HomeExpert AdviceArticleMy horse is aggressive towards me when I try to catch him, what is causing him to be like this?

My horse is aggressive towards me when I try to catch him, what is causing him to be like this?

Posted in Mind Matters

Q: My horse is very aggressive when I try to catch him. He lunges towards me with bared teeth. He is good in every other way, what is causing him to be like this?

Perry Wood answers:

Your relationship with your horse and the riding you are doing with him are all based on a leadership hierarchy.

If the horse is the leader, he could be making most of the decisions about where you go, what you do and how fast you go there – and especially about what happens in the field, such as whether he will be polite about being caught.

Without seeing you with your horse, it is not easy to give an accurate assessment of the way you react together. However, you can be fairly sure the leader of a herd doesn’t usually have other horses biting or attacking them on a regular basis, which suggests your horse is questioning your leadership role.

Listen and lead

Being the leader with horses is not a simple matter of being more bullish – it actually includes the skill of ‘listening’ to quite a high level.

If horses feel safe and taken care of by a self-assured being – horse or human – they are more likely to elect that being as leader.

Most of the time, horses communicate using subtle body language messages, but when those messages go unheard, they naturally increase the volume of those communications until they are heard. And when the volume gets quite loud, it is expressed in ways such as biting.

Leadership skills

To develop your leadership skills, try noticing the subtle signals he is giving you and acknowledging them before it gets as far as biting.

Take a look at your body language and, in particular, how you and your horse position each other when you are leading him. Does your body language express a confident person or someone who’s unsure? Does your horse come into your space when you lead him? Does he push into you or move respectfully out of your way?

Back off!

I suggest you carry a stick or a longer rope when you go to your horse in the field, and even if you are going to catch him, don’t be afraid to swing the stick or rope towards him to back him away if he behaves aggressively. However, stay calm while you do it.

It would be interesting to observe your horse’s behaviour and interactions with the other horses in the herd. It may be that he acts in a bullish way with them, too, which can be a sign he wishes to be dominant but doesn’t know how to do so.

It can also mean he is insecure in his role in the herd. If there are any horses living with him with whom he is not able to show such aggressive behaviour successfully, observe how the other horses act or react towards him, then copy that approach.

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