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impossible, dangerous pony!


I have browsed some of the questions but I can't seem to come up with an answer to the large problem I have. As a companion for my thoroughbred mare I borrowed a small hackney gelding ("Buddy") that was kept locked in a stall. The woman said said that he was locked up because he was hard to catch and he beat up other horses. When I put him with my horse they became best friends --sharing hay and whining for each other when they were split up.

Because of an accident I was forced to board them. Buddy was turned out with my mare and two other mares that he kicked and squealed at. He was then put in another heard with my mare and he beat up the other horses. Meanwhile Buddy has actually escaped twice in a 10 acre field for 3 days each time. He has also kicked several people.

He is now kept in a small paddock by himself and is never around other horses unless I lead him by their stalls. My mare does not like Buddy anymore and bites him. Each day I spend lots of time with him grooming, grazing, lunging...etc. He has been with tons of horses between three different barns and is a danger to every one. I am the only companion that he trusts. My problem is now emotional now because I am being forced to give him back to the original owner who kept him in a stall. I don't want to give up on this adorable pony especially when he cries when I close the stall door. What can I do to change his behavior?!

A friend suggested he was gelded late, or maybe he was severely abused. I have been patient so far and I am still willing. Please help!

Thank you,

Hi Tina,

Sounds like Buddy just sort of fends for himself all the time. This is the result of the humans maintaining the horse not having any real, practical knowledge of training techniques or horse psychology. Or, if they do, unfortunately they did not apply it to this horse. All horses look for a leader all this time that they can rely on and trust. There has been nobody for poor Buddy.

The behavior you describe is correctable. However, it does require skill as an experienced horse trainer. It does not require hitting, abuse or dominance in any way. It does require appropriate leadershsip, guidence and training. Someone needs to start re-training the horse consciously and correctly This is way beyond grooming, feeding, petting and any other passive interaction with Buddy.

Put a rope halter and lead rope on him and begin to make every little movement a clear and conscious request. Walk on, HO (stop), back up, etc..every one or two steps complied with deserves a Good Boy as a reward. If the horse bites, kicks, or seems to be getting ready to do anything you do not want, he should be immediately responded to with a firm NO and snaking of the lead rope vigorously under his chin. He will probably back up a few steps when you do this and this is a good thing (him backing and yielding to you is what you want). Undesirable behavior is modified by putting the horse's attention on some other action (work), such as hind-end yields (small, tight circles 4-5 rotations in both directions). The animal eventually makes the association that if I 'misbehave' I have to go to work. There is no abuse and no hitting. The horse goes to work for undesirable behavior, pure and simple. Compliance is rewarded with praise (not treats). A "Good Boy" w/o petting is plenty. To really reward the horse for a great job, put him away.

This is a period of adjustment when these techniques are first applied. The horse will challenge the handler a bit to see if the handler really is firm in their intention and resolve and to see if the handler really knows what they are doing. Any hesitency, faultering, uncertainy, lack of clarity or precision will prompt the horse to fend for himself again. He may test the handler by attempting to rear, bite, kick, move into or run over the handler. This is why professional trainers get paid. There is a real element of risk in modifying behavior of this sort. But, just having the horse around is risky at this point. Success requires some skill and practice in these training techniques are are not to be attempted by novices as serious injury can result from the inappropriate application of these training techniques. I do not know your skill level. I am happy to offer you some telephone coaching in these training techniques. It is efficient, convenient and cost effective (about what a piano lesson costs). If you are serious about helping this horse, please consider upgrading your skills through a bit of professional coaching.

Let me know how it goes. Please BE CAREFUL! The horse is definately dangerous as he is now.

Sincerely, Franklin

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