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Horse "screams" at me when I am brushing him.

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  • Horse "screams" at me when I am brushing him.

    I have two Arabian geldings. One loves to be brushed, and my other one (screams at me) absolutely hates it. I have asked the vet and other horse people around the barn, but no one has a clue why he does this. You would think I was torturing him with the sounds he makes. I have had horses my whole life and never had one to react like this to brushing. Anyone else experienced this with their horse(s). If so, what was the cause and what action did you take to alleviate the problem? Thanks.

  • #2
    video... I can't imagine what you're talking about!


    • #3
      Many horses dislike being brushed and many will bite.

      Especially mares.

      I would stop trying to groom him thoroughly and just play with finding out what he does like. Can you pat him, scratch him, stroke him, rub with a towel? Is he more sensitive in some areas? Can he tolerate a soft brush? Can you scratch and stroke him and then brush him simultaneously? Really it's up to you to figure out what he can tolerate.

      My mare is not very itchy and dislikes being groomed. She gets a once over with a soft brush. In the summer she gets lots of warm water baths which she loves and her coat looks fantastic.

      I've also taught her to stand quiet for tacking up with clicker treats.

      The screaming however sounds studlike. Was he gelded late? And what are his ground manners like in general? Arabs can be good citizens but if they come from the Arab show circuit they are sometimes allowed and encouraged to be idiots in hand, which won't help.

      Anyhow as you experiment with how and where you can touch him ok you might find more clues as to what hurts.

      Is this a new horse, or new behavior, or a longstanding problem?


      • #4
        Could he have ulcers? Pain would be my guess.


        • #5
          I have never had one scream. But I've had several that disliked being brushed and I do as little as possible. In the winter they're clipped and blanketed and in the summer I hose them off most days so it's really just shedding season that I groom much anyway


          • #6
            If he doesn't like it then I would stop. Find the softest brush you can and brush quickly and gently. Or maybe use a cloth or a soft grooming mit? Some are so thin skinned and we can be rougher than we think.

            I have a dog who absolutely hates being brushed. I think she hates the sound it makes, so I actually only brush her when she is shedding and I use an old shedding blade that she will tolerate. thankfully she is a clean dog!

            Is it all over his body or just certain places?


            • #7
              By "screaming" do you mean actual high pitched vocalizations? Are there other body signs when he does this - pinned ears, picking up feet, shuffling, teeth bared, tail swishing, etc.? Or he just "screams" and nothing else (because that would be odd)?
              ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


              • #8
                I was assuming some studly squeals and head tossing, but yeah we need more information from the OP.


                • #9
                  Ulcers and magnesium deficiencies can cause hypersensitivity to grooming.

                  And some horses are just sensitive. Play around with different & gentler tools to see if there is anything he likes.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Rae1959 View Post
                    I have two Arabian geldings. One loves to be brushed, and my other one (screams at me) absolutely hates it. I have asked the vet and other horse people around the barn, but no one has a clue why he does this. You would think I was torturing him with the sounds he makes. I have had horses my whole life and never had one to react like this to brushing. Anyone else experienced this with their horse(s). If so, what was the cause and what action did you take to alleviate the problem? Thanks.
                    On what part of his body are you brushing when you get this reaction? Flanks, belly, face? My guess would be he is uncomfortable. Either from being brushed to vigorously (I am guilty of that with my sensitive mini) or he has some underlying pain somewhere.


                    • #11
                      My TB doesn't scream, but snaps at the air and pins his ears about grooming and saddling. He's thin skinned, so you would think he'd prefer a lighter touch. I've found that he does better if I place my free hand firmly on whatever body part I'm brushing. My theory is the brush tickles or feels like flies landing on him.


                      • #12
                        I have a gelding that HATES regular brushes but barely tolerates those uber expensive soft facial brushes. Thin skinned
                        and sensitive about everything also.
                        "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


                        • #13
                          I think we need to know more about what "screaming" means, and if it only happens when certain parts of the body are groomed.

                          I would also think about pain, particularly if certain parts of the body are involved. For example, a horse that reacts badly when the back is brushed may have back pain related to either poor saddle fit or hock arthritis; a horse that reacts when the belly is brushed could have ulcers, etc.

                          If this is a new behavior, and it seems to be more generalized, I'd look into getting the horse tested for lyme disease which can cause all over body soreness and reactivity to touch.

                          If the horse is just sensitive everywhere and this is an old behavior, then get the softest brushes you can for brushing him, and keep the brushing to a minimum.
                          "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


                          • #14
                            Use the softest brushes you can find or just a soft cloth. Don't worry about getting him clean just use long, gentle, rhythmic strokes. Try different things to find what he likes.

                            I work with a lot of messed up horses and this is really unusual behavior. I would wonder about Lyme disease or some other disease that makes him skin sensitive or body sore.

                            What is he like to ride?


                            • Original Poster

                              Thank you for your responses.
                              I had not considered Lyme Disease, but I will have him tested for that. He has always been sensitive, but never protested so vocally. He does great when riding. Saddling is not a problem. He has been shown quite a bit, but with me it's been on the local circuit, and we no longer show. Trail riding is our favorite thing to do. He is 27, and was gelded when he was two or three, but I did not own him then. I know he was a halter horse and a racing Arabian for a few years. It has taken me many years to get him to slow down! But he is a great horse, and aside from the loud vocalizations (which I guess sound more like very loud open-mouth grunts (I guess screams was a bad choice of words), he is very sweet. He does not have ulcers per the vet. I have tried every kind of brush. He is OK on his topline and face, but his flanks, chest, upper legs are very sensitive. However, when the vet touched him underneath, he didn't sound off. I will continue working on this. Maybe it is my brushing technique, though I do try to be gentle. Will try all your suggestions.


                              • #16
                                When I first met my horse I could groom him with anything and he’d be fine. Fast forward to now he will pin his ears, stomp his feet, chew on metal and buckets, turn around to threaten to bite. Even when I use a soft face brush. Of course this is after I spent big bucks on a nice HAAS grooming set for grey horses. He’s a thoroughbred, but I didn’t think he had thin skin and I still don’t. We’ve ruled out ulcers with a scope so he isn’t in pain. It’s a behavioral issue. So now I have HIS number and I am reprimanding the behavior as he shows it. So far so good and he is shaping up. I don’t ever want to second guess my horse’s way of communicating pain, or dismiss it without ruling it out. So if you rule out pain and you don’t like his behavior, then work on it.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Sounds very similar to my situation. I am going to have him tested for Lyme Disease, and look into a couple of other things, but I think it is becoming a behavior issue as well. I would never want to make him feel worse if he's painful, but the whole neighborhood can hear him when he protests! It's alarming. Mine is a grey, as well. I have heard that arabs and thoroughbreds are thin skinned, too. He's always been "ticklish" but not like this. Thanks for your input.


                                  • #18
                                    My TB gelding was pissy about grooming (and blanketing) for quite a long time. Ruled out ulcers and finally tried magnesium. That fixed it. He's still not overly fond of the stiff brush but there's no more ear pinning, threatening to kick or just tensing his muscles when grooming. It was a major change. My big clue was that he was always a bit better for the after ride grooming than the before so clearly muscle soreness was the problem. I did try mag ox early on and it did nothing, but I finally tried MagRestore and found that form of magnesium far more effective.