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Posted on May 10, 2018 in Articles, Training

Problem horses and behavioural issues

Problem horses and behavioural issues

The question comes whether it is a problem horse or a problem owner? Horses by nature are not aggressive animals so one has to look beyond the immediate observations sometimes to find the route of the ‘problem’. Lets not forget that horses are a Flight or Fight animal therefore  if there is pain or discomfort then you will see a reaction as they can’t just tell you as a human would! Too Many times these horses are wrote off, neglected, abandoned or shipped to the sales. In this day and age as intelligent human beings we should take some responsibility as an owner and get some professional help

First thing to do is get the horses teeth and back checked, the amount of times I have taken a horse in to work with and the teeth are the cause of the issue never ceases to amaze me, make sure you get a fully qualified equine dentist- lists are on the BAEDT  so you can locate one in your area. After this I would then look at the horses physical well being and ask a fully qualified Equine Physio/Osteopath/ Vet to have a look at the horse and see if they can locate any pain or discomfort perhaps relating to the saddle/ Ulcers or any other predisposing injury. Once the obvious has been checked out and there seems to still be an issue then it is time to look further back. Ask the question when did the problem occur, if the horse is a new purchase then look at the horses routine from before you made the purchase to the routine it has now!.

naughty horses

Problems occur when horses are in badly fitting tack hence make sure you get a fully qualified saddle fitter to come out and check your saddles, check the bit is not nipping etc. Look at your horses feed, are you overfeeding your horse for the level of work the horse is in , a few times people have sent horses in to be trained and the amount they feed for leisure riding and the odd show is the same that one would give to an advanced eventer!! Feeding is a minefield so don’t be frightened to ask the experts most feed companies have help line you can ring for advice.

Keep your horses in a routine, horses thrive on it and it keeps there stress levels down if they know how the day goes. If you have bought a flashy competition horse which is extremely well bred to hack there is a higher chance that you will run into problems as these horses are bred with blood in them for a purpose and there minds can be sharp so ensure your horse is fit for purpose in the way that it is suitable for the job you have in mind. Then when you are working with your horses keep them disciplined so many times they are treated like pets which is fine to a point but i certainly would not want a 600kg horse on my lap!: hence very different animals to cats and dogs and they need boundaries a little bit (or a lot) like children!

The next to common causes of horses becoming so called problems are when young horses are purchased by inexperienced horse handlers because they are cheaper to buy (or so they think! – they actually can cost more in the long run) or people like the idea of having a young horse to produce. This often upsets me as I believe that young horses should be given the best opportunity in life from the beginning and would like to see some regulations or licencing come in for those backing, breeding,selling and producing horses as I feel this could eliminate a lot of the issues we see today! Young horses are not for children especially in-experienced children / novice or nervous riders they are far to unpredictable and one bad experience can take months to resolve.

Those who sell horses need to take some responsibility and ensure that the horse you are selling is fit for purpose hence how much work is the horse getting now and if that work was to decrease would the horse stay the same temperament we as professionals forget how the level of work we give a horse will by in no way be met by the average recreational rider. Think about the welfare of the horse as they are the ones that will ultimately suffer, those that are respectable producers will take the horse back if deemed unsuitable (in a reasonable amount of time from the date of purchase). As buyers when purchasing a horse it may be  an idea to turn up early and look to see if the horse is being or has been worked! will you be able to dedicate enough time to the horse will the facilities you have be suitable for the horse you have hence is there enough turnout etc!

If you are having issues do not be frightened to contact a professional rider you can ask for references and testimonies and even go and visit the yard to see if you feel that they would be suitable as you need to get along with the professional and trust them entirely then this will ultimately benefit you and your horse, no one said it would be cheap to do this but it could make a huge difference to both yourself and the horse in question’s future. They will guide you through the issues and offer you advice as to how this issue is to be resolved, Take on board what they are saying they haven’t become a professional by giving incorrect and bad advice don’t be frightened to look and ask for their competition records to see there results though don’t judge them entirely on this as sometimes even the best have bad days!!

Very few horses can not be ‘fixed’ please give your horse the best opportunity to live a happy and successful life and don’t be afraid to ask for help


Wrote by Lisa Smith of Stable Equestrian

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