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Bad Stall Behavior Training Advice

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  • Bad Stall Behavior Training Advice

    My horse has picked up a new and dangerous stall habit that I have a plan to address but would like some outside ideas. The horse in question is a 5yo OTTB that I picked up last December who is definitely a bully. When i got him he would try to kick/bite you in his stall if he had grain, had very little ground manners when it came to leading, farrier work, etc. and can be one stubborn SOB. The kicking/biting habit has been addressed and is regularly reinforced. He is getting better with ground manners and I can't fix the last problem. He is over all a pretty cool smart horse but he feels he is higher in the food chain until you inform him otherwise.

    Anyway the new behavior he has decided is a good idea is to grab people by their hoods and try to drag them into his stall. He has done this with a feeder (no board up on his stall to prevent him from hanging his head over) and my trainer (with a board up to prevent him from hanging his head out). When he did it to my trainer he let go pretty quick and hid in the back of his stall. If anyone is wondering, this horse has multiple stall toys. He also had hay in his slow feeder at the back of his stall at the time of going after my trainer. He had just been brought in from 4 hours of turn out and normally takes that time to nap.

    I have zero tolerance for a behavior as he could really, really hurt someone doing that. My plan of attack is to hang out in front of his stall with a barn buddy to warn me when he looks like he might try to get my hood and get him with a lounge whip or my carrot stick with a rope and clapper if he touches my hood. Once he learns he can't do that to me, I plan on asking barn friends to do the same thing.

    So hivemind, do you all have anything else I can do to make him understand grabbing people is never acceptable?

  • #2
    I’m not sure about your closing question, but wanted to chime in to say that I’ve known several horses who require a fully-closed stall door at all times because of some kind of negative behavior. Charging their stall gate or trying to bite passing horses, biters in general who go shark on unsuspecting humans passing their stall, etc. For everyone’s safety, they are not allowed to have a half-door. I would probably err on the side of keeping his door closed instead of recruiting friends to try to bait him.

    Comment


    • #3
      With a horse who is playful and aggressive, everyone who handles him or comes near him needs to be on the same page with how he is managed and reprimanded.

      If there are many people passing by during the day who aren't part of his first degree care team then you probably do need his stall door shut. If the stall door is mesh or grill he can still see the world. Indeed in our barn stall doors are never open unless someone is working in the stall but we also have runouts where the horses spend a lot of time.

      If it was a small barn and everyone was on his care team, trainer groom owner etc then you could work on some retraining system similar to what you use on a horse that bites, which is what he is: a biter.

      If many random people are passing, some who will just shriek and giggle and take selfies and some who don't have the heart timing or confidence or indeed the responsibility to reprimand in a fast efficient way, then keep the door shut.

      Really it is very hard to train out behaviour that happens when you aren't there and expecting every other kid at the barn to be roped into schooling your horse when they are there for their own horses is unrealistic and unfair. I would not want this biter launching at me when I was busy with my own stuff.

      Comment


      • #4
        That is one reason I am not a fan of open top stalls where horses can stick head and neck out.

        I know, I know it is really nice for the well behaved ones, but it sure becomes temptation and a game for too many.

        My stalls have door tops that can be folded down if needed (such as occasionally for a horse on extended stall rest) but most of the time the top is kept up. Best to be safe, especially in a boarding barn where you have no idea who will pass by and get a real chunk taken out of them. Good on you for having zero tolerance for that and looking for a way to deal with it. I see way to many horses that get the "oh, if I discipline him he won't love me" owner. He may not love you, but he needs to RESPECT you and every other human and stay out of your/their space unless invited in.

        Since the the stalls where you are, are open top and I assume you aren't allowed to add a top door, could you get permission to hang a stall guard with a rather tight weave or mesh in the top space. I bet your trainer/BO would be happy not to have the liability.

        Ya, it's avoidance, not long term training, but if he can no longer play the game, he is likely to give it up. Would it help to give him some more daily attention from a human? Sounds like he just needs his mind occupied more and may actually be rather sociable in spite of some of the posturing.

        He is in the teenage boy, testing stage. I bought my big (16.3) OTTB, well almost passed him up, at that age because of his snarly behavior when being groomed. He was such a gentleman to ride though, right from the get go. Over time, with very clear and consistent handling, he became the banner child of good behavior. I could groom, clean sheath, give him shots, soak abscesses, treat very painful cellulitis, and clip all without so much as a halter on him. He's gone over the bridge now, but boy I still miss him everyday. He was a love.

        Comment


        • #5
          OP, without seeing you and the horse in action, I can't say for sure, but I see some serious issues with a horse's ground manners if you've been working on them for almost a year and they are still problematic. Something isn't clicking, here.

          That said, I have found that the types of acceptable interactions for OTTBs on the track vary tremendously; I've met horses who were lovely to handle and horses who were absolute nightmares with similar tendencies as yours.

          Unfortunately once the horse has learned this is accepted by the person, you end up having to put him through nine circles of hell to teach him otherwise. Better to just teach him how to be around people right from the get-go, but you didn't have that opportunity with this guy.

          I would not bait him. What I would do is take some time to work with him in his stall. I'd do all my grooming, tack up, untacking, etc in there. I'd get a lawn chair and camp in and just outside of his stall. I'd have a big 'ol stick with me all the time (a broom handle works great for these sorts of things) and I'd make sure he sees that I have it and that I touch him all over with it while he's calm and letting me do whatever I need to do with him in his stall so that he knows it won't hurt him when he's quiet. The moment he pins his ears at me, lifts a hind leg like he might want to kick, swings his head or does anything else to indicate he might like to take a piece out of me, I'd make sure he hits the end of that broom handle HARD. There's a huge difference between the handler going after the horse with the stick and the horse running into it himself - the former teaches him nothing, the latter makes him believe it was HIS fault that he got knocked. A few of those and he'll quit trying all together because he's doing it to HIMSELF.

          The trick is catching him thinking about doing any of these things and then shifting his attention. It might be something as simple as asking him to step under with a hind leg or move a step sideways. Once he's already attempting to do the thing he was thinking about you're going to be late in your response.
          Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            I should have been more clear about our stall fronts. The stall door is solid and the other 9-10 feet is a half wall, hence the board being placed so in theory he can't reach out to interact with horses or humans unless someone is leaning on his stall front. He has a sign on his stall that states he is a biter to discourage people from hangout out there but there isn't much I can do regarding people flow as this is a large boarding facility. If our stalls had grates, wire or bars it would be a non-issue.

            I am trying to come up with a realistic training plan to address this issue so he doesn't go after a barn worker, passer by, or me while working near his stall. I have never heard of him retching out to go after horses passing by and my barn owner would have informed me of that immediately. Anyone I get to help me with this will be a fellow adult who interacts with him regularly on the ground and under saddle. The barn workers have been informed they are allowed to reprimand any aggressive behavior. I am looking for additional ideas to nip this behavior in the bud as most barns in my area have this half wall set up.

            Comment


            • #7
              Can't you install something above the half wall? Or move him to a quieter place in the barn?

              It is possible to teach a horse to respect a handler on the ground. It is impossible to teach a horse to behave when you are not there. It's like trying to teach the cats not to jump on the kitchen counter when you are at work. Just won't happen.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by Abbie.S View Post
                OP, without seeing you and the horse in action, I can't say for sure, but I see some serious issues with a horse's ground manners if you've been working on them for almost a year and they are still problematic. Something isn't clicking, here.

                That said, I have found that the types of acceptable interactions for OTTBs on the track vary tremendously; I've met horses who were lovely to handle and horses who were absolute nightmares with similar tendencies as yours.

                Unfortunately once the horse has learned this is accepted by the person, you end up having to put him through nine circles of hell to teach him otherwise. Better to just teach him how to be around people right from the get-go, but you didn't have that opportunity with this guy.

                I would not bait him. What I would do is take some time to work with him in his stall. I'd do all my grooming, tack up, untacking, etc in there. I'd get a lawn chair and camp in and just outside of his stall. I'd have a big 'ol stick with me all the time (a broom handle works great for these sorts of things) and I'd make sure he sees that I have it and that I touch him all over with it while he's calm and letting me do whatever I need to do with him in his stall so that he knows it won't hurt him when he's quiet. The moment he pins his ears at me, lifts a hind leg like he might want to kick, swings his head or does anything else to indicate he might like to take a piece out of me, I'd make sure he hits the end of that broom handle HARD. There's a huge difference between the handler going after the horse with the stick and the horse running into it himself - the former teaches him nothing, the latter makes him believe it was HIS fault that he got knocked. A few of those and he'll quit trying all together because he's doing it to HIMSELF.

                The trick is catching him thinking about doing any of these things and then shifting his attention. It might be something as simple as asking him to step under with a hind leg or move a step sideways. Once he's already attempting to do the thing he was thinking about you're going to be late in your response.
                I will give this a go as it might be the thing I am missing with our ground work. He is already familiar with the the carrot stick (a heavier duty lounge whip) and isn't scared of it. I honestly wish I got this horse as a 3 year old as I don't think his bully behavior would have been as set. I know I have a long road in front of me.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                  Can't you install something above the half wall? Or move him to a quieter place in the barn?

                  It is possible to teach a horse to respect a handler on the ground. It is impossible to teach a horse to behave when you are not there. It's like trying to teach the cats not to jump on the kitchen counter when you are at work. Just won't happen.
                  Moving to a quieter location is not possible at the moment due to the facility being full and no one wanting this stall. I do want to move him to a stall with a porch but I am on the waiting list. If I could put up a wire mesh I would but the BO doesn't like the looks of them.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by horseshorseshorseshorses View Post
                    My horse has picked up a new and dangerous stall habit that I have a plan to address but would like some outside ideas. The horse in question is a 5yo OTTB that I picked up last December who is definitely a bully. When i got him he would try to kick/bite you in his stall (...) and can be one stubborn SOB. The kicking/biting habit has been addressed and is regularly reinforced.
                    What is done to address this exactly?

                    Anyway the new behavior he has decided is a good idea is to grab people by their hoods and try to drag them into his stall.
                    The board should now be up at all time and people shouldn’t hang around his stall close enough to get grabbed.

                    Actually, people should be careful not to hang out in front of your horse’s stall. Some horses are better when left alone - especially dominant ones.

                    Where is his stall located? I’m sure your horse would be better at the end of aisle, a quieter corner where there is not much trafic.

                    My plan of attack is to hang out in front of his stall with a barn buddy to warn me when he looks like he might try to get my hood and get him with a lounge whip or my carrot stick with a rope and clapper if he touches my hood. Once he learns he can't do that to me, I plan on asking barn friends to do the same thing.
                    Tempting your horse and beating him isn’t, to me, a great idea. I don’t believe it even works on the long run.

                    You are setting him up to fail. It isn’t fair.
                    If he does indeed grab someone’s jacket, then yes, all hell should break lose but do it scary enough so that he never tries back.
                    But don’t give him ways to be naughty.

                    Horses who develop bad behavior do this out of boredom, playfulness or anxiety end up being sour and can/will retaliate/d.
                    There are time when physical corrections must be used, but what your are suggesting isn’t fair to me.

                    First, put up warning signs and let people know to leave him alone. and keep the board up at all time.

                    If he can only have 4-5 hours of outside time, he needs his workload increased. A « physically tired » horse have less desire to think about silly stuff.

                    Is your horse anxious? Have you had him checked for ulcers? Since this is a new behavior and he was off his schedule (usually napping at that time), maybe something is off.

                    No more treats should be given by hand, actually, no more playing around your horse’s head except for the obvious brushing, but that should be about it.

                    ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                    Originally posted by LauraKY
                    I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                    HORSING mobile training app

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by horseshorseshorseshorses View Post

                      Moving to a quieter location is not possible at the moment due to the facility being full and no one wanting this stall. I do want to move him to a stall with a porch but I am on the waiting list. If I could put up a wire mesh I would but the BO doesn't like the looks of them.
                      Does the BO prefer someone being injured?

                      Something needs to be done asap.

                      Consider moving - If this behavior is not properly addressed or cannot be addressed (full stall board protecting passer by), you might get kicked out anyway.
                      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                      Originally posted by LauraKY
                      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                      HORSING mobile training app

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        You will not be successful correcting this with punishment unless 100% of the people coming in reach of him are completely ready for him 100% of the time.

                        That is never going to happen.

                        The reality of the situation is that the undesirable behaviour needs to be made physically impossible at the times that you cannot control the outcome. It may not be easy or convenient, but you and the barn owner need to find a physical solution.

                        Baiting and nailing him occasionally and therefore ineffectively is unfair.

                        The fact that he hid after grabbing your trainer also suggests he knows he will be attacked in response already, and that is not stopping him. Hitting him more and harder probably won't improve the results.

                        This kind of sounds like adolescent play behaviour (which does not make it ok, it is still dangerous and rude). He's playing halter tag with you. I think to correct it you need to stop him before he makes the grab. Once he's grabbed you it becomes the classic gelding biting game, and biting him back is what he's going for.

                        Prevent him playing the game when he's not being handled by altering his stall somehow. When he is being handled everyone needs to be watching carefully for him to consider trying it, and nail him/ back him off then. If he does manage to catch you unawares certainly still correct him, but don't count that as a point on your side of the scoreboard.
                        Last edited by TBKite; Nov. 1, 2019, 04:59 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          4 hours of turnout isn't much for a young, over active boy like yours. How many hours is he stalled per day?

                          It may be a simple fix to move him to a stall with attached paddock situation.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by candyappy View Post
                            4 hours of turnout isn't much for a young, over active boy like yours. How many hours is he stalled per day?

                            It may be a simple fix to move him to a stall with attached paddock situation.
                            I was thinking the same thing.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by horseshorseshorseshorses View Post

                              Moving to a quieter location is not possible at the moment due to the facility being full and no one wanting this stall. I do want to move him to a stall with a porch but I am on the waiting list. If I could put up a wire mesh I would but the BO doesn't like the looks of them.
                              What about a stall screen? Is there a wooden header board that goes across the top at all and then you coukd secure the stall screen at the top and the bottom? I get the bo does not like the wire mesh look, but if it saves someone, god forbid a child, a bad bite then why risk it? Let one stall be a little unpretty for a bit darnit!!! Jmo.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I agree with others that you cannot teach them to do something that they can do when unsupervised. You can teach him to not do it when you are there, that doesn't correspond to other people.

                                How about a muzzle? He can still drink. He can still eat hay I presume. He won't be able to grab a hood. The appearance of a muzzle and the sign saying he bites might keep people further away.
                                It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Nothing to add, but thanks for being a conscientious owner, thinking about both the horse and people around him. I boarded years ago with a woman who thought it was cute when her horse lunged at me over the stall gate, while I was handwalking my horse who was in recovery. I had to walk with a whip and be prepared to use it.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Close up the stall door/wall. People need to be able to work there without worrying whether or not your shark is going to snag them.

                                    Like bathsheba8542 , my barn has a shark. The owners think it's funny that he reaches over the arena gate and goes after other horses when turned out in there, and don't do a thing when he blasts the stall door when you're walking by. He *means* it when he bites, and has taken some hair off one of my horses. I had a discussion with the owners, and they didn't care.

                                    Regardless of if you and your trainer are doing something about it, it is *extremely* annoying to have to deal with it from the employee standpoint.

                                    I agree with other posters, stall habits are hard to correct because you're not there to make the outcome unpleasant 100% of the time. If he's decent when you're around, that's about all you're going to get... so close up the stall. Maybe you can try again in a couple years when he's more grown up.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by horseshorseshorseshorses View Post

                                      Moving to a quieter location is not possible at the moment due to the facility being full and no one wanting this stall. I do want to move him to a stall with a porch but I am on the waiting list. If I could put up a wire mesh I would but the BO doesn't like the looks of them.
                                      Then this is not the barn for you.

                                      Look, your horse has some bad behaviors that you addressing. But it's obvious your signs and communications aren't being taken seriously if the barn owner isn't willing to compromise some aesthetics over the safety of humans. Your trainer herself was subject to hoss' bad behavior. If trainer can't keep presence of mind around this horse, and the BO is more concerned with how the barns looks over some kid getting dragged by the neck into the horse's stall, then you're dealing with a higher level of stupid than most are willing to deal with.

                                      And what happens when someone gets hurt by your horse's behavior? Do you think they'll go after the barn own because you asked for a physical barrier and were declined because they "didn't like. the look"? Can you afford to pay someone else's medical bills?

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Provided this biting habit is not overdramatized playfullness and is indeed in the realm of dangerous: My guess is that this horse did not pick-up this habit recently at all -- but is something he started doing at the track = old habit now returned. But WHY? Even if this is a totally new habit, again my question is WHY?

                                        There is something going on in this horse's physical being (boredom, extra energy, pain, etc. etc.) ... and/or there is something about his environment (confinement, claustrophobia, too much activity, stall proud: stall = safety, etc.etc.) that has caused the habit. Horse is acting out for a reason.

                                        That being said, I think you should try to empirically diaganose the WHY's. No one from here IMO can properly study your horse's mind or his environment -- only you can -- the end goal being to provide a stuation where the horse decides on his own that biting hoods and dragging people is not necessary to insure his survival or well being = a more cerebral approach. Granted this is not easily done in a boarding situation where you have limited options, limited time to be there and, and, and. But there is a solution -- it's out there somewhere, however I can't offer one because I don't know your horse or your boarding situation up close.

                                        But I would venture another guess-- that if you physically removed the biting opportunity by putting up a physical barrier (takes away horse's own decision to not bite) the acting out will only manifest in some other way -- with some other habit like running teeth up and down the walls, head bobbing, etc. But take away the stress replace with the opposite + training (non-confusing communication) and many bad habits do go away.

                                        Although, neurotic horses -- those with real compulsive disorders -- are difficult to figure out and cure of the behavior. Doesn't sound like you have that kind of mental case on your hands.






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