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Gelding with severe behavioral problems, any ideas?

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  • Gelding with severe behavioral problems, any ideas?

    I have a gelding that has some pretty bad behavioral issues. He's been called a sociopath by many.
    He bites. A lot. You will be standing there near him and all of a sudden he has his ears flat against his head and is trying to bite you. He has always done this. I have known him for 5 yrs and he did this when he was first acquired. Nothing seems to work. If you ignore it, it keeps going. If you smack him or get after him, he gets worse. If you reward him for being good it does nothing to keep him from being bad.
    He's horrid for the farrier because he can't stand still, he is too busy trying to bite the poor guy.

    The more serious issue, however, is that he charges you in his paddock. It comes out of no where. You can be standing there filling up the water tank while he's grazing far away. Next thing you know he is charging at you full speed with his ears flat. Or you could be standing there petting him, he's being nice and next thing you know he charges you. I have tried going in with a lunge whip. The problem with this horse is the more you fight back, the worse he gets. At this point we just don't go in there with him. I lure him to the gate with treats and catch him over the gate and bring him out to do anything in his paddock such as cleaning it, filling water etc.
    This past weekend however, he charged someone while they were outside his paddock. He came flying and tried to attack her over the gate.
    He is the same in his stall.

    Undersaddle he is either a superstar or a dangerous horse. Some days he is game and up for anything. Other days he refuses to go forward and if provoked will flip himself over backwards.

    I am at a loss. When he's good he's so good, but when he's bad it is TERRIFYING. I'm at the point where I don't even want to ride him because I'm not sure which horse I'm going to get when I get on him.

    He has had full vet work ups. No ulcers, blood work is normal. No pain. Vets concluded he is a jerk of a horse.
    He is on a very low concentrate diet, and what he gets is very low nsc, low carb. He is fed free choice forage. He also gets a joint supplement and ration balancer.

    I am out of ideas. What about regumate? A lobotomy? prozac?
    If riding were all blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit long ago.
    ~George Morris

  • #2
    How about a couple of months with a tough professional trainer?

    Comment


    • #3
      With all due respect, a horse that bites and charges is dangerous...period. He's also a liabiilty unless you live on 100's of acres where he would not come into contact with anyone but you. What if he were to charge a child or get ahold of a kid's arm and fling 'em?

      Alas, I've seen it. Thomas' School of Riding on LI had a big draft gelding they kept in the schoolie string for larger adults. Nastiest sun of a gun I've ever known. Chronic biter and lunger at people.

      One show day, he was in his stall between classes. An 8-year old sister of one of the show team was walking by the shed row and Jim lunged over the door, got the kid by the arm and dangled her 4 feet off the ground.

      He was dead within the hour, courtesy of the show vet on duty.

      I know it was probably not what you wanted to hear, but there are just some horses that cannot be brought back. So either they have to be turned out to live free-range on 100's of acres OR they are assisted Over The Bridge.

      I do not envy you the decision.
      <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.

      Comment


      • #4
        Sounds way too dangerous to mess with - if you can afford sending him to a "tough professional trainer" there is some possibility it could be straightened out (and a good trainer should be able to tell you within a month if it is going to work). If not, I would euthanize the horse as hard as that may be. A friend of mine had a similar gelding who finally had to be put down after attacking more than one barn worker. It is just not worth keeping a horse that you have to constantly worry will attack you or some innocent bystander (not to mention the legal liability involved).

        Comment


        • #5
          Barring a brain tumor of some sort...there isn't a shortage of @sshole personality horses out there. Some are just wired all fakakt. Every once in a while we come into contact with one...and no amount of training or meds or experience will fix it.
          We either learn to accept the animal for how it is, rehome it to someone who wants to/can deal with this type of horse or have it humanely euthanized. Retiring it usually isn't an option because it's not just dangerous under saddle..and there simply isn't a way to retire and properly care for an animal that attacks randomly. (not to mention a horse like that is a liability nightmare)
          MCS...knowing you, you've already gone above and beyond with training, treatments and tests. It isn't your particular handling either. The choices are slim if it's not medical-related...deal with him and take your chances, rehome to someone who knows what he is and is willing to deal with him or euthanize. The former is setting you up for a possible serious injury though, attackers and flippers don't just cause some bruises. They cause catastrophic injuries...not a matter of "if" but "when." Please be careful.
          You jump in the saddle,
          Hold onto the bridle!
          Jump in the line!
          ...Belefonte

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            That is where I am torn. He was actually with a pro trainer for 3 years. Prior to that time, he did not rear. Ever. He was wonderful undersaddle, willing and happy. He bit and was awful on the ground, definitely, but he did not rear. While with the trainer, he acquired an extensive show record but also the ability and desire to rear.
            I was not a part of his life during his time at the trainer's, as I had sold him. Imagine my surprise when I got him back to find he now likes to rear. I was warned not to push his buttons too much when he's in a mood because he will flip himself right over. I ran into this scenario at an event this summer. He decided halfway through XC that he was done and he planted his feet. The more I pushed him, the higher he would rear until he was ready to go up and over. I quit before that point, unfortunately because I just will not deal with rearing! And I wasn't hitting him with the stick or anything, just trying to turn him, disengage the hindquarters, get his feet moving somewhere other than up.

            I don't like that he's a horse that I have to walk on eggshells around. Try not to ask him anything that might piss him off. I would love to change that but I've been told that I need to accept how he is. I'm not willing to accept that he may decide he doesn't want to do what I want him to do so he's going to flip himself over. Sorry but to be that is unacceptable behavior!
            But it's hard because if he get after him he truly gets angrier and into a rage.

            I've thought of sending him to a good cowboy. But I'm torn because it could go well or it could go horribly, horribly bad! Any suggestions of someone who might be able to help him?
            If riding were all blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit long ago.
            ~George Morris

            Comment


            • #7
              Call me crazy, but it's the rearing and flipping over under tack that really makes me go . Rearing is just too dangerous to take chances on and flipping intentionally, well, it's downright fatal. Any horse that rears can lose its balance and crush its rider, but one that dismisses its own sense of self preservation in an EFFORT to crush its rider? That wouldn't last long in my barn. I'm sure you'll get advice to get him to a professional trainer and such, but I'm of the opinion that there are enough sweet, happy, loving, well meaning horses out there that the risks involved in attempting to rehab one like this are too high. I've known a number of chronic rearers/flippers that very big name professionals have written off as unfixable and I can't say I blame them. Our sport is dangerous enough without trying to pair up with horses that mean us bodily harm.
              To break it down to its most basic, it sounds like this horse is miserable and I get the feeling that you are, too. If he were mine he MIGHT earn a good long vacation in a huge back 40 type field where he can't hurt anyone to see if time off and away from stress settles his temperament at all, but he'd be pushing up daisies if that had no effect. I dunno though, as strongly as I dislike rearing he might already be 6 feet under and some very sweet horse in search of a home would be on my back 40.
              "Absent a correct diagnosis, medicine is poison, surgery is trauma and alternative therapy is witchcraft" A. Kent Allen
              http://www.etsy.com/shop/tailsofglory

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                I hear your thoughts on euthing. It has been a thought. But I struggle because when he's good, he is so, so good it is heavenly. This spring we won an event on the lowest dressage score I've ever gotten and the most gorgeous stadium and XC I've ever ridden. And 2 events later he quits on XC because he just doesn't want to play. He is loved and admired by many for his talent when he is game. But I've had 2 farriers quit on me and my own family refuses to handle him on the ground.

                I am also struggling with some fear now. I never feared him until he charged me when I was in the middle of the paddock. I was there alone and I truly thought I'd be dead. I had a bucket in my hand and I threw it at his head. I know that sounds awful but I was scared out of my mind. He was coming at me full speed with his ears flat back and he was out for blood. I threw the bucket and hit him in the head with it and yelled at him to CUT IT OUT as I scrambled out of the paddock. I know that by me leaving the paddock he learned that he gets what he wants from that behavior but I was not about to stand my ground and fight with him.
                Now I find myself leading him and worrying and seeing in my mind that he's going to lose it and attack me. I doubt he would, as he's never attacked when out of his paddock and on lead, but the thought is in my mind.

                It's like an abusive relationship. He is good to me at random intervals so I keep loving him when he's trying to kill me.
                If riding were all blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit long ago.
                ~George Morris

                Comment


                • #9
                  Wow, this sounds bad.

                  As far as the rearing goes, you can't just turn the horse, you need to use the whip at the same time to make the hind legs move.

                  But this horse sounds like he has something wrong with him. Being that dominant/ aggressive just doesn't sound normal at all. How is he with other horses?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Do you know his breeding, Splash?
                    "Absent a correct diagnosis, medicine is poison, surgery is trauma and alternative therapy is witchcraft" A. Kent Allen
                    http://www.etsy.com/shop/tailsofglory

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Splash, if you ignore all other advice in this thread, please heed this. You and the people who love you will not care one lick how "golden" he CAN be at times when he crushes your pelvis, bites your face off or outright kills you. I have personally known 2 professional, very talented trainers who were killed when a horse went up and flipped.
                      Doing well at an event is exciting and rewarding and all, but can you hug him and kiss his nose at the end of the day? I highly doubt that either of you are enjoying your time together as much as you should be. Your horse may be very capable of his job, but he clearly does not like it. You say he's gotten worse over time. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This isn't going to go away and you'd be hard pressed to find someone to tackle such a dangerous project. And even if you beat the rear out of him successfully (not likely), what then? Will he like eventing or people anymore than he does now? Any less?
                      I know you're in a hard spot, but shouldn't you be having fun with a horse that loves you? And shouldn't an unhappy horse be released from his suffering one way or another?
                      "Absent a correct diagnosis, medicine is poison, surgery is trauma and alternative therapy is witchcraft" A. Kent Allen
                      http://www.etsy.com/shop/tailsofglory

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Eek.
                        I wouldn't send him to a cowboy.
                        ALL of the truly mean horses I've seen were made that way by humans. They didn't come out of the womb that way. In your case, you're describing how he acquired that behavior.

                        You defiantly need outside help, however, because you're scared (and rightfully so!!!). Maybe there is a behaviorist in your area- at a vet school or big practice- that can help? I think this horse is probably outside the realm of 'normal' help.

                        A spinoff, but, I wonder how many horses that are balky, not in pain, rearers ever get "fixed" of the problem. I rode one bad mare- if you tried to steer her, she'd buck then rear, a crop only sent her up higher. The AA owner would get off her when this happened. She was a dressage horse, they said making her a jumper helped, but she was quickly sold.... so who knows.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          wow, poor you and poor animal.

                          all of the horses I've had had been chronic biters and run-you-overs (but out of the blue charging is not something I've had to deal with, predictable charging, yes). My first horse - who I still have - had signed his one-way ticket to New Holland by picking a girl up by the shoulder and throwing her down an aisle. I bought him the next week. This horse is still a bit nippy and so never childsafe around his face, but ended up teaching lessons to little peanut beginners, standing for hours to be groomed, have his feet picked, etc... he became a model citizen and I have him still.

                          Though every horse has had its own special 'issue', they all required one thing and that was a firm, consistent and patient leader.

                          Horses are herd animals, they require a leader that they can trust, and if they can't trust them, they take over. Its survival. Once in a while you have a horse that is too cowardly to want to be alpha, but is too smart to allow himself to be led by a someone he can't trust. This is a very tough position for a herd animal, to them, their lives are in constant danger, its a stressful way to live. I had a pony like this, submissive in the herd, dominant and dangerous around people (seriously hurt his prior owner). This pony didn't know his position in life and it was disturbing to him. His aggressive behavior was actually fear. He'd act aggressive to see who was boss, *because he needed to know*. When the human would back down, then come charging back with whips, etc, it sent all the wrong signals to him: humans are submissive and unpredictable.

                          He was a smart, sensitive athletic pony that needed a firm and consistent hand. He needed humans to put him in his place so he felt secure, but he couldn't be smacked around or manhandled in the process as that was seen as abuse. He turned out to be an exceptional pony hunter and jumper, and a wonderful trustworthy mount for little kids.

                          Diet, ulcers, SADDLE FIT, are all reasons to put a horse on the edge like you describe. Also, constant low grade pain. I agree get a chiro, a horse in pain is a horse that is frightened and may need to defend himself like you describe.

                          I also agree, get a good firm trainer, one that understands what you've got.

                          In the meanwhile, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that in your daily dealings with the horse, he's probably dropping little hints that he's boss and he's not being put in his place (some horses *need* to be put in their place). The charging and biting is the horse's way of "shouting" his message. Before he shouts, he talks, a glance, positioning of the body, ears, eyes, stepping into your space, leaning, turning his bum to you, bulging his shoulder or neck or hip to you, there are a zillion little ways the horse can communicate to you that he's gonna bite or charge. Its when the handler dismisses or ignores this, that the horse will feel the need to follow through often.

                          Again, I agree, find a good trainer and a chiro. In the meanwhile, expect absolute perfection in manners from this horse while on the ground. Correct him for every hoof put out of place, expect absolute perfection from him and don't give him a nano-inch of slack. Don't hand feed if you do. Don't feed this horse if his ears are back, don't allow him to turn his rump to you at any time. Don't allow him to goof off while leading, or tying, or grooming, etc. Pay close attention to his body language and try to read what he's telling you and stop any goofy crap the second you think it might start. He's trying to tell you something, probably that he needs a leader, but also possibly that something is wrong or hurting.

                          I wish you the very best of luck. I have a soft spot for horses like you describe, and yours sound very tough. good luck
                          Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            It could just be dominance gone overboard because it was allowed to escalate or it could be physical. If it is the former, I'll go out on a limb and say it probably is fixable with the right trainer.

                            I had one that was pretty nasty, even dangerous, and he completely turned around but it required some work.

                            because of my experience with that horse, if I was satisfied there was no physical issue, I'd be inclined to give the horse another chance with a good trainer for these issues, before deciding to put him down.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Had one similar (not mine) once. The horse was terrified of people with rakes or pitchforks. The horse would go around lovely, stop and rear. I dont think the biting was a part of it.

                              What worked somewhat was putting a cowboy (not a trainer a cowboy) on him and encouraging him to just go forward. No bridle, just a halter with reins. We think someone snatched him enough that hw wasnt going forward no matter what you did. But he got to where he would go forward not rear work a bridle and wouldnt climb the walls when someone came in.

                              He was given away by the owner. We think hes making progress. This was a trainer issue not a horse issue. The horse was checked from nose to tail for everything.

                              If you try him with a trainer be very careful. Some are good, some are abusive. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. But I would never trust a horse like the one you describe. There are lots of good horses out there.

                              Tough choce. I think whichever you do would be right.
                              “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by MissCapitalSplash View Post

                                I am also struggling with some fear now. I never feared him until he charged me when I was in the middle of the paddock. I was there alone and I truly thought I'd be dead. I had a bucket in my hand and I threw it at his head. I know that sounds awful but I was scared out of my mind. He was coming at me full speed with his ears flat back and he was out for blood. I threw the bucket and hit him in the head with it and yelled at him to CUT IT OUT as I scrambled out of the paddock. I know that by me leaving the paddock he learned that he gets what he wants from that behavior but I was not about to stand my ground and fight with him.
                                Now I find myself leading him and worrying and seeing in my mind that he's going to lose it and attack me. I doubt he would, as he's never attacked when out of his paddock and on lead, but the thought is in my mind.

                                It's like an abusive relationship. He is good to me at random intervals so I keep loving him when he's trying to kill me.
                                oh I feel so terrible for you, I know how you feel.

                                the bolded part says to me that you probably need to be a better boss - since you recognize this already. He probably has your number throughout the day, and there are times you probably know it but let it slide because its no big deal. But it is always a big deal, the little things are the biggest deals to the horse... letting him get away with little crap is feeding his need to pull the big stuff. He needs to be firmly managed, but with fairness, not tyranny. it doesn't have to be war, you don't have to go to hand-to-hand combat with your horse to 'prove' your the leader. Its actually more important, more meaningful if you pick on the little details.

                                There is a book, True Horsemanship Through Feel by Bill Dorrance and Leslie Desmond. Its an amazing book, you'll likely not find it much help at first, but one of the main ideas the book centers on is being in control of the horse at all times, by controlling the feet. Its something many of us over look, but being able to position a horses feet is soooo meaningful to them, and can work in such a subtle and quiet way. Leslie Desmond has a wonderful site too that is filled with articles to read: http://lesliedesmond.com/index.php?id=27

                                none of this is a substitute for a trainer though, you're in over your head and need help. And, I'll hazard a guess there is no magic bullet for this one, like 'ulcers' poof and he's better. Your horse needs to be put in his place, and you need to learn how to do it. You need a trainer that will work with you both.

                                I got lucky with my first horse, right when I was at the point you are now, a trainer showed up and lived at my stable for the summer. I was her shadow for the entire summer and learned what leadership really was about. She put me on the right path and I turned my 'dangerous' horse around in a surprisingly quiet manner.

                                euth is always humane option if you cannot get help. no one should ever feel ashamed of that.

                                I wish you so much luck
                                Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  I will try to respond to everyone's questions.

                                  grayarabpony: He is not turned out with other horses. He is actually ok with them unless there is a human in the equation. He will then attack the others. Very odd. You can watch them all getting along through the window of the house, but if you go out there he starts attacking the others.

                                  Jackieblue- no clue on his breeding. He's a big ole spotted thing. Looks like a warmblood, but with spots. We think he may be a Wap bred app. He was an auction rescue initially. he had been abandoned at a boarding barn and sold on back board. Supposedly he had done some dressage. The boarding barn owner that brought him said he was very nasty and territorial and he was worried about his kids around him.
                                  And sometimes, I CAN hug and kiss him. And then he bites me.
                                  I hear what you are saying about the risk factor, and that is where I am torn as to whether or not it is even worth it!

                                  Buck22- You and I think about him very similarly! I feel bad for him. he seems lost and stressed.
                                  I have tried to do as you described, not allowing any sort of non-manners. But even if you lightly ask him to move over on crossties, he will whip around and try to bite. Or pushing his hindquarters over may result in him firing at you.
                                  I want him to know that I am not going to hurt him, but at the same time, that doesn't work.
                                  What would you do if you went to push him out of your space and he came at you harder?
                                  If riding were all blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit long ago.
                                  ~George Morris

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Sounds like you should send the horse to Buck22.

                                    On a serious note, I had an app mare come to me, 6 years old and was the nicest thing on the ground, very sweet and loving. Put a saddle on her and ask her to work a little bit (and I do mean a little bit - like a walk for five minutes on the lounge line) and if she didn't feel like working that day - she would throw herself to the ground and just lay there. Wouldn't get up for any amount of feed, treats, or even if tapped with a whip.

                                    When she got good and ready to get up - she'd get up just fine and go about her business. Did it unpredictably - some days she'd ride fine, others she would ride ten steps and plant her feet. If made to go forward or disengage the hindquarters, she'd fling herself on the ground. Strangest thing I have ever seen. Owner was petrified to ride her and tried to make her a cart pony..not happening - she did the same thing in harness. One day go along perfectly, next day she might work a bit and then just plant her hooves and lay down.

                                    Mare was vetted nine ways from Sunday - complete neuro tests, and bloodwork, etc. and never was anything found. She was fine in the pasture, running about, never lame. No ulcers. The best we could figure out is she had gotten away with it once with her novice owner and so figured it worked well and made it the main method of no work.

                                    I refused to work the mare as she was so unpredictable and had no care for her own safety..she'd fling herself down, not just quietly lay down, more like be trotting and then just fall over. I wondered if she had a brain tumor or something that back then could not be diagnosed due to lack of equipment. At any rate, I did advise owner to either retire her to pasture or put her down. I also suggested she not sell the horse to anyone as someone would get hurt eventually.

                                    There are some out there that have problems too big to deal with. Either they are eternal money pits (trainers, and more trainers, vets and more bills, etc.) or they are so mentally damaged from previous owners/trainers, experiences that they should be put down before they do hurt someone. Liability these days is huge when you know a horse is dangerous and from the description, I'd not have that horse anywhere on my property due to little children being around.

                                    What if said horse gets loose at a show and charges someone? That could end up a nightmare. Or just reaches out and bites some child at random? Too much liability for me not to mention the guilt I would have over something like that. Either send him out or put him on retirement pasture where no one has to deal with him other than yourself for hooves, vet care, etc. Other option is to put to sleep (not anyone's favorite) option but considering what you have described, it might be the best option.

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                                    • #19
                                      I am sending you a PM.
                                      www.ncsporthorse.com

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                                      • #20
                                        "In the meanwhile, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that in your daily dealings with the horse, he's probably dropping little hints that he's boss and he's not being put in his place (some horses *need* to be put in their place). The charging and biting is the horse's way of "shouting" his message. Before he shouts, he talks, a glance, positioning of the body, ears, eyes, stepping into your space, leaning, turning his bum to you, bulging his shoulder or neck or hip to you, there are a zillion little ways the horse can communicate to you that he's gonna bite or charge. Its when the handler dismisses or ignores this, that the horse will feel the need to follow through often.

                                        Again, I agree, find a good trainer and a chiro. In the meanwhile, expect absolute perfection in manners from this horse while on the ground. Correct him for every hoof put out of place, expect absolute perfection from him and don't give him a nano-inch of slack. Don't hand feed if you do. Don't feed this horse if his ears are back, don't allow him to turn his rump to you at any time. Don't allow him to goof off while leading, or tying, or grooming, etc. Pay close attention to his body language and try to read what he's telling you and stop any goofy crap the second you think it might start. He's trying to tell you something, probably that he needs a leader, but also possibly that something is wrong or hurting."

                                        ^^^that is very very true. However, is that a good fit for the OP, who just wants to ride and compete and not be on her guard with her life at risk? Maybe not. Personally I don't think any horse is worth risking life and limb around. Some people enjoy that challenge. Maybe you can find one to hand him off to?

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