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Dangerous Horse: What Would You Do

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  • Dangerous Horse: What Would You Do

    Let me preface this by saying that I'm not making any decisions right now...I am giving this time.

    However, this situation bothers me on a whole level that I can't put my finger on.

    Back story--"Resue" horse that came to my farm not long ago. I'm not a pro but have a lot of experience with difficult horses. But I've never come across something like this.

    From day one, this horse has been terrified of humans. We couldn't even catch him in his stall for the first few days to turn him out. We have no history. He's young--around 6 or 7.

    Most of the time you think you could slowly work though this. However, I'm worried someone is going to get killed or seriously injured in the meantime. This horse will bolt so quickly with no warning...right over the top of you if you happen to be anywhere in the way. You can barely touch him...we were able to do a little grooming at the beginning but he has progressively gotten worse with that.

    We can't handle his feet, do any vet work or health care, can't take the halter off or we'll never get it back on. Any time you do anything besides just lead him or feed him he's dangerous to work with. He kicked me very badly a few weeks ago and almost broke my leg.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is this horse really scares me...and that's a bad combination. But I don't know what the options are...no trainer would take him on and I wouldn't put someone in that situation. I don't want to "rehome" him because he could very likely be headed to a bad situation again. He can't even be a pasture pet because you can't do basic, needed care. Euthanasia is an option but many people think you are evil for considering it.

    I'm sure this is why the horse was headed where he was in the first place. At least here he has had a chance at a happy life. He now goes out in a small paddock and I can catch him. But I picked up a brush today while holding him and he bolted so quickly that it was a very close brush with getting hurt again. Just the tiniest thing will set him off and he has no sense of self preservation for himself or the people around him. He's lucky he hasn't hurt himself badly with some of the stuff he's pulled.

    I feel very sorry for him. He is not "mean," but how can you care for a horse like this? Yes, we can wait a few months to decide (and that's where we are now) but I it takes the fun out of being out at the barn when you are dealing with such an unpredictable animal.

    On top of all this, you have people doing the "I told you so" about taking him on, but giving horses in this situation a new chance of life has always been rewarding and we have quite a few rehomed that are very much loved by their owners. You always know going in that it's a crap shoot...this one just has been a lot worse than I ever anticipated.

  • #2
    Two options.

    Clicker training or some sort of operant conditioning.


    I have no patience or tolerance for the people who are anti-euthanasia in cases like this. YOU deal with it! More to the point, stop putting human values and consciousness onto a horse. The horse is, presumably, not happy living like this.

    I don't know if there is such as thing as a clicker-training trainer, i.e. a place one could send a horse for that type of training. I'm at that crossroads myself with a mare who is, if not downright dangerous, really REALLY close. I'd love to send her to someone who was experienced with and skilled at the conditioning. Otherwise I will muddle through myself. I have not ruled out euthanasia.
    Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.


    • #3
      We had a horse like that, a feral horse, about four years old when caught, that was over the top flighty, dangerously so if you put him in a tight spot.

      He came to us with 15 others, that had been delivered to the slaughter plant and the manager called us about them.
      We got them all riding in a few weeks and they made good, solid school horses, but this one.
      We had him handling and broke, I rode him for several months, then one of the clients of the riding school bought him, but didn't get any further with him in two years.
      He had to move and the school again ended up with the horse and tried him on a wagon and he made a great driving horse, but was always very touchy to handle.

      Some horses are just like that, but I would not today work with one such horse, because someone is going to get hurt if they let their guard down with him.
      There are too many good horses out there to try to handle the true rogues out there, for several good reasons.

      If you can't get thru to that horse, do you think it is fair to have him keep living in that kind of scaredy cat frame of mind and where he can't get away from what keeps him scared, the human world?
      Is that fair to him?


      • #4
        Euthanasia is not an evil option. There are not enough good homes for the safe, sound ones. If the horse is honestly dangerous and cannot be made safe (get a couple of other opinions from other horse people if it would make you feel better), euthanize him.


        • #5
          Your fear might be setting him off. Maybe someone who is not scared could work with him? He is insecure and needs a very confident handler.


          • Original Poster

            I wouldn't say fear has been an issue until the 2nd bad incident today. I guess maybe that's the real issue--dangerous horse + now fearful handler (the only one that he will really even let near him). He is lovely and looks "cute" from over the pasture fence. But, like you say, no one else really deals with the dangerous aspects (or has necessarily seen them).

            He seems happy enough out hanging with his buddies, and if I thought he'd be safe enough for a pasture pet, I'd consider it. But if you can't keep up with health and hoof care, that's not even a real option. Domestication means humans are a fact of life, and he can't seem to accept that.

            I agree...there are too many sound and sane horses out there that need good homes.


            • #7
              Who cares what other people think?

              If he kills you, then what?

              I am all about the economics at the end of the day. There is no market for this animal. You say you know horses, and you know he's dangerously tough. Frankly, the answer is quite plain to me.


              • #8
                I commend you for giving this horse a chance....but also agree that is basic care cannot be given safely, it is much kinder to put him down than risk his, yours and anyone else's life.
                "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"


                • #9
                  Just to toss a few other ideas out there, any sort of oral tranqs that might help take the edginess off? I have no experience in dealing with a horse like that, and I commend you for trying to give him a chance. However, if he is dangerous to human handlers and possibly himself, that euthanasia may be the best option. And God is not a bad owner.
                  There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


                  • #10
                    The horse is not safe to be around for minimal handling, that's not a good situation, does not matter how you slice it.

                    (if the situation wasn't grave, I'd say give Linda Parelli a go at it, I know some would pay good money to see that, but it's not fair to the horse now )

                    Seriously though, seems like you know what you need to do, but you would like to have someone to have your back.

                    Life is too short already, no need to cut into it...


                    • #11
                      If you want to give it some time, can you pasture him with the biggest, smoochiest love bug horse you have, and spend a lot of time lovin' on that horse until "dangerous" horse thinks that maybe he'll venture near a human again? They can go for a while without hoof care, vaccinations could be an issue, but I would not approach him for fear of getting hurt. A good solid fence between the two of you would be the safest. I've seen some very traumatized horses that took a year or two to turn around. Even then, there's no guarantee, and euthanasia may be the best option.
                      It's 2018. Do you know where your old horse is?

                      www.streamhorsetv.com -- website with horse show livestream listings and links.


                      • #12
                        He may have a screw loose. Like humans, horses also can be a little off and therefore dangerous. A well known rescue sent a horse like this to a friend of mine (known for her success with problem/dangerous horses), her phone call to them after a few weeks to put him down caused a split in the rescue that to this day has never mended. Bottom line, my friend was right, the horse was a danger to humans due to it's mental issues. The horse was put down (thankfully, I was there at the farm quite a bit and witnessed the horse in action many times).

                        If you believe the horse is a danger, listen to your gut. It is really easy to sit back and point fingers/armchair quarterback/announce "what you should do" but when you are faced with the reality of a dangerous horse, do what you need to do. Please be careful and you absolutely have my support in your decision, be it what it may.


                        • #13
                          In some ways that sounds like one of mine though she is not that bad.

                          I've had her for 6 years. She can go from perfectly calm to terrified at the drop of a hat. I never tell her she has done something wrong, she can't handle it. If she thinks she has done something wrong she panics. Her mane is a mess and I don't do her feet. She is extremely needle shy. But she loads on a trailer and is good for the vet, except for shots.

                          In some ways she is very unrewarding. I am the food lady. Nothing more. I have never been able to find a scritchy spot. Other than food she cares for nothing and no one.

                          I'll never sell her.
                          I wasn't always a Smurf
                          Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                          "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                          The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


                          • #14
                            I had a horse like this, and last november, I put her down, after trying for 4 years. It took me over a year to get through to her via ground work, and I did end up starting her undersaddle, I even rode her at the beach. but she was just so inconsistent- one day she'd act like your best friend, the next day she was terrified of me, looking at me like she'd never seen me or a human before.

                            I tried all different feeds, different vets, farriers. I did get her to the point where she was ok to work with vets and farriers who had OUTSTANDING bedside manners- anyone off their game would cause her to panic.

                            I tried all different boarding regimes. Once broke, I even tried different trainers, both natural horseman (the real, rancher kind) and dressage- both had the same result.

                            In her last year with me, she started having lameness problems. Xrays showed some changes to her coffin bone. She would never be rideable. And it seemed like she was getting worse, mental/emotional wise, each month.

                            Then a couple of our uber experienced stablehands got hurt with routine handling. Minor, but she panicked and ran over them. These guys start unhandled horses and bring along babies- they know what they are doing. And here she is, toppling over them.

                            That was the last straw, for me. I wasn't angry, I knew she couldnt helpt it. So I made the decision to euth before anyone else got hurt.

                            I posted here- i got a lot of advice. but ultimately, you will know what is right for you. I knew I had to put her down, I just had to come to grips with it.

                            This was one mare I didn't go down with. My other horses, yes, I am there till the end. This one, she was acting so strange towards the end, I figured it would be best if I wasn't there. Mostly for me, because if she freaked out during the euth, i did not want to see it. As it turns out the euth went fine, but all the same, I'm glad for this one that I was not there.

                            Sometimes I feel like a huge failure, because I'm known for rehabilitating and turning them into useful members of society. But you know what? the mare was going on the slaughter truck, i prevented that from happening. She had 4 good years of people caring for her every whim. And if she were able, she would've been turned into a useful member, and would've been a gorgeous mount for someone. It just wasn't meant to be.

                            Sometimes saving them is just about getting them to a safer place, and if that is horsey heaven, so be it.

                            best of luck, I'm pullin' for ya.
                            My blog: Change of Pace - Retraining a standardbred via dressage


                            • #15
                              Friend had a mustang who was not dangerous, but would not catch. No farrier care and 20 acres and not long until he foundered. You are right, it is not fair to the horse and could easily become a grave situation for one or both of you


                              • #16
                                Do keep in mind that there are many horses out there that go through abuse, rough handling, or no handling at all and pretty quickly turn around and warm up to their new life with humans. And there are horses that are brought up in a totally pleasant domestic environment and have something awry in the brain that makes them so flighty and overreactive that they are not safe to handle, despite completely normal attempts to do all the normal things with them. (I knew one personally; her dam and siblings were calm, steady, pleasant and trainable; but this one had nearly killed herself four or five times before she was three, and was extraordinarily difficult to train, flipping out at every touch and new thing) It's possible you've met the worst of both worlds: a horse that has had a bad past but also happens to have a slightly skewed brain, with way too much flight instinct. That's a bad combination. Ultimately you need to consider your safety, as as others have said, in what way is this horse happy if every interaction with people (which is a requirement of his life) panics him?


                                • #17
                                  I feel, some horses just cant/dont want to be helped. If you gave it your all, and the horse is just as afraid, I would choose euthanization over potentially getting severely hurt or killed...No one will think less of you for that choice.
                                  I feel, safety comes first!

                                  Best of luck in your decision with this horse, either way, it will not be an easy one!!


                                  • #18
                                    Ugh, poor fellow.

                                    If he were mine, I'd be talking with my vet about oral sedatives and whether that might be a viable option for a set period of time to see if he chills out any and we make some progress ... so maybe a month. But if my vet and one or two other trusted, experienced horse people came and saw him and said he was not salvageable, I'd find the least stressful way I could to euth him. He has to be safe, to a point, for pros to be able to handle him for basic needs (and that is a best-case scenario). If you can't achieve that, then by all means, let him go. The thing is, if he can't be trusted to be handled by anyone but really experienced people, it may be better to euth him anyway ... really experienced, competent people capable of dealing with this kind of behavior successfully and safely (for all involved) are rare.

                                    Maybe this behavior is a result of poor treatment, or maybe he has a screw loose, which led to the poor treatment. There's no telling. But like PletchersMom said, some don't want to be helped. At the moment it doesn't sound like he's even trying to meet you partway. That's not a good sign.
                                    Full-time bargain hunter.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by pony4me View Post
                                      If you want to give it some time, can you pasture him with the biggest, smoochiest love bug horse you have, and spend a lot of time lovin' on that horse until "dangerous" horse thinks that maybe he'll venture near a human again? They can go for a while without hoof care, vaccinations could be an issue, but I would not approach him for fear of getting hurt. A good solid fence between the two of you would be the safest. I've seen some very traumatized horses that took a year or two to turn around. Even then, there's no guarantee, and euthanasia may be the best option.
                                      FWIW, the mare I'm talking about was a rescue, delivered to my round pen.

                                      She learned that if she stood and let me halter her I would take her out and hand graze her.
                                      She did have other food, and water of course, but not as good as the grass outside.

                                      This is going to sound silly, but usually if I take the time, stand and explain things to her she will tolerate things easier.
                                      I wasn't always a Smurf
                                      Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                                      "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                                      The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


                                      • #20
                                        I'm glad you are able to give it some time. Horses that have been unhandled or mishandled are, in a way, like horses that are badly injured-they can heal and learn to trust, but it takes TIME.

                                        We have a horse in our barn who is one of the prettiest horses I have ever seen-rescued from the meat man as a last resort. She's about 7 years old. She had been mishandled and was terrified of people. When I first went there to look at the barn for boarding (last May), she would cower in the back of her stall if you came near. She was as you describe your horse-she would run you over to get out of the way if something scared her (and everything did). She was constantly afraid.

                                        Fast forward to today. She is turned out with my Henry and another gelding every day. Today I groomed Henry in the paddock and afterward, gave him some treats. This same mare, when she saw the treats, came over to me, followed me, and, after the treats were eaten, stayed with me while I scratched her head and neck, leaning into it, nuzzling me, obviously enjoying it. She was almost pushy. The mare who had cowered in her stall WANTED to be with me, and stayed with me long after the treats were gone, because she was enjoying the attention.

                                        She still has a long way to go-she's learning to pick up her feet, but is still fearful of holding them up. She hasn't been ridden, though we're hoping to try this year. I've also heard of people who have adopted BLM mustangs who have taken months before they were comfortable with people. So there is lots of hope for this horse, as there was for the mare at our barn. It took many months of just letting her figure out that people were good and would not mistreat her, and letting her learn that at her pace, on her terms. It was worth the wait.

                                        All of that said, if time does not make a difference for your boy, it's not evil to end that-in fact, it's the opposite, IMHO. Living in fear can't be any kind of a life for him. Releasing him from the burden of his fear to a place where he will be forever free of it would be a kindness at that point.