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Horse Help Center

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Questions about foot stomping & Thoroughbreds

Hello Franklin,

I have loved horses all of my life. For the first time in my life (I am 40 years old) I live on a small ranch in Texas that raises racehorses, and I finally have the opportunity to get up close to horses on a regular basis. I don't know a lot about them, but I'm trying to learn. All I know is that I love horses dearly. I have some questions, and I will try not to make this too long! Forgive me if I do.

There is one here in particular that I have gotten close to. She had a bad experience at a vet, and has had kind of a hard time. There was something about her that spoke to me, and I began to try to win her over, so to speak. She is a 2 year old unbroken mare. Every evening when I got home from work, I would go out and scratch and rub on her. I can really tell when I have reached an itchy spot, because she stretches out her neck and her muzzle stretches out, and if she were a dog I swear her back leg would be making scratching motions like when you scratch a dogs itches. After doing this for awhile, she now waits for me to come out and see her. When I do go outside, and she's off in the pasture, she will come right over to me. She genuinely seems to enjoy my attention to her. Earlier today, she stuck her nose right up to my face and let out a couple of long breaths. I didn't know what this meant at that moment, but after reading your website, I think I do now. I've never had a horse do this to me before. I thought I might be mistaken, but when I went out this evening..she did it again. If it means what I think it does, I couldn't be more thrilled.

One day she did something peculiar that I haven't seen anyone mention. I sensed that she was trying to tell me something, but I don't know what. I was visiting with her, doing our usual thing...and suddenly she stamped her foot on the ground, hard. She did this several times, a couple of times with her back foot, and a couple of times with her front foot, all the while looking me right in the eye. It only happened one day, but I've been wondering about it every since. Also, what are they doing when they paw at the ground?

I also wondered if thoroughbreds make good riding horses. The reason I'm asking is because I am aware that they are the athletes of the breed, and usually are used for racing and other equine sports. So, I was just wondering if they are good for just having for a riding horse. I guess the reason I'm asking this is because I thought I might try to buy this horse someday, but I don't know if I'd ever race her.

Thanks for listening to my questions! Karen

Hi Karen,

Lovely email you have sent. Thank you. Yes, when a horse shares breath with you, it is a very special occurrence. The foot stomping could mean a variety of things. First off, it is meant to get attention for something. It is a very big attention getter obviously. Sometimes it can show impatience. "Feed me now!" is not an uncommon reason when a horse does this around supper time. It can also show an impatient desire for attention. Or, just to get your attention about one thing or another. Be sure the foot stomping has nothing to do with flies on her legs. If it does, fly spray her legs and body. You can spray some on a rag or sponge to get it on her face. Beyond the obvious possibilities I have mentioned, I would have to see the behavior to determine what other possible interpretations might be attributed to this behavior. As you have bonded with this mare, it could just be to get more attention or she was trying to get your attention about something else. I cannot determine what from the email.

While horses in general are terrific athletes, thoroughbreds are some of the fastest. Bred and trained to run, they obviously have a lot of ability to go fast.

Unfortunately, many thoroughbreds are only trained for that. They are not trained to be good riding horses in general. Additionally, they are trained to only run to the left, there is not much training done on them to 'stop' or for leg yields and other basic training that most all other horses receive. They are frequently made to be more hyper than they naturally would be (so they have more fear and run faster). I have rehabilitated ex-racehorses for folks who wanted to rescue them, as many are discarded when they can no longer be a contender to win. Some have such deep seated fear issues that it takes professional training and a long time to bring those horses around to becoming decent riding horses. Some never make it to become safe for novice or intermediate riders. Some make very good hunter/jumpers and/or eventing horses. But again, this takes a professional trainer and lots of time. Without seeing the horse I cannot evaluate the animal for you. Thank you for loving the horse and showing compassion and kindness. The horse is obviously grateful and appreciative of you.

Best regards, Franklin

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