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OTTB: WHY is he like this & what can be done about it?

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  • OTTB: WHY is he like this & what can be done about it?

    Ok, most of you have probably seen my video tribute to my 6 yr. old OTTB, Beauseant...

    If you didn't see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1_-DWUaiFo

    The boy in the video is the most people oriented horse you will ever see...he is unnaturally emotionally dependent on humans. He will come in off the pasture to the barn just to hang out with us. Today he came in off the grass just to stand at the barn where we were, stuck his head in the door so we would rub it, and promptly stood there and fell asleep while we were rubbing him. When he gets horseflies, he runs to us to kill them.....He nuzzles, he kisses, he licks, he follows.... sometimes we have to walk out to the pasture so he will follow us out there else he would just stand by the barn door and lick us.... He is THAT weird.

    He is truly more like an overgrown dog than a horse....

    BUT....with horses and dogs, he is the complete opposite. he gets along horribly with his own kind....he fights,he bullies, he bites....

    With dogs, it is even worse. Our BO has two dogs and he is always threatening them and even has tried to kill them.....both dogs bark at him and get in his face, but it is out of fear of him, not aggression. They are afraid and are trying to make him think they are not afraid........so he rears up and tries to squash them, once nearly succeeding, or he tries to kick them or bite them. Both dogs are smart enough to get out of his way..... but the neighbor's dog is an OLD lab with arthritis. Today he came over as he usually does to swim in the pond and hang out.....this dog never barks and acts like he is senile....he IS old.....well, Beau attacked him for NO reason. The dog was just in the field smelling the ground...Beau walks towards him and pins his ears, meaning MOVE. Well, the dog doesn't speak horse so he just stands there, which Beau took as a challenge, so he kicked out with his hoof and gave him a good "Thump" on the ribs. The dog is senile I tell you....he just stood there ..... my daughter ran into the pasture to coax the dog out, but he just rolled over onto his back, showing his belly....bad idea with an enraged horse after you....

    well, we did get the dog out of Beau's pasture, then hurried and shut the gate so beau wouldn't chase him from one field to the adjoining one....but the dog did get thumped. he seemed ok. This time. But this dog is old and slow....in body and mind.

    My question is: is there ANY chance of training horse and dog aggression out of him, or is it just how it is and we need to accept it?

    I thought it was only barking dogs that get in his face, but this dog today was old and harmless and minding his own business....

    As for horses, he is a supreme bully, a mega alpha....

    At our other farm, no one wanted him in with their horses as he would always hurt them.

    At his last home, he fought with a stallion and got tore up so bad he was put in with cows....to save his life. he would NOT accept his place in the herd. he wanted to be alpha and would fight for it....till the bloody end.

    in other words, is there anything you can do to teach a horse to get along with his own kind and with dogs? Or is it a lost cause?

    Is this an OTTB thing or what?

    HOW can he be so great with humans, so calm and loving and emotionally dependent....

    but with his own kind, he is a dictator.

    And with dogs, he is psychotic.

  • #2
    I don't think it's an OTTB thing per say. My one OTTB is a total sweetheart with other horses, never seen him give any horse so much as a dirty look. My other one however, is very socially inept. He went from being terrified of other horses, to being an aggressive bully.

    From what you said before about your horse being very skinny and being thrown out into a dealer pasture, it makes sense that he is so horse agressive. Especially if there was a stallion involved. For most of his life, he wasn't allowed to interact with other horses whatsoever. He had no hierarchy to deal with or learn from. So suddenly he's thrown into a field with a bunch of other horses, and has to fight for his food. It became fight or starve. Now that is his mentality, regardless of how much he gets fed now. And perhaps the dealer had dogs running around that chased the horses, or maybe he got bit once. Who knows.


    • #3
      He is lovely, a great mover. You might want to have some blood work done to make sure he is a complete gelding. If he is'nt have the problem rectified. If he is you could try some prost or estrone to make him less aggressive.


      • #4
        Some horses do not like dogs at all. They will try to kill them. Keep the dogs away from him as best you can. I had a horse that chased a black bear out of his field, right toward my sister and a neighbor who noticed the bear was in the field. They scattered. This horse did not like other beings in his field, he was not fond of our dogs in his field, and would chase them out too.


        • #5
          Have you tried turning him out with an older alpha mare?

          Also, usually the horses at the top of the herd hierarchy are pretty suave communicators and don't tend to act like bullies. The top horses can usually communicate their intent very subtly, whereas lower horses communicate very physically and blatantly. Being a "supreme bully" probably means he's not a "mega alpha" at all.


          • Original Poster

            When he was in a large herd of about 8 horses, it was a mixed herd and he was showing even MORE aggression. The mares were HIS!

            and even if two other horses got into a squabble, he would charge right into the fray and proceed to herd both of the other horses. When we would turn him back out into the pasture after riding, he would run right at the herd and have them all running around the pasture. EVERYONE kept out of his way.....When he walked up to the water tank, they would scatter. And so a kind of peace prevailed.....stay away from the gray guy seemed to be the herd mentality.

            THe REAL problems arose when a new horse was introduced. Beau went ballistic....teeth bared, rearing.....and the poor new guy wasnt even challenging him. He was terrified.

            He's been pastured with Epona ONLY for the last year. This has gone somewhat better, but is not without problems. He does bully her and chase her....but that's normal.

            WHAT DOES bother us is that every so often he gets "fits". These fits are different than his normal bullying. He runs at her, rears, sometimes he bites her neck or butt, and he sometimes gets her cornered and will rear and come down nearly on her back....obviously we don't like this.

            I can't say for sure because I've never seen a stallion mate, but that IS what it looks like he's trying to do....or what I would IMAGINE it would look like....she runs off of course, and after about 10 minutes, the furor dies down and he goes back to eating like nothing happened.

            Before anyone asks, we do NOT know when he was gelded....

            And what did the other poster mean about having his blood tested to make sure he is a gelding? Can a horse be half a gelding even if he doesnt have "them" anymore. Cause "they" are definately not there.

            As for the dog aggression, I do understand his behaviour...I'm not sure the BO and their neighbor will, though.

            Horse on horse, though....I am not sure i understand. I understand herd

            heirarchy...I've seen other alphas in action. I knew what to expect from an alpha....I've just not seen it to THIS level before .....

            Even at play, he is rough. Our ex BO put him in with her non dominant gray tb of similar age. all was well....for a while. Next thing we know hooves were flying and the BOs tb ended up with a nasty gash on his cannon bone....and she said that "that "THING", meaning Beau, was never allowed in with any of her horses ever again. Normally I would think that is an overreaction....with Beau, maybe not.

            In short, NO horse can come anywhere near Beau for ANY reason or will suffer the consequences. The horse that had us rub him to sleep yesterday, will not let another horse anywhere near him, even for mutual grooming or reciprocal fly swatting with their tails....isn't that a bit odd?


            • #7
              Originally posted by Seal Harbor View Post
              Some horses do not like dogs at all. They will try to kill them. Keep the dogs away from him as best you can. I had a horse that chased a black bear out of his field, right toward my sister and a neighbor who noticed the bear was in the field. They scattered. This horse did not like other beings in his field, he was not fond of our dogs in his field, and would chase them out too.
              Yes, I have an OTTB like this. I used to fantasize about "desensitizing" him to dogs, until I witnessed him chasing a rat terrier at full throttle, teeth-bared, striking with his front feet. I decided at that moment that he could just go ahead and hate dogs

              As far as the horse aggression goes- are you sure it has nothing to do with food or girls? What is the feeding and turn-out situation?

              My gelding, while not as "bad" as yours, has been known to be pretty nasty to other horses, and really enjoys terrorizing the weak ones specifically. At the barn where he spent the first couple of years that I owned him, there wasn't a lot of consistency in the group turnouts, and mares and geldings were not separated.

              I moved him to a new barn earlier this year and poof- aggression gone. One major difference is there is no grain or hay allowed in the pastures at the new barn- all horses must be fed in their stalls/paddocks. There is ample grass in the fields. The 2nd difference is mares and geldings must be separated. For my gelding, it made all the difference. He seems happy and well-adjusted now.

              See if your BO would allow a trial period involving these two changes. You might be surprised.
              The best is yet to come


              • #8
                Posted before I saw your response above mine! I think that pretty much answers the question- group turnout, especially involving opposite sex, is obviously egging this behavior on.
                The best is yet to come


                • Original Poster

                  But he is not in group turnout anymore....our horses stay at a private farm and they are the only horses on the property....

                  And with Epona, the only other horse he ever sees, he is ok...most of the time.....except for those "fits" i mentioned where he runs at her, bites at her neck or rump, rears, corners her and comes down on her back ....like i said, it kinda looks like stallion behavior....but "they" are missing so he is a gelding.....

                  And when he was turned out once with just geldings, the situation was SLIGHTLY better....but the ex BOs gelding got hurt by Beau nonetheless....one minute they were playing, the next minute her horse has a laceration over his cannon bone....

                  With mares, Beau is a nut case though.

                  So....logically speaking, I guess I can assume that while aggressive with other horses in general, mares make the situation worse.....and he is acting out periodically with Epona because of ...hormones? Next question:

                  If he is a gelding, WHY does he still HAVE hormones????


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mah Navu View Post
                    Before anyone asks, we do NOT know when he was gelded....

                    And what did the other poster mean about having his blood tested to make sure he is a gelding? Can a horse be half a gelding even if he doesnt have "them" anymore. Cause "they" are definately not there.
                    There are a couple possibilities as far as improper gelding - one possibility is a retained testicle, up inside the body cavity. Another is that he was "proud cut" and a small amount of testicular tissue is still there (which can still produce testosterone).

                    There are some other things that could be going on, overactive adrenal gland or something. Or it could just be who he is. Either way I don't think this has anything to do with his background as a racehorse. I've seen an lot of OTTBs transition to group turnout and never seen one like that.
                    "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                    My CANTER blog.


                    • Original Poster

                      A "missed" testicle? why in the world would a vet about to geld a horse only take off one?? If one was "missing", shouldn't the vet ...ummm.....try to find it and remove that one also?? In other words, If I were about to geld a horse and could only see one testicle, I would definately find the other one ....and take that one off also. I wouldn't just leave him like that....with a retracted testicle.


                      • #12
                        He would have been a ridgling if the other had not dropped. They are sold at the TB sales as ridglings, not colts, when they have an undescended testicle. That gender distinction would have followed him until he was gelded. We aren't talking about a yearling here.

                        People call it brain surgery when they are gelded, however, while the majority of their hormone making machinery is gone sex characteristics are in their brain and other glandular tissue makes sex hormones. Some geldings are always aggressive to other horses when mares are around, even years after gelding.

                        I had another horse who I bought as a three year old, he was gelded, we used on occasion to tease the mares. He wouldn't back down when they were stamping and squealing at him. He was not in group turnout until he was an old man, and even then he would go after new comers if there were mares involved.


                        • #13
                          Well if the horse did have a retained testicle (or two), it would be major invasive surgery to remove it, not nearly as simple/cheap as a regular gelding. Additionally a prior owner may have opted not to get the surgery, then passed the horse off as a gelding later since you can't tell by visual inspection.

                          It might be worth getting his blood tested - it's quick and simple, and could rule that sort of thing out. Also, testosterone isn't the only thing that could be involved in such behavior:

                          [FONT=Arial]Another condition in which elevated testosterone can lead to increased aggression is sexy gelding syndrome. This is sometimes seen in older geldings and it is thought to be caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland. This releases a hormone that stimulates production of steroid hormones, including testosterone, by the adrenal glands. Others signs of hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) would be expected to accompany the behavioral changes, such as brittle coat, trouble shedding, a pot belly and sway back as well as increased eating, drinking and urination. The condition is treated with cyproheptadine. [/FONT]

                          [FONT=Arial]Another hormonal cause of aggression in horses is hypothyroidism. The aggression can be directed at other horses, people or both. Thyroid hormone levels affect the levels of both dopamine and serotonin. These are neurotransmitters – substances that transmit nerve signals from nerve to nerve – that are particularly important in controlling behavior. It also affects the level of other hormones that normally are released in response to stress. Hypothyroid animals seem to live in a perpetual state of stress, and may respond to this with aggression. Replacing the missing hormone can completely control abnormal aggression in these horses
                          [FONT=Arial](from petshrink.com)[/FONT]

                          "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                          My CANTER blog.


                          • Original Poster

                            Great post. But wouldn't abnormal aggression due to the things mentioned also translate to aggression with humans? It wouldn't be species specific aggression.

                            THis same horse stood in dry lot by the barn door for half an hour yesterday and listened to me read a story to my kids rather than graze in the pasture with his equine companion. He wasn't sleeping. He was alert and focused...on me reading. What the heck!??!!

                            THAT is weird. I want to help him learn to act more like a horse, but first I have to figure out why he DOESN'T. Normal horses do not prefer having stories read to them over grazing with other horses.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Mah Navu View Post
                              Great post. But wouldn't abnormal aggression due to the things mentioned also translate to aggression with humans? It wouldn't be species specific aggression.
                              Not necessarily. Sometimes horses with aggression issues direct them towards people and not other animals (experienced that one myself and it was pretty terrifying). Sometimes they express those issues only towards other animals (and sometimes specific animals), and sometimes they have those issues with both people and animals.
                              "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                              My CANTER blog.


                              • #16
                                As Beauseant is not his registered name I can't read much into a theory but I will say I've seen orphaned foals and rejected foals raised by people rather then a mare that are far more people oriented and never learn good herd manners. They integrate poorly with other horses later in life as well. Perhaps your boy was a bottle baby for either reason and people are his "family".


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Mah Navu View Post
                                  Great post. But wouldn't abnormal aggression due to the things mentioned also translate to aggression with humans? It wouldn't be species specific aggression.
                                  nope only two things to add:

                                  if all OTTB hated dogs,fox hunting would have stopped dead in it's tracks centuries ago

                                  and we don't ever keep mixed herds....there is nothing like a mare to mess up a good geldings work ethic..

                                  the US Army Forts and posts would not allow mares inside the walls (unless it was a remount breeding center) for that very reason.

                                  Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                                  I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                                  • #18
                                    Definitely not a TB or an OTTB "thing" at all - this is a horse thing. You can see posts like this about all breeds - on my FL horse board a girl is going through this with a QH gelding and another with a TWH.

                                    As for fixing it, the dog thing is a hard one - some horses just really seem to dislike dogs. Almost like donkeys that are really known for that - possibly a throwback to herd dynamics with wolves...

                                    Sorry to hear of these issues - neither are easy to deal with at all. I would agree to rule out that he is a ridgeling (doubtful) or proud cut (also doubtful) or just has abnormally high testosterone levels. Could be thyroid related etc. I'd start with the vet and go on from there.

                                    Good luck.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by caffeinated View Post
                                      Not necessarily. Sometimes horses with aggression issues direct them towards people and not other animals (experienced that one myself and it was pretty terrifying). Sometimes they express those issues only towards other animals (and sometimes specific animals), and sometimes they have those issues with both people and animals.
                                      Agreed. Also agree with those that indicated this isn't an OTTB problem - just a horsey one. I had a Morgan gelding that was as sweet as sweet could be to people but put him near a mare and he was aggressive and ugly towards any gelding that got near "his" mare and very protective and pushy with the mare. He could never be in mixed herds for this reason and was best with a large group of geldings, where he was usually top horse or second in command. He also was a dog stomper who deliberately and methodically stomped any dog that came near him on the trail or into his pasture.

                                      Horses are fascinating creatures .


                                      • #20
                                        Please take this in the way it is intended, which is helpfully. The original post screams inexperience to me. I have never seen good things come from people whose horses LOVE to be with them and demand attention. It is usually a slippery slope from there to disrespect and misbehavior on the part of the horse. They are NOT big dogs and they should be discouraged from acting like dogs.

                                        I would treat each of your horse's issues as a separate problem/puzzle you need to solve. If he is going to attack dogs, YOU need to figure out a way to keep dogs out of his pasture, whether it is talking to the neighbor or putting up hot wire at dog level. If he is mounting a mare, get her out of there. Her back can be hurt, she can get scuffed up -- and that's IF he doesn't penetrate. If he wants to hang out with you, make it purposeful. Teach him to yield to pressure. Do showmanship exercises with him. Longe him. Stop reading to him. He is neither a person nor a dog, and if I had to guess, someone in his past made that mistake. It's up to you to stop it.
                                        Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.