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horse behavior: Filly too playful sometimes

Dear Franklin,

What a fantastic web site you have. I am finding it a valuable resource.

I have purchased my first young horse. I have had horses before, but as the old saying goes, no one ever sells a good horse. I am sick of baggage; hence I decided to go for the young horse. I bought a Paint filly as a weanling, and asked if I could agist her at the stud with her peers and older mares until she was 2. She has turned out to be the friendliest sweetest horse I have ever had anything to do with. (My last one broke my leg, but she was an abused horse, and I was told not to buy her. I can't blame the horse.)

The only problem I have with her is she is playful. She has a paddock mate, a miniature - who is the paddock boss - she doesn't take any nonsense, but when her mate won't play, she tries to get me to play. She usually trots up to me and prances around me lifting her front feet off the ground - almost rearing. I know it is play, as I have watched her do it with horses her own age. But I do find it unacceptable. Most of the time she is my mate and follows me around everywhere and she always stands quietly beside me grazing wherever I am in the paddock.

When she does try to play with me, I do what the mini does. I walk away from her, and won't have anything to do with her until she calms down. After about 10 minutes, she will wander up to me with her head lowered, and ears forward. The problem is, if for some reason I need to get a halter on her when she is in play mood, I can't. She takes off with her tail held high like an Arab. If she isn't in play mood, she usually comes to me whenever I am in the paddock. What would be the best way to overcome this small, but very annoying issue?

Regards, Chris

Hi Chris,

Thank you for your kind words. I like your question a lot. Lets see if I can offer some good suggestions.

It is normal, as you have pointed out, playful behavior. Generally, if a horse behaves in a manner I do not want, I try to find a way to make the behavior difficult for the horse to do. I usually do this as simply and as quickly as possibly, with no fuss made about it. Frequently I will have a horse turn tight circles (yielding the hind quarters) if they are on a lead line, or bend around an inside leg if I am riding the horse. As your filly is loose and being playful when you don't want, there is a bit more of a challenge to come up with something. If the horse is in a paddock that is not huge, I would begin to work the horse back and forth along the fence. You do not have to get close to the horse to do this. Just cut her away from her buddies and haze her up and down the fence line. That will put her to work and you don't have to get close to her. A few minutes of that should settle her down so you can halter and get close to her. This also works well with fearful horses that are hard to catch. They get herded into a paddock and then cut from the others and worked up and down the fence line. The human does not get close until the 'time is right'. Do you know what I mean by working the horse up and down the fence line from a distance? If you don't, I will go into more detail. Good question and good luck to you.

Sincerely, Franklin

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