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Horse doing tricks I don't want

Hi Franklin,

I have a wonderful 19-year-old Canadian Sporthorse who has been with me for just over a year. He is an excellent companion to my much younger Saddlebred and has absolutely elegant ground manners.

Lately he has begun reverting to an old behavior which he learned as a game when he was very young. I've been told that his first owner taught him to run up and rear in her face. While I can understand why she may have thought this was cute, I don't like being on the receiving end. This horse is half thoroughbred/half percheron and, quite simply, enormous.

He has not yet reared in my face, but he has collected himself and begun the charge. So far, he has always stopped at my command. I'm sure he is playing because it always happens when he is feeling particularly good, like after his bath (which he loves), getting turned out in is favorite pasture, or a snap of cold weather. Also, it's usually preceeded with his playing with the lead rope (another new trick which showed up at the same time).

On the one hand, I'm happy that this big "stoic" beast trusts me enough to start fooling around. On the other hand, I know this behavior needs to be stopped. Can you suggest any ways to correct or "redirect" this new energy into something more manageable?

Many thanks. I sure hope you can help!


Hi Karen,

You should be able to modify this 'trained' behavior through the same training techniques that he learned the behavior with. I am assuming you don't mind him running back to you and it is only the rearing you don't want. The ability to have a horse run to your location when called is pretty nice. You are on the right track already. You reinforce what you do want and make what you don't want difficult for the horse to do. If he stops on command, before he begins to rear, reward this with a calm moment for the horse and a little praise (you can use food, like a horse cookie, as a reward as well). If he hunches up like he is going to rear or does rear, immediately send him off again (movement is a good consequence). Be thoughtful in how you send him away as you don't want him hard to catch. Only reward what you do want ...... and request more or continued movement if he does what you do not want.

Consider that your horse can do this rather impressive 'trick' safely without hurting you. Many horses do. As he is so big it seems his size is a bit intimidating to you.

Once you get used to his size, and you know you can trust the horse not to get too close (which you can dictate yourself by stopping him where you want) you could allow him to 'go up' and reward it when it is done exactly as you want. Just a thought.......

Good Luck and be careful......Best regards, Franklin

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