View Full Version : Behavioural problem! Advice needed! Help!

21st January 2010, 04:50 PM
I need some advice, ideas anything!! I just dont know what I can do (if anything)! There must be something...

Basically Ozzie isnt the most friendly towards other horses. Hes good as gold if hes being ridden or handled, and he is usually ok in the field, just the usual banter Ive never seen him kick out and noone has ever come in with an injury.

Basically this morning he was tied outside his stable (hes not usually there but we were waiting for the vet) & another pony came in behind him, which wasnt a problem as I was handling him at the time. The pony was then tied up nearby (not very close) and as soon as my back was turned he went for the pony. Ears flat back & then span his bum round at her. He didnt hurt the pony at all & he definately could have if that was his intention.

What can I do to stop this!!? Help!

21st January 2010, 05:13 PM
I dont think there is much that you can do to stop this behaviour.

He is showing this behaviour to other horses and defending his space. He is obviously not confident of hasn't at some point been confident in his herd placing and may have been kept in an unsettled herd or seperated at some point in his younger life. (this is why its important to socialise foals!)

He is happy with you as a higher member to approach his space but he has a very large personal bubble that he doesn't want any horses to come in.

Sometimes, a totally strange environment with another strange horse will get them to buddy up, and once he's happy you can add a couple more but that would require access to single fields and other horses.

This isn't something you've done but i would have a red ribbon in his tail and ensure other owners are aware of his tendencies. Let him have his space

21st January 2010, 06:30 PM
Thanks Sasca,

I wondered if it was something to do with how he was treated as a baby. I know he was passed around a lot dealer to dealer. It must have been quite unsettling for him.

I think I will just have to keep him separate, aside from the horses he shares his field with as he accepts them.

He used to behave in this way in particular to one of the horses who shares his field, never kicked him or injured him though, just threatened. It seems he now accepts this horse & I dont see the sort of behaviour I described in my first post. Occasionally he puts his ears back at him, but thats all. Prehaps he needs time to accept all other horses...

I suppose it could be worse & he could do it while im on him & handling him aswell.

Were going to the beach on Saturday with a horse he has never met so we will see how he reacts towards him, maybe it will be good to socialise him with other horses.

If anyone has any other ideas I would be gratetful :)

21st January 2010, 06:34 PM
nothing you can do really, you cant really change how they are to other horses all you can try do is make sure that he isnt put in a place where he feels that he needs to lash out at another horse

it may of been becasue he was by his stable which is his 'teritory' it could of also been becasue it possibly was near feed time or just being out of his usual routine

Tarka the horse
22nd January 2010, 09:29 AM
Given what you said in your second post on here, I wouldn't say that he's accepted that other horse in his paddock, he's just managed to get a higher rank than him, and now all it takes for him to get the other horse out the way is his ears back, rather than ears back, lunge, kick and bite. That's totally normal horse behaviour.

As for the "problem" when he was tied up, it sounds like, as Sasca said, he was protecting his space but it also sounds like he was feeling a bit claustrophobic, like he had to pretect his space before the other horse did anything, because he didn't know what else to do. If you say he could have hurt this horse but didn't, I'd put it down to the same thing as the other horse in the paddock - he's just trying to assert his dominance. Next time that horse walks past he wont need to react quite so much before it moves away from him.

I wouldn't worry about it until you see him make contact HARD with another horse. Horses kept together will always hurt each other a bit.

22nd January 2010, 09:07 PM
Thank you for your replys & good advice! Maybe I am worrying over nothing... I suppose it is normal behaviour. I wish he was a little less domineering... I suppose thats just him though!! Which is a bit unfortunate at times.

Do you think he will always be like this or will he improve with time? Is there anything I can do to help such as socialising him with other horses?

22nd January 2010, 09:31 PM
If he is with the same horses and not changed, they will all settle into a hierachy and generally they dont push each others buttons.

Ive had dominant and unsocialised ponies that i have simply let be in the field even though they chased a fair few round (not reccomended with other peoples ponies) however, they start with Sully, when they cant boss him, the other soon tell them where to go and eventually, herd life allways settles down to peace. Horses are peaceful and will reach an equilibrium with time and space.

Its people that change the dynamics or confine too close or mix up the hierachy to suit there own needs. This means that the herd can never settle into an equilibrium. Most horses adapt and are fine, mares find it harder to do so, as well as boys with a more dominant testosterone level. But most livery yards ponies will be fine with comings and goings.

Your obviously isn't, so you just have to understand that and learn where he is in the herd, watch him in the herd at different times of day and in different situations. Look at who he tolerates and who he doesn't. Who does he back down to and which one pushes his buttons! Then mimic this when they come in. Dont let him be tied next to the one that annoys him, allow him next to his friend or superior. Dont let him feel confined at any point, allow him to have long ropes, both led and tied up. Horse revert to aggression when they are confined, being tied short leads to that confinment so give him the space to back away.

These will help you to work around his behaviour so you are both happy but it is just natural behaviour being displayed. We're just so used to horses which have had most of their instincts droned out of them, we sometime forget to recognise the basics. Everyone here will have taken the horses forgiving and flexible nature for granted at some point. Just well done for not going straight to punishment when you saw a behaviour displayed that you didn't like.

22nd January 2010, 10:39 PM
Punishing him just doesnt seem the way forward. Now Im sure he doesnt think in the way we do but its almost asif I would be behaving towards him how he has behaved towards another horse. As they say two wrongs dont make a right. I'm assuming he sees me as part of his herd, and obviously as a leader & I wonder if he might receive my anger towards him as me assering my dominance over him (much like what he does to other horses) rather than, "oh shes angry because I am putting my ears back and lunging at that pony!"

I thought about positive reinforcement, asin giving him a pony nut for every few seconds he is "well behaved" in the company of another horse. That seems like a long and drawn out process & I doubt its effectiveness.

They definately have the hierarchy in their herd sorted. Barney is at the top, always has been. He is the oldest and the biggest & has been in the field the longest. Ozzie is close second & he has mostly settled into this position now. Dylan is next, he is older but smaller than Ozzie & arrived after him. There was never much competition between them for the 2nd place in the herd but Ozzie liked to assert his dominance over him regularly - grr! He doesnt do this any more, or not that I have seen. I think they both accept their place now. Sherry is at the bottom. She has only been with them since the end of the summer. I never thought we would see Dylan asserting his dominance over any horse, but he does, even though she is twice his size! Funnily enough their stables are in a row with Barney first, then Ozzie, then Dylan and lastly Sherry, so in order of their hierarchy, which is a complete coincidence.

Ozzie is fine with Barney, occasionaly puts his ears back at Dylan & has a great dislike for Sherry. Having said that, I took him out with Sherry to do some dressage & they were good as gold together - it was his first time out to something like that so I wouldnt be surprised if he felt out of his depth and needed a bit of a confidence boost from Sherry!

I am fortunate though that hes perfect when hes being handled near other horses & also when being ridden near other horses. He would never act in this way towards a person & is the sweetest friendlyest horse imaginable. I dont think I could keep him if he was a grump towards people.

Its just going to be a case of let him have his space & not put him where he will feel the need to defend his space/assert his authority or whatever it is he feels he needs to to!

24th January 2010, 02:58 AM
I basically agree with all that's been said. It's just natural behaviour & he sounds like an 'assertive' type. He would have first 'asked' the pony to move, and because she 'ignored' him - didn't move because she was tied, he felt the need to 'tell' her. Horses can of course become desensitised & learn 'manners' for standing close to others when tied, but if you're not absolutely sure of how to teach & desensitise him safely, it's better to just ensure he's not left unsupervised if tied close.