It’s widely accepted that the majority of horses are “good” but without proper care or handling, good behaviour can quickly give way to bad behaviour.
There are a variety of reasons for this bad behaviour and these can range from genetically inherited psychological frailty, natural aggression, distrust or dislike of a rider or unhappiness because of illness or poor conditions.
Whatever the reason for the bad behaviour though it goes without saying that poor behaviour can not only be dangerous for the horse and its’ stable mates whom he may attack through temper but also to the rider who may be the focus or victim of the aggression.
There are various manifestations of this behaviour from stall kicking, rearing, halter pulling or resistance to instruction. Biting, kicking and bolting are also signs of poor behaviour, although they may also be signs of excitement or fear and should not be scolded but dealt with. Just ensure if you are looking at horses for loan you don’t pick the wrong one.
Preventing Bad Behaviour
Expert trainers who prepare horses for professional and working use are obviously not able to accept bad behaviour because this could hurt or injure members of the public and so they adopt a “prevention rather than cure” method of working with the animals they train.
Adopting a firm behaviour policy, ensuring the comfort of the horse and using proper riding techniques in horses from foal age is just one of the ways in which poor behaviour can be stopped before it has chance to develop.
The consideration here is that once certain habits have developed, it can be very difficult to discourage the horse from behaving in a certain way but in not allowing the poor habits to develop then the rider and the horse are spared from any danger their behaviour might cause them to be in.
Changing Developed Behaviour
There are a number of ways to fix or manage bad or aggressive behaviour and rather than punishment or whipping, many experts believe that a much less aggressive reaction is key to altering behaviour. They recommend identifying the vice, determining the cause, making any necessary changes to facilities, exercise, nutrition and other physical aspects and then making the necessary changes to training practices. It may be that the bad behaviour is a result of a medical condition and these should be treated wherever possible.
There is also the danger that a behaviour, which may be a one-off or occasional reaction to a situation could become habitual if it is not “nipped in the bud” so to speak and therefore it is essential to react quickly but effectively to any unwanted behaviours before they have the chance to become problematic. Poor handling for example may on one occasion lead to a rear or bolt but as long as it is only allowed to happen once, it is unlikely to repeat itself – especially if it does not yield the desired result.
A good routine can also be essential to maintaining and managing behaviour. The horse may get bored or emotionally distraught if they feel that they have been left or abandoned or have not had enough exercise but a small adjustment to the time in between exercise can quickly dissolve these feelings.
This is a guest post on behalf of Rob Waters who enjoys horses, blogs on horse trailers and the outdoors.