Two Loving Owners Who Created Dangerous Horses

Wild Horse, Wyoming, Usa

Wild Horse, Wyoming, Usa

The defiant gelding refused to move forward, instead backing fast and deliberately toward another horse and the woman standing beside him. He lashed out, kicking high and landing a solid blow on her victim’s chest He also hit his victim’s hand, smashing a finger. No doubt he intended to harm the other horse, but fortunately, that did not happen.

The paint gelding was barely four but plenty old enough to understand good manners. Unfortunately, his owner didn’t have the necessary skills to prevent the injury.  She wasn’t in control, so could not prevent the kick. She didn’t scold or punish him after he kicked. 

Hearing this brought back memories of another person made similar choices. He was proud of his big chestnut, although he didn’t ride much. He spent a lot of time playing with his gelding while his daughter rode her horse. We were young teens, his daughter and I. We spent more hours on horseback in a week than he did in a year. Perhaps that’s why we could see disaster in the making while he ignored our warnings. He liked the way his gelding reared and struck out, like the fighting horses on television. Living amid movie horse trainers, I knew their horses performed on cue. They didn’t just decide to terrorize their owners, but he thought it was cool when his horse charged the fence, mouth wide and ears pinned. The horse always stopped just short of grabbing him — until the day he didn’t. That day the owner lost the use of his arm. The big horse — his beloved pet — bit right through the muscle and nerve, right down to the bone.

Both owners loved their horses. Both created the circumstances that resulted in these injuries. They could have just as easily kept their horses from harming anyone. Their failure to accept leadership is the cause of their horses’ bad behavior. In fact, it guarantees the bad behavior. It also guarantees neither horse nor owner will be welcome where horse people gather.

Can you imagine the owner of the paint gelding telling a horse show judge it was not her fault her horse kicked another competitor or the judge? Or telling a boarding stable owner it was not her fault he’d been kicked while cleaning the stall? How about a fellow trail rider, injured in the back country? It’s inevitable she and her horse will be shunned unless she teaches her horse better social skills. He’ll also have to be stabled alone, never enjoying the company of another horse.

Group of Wild Horses, Cantering Across Sagebrush-Steppe, Adobe Town, Wyoming

Group of Wild Horses, Cantering Across Sagebrush-Steppe, Adobe Town, Wyoming

The red gelding was rarely in public, but he would not have been welcome in any group I’ve ridden with. I don’t know what happened to him. I just know he was gone within the week. They never spoke of him again. He lost his home because his owner did not care enough to teach him proper behavior.

Every time a horse is handled, it is being trained. Whether the horse learns something good or bad is the owner‘s choice. In this instance, she trained her horse it is okay to be dangerously aggressive, as did the owner of the chestnut gelding.

This wasn’t a casual warning kick. Those took place months earlier. Even though she was told the problem would escalate, she choose not to correct the bad behavior. Now her horse has escalated to kicking with both hind legs. That paint gelding meant to seriously harm his victim and did. What is even sadder: this isn’t a bad tempered horse. He really is quite amenable and cooperative. He just needs leadership.

What is predictable is preventable. If she’d disciplined her horse the first time he pinned his ears and threatened, no one would have been injured. Discipline at that stage is relatively simple, especially with a gelding this mild. His owner chose to let the threats continue.

Unlike these reckless owners, a mare knows the importance of discipline. It might save her foal’s life. Discipline applied in the early stages also prevents the need for greater discipline later. In a herd, kicking another can create painful, sometimes devastating retaliation.

Nevertheless, this young gelding was doing what comes natural: looking for boundaries. His age is a prime factor. He’s maturing and looking for a new place in the herd. All herds have pecking orders, and no two horses are ever on the same level. They are either above or below the other in the pecking order.

Young horses are relegated to a low place in the pecking order. As they grow larger and stronger, they move up the pecking order until they find another comfortable fit, right below the horse who can maintain dominance over them and right above the horse they can dominate. This jockeying for position sometimes creates conflict. Usually the conflict is confined to warnings: ears pinned, mouth open and teeth bared, a raised hind leg. Rarely does open warfare erupt.

Icelandic Horses, Iceland

Icelandic Horses, Iceland

The herd needs its members to co-exist peacefully. They spend their life close to each other, creating safety from predators. Aggression between herd members opens the herd up to danger from predators along with the danger caused by serious fighting. So the herd discipline works to teach youngsters peaceful coexistence.

Every owner or rider needs to be the herd leader. They need to be the dominate party, or they will be relegated to being the one who is dominated.

These horses were giving warning signs for months, none of which were disciplined. The owner’s lack of discipline was equivalent to giving permission to dominate. This also gives permission to escalate. The paint gelding is still seeking his place in this human herd. Now he’s dangerous enough to have caused injuries and still doesn’t know or feel secure about his place in the herd.

It is not love when we fail to teach our horses how to behave. Love does not let them learn bad behavior that will make their lives a misery and create dangerous situations.

Every one who loves horses needs do make a basic decision: Do you want to be a horse person or a passenger? If all a person wants is to be a passenger, they should do their horse a favor, buy a ticket on a train, then sit back and enjoy the scenery. Horses require more commitment.

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2 Responses to “Two Loving Owners Who Created Dangerous Horses”

  1. Reblogged this on Live To Train and commented:
    I agree with every word of this. And I know people who own horses and have not disciplined and even encouraged bad behavior!

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