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What Can Cause Aggressiveness? Or, Horse Becomming Increasingly Aggressive...

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  • What Can Cause Aggressiveness? Or, Horse Becomming Increasingly Aggressive...

    So I got an email from my BO today about my horse. She says that he's been increasingly aggressive over the past couple of weeks and it's to the point where she's worried about the horse--an incredibly easy going gelding--that he is turned out with.

    He's apparently been worse in the evening, when he comes inside. Up until a month or so ago he had been out 24/7 since last spring ('12) unless the weather was just too horrible. We started with him coming in once in a while when the weather started getting bad overnight this winter, etc. So it wasn't a sudden change.

    She said that he's been lunging more at the horse he is turned out with (and those across the fence line), biting, kicking, and rearing. He's always kind of playfully lunged at his pasture buddy so he could get in first but never anything this bad that I've ever seen / been told about. He also apparently bit the colt that is in the adjacent pasture in the neck when he (the colt) was being lead inside.

    My horse also bit BO's DH. Not bad enough to cause any real physical damage but still... Horse went through a nippy / biting phase when I got him as a 6 year old. He is now 12. Or, 13, with it being January 1st.

    This is my horse that was previously always at the bottom of the pecking order until he was moved to a more active group of horses (3-6 horses). This was 3-4 years ago and he slowly moved up to the very top in this group. Since then he's continued to be at the top of the pecking order and has no longer gotten beat up. I wouldn't have called him aggressive until I got this email tonight. He's been out with only one other horse for the past couple of years (same horse).

    My horse had dropped some weight last summer and the vet and I got his diet reworked in the fall. I'm not sure if he could just be feeling better or...? He's been doing well and has picked up more weight. I actually just pulled him off one of his fat supplements (just his one from Smartpak).

    Also, the weather hasn't been cooperating (too much ice on country roads) so I haven't been able to ride him in like a week. I usually try to work him 4-5 days a week. This normally wouldn't affect him though (except for make him a little more forward and silly under saddle). Maybe this coupled with the better diet?? But I still wouldn't expect such a change and if he's been progressively getting worse over the past couple of weeks...

    For now my horse will be out alone in the pasture adjacent to where he was (where the colt and another gelding were). I hate for him to be in this much smaller area as he won't be able to move around as much.

    Any advice or thoughts as to why he may be acting like this would be much appreciated
    Originally posted by RugBug
    Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.

  • #2
    A change in attitude that came after a change in diet and turnout and exercise (even though the changes weren't drastic) would make me think ulcers first, or possibly Lyme with the aggression. I would probably line up a vet visit in any case.

    Comment


    • #3
      What's the hay/forage situation like at the barn? I can recall quite a few horses I've known that have gotten very aggressive in the winter when they're not getting enough hay-- which you can presume is probably directly/indirectly linked to ulcers.

      I've seen aggressive situations get particularly bad when it's cold and the horses are only getting thrown a couple flakes of hay each which are devoured in an hour or two. In those cases, generally the aggressive behavior goes away immediately with more forage-- extra hay, round bales, slow feed hay nets...
      Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO

      Comment


      • #4
        In no particular order and far from complete:

        Pain.

        Hormone secreting tumor.

        Bad handling.

        Have you SEEN the bad behavior? When my horse became dangerous to handle, it was very apparent that it was a people issue, not a horse issue, once I actually was present when she misbehaved. They weren't abusive or anything, but just not handling the horse in the manner she required.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          I got my horse a small hole hay net to have as I knew he'd be in more over the winter. He's had that in his stall since the the first time he was brought in overnight this fall/winter. As long as I'm out to fill the hay net he always has extra in his stall. He also gets a big bucket of soaked alfalfa cubes overnight with his evening feeding whether he is in or not.

          The barn is usually pretty good about throwing a fair amount of hay outside (esp. if it's BO's DH feeding, which it usually is...although BO has been off work for holidays here the past week or so...). When I'm out I always throw more which my horse eagerly gobbles up (and play lunges to keep other horse away from). But I wasn't able to make it out for 4-5 days so he wasn't getting any extra... Thanks for the thoughts so far, I will be checking in with his vet. Hopefully she recommends more hay as well so I can talk with BO about that (she doesn't like the horses wasting it, understandably).

          Thanks for the replies so far!
          Originally posted by RugBug
          Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Simkie: I have not seen him acting as badly as she describes. He's been at this barn for years though, with both BOs handling him but I guess bad handling could be possible (if they've been tired and not as careful, I don't know).

            I have seen my horse lunge at others (the horse in his pasture, ones across the fence). The really easy going horse in his pasture always backs off and lets my horse eat, usually go in first, etc. When I brought them in last week they were alright for me. I just shoved the horse that's out with my horse back and put the lead on my horse first (then brought them in together). They were anxious to get inside and a little jumpy but otherwise ok. I don't know if the other horse has been more anxious and pushy about wanting to get inside himself...but if so, that I suppose would aggravate and provoke my horse.

            I have also seen my horse bite at the colt across the fence when he gets too close when he's eating, or when he gets in my horse's face when he's cribbing, etc.

            I have not seen my horse rear much unless he's just being a horse and playing. He's also not a very kicky horse. He only offers to kick if another horse is getting in his space, they're playing, etc.
            Originally posted by RugBug
            Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.

            Comment


            • #7
              I second the thought that he' s probably lacking sufficient hay. The details in you post all point to it.

              started since winter started
              started worse in past couple weeks
              small hole haynet to make hay last longer, implying not free choice hayhay
              bites when others get too close when he' s eating.

              Like someone else mentioned, it could be ulcers which often happens when horses Don' t get enough forage foods.

              Sheila

              Comment


              • #8
                My old gelding got very aggressive in situations that made him feel insecure. We were not allowed back to one barn due to his temperament. He was a horse who needed no nonsense handling. Quiet, firm, effective. Barn was great except owners were into parelli and thought they were going to "fix him". I had NEVER seen this horse become so nasty, even before I bought him when he was getting some pretty unkind handling from an alcoholic trainer.
                We had a similar situation at another boarding barn where his turnout situation made him nervous.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dressage.For.Life. View Post
                  So I got an email from my BO today about my horse. She says that he's been increasingly aggressive over the past couple of weeks and it's to the point where she's worried about the horse--an incredibly easy going gelding--that he is turned out with.

                  He's apparently been worse in the evening, when he comes inside. Up until a month or so ago he had been out 24/7 since last spring ('12) unless the weather was just too horrible. We started with him coming in once in a while when the weather started getting bad overnight this winter, etc. So it wasn't a sudden change.

                  She said that he's been lunging more at the horse he is turned out with (and those across the fence line), biting, kicking, and rearing. He's always kind of playfully lunged at his pasture buddy so he could get in first but never anything this bad that I've ever seen / been told about. He also apparently bit the colt that is in the adjacent pasture in the neck when he (the colt) was being lead inside.

                  My horse also bit BO's DH. Not bad enough to cause any real physical damage but still... Horse went through a nippy / biting phase when I got him as a 6 year old. He is now 12. Or, 13, with it being January 1st.

                  This is my horse that was previously always at the bottom of the pecking order until he was moved to a more active group of horses (3-6 horses). This was 3-4 years ago and he slowly moved up to the very top in this group. Since then he's continued to be at the top of the pecking order and has no longer gotten beat up. I wouldn't have called him aggressive until I got this email tonight. He's been out with only one other horse for the past couple of years (same horse).

                  My horse had dropped some weight last summer and the vet and I got his diet reworked in the fall. I'm not sure if he could just be feeling better or...? He's been doing well and has picked up more weight. I actually just pulled him off one of his fat supplements (just his one from Smartpak).

                  Also, the weather hasn't been cooperating (too much ice on country roads) so I haven't been able to ride him in like a week. I usually try to work him 4-5 days a week. This normally wouldn't affect him though (except for make him a little more forward and silly under saddle). Maybe this coupled with the better diet?? But I still wouldn't expect such a change and if he's been progressively getting worse over the past couple of weeks...

                  For now my horse will be out alone in the pasture adjacent to where he was (where the colt and another gelding were). I hate for him to be in this much smaller area as he won't be able to move around as much.

                  Any advice or thoughts as to why he may be acting like this would be much appreciated
                  Sounds like he has acquired the role as herd boss but not the mental maturity yet to use his power/status wisely.

                  Any possibility he can be turned out with a herd matron mare that will clean his clock if he steps out of line. One that calmly but firmly enforces manners.

                  My herd matron is worth her weight in gold. I do not have to deal so much with the poor manners of the herd underlings. She keeps them in check for me.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by D Taylor View Post
                    Sounds like he has acquired the role as herd boss but not the mental maturity yet to use his power/status wisely.

                    Any possibility he can be turned out with a herd matron mare that will clean his clock if he steps out of line. One that calmly but firmly enforces manners.

                    My herd matron is worth her weight in gold. I do not have to deal so much with the poor manners of the herd underlings. She keeps them in check for me.
                    I agree with this. Good, dominant, wise mares can fix almost anything!

                    FWIW, my TB gelding gets a bit aggressive every winter, despite always having a lot of hay, working 6 days a week, etc.

                    For him, I think it is the following: naturally dominant personality, he is a bit bored and enjoys a fight, he gets less turnout in winter and moves around less in turnout in winter, he gets a bit body sore in winter from the cold, he just dislikes the cold, he gets tired of being ridden in the indoor, he really hates blanket changes and fussing.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      To clarify, he has the small hole hay net in his stall to supplement his normal evening hay ration. He'll sometimes eat all of the hay from his hay net before eating the rest of his hay that's not in a slow feeder. I only added his nibblenet so I could keep more hay in front of him without him demolishing his stall with all of the hay.

                      I got another email back from the BO and she doesn't think a vet call is in order. She thinks it could be that we got his diet sorted out. I think the pasture setup is a large part of it. And one of the horses across the fence line had gone (but he is now back).

                      The "pasture" is like this:

                      l
                      gate
                      l
                      l
                      fence
                      l
                      fence---gate------fence-----

                      My horse has been on the left side, going in after the two horses on the right. So he is able to hang his head over the fence and get in their faces while they're going out before him. The setup is far from ideal but the barn regraded their largest two pastures (and reseeded one of them). At least for now, he will be coming in first and will be alone.

                      I'll be out to the barn today and will see what things look like
                      Last edited by Dressage.For.Life.; Jan. 2, 2013, 01:00 PM.
                      Originally posted by RugBug
                      Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        A few random thoughts, to keep or toss! 1) is he cold? I have one that gets positively crabby when he needs a heavier blanket, and will pick on his pasturemates to get everybody moving to warm up. 2) better groceries, more energy, less riding, leads to horse who "forgets" self-control with humans. 3) as someone else said, has he found himself at the top of the pecking order but without the skills to handle it?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hotwire on the fence would at least keep him from going after the neighbors.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Vitamin E??

                            There's hotwire over most of the fence although probably not where it is needed most. The temperatures have really dropped so I will be putting his heavier blanket on when I go out today. He's just had his turnout sheet on with a thin cotton sheet on underneath (it had been too warm for his heavier blanket and he started coming in at night when it's coldest).

                            The other thing is that I'm trying a vitamin E supplement with him. He came off of Smartpak's Cocosoya Ultra SP and went on SP's natural vitamin E supplement. I've never heard of vitamin E causing any issues though. He's been on it just over a week now.
                            Originally posted by RugBug
                            Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Any of mine that started acting that way or getting more territorial/funny about "their space" wre not getting enough to eat.

                              I always found an undisclosed reduction in the amount of forage offered occured about the same time the agressive behavior started. Many barns are cutting back to save $ and it can be a sign of finacial trouble a BO is never going to share with you. Keep your eyes and ears open and remember BO is not your BFF, it's a business.

                              Could be some pain involved too, that makes anybody crabby. If he is not getting the same amount of hay on a similar schedual, that would aggravate the ulcers most of them have. Not like they can graze with snow over ice underfoot instead of grass either.

                              It's a flashing yellow light, not time for the panic button. But, like the yellow light, you need to use caution and look all directions.
                              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                My old trainer had a young mare that got really fresh, she started out pretty low in the herd order and ended up laying into any other horse with her, everybody was afraid of her and getting really beat up, it was like she didn't get that she was the boss and she didn't have to keep after the other horses 24/7.
                                So, my instructor turned her out with her 18 year old matriarch (sp?) Mare, who put her in her place, and the problems stopped.
                                Maybe if there's a no-nonsense type horse at your barn, you could turn your gelding out with that horse????
                                Please support S. 1406 to amend the Horse Protection Act and Prevent all Soring Tactics to the Tennessee Walking horse!
                                https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/s1406

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Thoro View Post
                                  My old trainer had a young mare that got really fresh, she started out pretty low in the herd order and ended up laying into any other horse with her, everybody was afraid of her and getting really beat up, it was like she didn't get that she was the boss and she didn't have to keep after the other horses 24/7.
                                  So, my instructor turned her out with her 18 year old matriarch (sp?) Mare, who put her in her place, and the problems stopped.
                                  Maybe if there's a no-nonsense type horse at your barn, you could turn your gelding out with that horse????
                                  Oh sorry, I didn't see someone had already suggested that!
                                  Please support S. 1406 to amend the Horse Protection Act and Prevent all Soring Tactics to the Tennessee Walking horse!
                                  https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/s1406

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Thoro View Post
                                    Oh sorry, I didn't see someone had already suggested that!
                                    No need to be sorry. An enforcer works wonders sometimes!

                                    It is my big girls job and function in this world!

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Is he concerned about guarding his hay? do you hay the other horse also when you hay your's?
                                      I third the boss mare treatment.
                                      www.ncsporthorse.com

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I agree with everything posted - but mainly the fact that the horse probably just needs to be put back in his place by a higher up horse. Lots of horses need to be reminded of manners on occasion, especially now that it is colder. So I go with the people who suggest tossing him out with a boss mare and let him relearn manners in the best possible way horses can learn them.

                                        To go with that, he needs someone handling him who isn't afraid to discipline him when he steps out of line. Horses get dangerous to themselves, other horses, and people when they have no manners. If you aren't going to the barn as much now that it is winter, he may be getting away with things that he otherwise wouldn't get away with and it is "going to his head".

                                        Comment

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