Some of the most common challenges that people talk about year after year involve issues that are often more easily resolved with horse thinking and/or other horses. You can learn a lot from what horses try to teach you – and if you let them, they’ll lend a big hand in schooling the imps and brats to do what you want. The next time you’re having trouble with a horse issue you can’t seem to fix, think about how you might be able to teach the lesson from afar with the help of the herd mixes or another equine companion (or not – isolation can sometimes work wonders with a bad attitude). Here are some of the more common comments of frustration heard year after year, and what you can do about it:
“My young colt is studdish”
Young colts sometimes figure out pretty quickly they’re bigger and stronger than people and feel they’re horny enough to justify ignoring requests and demands in deference to “nature’s calling.” This becomes a dangerous problem if these horses aren’t handled properly from an early age. If you have a young colt that has started striking, rearing and exhibiting other horny behavior that you are unable to correct in-hand, try turning him out with a pregnant alpha mare.
Of course, often the best answer to such a problem is castration. People who use “in-tact” as an excuse to shrug off bad behavior will get someone hurt.
“My horse is herd bound”
Proper early training focused on ensuring your horse takes his lead from you and understands training time requires focus and attention (backed up with a confidence, patience and insistence from you) helps a lot, but sometimes, you must undo problems already created or deal with a critter that decides to be difficult.
With the worst herd-bound cases, we’ve found isolation to be the best approach. We had one filly here that started under saddle without a hitch. Three weeks later she began rearing, backing up at a breakneck pace and exhibiting a variety of avoidance tactics that made her very dangerous. Ultimately, after ruling out physical issues and other possible factors, we realized she was simply acting out in intimidation tactics designed to return her to the herd. So, we wound up relegating her to the roundpen alone (the barn wasn’t a good option because horses were in and out all day). For five days, we ensured she had ample hay and water (we pulled the grain through this phase – something we rarely do, but it was appropriate here) and ignored her completely. By day five, she was nickering as we approached and relished the opportunity for contact and attention from her human handlers (horses are social creatures and people were the only offer she had for contact during this time). After another day of ensuring she “got it,” we tacked her up and never had a problem with her again.
“My horse won’t let me catch him”
This can be an extremely frustrating challenge and is usually a man-made issue. Many exacerbate the issue by chasing the horse or disciplining him when he finally comes.
For this one, it often depends on the horse and the reasons for his avoidance. For those just playing the catch me game, finding a buddy or three who come to you readily can be the simplest approach. Give the others lavish attention and ignore the gamester. Don’t just go out to catch horses for work or the vet or other demands. Spend simple enjoyable time with the horses in the field. Usually within a week of watching his buddies enjoy the pats, he’ll change his tune. Don’t go to him – let him come to you before you even think about looking at him.
Driving a horse away can sometimes be effective, but this often backfires with novice handlers and determined horses. If you must, pick a small area and be prepared to stay the course until the results are met.
If a horse is frightened of you, being small and quiet is often helpful. If you’ve given him reason to be afraid, it may take a long time to resolve the issue. But, horses that are concerned by what they do not know can come around pretty quickly. Curious by nature, a horse will come to investigate sooner or later. Sit on a bucket or something so you are not towering over him, be still when he comes and do not try to restrict his head or reach for him initially.