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Horse Help Center

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Pawing Problems

I read a few responses to pawing on your website. I really think that the idea of lunging the horse around as they paw sounds great, but I don't know that it will work in my situation. I board my horse at a very nice stable with 34 other horses, and as a full-time college student with two jobs, I can't be there every day at each of the 3 feeding times to correct her behavior. The other problem is that my horse is a 3yo Percheron Mare. She is BIG and she knows it. Although it had seemed that we worked out all of our ground manner issues previously, we are now facing the issue of the 34 other horses at this new stable (we have been somewhat asked to leave at one stable, and plain old kicked out of the second, all since July). Every time we are near another horse, my mare gives the impression that she would like to kick the other horses. I can see that she wants to be agressive and defensive (first stable - was the agressor, the last one, she was on the defensive). So, when I go to use the arena while there are other horses in there, I am often drug around and fear being run down and possibly losing control to the point of her taking off and I have to let go, while someone else is in the ring.

She mainly paws at feeding time (fed 3x a day) before the hay, and then before the grain. She also paws when someone is standing nearby her stall and not paying attention to her. She has become accustomed to being a "people horse" because we are too scared to turn her out with other horses because of previous events at past stables. There isn't even a horse comparable to her size at our new mainly quarter horse stable. I've thought about asking some people to quit giving her treats while in her stall (she has many admirers), but I worry that may cause MORE pawing because she won't get anything.

The people I bought her from did not have enough stalls, so she was turned out all day. I know she was sometimes tied inside, but with another horse that she had "grown up" with. I think that consistent all-day turnout would be great, but is not completely possibly in our snowy/wet Ohio weather.

She has been a total blast other than the pawing. I have trained her myself and find that she is very smart and easy to train. She seems to like her work. She has had a few prolems that kept us from working for long periods of time, one bad cut on her right hind that kept me from riding for over a month. She now has a sarcoma, but my vet said we can ride as soon as it starts to go down a bit (seemed to be looking smaller today). The sarcoma is only a week old now, but she has been unworked and had little turnout because of snow this weekend.

She is lovable, sweet, and clearly attached to me as her person, but I really can't stand this pawing much longer, and I don't know who would buy this horse from me after we've had so many issues. Plus, I don't want to see her turn into a plow horse because I know she won't get the love and attention that she obviously craves. She has some talent, and I think she will be a wonderful lower-level dressage horse for me to train.

I would love to hear your opinion on this.
Thank you, Tiffany

Hi Tiffany,

Thanks for the picture. You both look great. Horses habituate to behavior over time, just like humans. And, just like with humans, old habits are very hard to change. It will take some time to modify the pawing behavior. If the horse was or could be hobble trained, that is a possibility. Another option would be to immediately have the horse do some hind quarter yielding when any behavior comes out you do not want. This would probably work well when you are riding your horse. Get very good at asking for and receiving a hind quarter yield in both directions. Then when your horse threatens another, you immediately put her to work doing these leg yields. This makes it very hard for the horse to do what you do not want. There is a consequence for the behavior, work.

The pawing on the ground is another story. Again, perhaps hobbles are an option, but your horse would need to be professionally trained for hobbles. I could talk you through it in a phone coaching session if you like. I would definitely ask people not to give your horse treats as they are training your horse to paw. Treats could be given when the horse stands patiently and quietly. But this would require really consistent training and in your situation, it does not seem likely for now. But, that is really the answer.....reward the behavior you want, not what you don't want. Until this is a real possibility, I don't see much opportunity for changing this behavior. Anyway, good luck and please keep me posted. I have traveled to Ohio for a few years to present seminars. Do you think their may be interest in your barn for my work? If so, please let me know. To turn folks on to the kind of training I do, please send them to my web site . Blessings to you always....

Sincerely, Franklin

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