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Seasonal attitude changes with my gelding

My Appendix 13 yr old QH is very forward, herd dependent but safe and has been allowed to be disrespectful and rude in his past. I have worked hard on ground work, consistency in training etc. for the last two years that I have had him. I have seen a real improvement in him but strangely he is much better in the warmer months. Although he likes to eat - his grain is minimal for winter and he works consistently.

It seems that as soon as the weather changes and it gets colder - his temperament changes as well. He gets really agitated in the barn and old pawing and moving around behaviors that I thought were extinguished come back and he becomes more resistant under saddle. He is serviceable sound due to slight ringbone which is not impinging the joint and I wonder if it is bothering him. He is not off and seems quite comfortable although noticeably more forward. When lunged on a short line he has struck out at the trainer both last winter and this winter. It seems he just becomes more disrespectful and nastier. During the summer - totally different horse.

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I have spent lots of time, energy and money on trying to establish a positive but respectful relationship with this horse but I am wondering if a horse with so many issues can be retrained. Is this a coincidence with the temp change or is there a relationship here?

Best regards.

Hello and thank you for your question,

You know, I know humans that are about the same way when the cold weather sets in. It is a fact that some horses (and humans) just do not do as well in colder weather. Can you tell me if he was this way with his former owner? Did he grow up where he is now? This may be important to answering your questions. As this is not a young horse, his pattern of behavior may have a history. Even quarter horses can be thin skinned. This is something to consider also.

What exactly do you mean by “he works consistently”? I would do as much ground play with him as possible. It may be more important for him and you during the colder months. More than lunging may be in order. I know you want to ride, but even more ground play may be just what he needs to stay on track, be challenged in a positive way and really stay connected to the humans around him. There are many fun things to do on the ground with him that I can suggest if you want. Things like sending him places, around trees and back, in and out of the trailer and stall and gates. Sending him over small jumps and over obstacles and back again are fun and challenging for him. Also, he may simply get a bit insecure when it gets cold. His survival instincts may become activated as he gets uncomfortable. Also, the change in diet, although warranted could be a factor. Less food activates survival instincts as well as environmental changes. Is the barn heated? How warm can you keep him?

Does he have companion horses? Does the herd change during the colder months? These may be factors also. You mentioned some herd bound behavior. Perhaps changes in the herd affect him adversely also setting off behavior you are experiencing. He may not get out as much with his buddies during this time of year, or getting turned out enough at all. This will affect his behavior too. How about doing some ground driving with him on long lines after he is warmed up just to change things and do something different?

As far as him being re-trainable, I have yet to encounter a horse that cannot be rehabilitated or re-trained if the trainer is willing to go way back to the basics. I have worked with and helped a lot of abused horses, ex-racehorses, and horses with varying degrees behavioral challenges with great success because I was willing to be very patient, not push the horse and go way back to the beginning. Even older horses with deeply rooted problems can be helped.

It seems you have been very diligent and are very committed with this horse. Thank you for that. I know I have not offered anything definitive. But I hope I have given you some things to think about that may be helpful.

Thank you for reaching out. Please keep me posted as I am most interested and want to be able to help if I can.

Sincerely, Franklin

Thanks for your response!

I bought him from a horse trader and I only know that her daughter rode him in quadrille for a year. However, he is very well trained under saddle and generally very compliant - unless the resistance sets in. I ride in a snaffle and am gentle but firm and he doesn't head toss anymore - if not directed he will try and take control and if a beginner is put on him he will take full advantage and try to scare them by going faster or crow hopping. With firm direction he is great. He is always forward and very energetic and loves to go. He is a very beautiful mover and loves to jump.

He is in a pasture with 8 geldings 2 female mules and a mare. The addition of the mare came 6 months ago and she is pregnant and they are buddies. He is herd bound with all the horses not just the mare and he doesn't call but blows up when separated from another horse being ridden on teh property even though he can see the other horses in the pasture. He turns and tries to pull the reigns out of your hands and goes sideways and gets really stiff and resistant. He is still controllable so far but if pushed I am unsure if he would run or not. He could fall in love with a new horse on the trailer ride - he trusts horses more than humans. I have spend lots of time with him grooming and riding and I will try your suggestion of more games and fun ground activities that sounds like great advice.

He is extremely smart and like I said I think he has not been treated fairly and he nipped when I first got him. He was head shy and someone probably hit him when he nipped and he loves to engage people in a fight. If you ignore his behavior it stops but he loves nothing more than to engage and get people upset. I know that sounds weird but if too much pressure is applied he blows up and it will continue to escalate where if you ignore the behavior or just reinforce the good stuff it is much more effective.

Anyway, I appreciate your advice and will try the ground games. Maybe he is bored and that might help our relationship and keep him interested - I just am starting to believe that herd dependence never goes away. I have worked really hard on it and sometimes it is reduced to tolerable but it sounds like he may always be a work in progress. His ground manners are a pain but tolerable - he is not dangerous just a pain in the neck...I'll keep him standing tied and hope he gives it up for good one day...Maybe it is the survival instincts kicking in. I am in California so the change in temp is not that drastic and he has a nice warm blanket on every night...It just seems like he is very determined and wants to be with his pasture mates and won't give it up. I hope that I can bond with him and he will look to me but it is hard to compete with a big herd and a horse that does not trust humans...His resistance seems to just move to a different place or from one behavior to the next. I would love any advice on getting his trust and willingness to appear for good and not just coming and going with what seems the seasons! ;0)



My personal horse in Colorado was going to be destroyed because everyone thought he was so dangerous, herd bound and would not have anything to do with humans. What turned him around was a lot of consistent time with me. I really became his most trusted leader and friend. I did this by talking the horse back to his basic training and doing it right. If you do this with your horse it may take a week or two, but you will become like a parent to the horse. You will become the herd leader for the horse. When you are willing to take the horse that far back, most issues can be resolved. It’s a little like regressive therapy for a human. We go back to the most basic and first memories of certain periods in our lives. Then we try to experience them all over again and reframe them in our consciousness.

It is actually easier to do with a horse as we can lead the dance easier with equines than we can with each other. You have nothing to lose and your training skills will be enhanced and reinforced. You will be amazed at the transformation in your horse. Let me know how it all goes. Remember its all about trust. Right now he trusts horses more than you. You might consider being more of a horse yourself, if you get my drift........

Keep me posted and Happy Holidays.

Sincerely, Franklin

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