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Horse Behavior and Training

Potentially Dangerous Situation

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On some weekends, I work at a barn where I feed, water, and bring in horses. However, one horse in particular has proven to be dangerous to handle. The mare is 4 years old and was raised by the owner from birth, who claims that the horse was born nasty. Upon handling the horse for the first time, I was striked at with the front legs, almost bitten numerous times, and quickly learned not to step anywhere near the hind end for fear of being kicked. It is difficult for me to even get a lead rope on the halter because the mare will quickly snap her head around to bite my arm. Confident posturing (squaring my shoulders and lifting my eyes) only seemed to put the mare more into fight mode.

In the end I had to resort to using a crop to get the mare away from the gate, and holding the crop in my hand against her head while I snapped the lead on. Once I managed to get her into her stall, I soon discovered that it was not safe to enter the stall to feed or water her. She actually did manage to lunge and bite the top of my head when I tried to give her water- luckily I was wearing a hat which protected me. After that I had to use the handle of a broom to keep her away from me as I quickly poured in her food. Since, I have poured in food and water before bringing her in although the owner wished for me to do so later.

This behavior has continued, only improving VERY slightly in the two other times that I have worked at this barn. I should probably also mention that another horse will rear, paw the air, and bolt off when led without a chain over his nose, and I have been warned that a third horse on this farm kicked his owner in the chest resulting in ICU treatment. I am considering just telling the owner that I can no longer work for her for my own safety. Since I can not work with the horses, I am looking for opinions on the situation. What would you do, and is there a safer way to handle these horses?

I would like to conclude by saying that I truly love and respect all animals. The manner in which I have had to deal with this horse has bothered me greatly, in fact I have lost a bit of sleep due to the matter. Although I am only 17, I learned early on not to trust just any "horse trainer" which is why I am interested to learn all about Monty's nonviolent methods. In my own barn I do not own a lead rope with a chain, never use spurs or a whip with my horses, and always try to provide my horses with an environment that they can learn by choice and not by force. I have trained my younger arabian from the start with the exception of backing which was done before I purchased her, and she has turned into an amazing and trusting partner. My older gelding is very deeply bonded and posessive of me. I include this so that you can get a better idea of my personality and understand why this situation is bothering me so much not only for my safety, but because what I have had to do to insure my safety has compromised my core beliefs. Any opinions are greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Kicki -- Sweden
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My first thought, as I read this, is "how are these horses handled during the weekdays?"
From what you describe, I would say the situation has passed "potentially" quite some time ago, and you are in real danger of getting hurt. Even if these horses are lucky to have you at least on weekends, you would be wise to think this through very carefully for your own safety's sake.
I am in no position to judge the horses you care for, and I don't know how good a trainer you are, but you make it sound as if they are in need of a professional horse trainer to work with them on a daily basis and who knows how to work toward a *safe* Join-up with them.
Maybe you can speak to the owner about seeking help before any one gets seriously hurt or worse - and I don't just mean people. The horses are obviously unhappy and definitely dangerous if this is allowed to continue.
Above all, even if you want to do what you can for these horses; do stay safe! No one benefits from you risking your life and health.
Best of luck!

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Thank you for your reply :)

As to your question, the horses are really not handled at all during the week except for turning them out, feeding, and bringing them back in. The owner/trainer is a seasonal rider and pretty much just lets the horses sit for the entire winter.

The ironic thing is that the same day that I made this post I was due to go feed these horses. Upon arriving I found the worst horse still in her stall along with several others. I was then approached by a man who explained that the mare had kicked the girl that was feeding in the morning in the back and she had to be taken to the hospital. I decided right then that I will not be coming back. I was not surprised in the least to hear this bad news because of the situation, and I realize that the same thing could have happened to me the few times that I have handled this horse. Since the owner is a "professional trainer" there is nothing that I can really say to her about her horses so I think that the best thing I can do is get out before something bad happens to me.

Thank you for taking the time to reply, and I hope others can learn from this experience.

Hello! 100 lessons completed 150 lessons completed

Very sorry to hear your story- I had a very similar experience, and I too had to leave the job at the barn. It was simply too dangerous for me. I was heart broken, however, the experience brought me to commit to Monty's training methods. I am happy to report that the horses in question have been handled more (by others), they have recieved professional training (not from me),and now they are friendly and easier to handle. I support you in your decision to leave- it was the right thing to do under the circumstnaces. Those horses sound like they need professional training.
Good luck and happy horsing!!
Thank you for sharing.