations in behavior can erupt. Some things to consider are: is he getting too much grain now for his current activity level, is he bored, is he feeling neglected and is he jealous of attention that is not longer going towards him. He still needs sufficient exercise and movement to keep in shape and he also needs direct interaction with someone and often, doing something active and physical.

Horses that all of a sudden become defensive of their food usually are prompted to this behavior because of some incident where their assurances of being fed at the normal time has been interrupted. Consider this as well. But I think the most important would be, like for a human, continued activity and lots of it, the best diet for the activity level, lots of contact and communication to keep the relationship up, current and appropriate. Handle the horse on the ground more than normal for a while. Play with him a good amount and keep it easy and fun. This can make all the difference.

Keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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