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Ear pinning gelding and why

Dear Franklin:

I recently bought a 3 year old gelding that has a late start. I am working on breaking him and am using the Parelli, Lyons, ect... Training methods, and working very well. But recently after working him for about a month I have noticed aggressive behavior when I ask move out in the lead in a circle around me, he pins his ears but has never kicked out. When I ask him to canter he does the same thing, pinning his ears the first couple strides giving me evil looks, then he is fine. He is other wise very submissive to my requests except to agree with them. He is very sweet and never bites or pins his ears while I am handling him other wise. I don't know how to correct this behavior before it comes to him kicking or challenging me in the center. The only other time he pins his ears is when he is in his stall and I walk up to the feed window.

I don't understand why he is so uncomfortable with me near his food dish when most of the time there is no feed in it. He does this with me standing outside his stall. Just looking in on him. He has had only one other owner before me and he was born and raised on there farm. That was the only thing that the man could pick out that my horse ever did bad and made a comment that the whole bloodline did it. Pinning there ears as they ate. Or around his food dish. What could have happened to my gelding to make him this way and I would appreciate and suggestions that might help these 2 problems I am having thank you so much I would love to hear from you!!!

Thanks, Katie

Hi Katie,

Certainly some temperment characteristics can be 'bred' into a horse. If the previous owner has evidence that other horses of this bloodline have the same temperment, that is evidence of a genetic trait and changing the behavior will be challenging. A basic way to modify behavior you do not want or to develop a more 'compliant, trusting' attitude is to provide some non-abusive consequence when the horse displays this unwanted attitude.

Horses pin their ears around food or the feeding area, because they are insecure as to whether or not the food will be eaten by another. You could ask the horse to move away from the food or feeding area (with as little pressure as possible) and once that happens you allow the horse to come back to the food when it displays compliance by its change in attitude. In other words, you ask the horse to move away a few steps by shaking a rope or something at it's chest are or feet. You keep it away from the food until the ears come forward. Then you reward the horse for bringing its ears forward (a change in attitude) by allowing it back to eat. As the 'leader of the dance' (herd leader), one of the things you oversee is the food resources. You eat first! Do you understand? This should help you modify this horse's attitude. But remember genetics is big and plays a huge role in all aspects of this horse. It also sounds like this behavior was tolerated by the previous owner. See if you can modifly it, but be careful and sensitive.

Let me know how it all goes.

Sincerely, Franklin

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