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How can my 2-year-old gelding show me R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Q&A with DANA HOKANA - July 16th, 2009 - Q&A Dear Dana

DEAR DANA: I have a 2-year-old gelding with major respect issues. When he is being worked, he is fine. But with basic ground manners, he is constantly challenging me. He will throw a front foot and is always putting something in his mouth, including your arm if he can get it — and he has never been allowed to get away with it. I have tried everything and am at my wit’s end. I just really would like to be able to pet my horse!
–Christina of Richfield Springs, NY

DEAR CHRISTINA: It sounds to me that your gelding is very pushy. He also sounds like horses that I have had that were the bossy ones in the pasture — he is used to pushing people or horses around and getting his way.

I also wonder if he was recently gelded because what you describe sounds like a stud colt. When you say that he tries to put your arm in his mouth or throws a front foot forward, I am concerned for your safety. I’m sure you know the risks, but keep in mind that he weighs a lot more than you do. Your safety is number one, and he just can’t get away with that. He needs to learn respect for you.

I would recommend you seek the advice of a professional. Without me being there, I cannot guess how far he will go, or whether he is just threatening…or is really serious. I would assume he is serious.
One important tip I can give you is to define your space and to not let him into your space. You can do this by leading him next to you and when you stop and turn toward him, he needs to be ready to back up, not push forward. If you walk a step toward him, he needs to back up. You need to demand this respect by backing him up as you turn toward him. If he won’t back off, then take your lead rope or something like a PVC pipe that makes noise without hurting him. Smack him until he backs away from you. He needs to respect you, and you can demand this without hurting him if you give a clear message and are consistent. If you pick at him, he will just get irritated with you.

I have had some horses that I just can’t pat and love on because they have so much trouble controlling themselves. Just when you think they are harmless is when you lower your guard and get bit or struck. For awhile, I would be all business with him. I would make him stay out of my space and also teach him to watch my body position. If I turn to face him, he is not allowed to move forward. In fact, if I face him and stand still, he is not to move, but if I walk a step toward him, he is to back off. This can be difficult if he was to challenge you and it is important to watch his body language so that you know what is coming next.

If you feel you are not getting anywhere, then stop and seek the advice of a professional. Also, some horses push back against pressure, so if you put your hand on his face to pet him, he may try to push back, and that is aggressive behavior. The next step is he will try to bite or grab you. As soon as you feel him push back on you, get after him and don’t let it go any further.

Good luck with him, Christina. I hope this helps you!


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