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Hi. Just love your website. Have learned much from reading about other's issues and your responses to them. Maybe you can help me.
I currently own a 5 year old TB gelding. I bought him last year and trail rode him all summer/fall even some in the snow. He was usually a gem. Only had one time where he got scared when other horses reacted to a storm suddenly blowing in. I shrugged that off to just a one time thing.
This year I was out with my daughter who was on an old mare who is virtually bombproof. My horse was acting up because apparently he HATES blackflies (short season where I live and I didn't own him this time last year so I didn't notice anything). He was a handful, which is not his usual personality. We were only out about 15 minutes when he stopped dead, planted his feet and refused to listen to my leg. His attention seemed to be on ME! He arched his neck and stood snorting and grunting. I was petrified. If I loosed my grip on the reigns, he tried to put his head down to buck. He even started to do a little rocking action. I pulled him to my strong side, but he just seemed to get worse. I kept talking to him to calm him down. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, he moved foward. But he was HOT!!! We walked back to the farm - he was drenched with sweat by now. Cooled him off and put him away.
My question is this: What could I have done to prevent this and what other method could I have used to gain control of the situation? He has only done it one other time - in the ring. I could not get him to cool down at all. I have come to think that it's the blackflies that REALLY bother him, but he has temper tantrums about it.
He also has begun to rear up when the owner of the farm brings him in. It seems like he is not ready to come in and rears up. She says if you discipline him (shank him), he gets worse. I think she is making it worse by NOT disciplining him, but I don't want her to get hurt. Can you give me/us any advice?
Let's be reasonable about this... If I stuffed a couple of handfuls of prickly burrs inside your clothes and insisted that you go with me for a two or three hour trail ride, how pleasant would your disposition be?
Biting flies are more than just annoying -- they downright hurt! Unfortunately, your horse doesn't have any other way to talk with you about the problem except by body language.
If I were in your boots, I'd try some fairly high-power fly spray. If that didn't help, I'd ask myself "Is this trip really necessary?" Unless the ride is absolutely essential, why put yourself in a fight that you may not win? I've had a couple of times when I wanted to go for a ride but the bugs were just too bad on the trail, so we went back home.
As for the horse rearing when the farm owner brings him in, you didn't specify if she's bringing him in to a barn or just another field. If it's a barn, remember that a horse has a bit more difficulty adjusting to sudden changes in light level. Even a well-mannered horse like Willy sometimes balks at going into the "black hole" of a barn door -- or going out into the blinding glare of sunlight after being inside.
There are two ways to modify behavior: punishment and reward. I prefer to avoid punishment if a reward will do the job. Why not try giving him a horse treat or handful of oats when he comes in? He'll quickly learn to associate the activity with pleasure rather than pain.
I hope this helps.
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