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Desensitizing horse to being crowded

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  • Desensitizing horse to being crowded

    I am not sure if this is the right place for my question, but since it is a trail issue, I thought I would start here.

    I have a horse that does not like being crowded or passed out on the trails and sometimes expresses this by turning his rear and kicking without warning. He has been run into by another horse on at least one occasion and I do believe the kicking out is his way keeping this from happening again. He doesn’t mind walking along side other horses or if they come at him from the front, but it seems if another horse comes at him from the side or rear, he occasionally goes on the defensive.

    Any recommendations on how to desensitize him without getting another horse or person injured?

  • #2
    First off, red ribbon on tail!

    Second, begin working in a large, open space. A field or a very large arena will work. Work with one other calm gelding. Work side-by-side, at walk trot and canter. Work some patterns, a.k.a. trotting down the side of the arena/field, turning in the middle, and trotting towards each other, then passing and continuing.

    Halt in the center and have the horse come walking towards you from the front, making a circle, then walking away. Do that at the trot and canter as your horse feels more comfortable. Also slowly decrease the size of the circle, keeping safety in mind.

    Face both horses away from each other several lengths apart. Then back towards each other, passing each other while backing up.

    The possibilities really are endless. Add more riders as your horse feels more comfortable. Play tag so your horse enjoys some fun. (Really. You would not believe how much fun horses have while playing tag while you're on them.) Change scenery. Move into an arena. Move into a field. Go on a wide trail. Practice the drills.

    Keep safety in mind.

    Good luck!


    • #3
      Ditto the red ribbon in the tail - every ride in which you think you'll encounter groups. Also be really proactive to take precautionary measures when you hear horses come up behind you. Stop and turn your horse to allow the approaching horse to pass in front of your horse's face. In time, he will start to relax about approaching horses as you are giving him the opportunities to prove that all horses coming up behind aren't going to hurt him.


      • #4
        Leap frog game! You pass. He gets passed. Do this in a space like an arena/field where you can start out far apart and gradually get closer together. Do it first with one horse, then two then three. When he's comfortable there, do it in closer quarters like a trail.

        Also, I fairly aggressively punish dangerous behaviors. Kicking with humans present is unacceptable. Period. I whack with a crop on the butt a couple times (hard enough to make my point, but not so hard to leave a mark) And growl NOOOO! I don't care why my horse is kicking, it's unacceptable. If he feels threatened, he is allowed to move away from the other horse, but he may not kick or bite.


        • #5
          Originally posted by candysgirl View Post
          Also, I fairly aggressively punish dangerous behaviors. Kicking with humans present is unacceptable. Period. I whack with a crop on the butt a couple times (hard enough to make my point, but not so hard to leave a mark) And growl NOOOO! I don't care why my horse is kicking, it's unacceptable. If he feels threatened, he is allowed to move away from the other horse, but he may not kick or bite.
          This in spades. I have worked with a lot of Amish horses. Bad behavior in a crowd is absolutely unacceptable, and they have a lot of crowds. I can't count how many BAD actors have come into my Am trainer's barn and left solid citizens because he accepts nothing less. Any kicks are returned with a whip. Sometimes it might leave a mark, but it doesn't generally have to be repeated too often (he usually only is given a few weeks to correct whatever problem is there). I have had 5 horses tied in a box stall at a sale and seen studs taken through seas of horses & people. No kicking, biting or squealing. Not a politically correct answer, but a whip works.
          Visit my Spoonflower shop


          • Original Poster

            Thank you for the great ideas! I do punish him and I do try to be proactive. But I really want him to learn to be more comfortable with other horses in his space, because this actually happens more when I ride in groups of people that I know and know him. He doesn't do this all the time, so we all get comfortable, until out of the blue, he lets us know he is not happy. I feel like I need to put him in a "pressure cooker" and safely test his boundaries to help him understand that not every horse coming at him is going to run into him, or that even if they do bump him, it is ok.


            • #7
              That's exactly what I use the leapfrog game for. My Arab was VIOLENTLY opposed to horses getting in his space when I broke him out. Mr stud colt didn't feel as though horses should be allowed near him. Sorry bud, you are mistaken.

              I had anyone riding in the arena when I was working with him give me 5 to 10 minutes of the leapfrog game until he got over himself. I started with them passing relatively far from us and gradually getting closer. Eventually he quit caring.

              Now I can walk into a crowd of strange horses and he's perfectly fine with it. I did always allow him to calmly and sanely move away from the other horse if they pinned ears or whatever, but he is NEVER allowed to retaliate with kicking or biting.


              • #8
                If you're near any polo players ask to school with them. They'll squash you! They teach their horses from day one to push on the others. They'll be able to help.
                Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!


                • #9
                  Hand walking the horse between tight trees and in thick underbrush would help and not be a danger to other horses.